The 4x5 Graflex View Camera.

Graphic View II

The Graphic View Camera equipped with a Schneider Kreuznach mounted on the special Graflex adapter 1:5,6/240 - 1:12/420.

Why do we need all these front and rear movements 

and how do they work ?

Landscape or studio, it is like exploring a new world by watching the image on the ground glass of a view camera. 

Learning to photograph is really about learning to look at a subject and there is nothing like a view camera to help you realising your creative ideas.  

Whether you want to emphasize fore-or background, to focus sharp from a few meters to infinity, to control vertical and horizontal lines of a building, alter shapes of various objects in the picture or dramatic architectural work, the view camera is indispensable even in the digital world in which we live now.

If you intend to start with a view camera, you definitely make a step forward into the past. The beginning of professional photographing demands concentration and patience. No more random firing dozens of shots, hoping to get one usable photo. With a view camera, each shot should be well prepared not only the setting, lightning and camera adjustments. You learn to look before you focus. And while you’re focusing, you can control your images in ways that will distinguish you in more than one aspect from a digital camera user. Whether you use the view camera for portraiture, architectural, table top or still life, the sky is the limit, surely not the features of the camera nor the artistic skills of the photographer. The view camera can not replace the digital camera and the digital camera can not replace the view camera. Working and experimenting with the view camera gives you an advantage that no photographic course can give you: The ultimate basic principles of photography. 

These basic principles of the mother of cameras, will give you a gigantic advantage you in your photographic career, even then or perhaps especially then when using the finest, newest, high tech digital camera. 

This particular camera is a Graflex View Camera, these cameras were manufactured from 1949 to 1967 by Graflex Inc., the same company that made the Speed and Crown Graphic press-cameras, with which they share many features. The Graflex View II Camera has the classic Graflok back, which allows you to use a full range of film holders, including roll film adapters. Very useful is the lensboard adapter allowing to mount the Crown or Speed Graphic lens boards directly on the view camera, so one set of lenses can be used by both types of cameras. The Graflok back has a Ground glass plus a Fresnel lens. A Fresnel lens brightens the image considerably, albeit with a slight loss of focusing accuracy.

On the left the Graphic View II equipped with 135 mm lens on the 4x4 original lensboard and on the right a Schneider Xenar 135 mm mounted on a interchangeable lensboard compatible with a Crown or Pacemaker Graphic camera as well as the Super Graphic camera. Exchanging lenses between the Graphic View and the and the Pacemaker Crown or Speed Graphic can be done in seconds, using this special  View lens board receiver adapter.


A variety of focal length lenses should be available to the architectural photographer so that the camera can remain on the position the photographer prefers for his exposure. 

The adapter allows convenient interchangeability between Pacemaker and Super Graphic lens boards to the Graphic View camera.

Note the odd shaped hole for eccentric lens mount. You can double the vertical and horizontal adjustment range of a lens used on a removable lens board by mounting it off centre. This is especially advantageous with wide angle objectives that are used on short extensions. 

To permit centering for normal work, the lens should be mounted off centre the same distance the lens front can be raised. With lenses of longer focal length take care to see that the bellows will not cut of any of the image. More about the off centre lens board can be found on the eccentric page.


How to get started with such a camera, How does it work and what can I expect from a view camera. First of all the name of such a camera. It is called a view camera because the image of the subject can be viewed on the screen on the back of the camera. Although up side down and reverse left to right. It takes some time to get used to this. The back of the Graflex is reversible and not rotating. The back must be detached from the camera and can be placed either for horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) exposures. The pop up focusing hood or viewing hood  allows to examine the ground glass and shields the focusing screen from stray light and shows the full image. However in bright sunlight the hood itself is not always enough to determine details of the area of sharpness or depth of field. Reason why the photographer has to step under a black cloth. Sometimes he will use a magnifier and has to remove the hood to get closer to the ground glass. 

