Flashlight back in the fifties


One of the pressmen, Ruud Hoff, an Amsterdam photojournalist, told me: ”. We had these big Graflex with two flash guns. To draw attention from the VIP’s, gathered in the lobby below us, I scratched off some of the safety coating from one of the bulbs and fired a “blind“. This gives a special loud “bang”. The “detonation” made the “audience” looked up at me, straight in the lens of the camera, then I took the real picture…”  Another Photographer Rob Walls wrote: "Some of the anecdotes on your web-site brought it all back especially the memory of the burn calluses on the thumb and two fingers of my right hand from changing flash bulbs."

Graflex Flashing unit, Graflite Flash Synchronizer.

We're talking about Flash using Bulbs, the original way of flash used together with the Crown or Speed Graphic. You sure remember Weegee with his Speed Graphic and the big chrome flashgun. However there is a way to use the Graflex camera with modern equipment like the electronic flash. In that case you may have to make a few adjustments on the flash connector of the front shutter. See the electronic flash article on this page.

There is a lot of confusing about the name of the Graflex flash. The older type also known as the star wars Lightsabre: the chrome one with the red button is called the Graflex Flash Synchronizer, consisting out of a battery case, reflector, battery case bracket, solenoid release attached to the lensboard, release mount and connection cord for use with shutters without build in synchronization. The adjustment of the synchronizer is essential for the just in time opening of the shutter namely then, when the bulb reaches its highest light peak. To do this, the solenoid must be precisely located on the lensboard. Very difficult to adjust!


there is a far more better method to synchronize your Graflex camera with the Graflex flash by using the solenoid trigger release. Connect the solenoid with the solenoid outlet on the battery case (Graflex Flash) . Use the Solenoid cord catalogue # 2703. Cock the shutter. Press the red main switch on the battery case and check if it works and thus fires the shutter. If the solenoid works but the shutter does not fire, try to reposition the solenoid a bit lower or higher from the trigger of the shutter and try again. If the shutter fires you may continue and connect the bi-post of the shutter with the battery outlet "shutter".  Don't forget to set the flash governor on M. 

Beware of electric short cut. It can destroy the flash cable and set fire !!!
Make sure to isolate the flash bracket on top of the rangefinder.

Test if negative ( - ) is grounding on solenoid as well on the battery holder.

The flash bracket is connected to the Kalart rangefinder which is connected to the grounding of the camera and thus with the solenoid.
The cable connecting the shutter outlet of the flash with the solenoid should be tested if the plug parity is equal with the grounding of the solenoid.

The Graflex Flashing unit includes a battery case, reflector, battery case bracket and connecting cord for use with build in synchronized shutters or for focal plane synchronization. Quite simple: The build in release button of the camera trips the shutter. Whether this is the front or the focal plane shutter, the build in synchronization takes care about the synchronization. The front shutter can be set on F or M bulbs. The focal plane shutter needs the long peak bulbs Class FP such as the G.E. # 31 and the Superflash # 2A
To make it clear, both Graflite flashguns are the same! The difference is whether the Graflite is connected to the synchronizer or not. 

Graflex Synchronizer

 If the Graflite is connected to the bi- post connector of the front shutter it is called the Graflite Flashing unit. 

Bi post connector on Graflex Shutter

Confusing isn't?

more about bulbs

The Graflite flashgun is a very useful accessory for your camera and very convenient and easy to operate if you know how to do. How to connect the cables and how to set the main switch on the battery holder. But first of all let's take a look at the two different types of Flashlights. Yes there are two models. The one with the brushed aluminum battery house and the one with the chrome shining battery house. The last one has also become famous  as the so called Light saber in the science fiction film Starwars.

The left picture shows the older Graflex Flashlite in chrome. The Graflite fits direct to the Kalart Rangefinder without a special bracket. The picture on the right side shows its successor the brushed aluminium Graflite with the two clams fitting to the special bracket mounted to the Kalart Rangefinder. Make sure the bracket is isolated from the camera body to avoid short circuit.

That is not the only difference between those two flashguns.  The newer brushed aluminium  type, also called Flashlite has 5 outlets:

Extension  for use with extension cords.

Shutter  to be connected with shutter contact post- Not (x) shutter.

Battery  directly connected to hot battery power, not controlled by switch.

Remote  for operating equipment with remote control cord.

Solenoid to be connected with solenoid operating the front shutter.

plus a 

main switch  

Main switch

including a multi purpose circuit controller

N = Normal 

1) connect solenoid release on shutter with solenoid outlet on battery holder.

2) Connect contact post shutter on the shutter to shutter outlet on the battery holder.

3) connect contact post next to the winding key on camera with the shutter outlet on battery holder to fire flash sync with Focal plane shutter.

1= Electro switch

Connect solenoid release with solenoid outlet to fire flash with synchronized shutter


2= Two Battery cases

for more power from one battery case set on "N" to the other battery case set on "2"

connect solenoid release to extension outlet  and extension cords can be added to remaining Solenoid and extension outlets.


