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Graflex 1A, Folmer and Schwing Division, Eastman Kodak. 116 Roll film camera, SLR. c1915

This Graflex 1A, was a camera manufactured by what Kodak regarded as it's professional camera Division. The former New York based Folmer and Schwing had been acquired by Eastman Kodak in 1905 and subsequently moved to Rochester where much of Eastman Kodak's production took place. Graflex SLRs were built with some passion and commitment, as the difficulties of maintaining a light tight camera of this size and construction were profound. The Graflex shutter curtain consists of a long length of linen, sealed with rubberized black paint, applied by hand (you can still see the brush strokes in this example). Along it's length are slits of different widths from full frame to 1/8th inch, this coupled with the varying tension of the shutter gave this camera a remarkable range of 24 shutter speeds, from 1/10th sec. to an amazing 1/1000th. And timed as well. Early ones, as this example, had a trestle strut arrangement supporting the focus hood and an external ratchet mechanism of the shutter tension. Construction is predominantly machined wood, with rolled sheet aluminium ends and pressed aluminium back plate, retained by clips. The top plates carrying the mechanisms are brass plate, finished in gun metal paint and then lacquered. The various controls are from turned brass. The whole carcass is covered with a fine Morocco pattern leather. This particular example was rescued in September 2013, dating from between 1915-1917, as indicated by the Autographic back (available from 1915) and the nameplate that states Folmer and Schwing "Division", it became "Department" in 1917. As rescued, it was in a bad way, and needed a total rebuild. The camera's patina was conserved but functionality was restored, replacing as few parts as possible. You can see the workshop entry under project 4. Evidence of extensive use was uncovered along with two original addresses inside, both Pontypridd in Wales. These were conserved. None of the springs inside were original, but were poorly made amateur replacements. New springs were wound and a handful of iron screws that were badly rusted were replaced with brass ones. Although the shutter curtain was torn in several places, and had been repaired previously, it was repaired and retained. Albeit at the expense of the fastest shutter speed. New in 1915, this camera and lens combination would have cost $95. The same combination two years later was $120, so the Graflex 1A represented a hefty investment. It was aimed at professionals, the primary selling point being the ability to precisely focus the instrument, release the shutter at the critical instant and freeze motion with the very fast shutter speed.

In use the operator releases the shutter using the button on the front, this causes the two mirror springs to retract the mirror, and at the final part of the travel, trips the shutter. This all works beautifully once more. The "Achilles heel" of the Graflex is drag in the shutter mechanism and an inherent weakness in the design of the shutter curtain which does not have tapes. However, the shutter curtain is amazingly still lightproof in this example. Each control has a letter stamped on it that correlates to the diagram in the original instruction manual, a nice touch. Available with Kodak, Cooke or License produced Zeiss Tessars from Bausch and Lombe, this example is fitted with the Tessar, still in usable condition, with very slight delamination in the rear group.

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Body No. 47460
Shutter, Graflex, Focal plane, 24 speeds from 1/10 to 1/1000th, plus T
Lens, Bausch & Lombe Tessar, No. 2514402, f/4.5, in view of the state of relations that existed between Germany and the rest of the world in 1915, any reference to Zeiss is conveniently dropped.
Condition, 5F

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