Taglarge format

Carol at Flutot’s fixes a shutter

Sometimes I’ll buy something with little to no expectation and end up not only getting something great out of it, but learning a lot and finding new resources. Getting my Polaroid SLR 680 was that way. Buying this Deckel Compur shutter with a Zeiss Jena 135mm f4.5 was another.

I came across this shutter and lens combination on the first leg of buying parts for my large format camera. I’m taking the Johnny Cash “One Piece at a Time” approach, only with a bit less theft involved than the song. This lens and shutter was for sale in a bit of a junk clearance online. It was advertised as not known if it was working, mounted in a home-made lens board, and cheap. I bought it thinking that if it didn’t work I was only out $50, so not bad, and I could take the lens out and put it in another shutter. It showed up a bit tatty, and a pipe flange fitting was used to mount it to the lens board. The hole had apparently been hand cut with a keyhole saw. But the shutter worked, and I took a test shot or two before it stuck a little and I started looking for a repair shop.


At the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. These small birds were zipping over the water feeding on insects. Apologies for the lousy stitched scan. I still have much more to learn.

Perusing the internet led me to find the limited choices and start whittling them down. Among the most highly recommended on the forums I found was Carol at Flutot’s Repair. She was also the cheapest by a pretty wide margin. Nothing ventured, I thought, and I fired off an email. Her business is so good, you have to wait to get the ok to send her gear to repair. After a few weeks, I followed her instructions, disassembled the lens, packed the shutter as well as I could, and sent it off.

In a shorter time than I expected (she advertised up to a 6 week turn around, mine was closer to three) I paid and she shipped it back. I was amazed. The shutter was clean, and the rim set was smooth as butter. It went in to the highest speed without effort, and the blades were spotless. Carol had tested the shutter speeds and written down the true speed at each indication. They were all spot on except the highest one- 1/200th is actually 1/150th. Given the age of this shutter, that’s as close to perfect as it’s ever going to be. Carol was delightful to deal with, a treat in an industry that seems to have its share of curmudgeons these days.

I’ve not shot that much with it so far, still learning how to large format and all. But the results I’ve gotten make me love this lens and realize how much of a steal I got. I find myself using this uncoated almost 80-year-old Tessar more than the other lens I have.

Teaching myself large format has been hit and miss, with more miss than I expected. I hope all the parts to come are as easy and perfect as dealing with Carol at Flutot’s.

This is Carol’s website. Let her fix your large format woes.

Slow storytelling- Graflex Speed Graphic

shoot-365I learned to shoot seriously with a SLR. I’d never really spent much time shooting with anything else. Admittedly, I started out with a journalism approach, speed and storytelling. Now I’m getting introduced to the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m figuring out a Graflex Speed Graphic.

Welcome to slow storytelling.

Everyone knows about Graflex cameras. They were to Weegee what the Leica was to Henri Cartier-Bresson. You see them mostly as props in period TV shows these days. I’d treated them with a passing interest in the past.

Once I had dabbled in medium format, I was more interested. Big negatives with their incredible detail really inspired me. I loved how I could scan them in at huge resolutions and draw new detail out of them, and how I could print them and the result was even better. I grew to like contact printing negatives. Doing it in 35mm was just a cataloging exercise. With medium format, you could actually get something worthwhile. And then I saw some contact prints from an 8×10, held them in my hand and looked at them up close, and knew I’d be moving in that direction.

I bought this Speed Graphic after making an offhand remark about wanting to try large format to Dan. He had a spare body he had bought he wasn’t using. We had coffee and I went home a Graflex owner. I started doing some reading and deciding what lens to buy. Through fits and starts, I fell down the rabbit hole.

shoot-364The Graflex 4×5 Pacemaker Crown and Speed Graphics differ in only one major respect. The Crown Graphics have no focal plane shutter, and the Speed Graphics do. They had overlapping construction dates, and parts interchange. While I have the focal plane shutter in my body, I have not used it yet. I may find a barrel lens and see how well it works in the future, but so far I’ve stuck to the shutters the lenses I have bought are mounted in.

The rangefinder is disconnected. A previous owner converted this body to pinhole, and didn’t need it. So all the focusing is done on the ground glass with a loupe, and I’m learning better habits as a result. The movements this camera can do are a bit limited, but it’s an excellent learning tool for when I jump in to a bigger format.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in sorting out this camera. Wrong lens boards, light leaks in the film holders, all the stupid mistakes you can make. In the end, I’ve rounded up some lenses I’ll talk about later, and I’m finally getting some results. No other camera I have owned has given me the sense of accomplishment that this one has. Nailing an exposure makes all the effort worthwhile. I like the feel of slow storytelling.

Thanks to Dan, Craig, Buggy, and the rest of the #BelieveInFilm crew for the help when I’ve gotten lost. Community is a powerful, awesome thing.