Graflex was a manufacturer, a brand name and several models of cameras. William F. Folmer, an inventor, built the first Graflex camera in 1898, when his company was called The Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company. Founded originally in New York as a gas lamp company. As the gas lamp market dimmed, it expanded into making bicycles selling cameras of other makers as accessories, then making cameras themselves, dropping the bicycle line. That firm in 1905 was purchased by George Eastman. In 1907, the company became the Folmer and Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak. After a few more interim changes of status and name, it finally became simply "Graflex, Inc." in 1945. [sources: Kingslake; Hendersonville Camera Club] .

Most sports photography in the early 20th century was done with Graflex and similar cameras with a cloth focal plane shutter. To get shutter speeds high enough to stop fast motion they had to use a narrow slit, which exposed different parts of the film at different times.

The Graflex was an SLR that was viewed through a tall leather hood from above—not through a pentaprism. They were made for film formats from 2 1/4 * 3 1/4" (6 * 9 cm) up to 8 * 10", with the most popular being 4 * 5".

To set the shutter speed, you wound up the shutter to one of a series of tensions with a key. Then you selected the slit width with another control. A table on the side of the box gave the shutter speed for each combination.

Graflex Speed Graphic folding cameras, produced from 1912 to 1973, also have a focal plane shutter, although they are often used with a between-the-lens shutter mounted to the lensboard. Crown Graphic cameras are similar to their corresponding Speed Graphic cousins; however they are an inch thinner and about one pound lighter because they lack the focal plane shutter. However, because of the shorter possible lens-to-film plane distance, the Crown Graphic can use shorter lens focal lengths, allowing a wider field of view.

Because a top-to-bottom shutter motion exposed the bottom first, many photographs of automobile racing taken with Graflex cameras depicted the the wheels of the car in an oval shape leaning forward. This feature became a conventional indication of speed, and many Cartoonists drew wheels the same way to indicate fast motion.

=Graflex manufacturing history [

cite web
title=Speed Graphic FAQ file, section 23
publisher=R.I.T. Photo Forum
] =

The company name changed several times over the years as it was absorbed and then released by the Kodak empire, finally becoming a division of the Singer Corporation and then dissolved in 1973. The award winning Graflex plant in suburban Pittsford, New York is still standing and is home to the MOSCOM Corporation.

Years Manufacturer
1887-1904 Folmer & Schwing Manufacturing Co. of New York, NY
1905-1907 Folmer & Schwing Co., Rochester, NY
1907-1927 Folmer & Schwing Div., Eastman Kodak Co. Rochester, NY
1928-1946 Folmer Graflex Corp., Rochester, NY
1946-1955 Graflex Inc., Rochester, NY
1956-1968 Graflex Inc., Div. General Precision Equipment, Rochester, NY
1968-1973 Graflex Inc., Div. SINGER CORPORATION
1973 Tooling bought by Toyo Co.

Pop culture

The 3-cell Graflex flashgun was modified and used as the prop for Luke Skywalker's lightsaber in Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. A black grip was added and the circular bulb housing was obviously removed, but little else was changed to create the lightsaber prop.

ee also

*Fairchild K-20 (a World War II-era aerial camera made by Folmer Graflex Corp., which became Graflex Inc. in 1945)
*Press camera
*Speed Graphic (well-known "classic" Graflex press camera)


*Kingslake, Rudolf, [ "The Rochester Camera and Lens Companies"] (Rochester NY, Photographic Historical Society, 1974) OCLC 3335854

External links

* [ Homepage of Graflex.Org] : "Dedicated to promoting the use and preservation of Graflex Speed Graphics and other classic and large-format cameras."
* [ The Graflex Speed Graphic FAQ] on
* [ Kingslake historical essay]
* [ Information on the Graflex Press Camera] (at a website run by a collector named Jo Lommen)
* [ Hendersonville Camera Club] page on history of photography.

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