Wake up your Graflex !

Get yourself some sheet or roll film and you're ready for shooting.

Here are some useful tips to start, but first of all we have to study the complicated nomenclature of Graflex backs and the right plate or film holders to prevent purchasing the wrong camera or the wrong holder.

Graflok, Graphic and Graflex Back.

About the complicated nomenclature of Graflex backs and film holders.
Your camera may be fitted with any of three different backs, the Graflok Back (yes, Graflok with K not ck), the Graphic Back , or Graflex Back. All of these backs allow ground glass focusing through the focusing panel at the back of the camera. This is the only type of focusing that permits simultaneous checking of the composition, sharpness and depth of field exactly as it will be reproduced on the film.

First of all we'll concentrate on the

Graflok Back

The fist photo shows the upper side of the Graflok back. The Graflok back was the first international standard back for 4x5 inch cameras. This means that you can remove the complete focusing panel including ground glass and focusing hood permitting the attachment of the Roll Film Holder in the locking mechanism of the camera. For shooting with the normal 4x5 film holder the Graflok back is superfluous and the Spring Back would be sufficient. The older Pacemaker -Speed or Crown-  with the side mounted Kalart Rangefinder can be equiped with either of these, though the Anniversary is always equipped with a Spring Back. The Top Mounted Pacemaker Speed or Crown camera is always equipped with a Graflok Back.

Summarizing: if you don't intend to use a roll film back, a Spring Back would do. The advantage of a Film Holder is that the 4x5 negative gives a much more better result than the 22" or 23 "negatives of a Roll Film Holder. No doubt about that. The photo below shows the sliding lock mechanism and the click-in snap on Graflok spring.

The spring loaded focusing panel frame pulls back to accept all Graphic sheet film holders including the Grafmatic and is instantly removable to permit the attachment of the Graphic Roll Film Holder by means of the Graflok slide locks.

The Pacemaker as well as the Anniversary cameras accept only attachments with the raised rib light trap.


Next we'll take a look at the

Spring Back


The Graphic Back also called Spring Back accepts only Graphic film Holders which have the raised lock rib light trap construction and which can slide into the focusing back beneath the focusing panel. Specific instructions for removal of the focusing panel for attaching bigger accessories such as the roll film holder can be found here. The Graphic Back or Spring Back has a top and bottom central fixed spring that holds the focusing panel firmly on its place and will give space to insert the 4x5 Double Dark Slide Film Holder between the focusing back of the camera and the spring loaded focusing panel.

The older pre war Graflex cameras are often equiped with the

Graflex Back.


The Graflex Back accepts only Graflex plate or film holders and Graflex Roll Film Holders. All Graflex attachments have light trap slots cut into the flat sides of the holder at the handle end as shown below. Graflex Plate Holders Pat. 2056144


On the left photo the Graflex camera back. Note two slide locks and light trap on the right of the revolving panel. On the right the plate or film holder with grooves along both sides and the light trap slot on top.



Suitable holders for

Anniversary and Pacemaker Speed (Crown) Graphic.


fig. 10                                                            fig. 11

Holder # 1 Plate holder for 4x5 camera. Note the spring in the middle. The plate holder is a bit thicker that the film holder but that is compensated by the depth of the inside. It offers more space to install a 2 mm thick glass plate. If you don't intend to work with glass plates, forget this holder and continue.

Holder # 2 Sheet film holder only for 9x12 cm film. fig. 11.  Not suitable for 4x5 sheet film.

Holder # 3 The one and only 4x5 inch sheet film holder. Brands are Riteway, Fidelity, Graphic, Linhof, Lisco.

Always check the film size which is mostly printed on top of the holder. Note: 9x12 cm is not the same as 4x5 inch!

 All these holders should have a raised lock rib light trap for use with Graflex Anniversary and Pacemaker 4x5 cameras.


On the left picture the modern Riteway Fidelity Holder and on the right Pacemaker camera equiped with the desirable Graflok back. This is the ultimate combination for guarantied swift and secure work. The well chosen materials and good design made it to the most used professional sheet film equipment. 

Loading Sheet Film Holder.


Sacrifice one sheet of film for practicing purposes. The box containing sheet film is interleaved with a sheet of black paper between two film sheets. Each sheet of film is provided with an identification notch on one corner. When the notch appears and can be felt along the top edge at the upper right hand corner or on the left bottom side, you may slide the sheet film into the holder, the film emulsion is now faced to the lens. Before sliding the film into the holder you have to flip up the hinged slot on the bottom of the holder as shown on photos.

You may practice this a couple of times with a used negative film in day light, to get the right feeling. Be sure to get the right film holder. Next photos will guide you to make the right choice. Slide dark slide some inches to open the holder. Flip up the hinged slot on the bottom and slide a sheet film with the notches positioned on the top right side into and between the slotted grooves inside.

Close the hinged slot and slide the dark slide back to close the holder.

The 4x5 sized 9x12 film holder. At the first glance the holder looks like the 4x5 holder. However

a sign on top of the film holder tells us that this is a 9x12 cm film holder.  A 4x5 sheet film would not fit into this holder.

