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Roger Hicks
03-15-2011, 01:09
...including rangefinders. From the end of the current Short Schrift on the front page of my web-site, http://www.rogerandfrances.com/ Alpa was bought by a Swiss couple (Thomas and Ursula) who wanted to revive a noble Swiss camera brand. They succeeded. Why is there no-one in the USA to do the same with Graflex?

Cheers,

R.

sevo
03-15-2011, 01:46
For the same reason nobody in Germany will re-use the Mentor brand. Graflex was barely visible to Joe Average, and hence not a brand with a public reputation comparable to Alpa. Besides, Alpa was not revived as a 35mm SLR, but they bought the name rights for their medium format studio camera series. Nobody in the US seems to have a product for which he'd want to purchase the name rights to Graflex.

Roger Hicks
03-15-2011, 01:58
For the same reason nobody in Germany will re-use the Mentor brand. Graflex was barely visible to Joe Average, and hence not a brand with a public reputation comparable to Alpa. Besides, Alpa was not revived as a 35mm SLR, but they bought the name rights for their medium format studio camera series. Nobody in the US seems to have a product for which he'd want to purchase the name rights to Graflex.

Ooooh.... Speed Graphic? One of the greatest names of all time? A LOT better known than Alpa.

Besides, Thomas and Ursula bought the name with the intention of making a new camera: the Alpa 12 wasn't waiting in the wings, but arrived long after they'd bought the name.

Incredibly, they had considered Egli-Vincent instead of Alpa: Thomas actually rode on the back of an Egli-Vincent piloted by Fritz Egli. They wanted to revive a great Swiss name, purely to showcase Swiss engineering. Neither is a photographer, a motorcyclist or an engineer: just Swiss. And both are incredibly nice people, who have been taken somewhat by surprise by the success of their cameras.

Cheers,

R.

sevo
03-15-2011, 02:08
Ooooh.... Speed Graphic? One of the greatest names of all time? A LOT better known than Alpa.


Among amateurs or consumers? Maybe as a pre war press camera, but nobody will know they actually made cameras past the forties. Even Linhof or Sinar (which are still in business, and rank higher than Graflex in the reputation score) are almost entirely unknown if we look beyond older professionals and the odd few large format enthusiasts...

aad
03-15-2011, 03:30
Egli Vincent is all very well, but they would have been buying engines from Australia...

oftheherd
03-15-2011, 03:46
A hand held 4x5 probably wouldn't compete well, but a TLR or 35mm might. I know they sold them, I don't know for sure if they made them or just branded them from someone else.

Frank Petronio
03-15-2011, 03:46
Singer, the sewing machine company, bought Graflex and one of those "divestment" bankers broke it up and sold the bits to once was a great American company. Greed won. Of course Graflex was at the end of the line anyway, the Graflex XL, no offense to anyone, was a hideous camera (in my opinion) and they had adopted entirely too much plastic into their designs.

Personally I think American camera design was the best in the world, from a practical engineering and manufacturing standpoint. An ACME shutter is inexpensively made from bent metal parts, like a cheap alarm clock, but it works reliably for years without service. A German Compur is beautifully made from milled parts but requires regular maintenance. After the war, McArthur and the American planners basically "gave" the Japanese our camera industry as a way to get the Japanese economy going....

Sparrow
03-15-2011, 03:57
Singer, the sewing machine company, bought Graflex and one of those "divestment" bankers broke it up and sold the bits to once was a great American company. Greed won. Of course Graflex was at the end of the line anyway, the Graflex XL, no offense to anyone, was a hideous camera (in my opinion) and they had adopted entirely too much plastic into their designs.

Personally I think American camera design was the best in the world, from a practical engineering and manufacturing standpoint. An ACME shutter is inexpensively made from bent metal parts, like a cheap alarm clock, but it works reliably for years without service. A German Compur is beautifully made from milled parts but requires regular maintenance. After the war, McArthur and the American planners basically "gave" the Japanese our camera industry as a way to get the Japanese economy going....

There is certainly an American design ethos that has to be admired, a rugged simplicity that we lost back in the 19 century ... that sounds critical but it isn't

rxmd
03-15-2011, 04:12
An ACME shutter is inexpensively made from bent metal parts, like a cheap alarm clock, but it works reliably for years without service. There is certainly an American design ethos that has to be admired, a rugged simplicity that we lost back in the 19 century ... that sounds critical but it isn't

Kind of like a good Zorki? :angel:

Sparrow
03-15-2011, 04:14
Kind of like a good Zorki? :angel:

Yep, but a Zorki that works :D

250swb
03-21-2011, 00:16
There is certainly an American design ethos that has to be admired, a rugged simplicity that we lost back in the 19 century ... that sounds critical but it isn't

When I think of American design why does the image of an Edsel appear in my thought bubble?

