A World War II era giant SLR camera, that’s what. And now, thanks to Marisa‘s Closet of Photographic Mystery, I have one of my very own: a Graflex RB Super D 3×4 camera!
Yes, once again, Marisa found an old camera in the deep, dark depths of what used to be her grandparents’ closet, and figured I’d be able to provide it with a good home. I was pretty thrilled with the Vigilant Six-20, but this is just another couple of steps beyond that.
It’s a really neat, well-designed, well-made, interesting machine. You look down through the top at ground glass, and focus using the knob on the bottom right. The view in the finder is 3-d in appearance, and really something if you’re not used to large format cameras. (I’m not used to them, and it’s definitely still “wowing” me.)
The shutter is a big wind-up vertical plane shutter. It’s like a curtain with five different sized slits cut in it. The film gets exposed as the slit passes by; the larger the slit, the longer the exposure. This also means that the entire image doesn’t get exposed all at once, which apparently is an interesting looking phenomenon.
Graflex SLRs are a surprisingly difficult kind of camera to find information about. There’s graflex.org, which has a bunch of information and a discussion board. Precious few photos are attributed to these on Flickr. Photo.net has some active and archived discussions about them, which helps.
As I mentioned, this one is a 3×4 model. Strictly speaking, it’s designed to take 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ sheet film in a variety of different film backs. It actually came with a Graflex Mode 2 Film Pack Adapter, with film still inside! (Ancient Kodak Super-XX film.) It holds 12 sheets of film, and you pull out a paper tab every time you take a photo. Whichever of Marisa’s relatives that used this never finished off the pack that’s in it. I thought about trying to develop it, but it’s so old it’s almost certainly completely fogged and unsalvageable.
Of course, 3×4 sheet film is difficult to find (4×5 is easy to find), and these film packs haven’t been produced in at least a decade. So the Model 2 Film Pack Adapter goes in the “interesting old oddity” category.
The camera’s kind of hard to take pictures with without a usable film back! Fortunately, they are interchangeable, and possible to find on the used market. In addition to 3×4, you can also get various Medium Format backs. I stumbled onto one at a used camera vendor‘s website: a Graflex “22” Roll Film Holder back, which holds 120 film and exposes 6×6 photos. Looked reasonable at $35 plus shipping, so I ordered it.
It turns out $35 plus shipping was extremely reasonable! Since then, I have read that these rollfilm backs are very rare and expensive. Then, I started finding dealers asking as much as $145 for it! I think I just lucked out on that one! Though I really want a 6×9 back for it, I can certainly deal with 6×6 for the price. It’ll get me started…
Yep. There’ll be a lot more to read about this neat-o new camera in the future right here. 🙂