Left: Note the film guide. The 4x5 inch film does not fit in the outer grooves.

Right:  9x12 film compatible to the (4x5) sized 9x12 holder and fits into the grooves.


Left: Film is not compatible to the Plate holder. Note the spring in the middle.

Right. This is the holder you are looking for. No spring in the middle and on each side a The 4x5 Sheet film holder. Notches on the right hand corner faces the emulsion to the lens.


Very Important!

It is important to know that not all film holders are of the same depth.

That means that the film position in relation to the lens may differ up to 0,5 mm.

Also the thickness of the film could be a reason for minimal blur.

Stopping down would be the solution for better results.

Always use the same Brand and type of film holder such as Riteway, Graflex, Fidility, Linhof or Lisco.

Preferable are the newer plastic holders rather than the older wooden ones.


120 - Roll Film Holder 

There are the older Graflex Knob wind film holders and there are the newer Rapid Vance lever wind roll holders. These newer roll holders are made for film which is thinner  than the older film. The new Rapid Vance Roll Holder have extra guide rollers to hold this thinner film pressed against the film gate. Graflex Rapid Vance holders for 4x5 inch are:

      RH/8   Cat. No. 1255           for 8   exposures 2 ¼ x 3 ¼ 6x9 per roll of 120 film.

      RH/10 Cat. No. 1256            for 10 exposures 2 ¼ x 2 ¾ 6x7 per roll of 120 film.

       RH/12 Cat. No. 1257           for 12 exposures  2 ¼ x 2 ¼  6x6 per roll of 120 film.  

                                                              RH/20 Cat No. 12..              for 20 exposures  2 ¼ x 2 ¾  6x7 per roll of 220 film.


The newer Rapid Vance Graflex Roll Holder. Graflex name on cover. Graphic name on backside.

These  types of Roll Holders are compatible with the Pacemaker Speed and Crown Graphic Graflok backs.

Confusing is the name Graphic on the back and Graflex on the front of the roll film holder.

To define the Graflex and Graphic Roll Film Holder you may look at the inscription on the back. It reads Graphic or Graflex. The Graflex Holder is the one with one groove on top of the backside and the Graphic is the one with the two ridges on top. The Graflex Roll Holder is not compatible with a Graflok or Spring back. It only works with a Graflex Back Camera. The most popular Graflex Back cameras are the Graflex Revolving Back 4X5 and the Graflex Super D. The housing of the Roll Holder is marked as Graflex or Graphic. The Graflex Roll Holders are for 8 exposures on 120 Film. To make the confusion complete, Singer named the roll holder Graflex again. This in spite of the fact that these roll holders were made to fit to the Graphic cameras. They are however easy to distinguish as they are equipped with an advance lever with the +g logo on the lever. These +g marked Roll film Holders such as the  - RH 10 and RH 8 can be used with the 120 and 220 size roll film and can be mounted on the, with the Graflok equipped, Pacemaker Speed and Crown.

#10 Mask for Graflex Pacemaker Crown and Speed Graphics. This corresponds to 86-90mm for with an RH-10; 83-98mm with an RH-8; 122-133mm for 34" and 150-162mm for 45". 


The Graflex knob wind film holder with groove for use with cameras equipped with the Graflex GG Back.


The "22" Graphic Roll Holder to fit to a 4 x 5 inch Pacemaker Crown or Speed Graphic equipped with the international Graflok back. 

"22" Means 12 exposures. Each 2 x 2 inch. 5,7 x 5,7 cm on 120 roll-film. "23" means 2x3 inch - 8 exposures 6x9 cm. 

Roll holders are also available for 2 ¼ x 3 ¼ and 3 ¼ x 4 ¼ on 120 roll-film in knob as well as rapid advance lever.

The Graflok back accepts only Graphic attachments with the raised lock rib light trap. 

The spring loaded focusing panel frame pulls back to accept all Graphic sheet film holders and is instantly removable to permit the attachment of the Graphic roll film holder.  


Brief Instruction for loading 

Roll Film Holder.


To fit to the Graflok back a Graphic Holder is required. To remove the Graflok focusing panel, press in on the two arms to unhook them and slide the panel to the right and off. Fit the Roll Holder to the back of the camera and hold in place by means of the upper and lower slide locks. The Graflex Roll Holder can be fitted directly to the Graflex Back and held in place by means of the slide locks.  

Place the holder face down with the Dark Slide up to the right. Press the release latches together and lift open the cover. 

Load the full spool into the left hand compartment with the slot in the end of the spool down.

Tip the edge of the spool into the cavity in the lower side of the roll holder carriage and press it downward against the spring as far as possible until the spool can be tipped forward into position.

Hold lever A to the left and turn the winding knob until the last number (8  or 12)  on the counter  passes the index mark (B white line) and the counter no more turns. Break the seal of the roll film and unwind enough of the protective paper covering of the film , making sure that black side is outward, to pass around the front of the carriage and around C the take up spool with the winding knob until the arrow on the paper is opposite the arrow on the carriage. So the paper should be underneath the wind up spool. You may use an inch of some 3M or Tesa Film to ensure that the paper stays fixed to the wind up spool.


