The Interrogator

The Interrogator
Sexy Dieselpunk Fascist Girl

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Vintage Cameras

Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic, manufactured from 1947-1974

Since I do a lot of photo shoots, I tend to need a lot of props. I have many sources for these and I'll discuss them all, but first it helps to break down the sort of props I use. In this post I'll discuss vintage cameras.

I have several of these, all inherited from my late father who was a photographer and took it up seriously in the 1950's. The 1948 vintage Crown Graphic press camera seen in at the top of this post is one of them, though I had to do a bit of restoration to it in order to get it to look the part of a 1950's camera. My father had used it well into the 1970's and had
The solenoid had been removed from the lens board and mounting holes filled in.
replaced the flash-gun with it's magnesium bulbs with contemporary electronic flashes, so the solenoid was gone and I had to find myself a flash, solenoid and other parts on e-Bay. Fortunately, the Crown Graphic 4 x 5 is a popular camera among collectors and Graflex enthusiasts; there is a whole subculture of Graflex users out there, and I had no difficulty purchasing the parts I needed. I found a 50's vintage brushed aluminum flash on e-Bay along with the solenoid and the cable to connect them, and all the mounting hardware. I also bought three boxes of original flash bulbs, probably from 1960's stocks. They worked, incidentally.

This 50's vintage flash gun was easy to find, but earlier stainless steel ones are getting mighty scarce. 

Solenoid mounted on lens board of restored camera
One thing that is very hard to find however are the earlier stainless steel flash guns. The reason?  Because these are what were used in the Star Wars films to make the grips of lightsabers and Star Wars fans have been buying them up ever since to make their toys.

I don't want to offend Star Wars fans here, but lay the hell off these things. Camera collectors and photo buffs and retro photographers need these things a hell of a lot more than you do and make better use of them.

The fully restored Graflex is now one of my regular photo props.


Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex
Another camera that makes regular appearances in my retro photo sessions is my father's old 1950's vintage Rolleiflex, which I used to love when I was shooting film for it's light weight and small size and it's ability to handle medium format film. One advantage they have over the Graflex when shooting with a model is that they are much smaller and
1951 vintage Rolleiflex twin lens reflex.
much easier for the model to handle, particularly if they aren't used to handling old cameras. I only figured this out fairly recently, incidentally, though I should have known this all along. Unfortunately, my Rollei isn't as accessorized as my Graflex, which is a situation I must remedy at some point. But if Graflex parts can be obtained relatively inexpensively, the same seems seldom true of Rolleiflexes. Being German made, they were never cheap to begin with and even a leather camera strap can easily run $75.00 or more on e-Bay. Ouch! 

Model posing with the Rolleiflex. Unfortunately, the strap is a modern nylon one and I need to get an old leather one.

The final camera that I'm going to mention in this post is my father's old 8mm Elmo movie camera, again from the 1950's and seen here in this very retro looking Instagram pic I took with my iPhone. The clock-wound 8mm was superseded by the cartridge fed and battery powered Super-Eight in the 1960's  and these I suppose remained popular until video cameras became small enough to carry around on vacation and didn't require that you plonk down a year's salary for them.
1950's vintage Elmo 8mm movie camera.

I haven't yet used this one in a photo shoot and I lost the pistol grip for it years ago, but it's just one of the many things on my list of things to go looking for on e-Bay when I have the time and money.

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