But along with things like Danelectro guitars modern peer review has put some designs from the fifties and sixties into the 'so bad its good' category. The Edsel can now hold its badge high at shows for over-restored cars. And that is what would happen with a modern resurrection of Graflex. A once proud name that made appaling cameras at the end of its life reintegrated into society as a must have niche brand. All sins would be forgotten and the glory days would be revived. I honestly believe that with a little viral marketing (and thats all it would take) Graflex could have a solid future based on the complimentary approach people have to camera 'collecting' . So if you have a Leica, a Rollieflex, a '56 Strat, and a (tasteful) Rolex the next hit would be Graflex. All it needs is somebody to do it.....Roger.

Steve

lynnb
03-21-2011, 01:30
Some small companies like Razzle and Polaroidconversions seem to making a viable niche out of hand held 4x5, 120/220 and Polaroid bodies and interchangeable backs based on Polaroid 250-generation folders. If they can do it, why not Graflex? Graflex has at least the retro cool factor of the old Polaroids. Look at the success of Lomo marketing. I would have imagined that Graflex has at least the same potential as that.

ronnies
03-21-2011, 03:17
Does someone already own the rights to the Graflex name in photo circles? I have at home a 28-200 zoom lens with the Graflex name on it in Minolta MC mount (but it looks like a 1980s style design). I doubt its from the original company and a google search didn't bring up much info on the lens at all.

Ronnie

squirrel$$$bandit
03-21-2011, 03:33
Nice piece, Roger, I'm enjoying your "short schrifts."

By the way, like it or not, a regular online column of brief text pieces is, by definition, what a blog is. Face it, sir: you're a blogger. ;)

Keith
03-21-2011, 03:40
Yep, but a Zorki that works :D


Whether a Zorki 'works' or not depends entirely on what it's actually being used for ... surely. :angel:

sevo
03-21-2011, 03:43
Singer Graflex ended the Graphic series in around 1970, and sold the tooling to Toyo/Horseman, who continued making derived cameras under their own brands (so the brand obviously did not change hands then, not even for large format products). In any case, Singer Graflex did not entirely get out of photography - they still distributed the Graflex Norita 66 until 1976, and must have continued producing projectors past that, as some were still listed in a German mid-eighties catalogue of AV products.

Keith
03-21-2011, 03:45
American movies from the fifties and sixties were always highlighted for me if there was a scene with press photographers ... and their Graflex cameras.

I never really bought the apple pie that those movies always seemed to be selling me ... but I did get a Crown Gaphic eventually. :p

Brian Sweeney
03-21-2011, 03:46
Classic American camera- Polaroid.

Maybe the last American Made SLR made in large quantities, the Polaroid SLR680. The SLR690 is a good recreation, was produced by Polaroid Japan. I have one of each.

On the Graphics- they just keep working. I gave away 2 of them, traded a third.

newspaperguy
03-21-2011, 03:52
Not to hijack the thread, but as one who literally cut his teeth on a 4X5 back in the 40s, I would contend that the best-of-the-breed was the aluminum body Busch Pressman.

This was one solid camera, and as weather resistant as you could make.

It did however, lack the focal plane shutter that made the Graflex/Graphic family such a favorite among sports photogs.

FPjohn
03-21-2011, 03:54
SLR680. Revived, or at least refurbished, by the impossible project.

Or perhaps not.

http://shop.the-impossible-project.com/shop/cameras/600/ca_slr680_kit

yours
FPJ

Jamie123
03-21-2011, 04:05
I think there's a general perception of Swiss (and also German) workmanship standing for precision which may not be equally strong in regards to American workmanship. Of course it's a cliché and there's no reason why an American camera shouldn't be just as good a Swiss one but clichés are important when it comes to brands. Remember that the company name is not just "ALPA", it's "ALPA of Switzerland" and also it's not just "Arca", it's "Arca Swiss". In comparison, I don't know if "Graflex" would inspire the same confidence in the minds of people who will pay top dollar for a precision camera.

wlewisiii
03-21-2011, 04:51
Classic American camera- Polaroid.

Maybe the last American Made SLR made in large quantities, the Polaroid SLR680. The SLR690 is a good recreation, was produced by Polaroid Japan. I have one of each.