Now turn the exposure counter to "S"  by turning the domed indicator in the direction of the arrow until it snaps into place and cannot be turned further. If it is necessary to anchor the paper backing of the film more securely onto the take up spool before the cover is closed the winding knob may then be turned but not more than one turn before the cover is closed to prevent fogging the film.


Return the film compartment to the holder and close the cover. Turn the winding knob in the direction of the arrow until it stops automatically on the figure 1 indicating that the film is in position for making the fist exposure.

For the next picture move the lever A to the left and release and turn the winding knob until the lock re- engages indicating that the film is in position for the next picture. After the last exposure move lever A to the left and release. The knob will turn freely permitting the roll to be completely wind through.




620 Roll Film Holder

adapt- a-roll


The Adapt a Roll 620 is made for the 620 Roll film, which is unfortunately not available any more. The Adapt-a-roll 620 was designed to take pictures without loosing time changing film-sheet-holders, as advancing the film by turning the knob is far more easy than pulling out the film holder turning it and pushing it back again, not forgetting to push back or pull out the dark slide. On the other hand it must be said, that to advance the film in the 'Adapt-a-roll 620' takes also time and it does not stop automatically after advancing one frame. Apart from that, it's not easy to load the "Adapt-a-roll 620".


Graflex Cut Film Magazine

The Cut Film Magazine is more or less just  a collectors item rather than a usable film magazine. However you can use this device without any problem with the 4x5 sheet film. As these are very old leather backs, you better check them for pinholes by putting a electronic flash into the leather bag. Fire the flash in a dark room. 

The double dark box consist out of two parts. One of them is the dark-box made out of metal and the other is a leather bag . The film-holders can be moved from the metal box into the leather bag  after exposing and back again without coming into daylight.

The dark box contains 12 film-holders called septums. After the exposure, pull out the sliding-lid on the side.  The sliding-lid will take the septum or holder with the exposed sheet film out of its first position opposite the lens into the leather bag. Now, by the feel, you can push back the septum into the dark-box, but now at the back. Now the next septum automatically has been moved in first position and is ready to be exposed. As the holders are numbered on the back, you can check the exposed number by lifting up the little hinged door of the “dark film holder”.



Instruction for use the Graflex Cut Film Magzine

Graflex/ Singer

Grafmatic 6 sheet film holder.

The Grafmatic holds six sheet films, yet is scarcely thicker* than an ordinary two sheet film holder. It allows fast action for rapid picture taking or sequence shots. Film changing with the Grafmatic is lightning fast. Simply pull out the handle and push back into place. Your next film is positioned for exposure, in the same movement  your previous film is transported in the back of the holder,  perfectly protected against double exposure. An automatic exposure counter does the bookkeeping and stops all cooperation once the "X "on the counter has been reached. Loading the septums in full darkness need some practice but is quite easy.  Large identification notches makes it easy to identify and load. The Grafmatic is easy to use together with the Graflok back. 
A great issue is the automatic numbering of your negatives.

* The Grafmatic is 12 mm thicker than the regular  double sheet-film holder. For use with the spring-back you might consider to mount thicker washers beneath the two springs. Note: The distance of the film surface to the outer frame of the holder is 4,5 mm which is the same as the regular sheet-film holder.



On the left: The Grafmatic Film holder is backpacked on the back of the Graflok equipped camera. On the right photo you can see how the Grafmatic is sandwiched between the Graflok back and the Ground glass focusing device. Both methods are possible.
When the Grafmatic has been placed between the focusing panel and the camera back you'd better lock the Grafmatic holder with both slide locks, to prevent unintentional lifting and thus blurring the film when the dark slide has been drawn.
For more info go to
Grafmatic Holder  


For more info about this great device

The Grafmatic chamber accommodates 6 metal sheaths or septums. Each septum contains a sheet film. After exposing, the slide has to be drawn out of the housing and pushed back again. Now the next film is automatically positioned in front of the holder, waiting for exposure. Note the groove on the left picture allowing to use this 23"Grafmatic with the Graflex as well as with the Graphic backs. Both the 23 and the bigger 4x5 Grafmatic was available for the Super D and the later Pacemaker Crown or Speed Graphic cameras. The difference is the groove that fits the earlier Super D and the two ridges fitting to the Pacemaker Crown and Speed.

This is, by far, the easiest way to carry around sheet film for your 4x5 camera. It fits standard graphic backs (locking type) as well as most spring-loaded backs. Its only about 1.25 the thickness of a double-sided back and holds three times as many sheets of film! The mechanism sequentially releases the dark slide (built-in, so you can't loose it) and cycles a sheet of film forward. By pulling out the handle and pushing it back again, the exposed sheet of film is cycled to the rear of the pack and you're ready to shoot the next picture.


Dark room   Grafmatic Holder

   Kinematic holder         Linhof Super Rollex 2 ¼ x 2 ¾      Adapt-a Roll 620   Polaroid Holder

Unknown but quite interesting plate holder.       More about Graflex Cut Film Magzine

Mounting a roll film holder on a springback

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