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4x5" Graflex Speed Graphic press camera with optional rangefinder on left, with attached bulb flash.

A press camera is a medium or large format view camera that was predominantly used by press photographers in the early to mid-20th century. It was largely replaced for press photography by 35mm film cameras in the 1960s, and subsequently, by digital cameras. The quintessential press camera was the Speed Graphic.[1] Press cameras are still used as portable and rugged view cameras.


Press cameras were widely used from the 1900s through the early 1960s and commonly have the following features:[2][3]: 48 

Some models have both a focal plane shutter and an iris lens shutter. The focal plane shutter allows for fast shutter speeds and the use of lenses which do not have an integral shutter (known as a barrel lens),[2] while the iris shutter allows for flash synchronization at any speed. The Graphlex Speed Graphic models [5] and the Ihagee Zweiverschluss ("two shutters") Duplex[6] are examples of press cameras that had both focal plane and iris shutters.

The most common sheet film size for press cameras was the 4×5 inch film format.[1][2] Models have also been produced for the 2.25×3.25 inch format (6×9 cm), 3.25×4.25 inch format and various 120 film formats [3] from 6×6 cm. through 6×12 cm. European press cameras, such as the Goerz and Van Neck, used the 9×12cm format, marginally smaller than the 4"×5" format.

Many press cameras can be fitted with rangefinders for handheld use

The press camera is still used as a portable medium or large format film camera for photojournalism and among fine art photographers who use it as a low cost, more portable alternative to a view camera. In news photography, the press camera has been largely supplanted by the smaller formats of 120 film and 135 film, and more recently by digital cameras. The advantage of the 4×5 inch format over 35 mm format is that the size of the film negative is 16 times that of a 35 mm film negative image.[2][b]

Press cameras were largely superseded by the 6x6cm medium format Rolleiflex in the early to mid-1960s and later by 35 mm rangefinder or single-lens reflex cameras. The smaller formats gained acceptance as film technology advanced and quality of the smaller negatives was deemed acceptable by picture editors. The smaller cameras generally offered lenses with faster maximum apertures and by the nature of their smaller size, were easier to transport and use. The bulk and weight of the camera itself, as well as the size of the film holders (two pictures per film holder), limited the number of exposures photographers could make on an assignment; this was less of an issue with 12 exposures on a roll of 120 film, or 36 exposures on 35 mm film.[8]

Compared to view cameras, press cameras do not have the range of swing/tilt movements of the front standard, and rarely have back movements because many were fitted with focal plane shutters.[2]

List of press cameras

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (October 2009)

See also


  1. ^ Field cameras generally were heavier than press cameras and intended to be used on tripods rather than handheld [4]
  2. ^ Some professional DSLR cameras have an image sensor which is the same size as 35mm format (36×24 mm) [7] while most consumer and prosumer digital cameras have significantly smaller CCDs.
  3. ^ The Speed Graphic was also available in 5x7 inch format, but usually limited to studio rather than press use due to weight [5]
  4. ^ Agents for Goerz Anschütz cameras pre-WW1, manufactured the British Anschütz camera from 1919 until 1924 when supplies of Goerz were unavailable.[1]


  1. ^ a b Fellig (Weegee), Arthur (2003). Naked city (Facsimile ed.). [Cambridge, Massachusetts].: Da Capo Press. p. 260. ISBN 0-306-81204-5.
  2. ^ a b c d e Takahashi, Tim (1996). "Graflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic". Archived from the original on 2002-08-03. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b Adams, Ansel (1980). The Camera (2 ed.). Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0821210920.
  4. ^ a b "Which Model?". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b Caloccia, William; Takahashi, Timothy. "Speed Graphic FAQ file". R.I.T. Photo Forum. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  6. ^ a b Ruys, Hugo. "The Identification of Pre-War Ihagee Cameras" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  7. ^ Atherton, Nigel (2006). An illustrated A to Z of digital photography: people and portraits. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Pub. SA/Essentials. ISBN 2-88479-087-X.
  8. ^ Millett, Larry (2004). Strange days, dangerous nights : photos from the speed graphic era. St. Paul, MN: Borealis Books. ISBN 0-87351-504-8. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  9. ^ "The Beseler Press camera". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  10. ^ "Jo Lommen collecting and using Burke & James classic press cameras". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  11. ^ "Busch Camera".
  12. ^ "Graflex.Org: Speed Graphics, Large Format Photography, and More". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  13. ^ "The Kalart camera". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Linhof Master Technika Cameras". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  15. ^ "The Meridian Camera". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  16. ^ "Koni Omega Rapid M –'s Classic Camera DB".
  17. ^ "Jo Lommen collecting and using PLAUBEL MAKINA II classic press cameras". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  18. ^ "4x5 Press King Camera". Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  19. ^ "Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Co. Camera Listing". Historic Camera History Librarium. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  20. ^ "The VanNeck press camera". Retrieved 17 December 2015.