There is however a good alternative for this. If you are lucky you might find a reflex viewer of the Polaroid MP4 Land Camera which fits to the Graflok back and enables the photographer to view the image on the ground glass even in full sunlight. The reflex image is not anymore projected upside down on the ground glass, but still reverse left to right. 

Polaroid MP4 reflex viewing hood mounted on the Graphic View Camera enables perfect focusing even in bright daylight.

Learn more about the Polaroid MP4 Reflex Viewer by clicking the photo.

Using the rises, falls, shifts, and swings, you can manipulate perspective and depth of field in almost unlimited ways by altering the relationships among the subject, the lens, and the film. When you’re done, you have images that no digital camera can match. Ten million pixels is nothing compared to the billions of silver grains in that big 4x5 inch negative. If you do the job right, buildings will be standing right up again, rather than leaning from the sides of the photo to the centre which is quite normal these days with the digital cameras. 

All these rises, falls shifts and swings are necessary to create the photo you want to get, whether it is an architectural photo, table top work or what else which needs perspective control. The view camera can not be used in the hand, not even to mention candid camera work. This is the only limitation for the view camera. All the other thinkable photographic jobs can be done by this beautiful designed and solid constructed camera.

The almost unlimited combinations of adjustment available with this camera give unusual control over linear perspective and form and enables you to position the sharp field and permits working with a large diaphragm. The reversed V shaped bed caries the 4 x 5 back, completed with the Graflok*) back which can be used in landscape as well in portrait position. On the front the lens section. In the middle there is a beautiful red colored bellows, connecting the front lens section with the rear of the camera. The range of this bellows is from 3 inch to 12 ˝ inch. This design allows the greatest range of movements and flexibility, with both front and rear standards able to tilt, shift, rise, fall and swing in similar proportion.


The Mechanics

The view camera exist out of a V shaped rail or bed with a tripod block. Further more a Front Standard-Front Standard assembly- Front Standard plate assembly and a lens board with shutter and lens. On the rear of the bed we'll find the back standard- back frame-focusing panel and ground glass. The sheet film holder or Polaroid or Grafmatic sheet film holder will find a place between the back standard and the focusing frame. The focusing frame is suspended by two springs and holds the panel tight against the back. After focusing, this construction allows the sheet film holder to be placed between the camera back and focusing panel. Now the film-surface emulsion is situated exactly on the same spot as the ground glass when focusing and thus ready for exposure.


Focusing movements 

The harmonica bellows connects both sides enabling to change the focus distance from approximately 7,5 cm to 30 cm.

The focusing movements of the front and rear of the camera along the bed are controlled by two large focusing knobs, which are locked by turning the chrome finish locking wheels in a clockwise direction. By turning these wheels counterclockwise against the focusing knobs, the front and back should move freely. Always lock both wheels before exposure. 

Photo above shows both locking wheels and in the centre the hinge clamp of the bed which

 connects the camera-bed with the revolving and tilting tripod head.


To set up the camera, first of all prepare the tripod. Secure the tripod and level it. 

Face the tripod toward your subject. Set tripod with platform at chest height with one leg pointed to the subject. Adjust the length of the legs and level then. It is more difficult to adjust them if you are trying to balance with the weight of your camera on top. Make sure one leg is straight in front of the camera. Both other legs must be lined in the proper position to avoid to strike one of the legs and stumble over them when focusing. Mount camera and secure all levels and the lens board. Level camera and open lens on widest stop.

Reversible and Revolving Backs.

This Graflex View camera is equipped with a detachable back. It allows the photographer to rotate the ground glass to produce horizontal (landscape) position or vertical (portrait) position of the ground glass.

To do this the back must be taken off and attached in the opposite position again. There are two clamps on top of the camera. Lifting both clamps with both thumbs, dismounts the back from the camera to be repositioned.

The Back Adjustments.

Graflok back came standard with the View II

download original manual

Graflex Cameras

Back to The world of Graflex

The eccentric lens board for wide angle