On the Graphics- they just keep working. I gave away 2 of them, traded a third.

i can vouch that one of them & it's 127/4.7 Ektar is still going strong. i've also rebuilt a nearly destroyed Crown from 1962 into a working field camera.

if one were to be built with the same simplicity and strength, i'd think there would be a small niche for a Graflex rebirth. That said, it would need to be a second business for someone who could do it for love and for the tax write off.

Perhaps a recreation of the Century Graphic with roll holders and a digital back that looks and acts something like the cut sheet holder of old but with a memory card rather than a 2x3 sheet? Real red leather bellows & a bit more movements up front, say like the Super Speed's? That might find a few customers but it would probably not be economically viable.

chris00nj
03-21-2011, 05:19
What would be the market? What would they sell and to whom?

The DSLR market is already really crowded: Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony, Pentax
The high end for product/fashion is really crowded: Leica, Nikon, Canon,
The film market is crowded with a vast used market, Cosina, and Leica.
The mirrorless market has: Sony, Olympus, Fuji, and Sigma
Point and shoot cameras will die faster than film. (People who used P&S cameras now just use their iPhones)
Panoramic camera market has Horizon, Noblex, Widelux, Linhoff, Fuji
Technical camera market has Horseman and Linhoff
Instant camera market has Polaroid
The crappy camera market is dominated by LomoThe large market already has a ton of players who have economies of scale to produce low-cost cameras. Some of the niche markets (like technical cameras) are so small, that there isn't any room for a new entry.

On another note, a company brought back Argus (http://www.arguscamera.com/landing.html). I doubt they are made in the US.

Jamie123
03-21-2011, 07:15
Some of the niche markets (like technical cameras) are so small, that there isn't any room for a new entry.

While I agree with most of what you're saying I think this is a bit of an overstatement. If you ask the current players in a niche like technical cameras they will no doubt tell you that there isn't any room for a new entry. But of course there is if you manage to take market share away from other players. A small market also means that the number of people you have convince of your product is considerably smaller. If you manage to get 10 prospective ALPA or Arca buyers to buy your products instead, you've already generated an income of at least $100'000 (how much of that is actual profit will, of course, depend on manufacturing costs and overhead).

rover
03-21-2011, 07:25
An American company buying the name of a product to have it produced in Asia, and be at a woeful marketing disadvantage compared to the giants of the industry? Sounds like good business sense to leave that to someone else.

Besides, we still have these guys.

http://www.vivitar.com/

FPjohn
03-21-2011, 07:31
i can vouch that one of them & it's 127/4.7 Ektar is still going strong. i've also rebuilt a nearly destroyed Crown from 1962 into a working field camera.

if one were to be built with the same simplicity and strength, i'd think there would be a small niche for a Graflex rebirth. That said, it would need to be a second business for someone who could do it for love and for the tax write off.

Perhaps a recreation of the Century Graphic with roll holders and a digital back that looks and acts something like the cut sheet holder of old but with a memory card rather than a 2x3 sheet? Real red leather bellows & a bit more movements up front, say like the Super Speed's? That might find a few customers but it would probably not be economically viable.

Right.

It's the 6x9 slide in digital back I would like to see. I've a Century to fit it.

yours
FPJ

Jamie123
03-21-2011, 08:11
Right.

It's the 6x9 slide in digital back I would like to see. I've a Century to fit it.


I hope you also have a century to wait for it :)

Vince Lupo
03-21-2011, 08:25
I'll take the Ansco Automatic Reflex thanks.

And from a design perspective, how about a recreation of the Raymond Loewy designed Anscomatic?

Soothsayerman
03-21-2011, 08:43
Maybe someone should revive... Kodak.

Ben Z
03-25-2011, 08:21
There are tons of Speed Graphic and Crown Graphic (lacks FP shutter) cameras out there to be had for a pittance, most of them in operable condition. I'm not sure even the Chinese could make a replica of equal quality that would cost as little.

NLewis
03-25-2011, 08:39
Look on eBay for the interesting "Gaoersi" brand. Of course it is Chinese. These replace the bellows with a cast aluminum, rigid housing like a Fuji 617. Limited movements. A viewfinder and handles, like a press camera, ground-glass peeping not encouraged. Costs more than a used Graflex, but might be cool for those shooting people press-style with 4x5 (or 8x10).

shadowfox
03-25-2011, 10:56
An ACME shutter is inexpensively made from bent metal parts, like a cheap alarm clock, but it works reliably for years without service. A German Compur is beautifully made from milled parts but requires regular maintenance.

