For reasons that still baffle me, I found myself trolling Craigslist on occasion in search of vintage photography equipment I do not need. This, combined with an insane lust for larger frame sizes, is how I came to be in possession of a Crown Graphic 4×5″ press camera.
For this analog film project, I was sure that I’d be most often shooting with my vintage Voigstländer Perkeo II (to be detailed in a later post), but in my downtime internet searches at work I became interested in frame sizes larger than the traditional 6×6 120mm negative. I started looking into 6×7 options including the huge number of Mamiya RB67 kits gathering dust out there. Naturally, looking into 6×7 quickly became an interest in 6×9 cameras, specifically the Voigtländer Bessa folders that resembled my beloved Perkeo. I watched a few on ebay, but chose not to bid as the majority were listed by people who could not certify the function and condition in any way. Regardless, the going price for a quality Bessa hovered around the $200 mark and was difficult to justify buying an expensive, older, quirky camera just to gain 3cm of negative real estate.
Still, I found myself obsessing about frame sizes. This rabbit hole goes deep and I wound up on a forum where someone passionately (and logically) argued that 6×6 was the perfect format utilizing the highest quality center of the lens and all other sizes were bastardized compromises. Logically, it makes sense to concentrate your image in the center of your lens, but I’ve got this nagging urge to compose in-camera and never crop after the fact. This is what drew me to investigate the absurd 6×12 format which then logically pulled me into the world of 4×5 large format cameras.
Back to the Crown Graphic — I stumbled on a craigslist ad for a variety of 35mm darkroom equipment and buried in the listing the person mentioned that he had a number of 4×5 cameras and lenses he hadn’t yet bothered to post. I sent an email over asking about his large format cameras and he responded immediately that he had an old Crown Graphic that needed a good home. After googling a bit to learn what I might be getting myself into, I agreed to meet him and take a look after work.
The guy I met up with was named Brad, and he appeared to be some form of professional photographer. We ventured into his basement full of various photography items he was slogging through: complete jobo processing systems and accessories, unusual 120mm cameras, and a variety of darkroom supplies were strewn about and ready for sale.
He presented a heavy, leatherette-covered box and pointed out the hidden button on the side of the camera. I popped it open and marveled a bit at the ingenuity of the contraption. Brad lead me through some of the features, showed me the range-finder, the focusing back, the shutter release and announced that he would throw in a stack of Graflex Type-5 film holders and a vintage polarizing filter. The camera was not exactly in museum condition, but was in very nice shape for its undetermined age.
We talked for a bit about photography and craft beers before finally exchanging money. $150 cash for a Crown Graphic and eight film holders.
- Clean and inspect the camera
- Find a manual and learn how to use it
- Test Shutter speeds
- Figure out how to work with 4×5
- Buy some 4×5 film
Analog Film Project Running Total
- Developing tanks and reels: $48
- Chemicals and film: $127.50
- Crown Graphic camera and film holders: $150
Total Costs: $325.50