Back in time with the Speed Graphic

My recent "hand me down" from my Dad is a 1946 Miniature Speed Graphic 2x3 camera - complete with flash kit and film sheet holders - talk about going back in time! Here are my first impressions.

Continuing with my recent interest (obsession, rather) with all things analog, I was surprised to see my Dad was the proud owner of an original Speed Graphic 2x3 camera. Although he took some time to dig it out from the bellows of our house storage, he enjoyed opening it and working through his muscle memory to figure out how it all worked.

My Dad reminding himself how to use the Speed Graphic!

This was given to him by a relative back in the 50s and I was thrilled to hear it would be passed on to me also. I've worked out the lens is from 1946, so I am assuming the whole kit is from the same period. It all seems to still work - impressive!

Initial impressions

  • Version: likely a Miniature Speed Graphic. Features a spring back and film sheet holders that sit between the camera back and the ground focusing glass.
  • The back of the camera has a ground focusing glass, which incidentally shows an image upside down (given the camera is mirrorless).
  • It is also equipped with a Rangefinder system on the side, which seems to work fine.
  • The camera and the "box" it lives in are nothing short of a masterpiece. They were hugely popular with journalists in the early 20th century. They range from a large 4x5 to this small and easily handheld 2x3 camera.
  • The camera comes complete with an external flash consisting of actual flash bulbs - one time use only I assume.

The full kit

The good news is, it still works! The bad news is, it relies on sheet film holders - nearly impossible to source that particular size. Thankfully we have the Internet that is a great source of information and method of connecting photography enthusiasts!

Initially I did find a rather peculiar workaround that consisted of using a Fuji Instax film camera and its individual film sheets (that surprisingly fit in the 2x3 Speed Graphic holders). You would need to expose the image in the Speed Graphic than transfer via a changing bag / darkroom to the Fuji Instax film, which would be tricked into self developing the image. As a friend of mine correctly observed "an awkward solution to a problem that exists for people trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist". That made me laugh!

Forgetting about spending more money on more cameras, after a few hours and what seemed like learning a whole new language (the Speed Graphic has more versions that you can shake a stick at), I contacted with what I can only describe as "the Speed Graphic Legend". Mr Jo Lommen from The Netherlands, who runs an extremely helpful website and builds custom made parts for various Speed Graphic cameras.

Jo was extremely helpful in advising how to address my problem with the film sheet holders. It seems there are 120 film roll holders for different versions of the Speed Graphic (not this one), and with some workaround and home-made clamps (he graciously provided), I would be able to attach to this camera. This was great news as 120 film is easily found here in Germany and more importantly, easy to find someone to develop it.

I sourced a second hand 120 film roll holder on Ebay from the US and I am currently waiting for that to arrive. Once I have the chance to set it all up (hopefully successfully), I will post sample photographs from the camera.

In the meantime, some more shots of the camera below.

Thanks for reading, all comments welcome as always!

Cheers, Neil

  • Photographs:
  • Shot on my Galaxy Note 4 phone