I concur, I remember thinking that it's odd that I've seen more Japanese/German shutters freeze, gunked up or broken than those in old, dirty, cheap Kodak folders.

Also reminds me of the big Wollensak shutter on my 8x10 B&J. It is dirty as heck, but it works and have single-action (trigger cocks the shutter and release it) to boot. The same can be said on my Seneca 5x7 lens/shutter combination.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4067/4687428732_8d8daf0d02_z.jpg

I think that's one of the most handsome TLR around.

bigeye
03-25-2011, 13:57
Revive a noble brand? I don't think that would be the goal in itself.

Gowland (http://www.petergowland.com/camera/index.html) does it's own thing today, though not a camera for the Luigi case set, I'm afraid.

Oddly enough, Apple (heirs of Edsel design) could be a company to push into cameras - and integrate them to new/better purposes. It's just chips and tin. It fits into their market well.

- Charlie

PMCC
03-25-2011, 14:10
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4067/4687428732_8d8daf0d02_z.jpg

I think that's one of the most handsome TLR around.

I agree, and have owned a perfect example of it. But the sub-cheapo Wollensak shutter is truly underwhelming.

MarkS
03-25-2011, 14:34
It would be pointless to attempt to revive Graflex; there are enough good originals left to satisfy the market for that type of camera. They built them too well, and 60-year old examples work as good as new. Of course the market moved away from them- photojournalists had gone to 35mm (Nikon F) and 120 (Rollei) by the 1960s. The Hasselblad and Mamiya RB67 killed the Graflex SLRs by, well, just working better and being more flexible. The Graphic View was supplanted by any number of European and Japanese monorail cameras. Their 35mm and twin-lens cameras were just cheap, and the XL failed in the marketplace. What's left? Graflex was the best of its time, much as the American Locomotive Co., where my grandfather worked, made the best steam engines. AlCo's long gone, too. I say use your Graflex cameras, take care of them, and they'll outlive you.

rxmd
03-25-2011, 20:09
Yep, but a Zorki that works :D

Shouldn't that be called a Worki?

Contarama
03-25-2011, 20:24
The greatest American camera maker ever nowadays makes it money off of "licensing its digital technology" instead of film. Eg. the sensor in the Leica M9!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110326/ap_on_hi_te/us_kodak_patent_dispute

As for Singer sewing machines and the handing over of the American camera industry to the Japanese in order to help them rebuild after WW2 here is a nicely brassed early post war Consew (Made in Japan) copy of an industrial Singer. It is still running perfect to this very day! They gave away the sewing machine industry too! :D

PS How many of you own McIntosh hi fi equipment? haha

http://i1107.photobucket.com/albums/h400/Contarama/ConsewModel18Brass.jpg

jan normandale
03-25-2011, 21:37
In response to Roger's OP


The Graflex camera – history

The iconic Speed Graphic is associated with an era of press photography through the 1930s to 60s. ..While many other large format cameras were in use at this time, it is the images of early Graflex, Century Graphic, Pacemaker Speed Graphic, Combat Graphic and Super Speed Graphic which captured public imagination. Arguably, the most famous photograph ever made in the 20th Century with a Graflex is the late Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's World War II image of United States Marines raising the Stars and Stripes flag on Mount Suribachi in 1945 on the island of Iwo Jima. It won a Pulitzer Prize for its author and inspired a national war-bond poster, a postage stamp and a bronze statue in Washington D.C.

A partnership between William F. Folmer and William E. Schwing made in 1887, was responsible for the long line of cameras which became an American photographic institution. Incorporated in 1890 as the Folmer & Schwing Manufacturing Co., the firm began making cameras in 1897. In 1905 the company was bought by George Eastman of Rochester and by 1917 was a division of Eastman Kodak. The company underwent more name changes before becoming Graflex Inc., in 1945. From 1956 until 1968 Graflex was owned by General Precision Equipment Corp and afterwards by the Singer Corporation.
The flood of small format Japanese cameras imported into the U.S.A. in the 1950s and 1960s gradually eroded the company's customer base and by 1973 Graflex had ceased large format press and field camera production. The last American produced 4" X 5" camera carried the name Super Speed Graphic. It was built with an all metal body and fitted with a coupled rangefinder, Graflex shutter, revolving universal back, double extension bellows and all directional movements on the front standard.

But the Speed Graphic story did not end then. In 1982, all the dies, designs and patents for the camera were purchased by the Sakai Special Camera Mfg Co Ltd of Osaka, Japan, makers of the Toyo range of field and studio cameras. The company put the camera back into production as the Toyo Super Graphic and fitted it with a National made Toyo Graphic Autolight 56E with an extra long handle. The Camera was imported to the UK by photographic distributors George Elliot & Son.

