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6 X 9 Today?
Graflex Started It.
by Bob Hutchinson

Hello John,

You have the right frame of mind - stay away from the cut film holders unless you like dark rooms.

View cameras are great fun. They are historic, nostalgic and wonderful tools. In my option, nothing teaches the technology of photography like learning to use a view camera. The lens rise and shift capability of view cameras while maintaining the film plane parallel to a subject is one of the prime benefits. This can be done with modern medium format equipment but usually with a single focal length shift lens of great cost. Tilt and swing of the lens is required for the more complex photography usually practiced in the commercial or industrial arena.

"Focusing on the ground glass" is symbolic. One of the reasons Graflex is no longer with us is that they lost touch with modern medium format photography. Mamiya was equipping their 6 x 9 press cameras with nice helical focusing mounts with hyper focal scales or depth of field scales on the lens. This made them much more desirable for uses other than newspaper press. Graflex just didn't get it. When they brought out their XL line of cameras, they were thinking about newspaper photographers and rangefinders only. With hyper focal scales on the Mamiya lens mount, "focusing on the ground glass" was not necessary except for complex photography problems requiring lens tilt and/or swing. The ground glass was still used for observing vertical lines for critical composition.

Today, the great interest in ultra wide and panoramic photography demands more attention to controlling converging vertical lines in photography. This is usually accomplished just by keeping the back vertical. I just returned from one of my favorite places to take pictures,  the French Quarter in New Orleans. I had only one hour available, 7:00 to 8:00 am at Jackson Square. I used my hybid custom Mamiya Universal "flat top" with 50mm Mamiya wide angle lens and finder and Mamiya RB ProS 6x7 back. With this rig, keeping the back vertical and parallel to vertical lines is mandatory. I got great pictures. I carry a small $3.95 double bubble level from Home Depot in the case but after all these years, I can get by without it. I just step back, look at the camera from two angles and adjust from there.

The Graflex equipment in 6 x 9 size is readily available at low cost. The international standard "G" back (old Graflok) provides good film handling. Web www.graflex.org is a good source of information. My bigcamera.com web will help you research ebay for MF and LF view cameras. You will find many 6 x 9 view cameras in the LF area.

The numeric description problem:
2x3, 2 1/4 x 2 3/4, 2 1/4 x 3 1/4, 6x7, 6x8 and and 6x9 ???
Lotsa confusion here. To straighten it out
, we look to the 6 x 9 numbers. 6cm x 9cm is the opening (the hole) in the rear of the camera, not the negative size. It all goes downhill from that: a ruler will show that the 6 x 7 or 2 1/4" x 2 3/4" back is actually about 2 1/4" x 2 5/8" hole size. The 6 x 9 or 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" is actually about 2 1/4" x 3 1/16" inches hole size. The only real 6 x 9 "G" backs that I have used are the Horseman. It is actually 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" and better quality (and wallet smashing price) than Graflex. The older Graflex "23" holder was a true 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" also. This holder was offered prior to a major change in back design that incorporated the tiny rollers that helped keep the film flat. Today press cameras are not used for press activities but for great outdoor photography at smaller f stops. The older "23" holder works OK for today's purposes.

 The Wista backs offered today are fine quality but designed for the Wista cameras ONLY. To be used on a "G" camera the Wista needs to have a little milling machine work on the surface that fits up to the camera. However, this holder can be worth the $30 - $45 milling job. Wista makes a true 6 x 9 back that takes both 120 and 220 film and I'm looking for one now.

Wait, John! Even though Graflex made some bad product development decisions, that doesn't mean their equipment is not desirable. The sexiest press camera ever is the the XL and I have several of them. I wish the Mamiya press cameras had the big bright and wonderful XL viewfinder modules.

The Mamiya press dim viewfinder is what prompted me to develop the Mamiya Universal "flat top" with all finder hardware removed and unnecessary aluminum milled down for a flat 1/16"aluminum plate top with finder shoe. I use it without the grip on a tripod. The handle works well.


Click Here to contact Bob Hutchinson.