The Speed Graphic, originally produced by Graflex, was a once ubiquitous press camera. When you see movies about the 1930's through the 1960's, and the press are carrying big cameras with flashbulbs, these are the ones they are carrying. Many famous photographers used Speed Graphics, notably Weegee.
The Speed Graphic was the dominant camera of its day. It was in production from 1912 to 1972, an amazing span for the production of any item, let alone something like a camera.
The Speed Graphic is similar to what would now be called a large format field camera - it is a large format (4" X 5") camera that folds into a reasonably portable rectangle. Unlike field cameras, though, the Speed Graphic was meant to be used while hand held. Because of the slower speeds of the film in the past, this required the use of flashbulbs.
The Speed Graphic is distinguished from many other large format cameras in that it has a built in focal plane shutter. This allows the use of lenses that are mounted in a barrel instead of a shutter, with considerable financial savings.
Graflex also sold a similar camera without a built-in shutter called a Crown Graphic.
Speed Graphics went through many model changes throughout its production, culminating in the Super Speed Graphic.
Here is a list of features usually found on Speed Graphics:
- built-in focal plane shutter
- carrying handle (right side)
- flash gun bracket (left side)
- ground glass viewing with built-in hood (later models had backs that were better integrated with optional film magazines and roll film holders)
- wire frame sportsfinder (simple viewfinder)
- normal viewfinder (later versions were parallax corrected)
- the lid/lens stage could drop, allowing the lens stage to be positioned lower than the film stage
- reasonable movements of the lens stage (shift up/down, left/right, up/down and left/right tilt)
- latest models had a rotating back
All in all, a feature-laden camera. Still plentiful, because it was so ubiquitous in the past. A wonderful, economic way to get into large format photography. The camera and all the options are reasonably priced on the used market, except for original Graflex flash guns, which were used to make the lightsabers in Star Wars, resulting in ridiculously inflated prices.