URL: http://graflex.ajaxnetphoto.com/

Peter Wijninga
03-25-2011, 21:44
I suppose you could wonder about Russian cars in the same vein....the Italians gave it a try -probably more for the political reasons of the time and so did Chevrolet -eek... In the end, nobody wants to buy them.

Roger Hicks
03-26-2011, 00:49
I wasn't talking about bringing back any existing camera, but rather about makkng a great new camera under an old name, just as Alpa did with the 12. I completely agree that there is no point in reviving anything Graflex made in the past, but I like the idea of making a great NEW American camera -- a design no-one has seen before, just as Alpa did -- under the old name, as a celebration of top-flight American engineering.

Cheers,

R.

Ronald M
03-26-2011, 06:15
Americans are not investing in manufacturing much if at all. We have a tax structure that encourages outsourcing labor intensive work to other countries, ie we are destroying our industrial base and thus our economy. Every other country protects its industrial base like the gold it is.

Why we do this is anyone`s guess. I have my ideas, but it is a fact and has been going on for 30/40 years

On top of it all, we bring in low to no education immigrants and foreign born, US college educated, people to return to their home country upon graduation.

Another policy hard to fathom unless you believe what I believe.

Roger Hicks
03-26-2011, 08:07
Americans are not investing in manufacturing much if at all. We have a tax structure that encourages outsourcing labor intensive work to other countries, ie we are destroying our industrial base and thus our economy. Every other country protects its industrial base like the gold it is.
.
Not all of them. England is arguably even worse than the USA at this.

Cheers,

R.

Rob-F
03-26-2011, 08:16
PS How many of you own McIntosh hi fi equipment? haha



(Raises hand) McIntosh MR-67 tuner here!

jan normandale
03-26-2011, 21:11
I wasn't talking about bringing back any existing camera, but rather about makkng a great new camera under an old name, just as Alpa did with the 12. I completely agree that there is no point in reviving anything Graflex made in the past, but I like the idea of making a great NEW American camera -- a design no-one has seen before, just as Alpa did -- under the old name, as a celebration of top-flight American engineering.

Cheers,

R.

Got it! Good question and despite the 'gloomy' economic times in the US I think people will pay for a quality product. Look at the success of the Alpa as you suggested, Cosina and Leica's M9... overall quality brings in the serious photographic dollars, even if I'm out of that Alpa "snack bracket"

Frank Petronio
03-26-2011, 21:38
Keith Canham makes a line of great view cameras.

Dick Phillips made arguably the best field cameras -- Ebony, Chamonix, and several others copied him.

Who knows? With some of the new 3-D printing type technologies, perhaps short-run, highly designed components can be made efficiently domestically? The design know-how is there, imagine punching in your file and outputting the twenty or so parts needed....

graywolf
04-03-2011, 14:12
Grin!

I believe Toyo now owns the Graphic tradename. They bought the rights to and produced the Toyo Super Speed Graphic for about 10 years.

I think the Graflex tradename has reverted to the public domain, I have seen it used by several unrelated companies.

Prior to WWII the US had the reputation of being the finest high tech manufacturing country in the world. Swiss watches were cheap back then about like a Timex. Top american watches kept like a minute a year, note that an Officially Certified Swiss Chronometer keeps a minute a month.

We chose, or rather, our politicians chose to knock down the tariffs on things like cameras, watches, and bicycles so that Germany & Japan could sell to us cheaply and rebuild their economies, and the European countries could repay their war loans. As a result instead of 90% of the American economy being in manufacturing as it was at the end of WWII only about 10% is now. The US won all its wars from the Civil War through the Korean war due to its industrial base. We no longer have that industrial base. At 67, I hope I will be dead before it matters.

Dante_Stella
04-12-2011, 20:26
Swiss watches were cheap back then about like a Timex. Top american watches kept like a minute a year, note that an Officially Certified Swiss Chronometer keeps a minute a month.

"Swiss Made," as it appears in tiny letters on any Swiss watch, is an artifact of almost 100 years ago. The United States Congress decided that the country of origin must appear on the dial of "cheapo" Swiss pocketwatches. There was a lot of artifice in hiding it in scrollwork and skeltonized faces. It persists today only out of tradition. The Swiss, of course, have made a business of buying other brands (like Hamilton in the U.S.A, Panerai in Italy, etc.), and selling under their names. Rolex, in fact, started as a Swiss satellite office of a British company.

Dante