To test the Battery case outlets, you might like to use such a handy device as this home made tester. The two legs of a green or red LED, soldered  to the two prongs of a household connector. To find out which one of the two prongs is the plus, you may connect the tester to the battery outlet. If the LED lights up, you're sure the prong is connected to the positive voltage of the battery holder.

You may mark that prong with a "+" to avoid a short circuit. The other picture shows an original Graflex slave flash unit. These slaves are specially designed to fire a second flash at the same time when it senses the burst of the camera flash. 


The Graflex Flashing Unit and the Focal Plane Shutter




The focal plane shutter allows the use of telephoto or other lenses which may not be mounted in shutters. The Graflex Focal Plane Shutter is unexcelled for high speed photography. The use of barrel lenses in combination with the new Graflite flash is quite easy. The focal plane contact post only works when using  the build in shutter release, NOT by using the selector slide TRIP.

Connect  the contact posts with your multi meter to see if the contacts inside the camera or inside the front shutter do their work properly. The Focal Plane shutter makes contact  just before the slit starts its journey along the sheet film surface. You may have to clean the contacts on the right side of the camera back beneath the curtain. But you will have to remove the camera back to do that.

One other very important point is that the focal plane shutter needs some time to travel along the film surface. During that time the flash bulb should be "on".  This is only to achieve if the slit travels very fast. For Speed Graphic 34" and 45"cameras, only the #31 and # 2A flash lamps will allow even exposure while the curtain opening passes across the film. They may be satisfactorily synchronized at speeds of 1/1000 and 1/250th of a second. 

Because of the mechanical principles of the shutter and minor variations in flash lamps , synchronization can not be obtained at the other instantaneous speeds. Speeds marked in red serve as a reminder that they are not to be used for flash synchronization.

The A 20 cord of F 17 cord 

On the left side the tip which fits in the Graflite battery house and on the right side the tip fitting in the camera flash outlet.

         modified cable connector to fit the bi post of the focal palne shutter         Bi post connector Focal Plane Shutter

Unlike the newer type Graflite, the older one has only three outlets, 2 round shaped and one household outlet. All of the outlets seem to get hot when the flash goes off. 

To be sure if your flash connection works, you may use the test led or the test bulb.

Testing is successful if the LED lights up whenever firing the build-in release button at speed 1/100-1/500-1/250-1/125and T

for custom made cords for use with Graflex you may contact Paramount

See also Westinghouse No. 11 flash bulb for use with the front leaf shutter.


The Speed Aero Flashing with Bulbs.

Quite an experiment to use real flash bulbs together with the barrel Aero lens and the focal plane shutter.

Here an example to show the difference between bulbs for use with 4 x 5 inch and 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inch format.

The left photo is a 4 x 5 negative however the bulb was a GE No. 6 class FP just good enough for 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inch format.

You can see that very clear. The upper side of the photo is dark. The light of the bulb was already off when the slit of the curtain was still on its way down.

The right photo is completely illuminated by the big Sylvania 2 A especially made for use with 4x5 Focal Plane shutter cameras.


Your Speed or Crown equipped with 

an Electronic Flash unit.

It might be not so original or even worse to equip the classic Speed or Crown Graphic with an ordinary modern electronic flash unit. 

However if you persist  to use the Speed or Crown together with original flash light, it soon will be clear to you, that this could be a little bit troublesome project. 

Getting the right bulbs a is only one of the minor problems. 

Let's say you want to take some nice shots on a party and by appearing with the impressive Graflex camera you'll give the party something very special. 

However you don't want to burn your fingers while changing bulbs and what's more, take the risk of scattered glass in the guest's cocktails.

To avoid all these problems we could use the simple small electronic flash unit and mount it on the camera. 

To make it work we need an "x" shutter to synchronize with the electronic flash. 

We'll find these "x" shutter by the dozen, but they normally have these bi post flash connectors. 

So we'll have to find a solution for that. 

We'll need a "x" contact out of a simple Japanese camera from the sixties or seventies, before they equipped their cameras with the hot shoe and mount it on the lensboard.


Never the less, you want to keep the shutter original with the bi post connector. 

Therefore you may connect the bi post by two wires going into the lens board back to connect the "x" connector. 

Now your shutter can be used with the classic original Flash and the electronic flash as well.

The easiest way is to order a special cable at Paramount Cords  Brackets.

Here you'll find an overview of all the Paramount Standard PC Tips and Plugs:


The powerful Metz 45 CT 4 connected to the Speed Graphic using a Paramount special made cable from Bi-post or PC to Metz 45 connector. 


Adjusting the Solenoid     Graflex Synchronizer     Provision for the use of flash

Home Graflex Cameras    Flashing Synchronizer   The Mendelsohn Speedgun

About Bulbs       Testing your camera with the Flashunit            Film Sheet or Roll Film Holder