A little Folmer & Schwing/Graflex history

188?-1904Folmer & Schwing Manufacturing Co., NY, NY
1905-1927Folmer & Schwing Div., Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, NY
1928-1945Folmer Graflex Corp., Rochester, NY
1945-1955Graflex Inc., Rochester, NY
1956-1968Graflex Inc., Div. General Precision Equipment, Rochester, NY
1968-1973Graflex Inc., Div. SINGER CORPORATION
1973 Tooling bought by Toyo Co. Japan

>>>>> For a more detailed history of Graflex Military Cameras - CLICK HERE <<<<<

>>>>> For a partial list of Folmer & Schwing/Graflex serial numbers - CLICK HERE <<<<<

(A) Approximate dating of Speed Graphic cameras - six different Speed Graphic shutter speed plates 1912-1946.
Note: on the earlier plates the actual slit size in inches was used across the top, later plates had only letters.
(click on all images to enlarge)

1912 Top Handle
1923 Top Handle
1932 Pre-Anny
1942 Anniversary
1943 Anniversary
1946 Anniversary

Speed Graphics after 1947 (Pacemaker model and beyond) did not have shutter speed plates.
Note: Folmer & Schwing/Graflex reflex cameras also had similar plates at the same times as those above.

(B) Approximate dating of Speed Graphic cameras - six different Speed Graphic winding mechanism plates 1912-1952.
(click on all images to enlarge)

1912 Top Handle
oxide brass
1932 Pre-Anny
flat grey
1941 Anniversary
black smooth
chrome controls
1943 Anniversary
black crinkle
black controls
1946 Anniversary
black crinkle
chrome controls
1952 Pacemaker
black crinkle
chrome control

Other types of Graflex shutter speed plates (click on all images to enlarge)

Many early plates manufacturer's name
the bottom.             

 didn't have the
 engraved across

Fonts & plate metals

were changed many

times over the years.

Some military Speed Graphics have large depth of field plates mounted on top.

Other types of Graflex winding mechanism plates (click on all images to enlarge)

pre 1918
'open' folding key
flat brass oxide plate
'open' non-folding key
flat dark grey plate
'closed' non-folding key
raised 'square' grey plate
'open' non-folding key
raised 'square' black crinkle plate
3A Graflex has 'open' non-folding key and both raised & flat plates

Progressive changes to Speed, Crown and Century Graphic cameras - adapted from graflex.org
For quick identification click on the yellow text see photos of the various models
ProducedModel name and sizesFeatures
1912-1927'Top Handle' Speed Graphic
5x7 (1912-1924), 4x5 (1912-1927), 3-1/4x5-1/2 (1912-1925), 3-1/4x4-1/4 (1915-1925)
These early cameras have smaller lensboards and cannot use the big fast f2.5 and f2.9 lenses that came out in the 1920's. All models have the flip up optical finders and the Graphic (spring) back was standard. The Graflex back was a factory option after 1916.
1928-1941'Pre-Anniversary' Speed Graphic
5x7 (1932-1941), 4x5 (1928-1939), 3-1/4x4-1/4 (1935-1939) RB 2-1/4x3-1/4 (1937-1938)
The big improvement in the 1928 Speed Graphic 5x7 and 4x5 cameras over the top handle versions was the 4 inch square lensboard for tele and speed lenses. All models except the 5x7 have a wire hoop viewfinder with curved top. Lenses in shutters available as an option in the early 1930s. Metal hardware on shutter plates and drop bed is satin grey. The Revolving Back 2-1/4x3-1/4 model is VERY rare.
1938-1946Miniature Speed Graphic
(2-1/4x3-1/4 only)
The first non-Revolving Back 2-1/4x3-1/4" model. Has dual focus knobs, metal bed, focal plane flash sync and curved top folding wire sports finder. Very first version has a flip up optical sight and after 1939 has the usual bakelite tubular viewfinder.
1940-1947Anniversary Speed Graphic
(4x5, 3-1/4x4-1/4)
Metal hardware now satin black with chrome trim (1940-42). Wartime model has no chrome, all black metal parts(1942-45). Last version (late 1945-46) has satin chrome and bright chrome metal hardware. Early 1940s saw lenses in shutters as standard issue and front shutter flash synchronisation became common. Bed and body track rails linked, allowing focusing of wide angle lens within body. Solid wire frame viewfinder and wooden lens boards. The last batch of 75 4x5 Anniversary model cameras was made in January 1947 and the last batch of 300 3x4 Anniversary cameras was made in February 1947.
1947-1970 Pacemaker Speed Graphic
(4x5, 3-1/4x4-1/4, 2-1/4x3-1/4)
Post-war production brought coated lens, a body release for front and rear shutters, folding infinity stops. Side mounted rangefinder replaced by top rangefinder on 4x5" Graphics in 1955. First use of metal lens boards with rounded corners and built-in light traps. Graflok back available from 1949.
1947-1973Pacemaker Crown Graphic
(4x5, 3-1/4x4-1/4, 2-1/4x3-1/4)
Identical to the above Pacemaker Speed Graphic but made without the focal plane shutter, which reduced weight and increased access to wide-angle lenses.
1949-1970Century Graphic
(2-1/4x3-1/4 only)
The plastic-bodied ('Mahoganite') Century Graphic is without a focal plane shutter but has a built-in Graflok back. Imported 2-1/4" cameras led to the design of the popular Graflex roll film holders. Flat bar viewfinder, followed by flexible wire viewfinder.
1961-1970Super Speed Graphic
(4x5 only)
All metal body, including flash computer, electric shutter release, front standard had swing capability, & featured revolving back. Fitted with Graflex-1000: 1/1000 front shutter. No Focal Plane Shutter.
1958-1973Super Graphic
(4x5 only)
Same as above Super Speed Graphic but usually with the standard Graphex shutter with speeds to 1/400th. After 1973 Super Graphics were still made by Toyo in Japan.

IF YOUR CAMERA LENS is a Kodak Anastigmat, Anastigmat Special or Ektar and has a serial number beginning with two letters use the table below to unlock the year of manufacture. For example EE is 1944, RI is 1958...and so on.

>>>>> For a more detailed history of Graflex Military Cameras - CLICK HERE <<<<<

>>>>> For a partial list of Folmer & Schwing/Graflex serial numbers - CLICK HERE <<<<<

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photography and website © Bruce Thomas 2009/2010