Fitting a Graphic Rollfilm Back to an Early Graflex

The Problem. Graflex, a division of Kodak since the early 20th century, regularly designed cameras with flexible back configurations to allow use of a variety of film types. Over half a century, Graflex improved the back systems. Contemporary users of early cameras often want the advantages of improved film handling of later film backs and the ability to use film stock not available when early cameras were made. They may also own later Graflex models with later back types and want compatibility between film holders. This article shows you how to modify a rollfilm back manufactured in the 1950s-1970s to fit an Graflex medium format SLR, in this case a Graflex Series B 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 designed in the first part of the century and built until about 1950. This procedure will not work for Graphic rollholders with baseplates for 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 and 4 x 5 Graflok backs since these baseplates are narrower than those use on Graflex rollholders. Don't be confused by claims that the Super D had a Graflok back. Its back has only some of the features of the Graflok back on the Graphic and is a different size.

Graflex Series B Design. In the drawing of the rear view of the Graflex Series B in Figures 1and 2 , I have used colors to identify the parts of the Graflex back. Blue outlines parts in the rotating section of the back. The main element is a pressed metal structure that engages the metal frame that attaches to the wooden part of the camera. This pressed metal structure rotates on the camera frame. The center of this structure is cut out to form the image frame aperature and the area around the aperature is covered with felt which acts as a light trap. To either side on the long dimension are two wooden strips that have the same thickness as the inside depth of the pressed frame. These are shown in brown in the drawing, although they are painted black on most cameras so that it may not be obvious that they are wood. Two retaining bars made from spring sheet metal are fastened to the wooden strips with wood screws. The bars are different dimensions, as are the wooden strips. On the right side, the retaining bar is stationary and positioned relative to the wood so that a pocket is formed that runs the length of the long dimension. One side of the film holder is seated in this pocket and the holder then drops down onto the felt surface. The other retaining bar on the left is mounted so that it can slide over the other edge of the film holder.

Since Graflex made cameras of similar design over very long periods, there were small differences in both the cameras and film holders. The first requirement for converting a Graflok style holder is that it be the same width in the short dimension as the area on the Graflex back that receives the film holder. If the Graflok style holder has a base plate pf the same width as a Graflex holder for the target camera, then there are three modifications that can be made to make it work with the camera. The Graphic rollholder baseplate can be longer without causing a problem.

  • At least one of the three two ridges must be ground off so that the base plate surface that faces the camera is perfectly flat. These ridges, in addition to acting as light traps, keep the holder from sliding off the Graphic when you remove the dark slide.
  • The locking action on the Graflex back is accomplished by two small 'ears,' formed in the darkslide end of the pressed metal structure, engaging two companion notches in the film holder. The Graflok type film holders do not have these notches, so they must be cut into base plate of the holder.
  • A very shallow channel must be cut across the base plate of rollholder case to receive the edge of the pressed metal frame.

Note that this modification will make the case of the Graflok rollholder no longer usable on a Graflok back. The strategy should be to create a dedicated, modified rollholder case for use on a Graflex SLR and have another unmodified rollholder case of the same design for Graflok backs you may be using. You can then use the rollholder inserts interchangably between the different rollholder cases. This is a destructive modification to the rollholder case, but makes no modifications to the camera back, for those of us who have some measure of preservationist in our souls.


Graphic and Graflex Rollholders: Because the Graflex SLRs had a simpler back design, rollfilm holders had been designed to engage their mounting hardware, but these had different mounting plates from the rollfilm holders that fit the Graflok backs. Graflex rollfilm holders are more difficult to find that the later Graflock holders and the latest of the Graflok holders had additional rollers which held the 120 film flatter. The Graflok holders had longer base plates which had ribs cast across the short dimension that engaged corresponding channels in the camera back to create light traps. Graflok backs on the different models of Graphics--Speed, Crown, and Century--and on the XL, did not rotate. The only Grafloks that rotated were those fitted to the Super Graphic; some Graphic View cameras were fitted with a Graflok back that was mounted to a pace that could be turned by 90° increments.

Again note, this procedure only applies to 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 cameras and rollholders. Rollholders for 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 and 4x5 Graflexes are wider than those for Graphics with Graflok backs.....



02/25/2009 3:55