By Jo Lommen
Aero Speed Graphic.
Quite a surprise to find a 1940 Kodak 7 Inch Aero Ektar lens mounted on a 1953 Speed Graphic.
Apart from the fact that it sure looks good, it's quite exciting to take pictures with this extreme Graflex machine, once loved by press photographers all over the world, now powered by a second world war Kodak Aero Ektar reconnaissance lens. This is the so called David Burnett Combo as a salute to the world famous prize winning photographer who uses this heavy beauty, to create his breath taking pictures, which many of them already have been published by leading American and international magazines.
A bit of history...
TSgt. Al Ciurczak dressed for shooting from an open window at high altitudes.
Photo: International Combat Camera Association.
You might be very lucky to find an original K 24 Aircraft camera on eBay.
Click here to find out how to remove the lens safely out of the camera.
It all began after the end of World War II. These lenses served during the war in reconnaissance missions, mounted in the huge Graflex K-24 cameras to photograph the world, or what was left of it, after the Flying Fortress, such as the B17, had visited the theatre of war: Battle fields, towns, industrial and other strategic targets. Originally made for military purposes by Kodak and sold to the US ministry of defence for about US $ 800 a piece, as much money as a Chevrolet would have cost in those days. After World War II, these lenses where sold as a bargain for about 75 US $ to professional photographers mainly for use in their studios as a portrait lens. The Kodak Aero lens was rediscovered by David Burnett, who felt the artistic challenge using this "hawk eye" for his Speed Graphic camera, thus creating the superb artistic device for use in his world of photojournalism.
He produced perfect exposures of politicians on campaign as well as sportsmen as they were doing their greatest performances on the Olympic games. Great photographers from all over the world, try to gain the knowledge of this magnificent way of creative artistic photography, by trying to purchase this lens as well as a 4x5 inch Speed Graphic camera. However, it is not done by that alone. The technique, needed to create these superb photos is more than one can imagine, not having ever worked intensively with these huge cameras.
This Kodak Aero lens features a minimum aperture of f/16 and a maximum aperture of f/2.5, allowing the photographer to capture quality images under a wide variety of lighting conditions. With its fixed focal length of 178 mm, this Kodak camera lens is great for capturing a single distant subject and featuring it prominently in the image. All Kodak Aero lenses were coated so that these lenses will offer a great results and contrast for both color and Black & White photography. The rear element has special radioactive glass that was designed for aircraft reconnaissance missions to cut through haze. The Kodak Aero Ektar is an extremely tightly focused lens, meaning that in close focus situations the depth of field can be measured in millimetres. Beside that the Kodak Aero Ektar 178 mm f/2.5 lens features 16 diaphragm blades, necessary to maximize the roundness of the aperture opening and thus minimize rays coming from a light source or reflections. This allows photographers using this 178 mm f/2.5 lens to be extremely detailed with what they focus on most.
The next pages show the preparations needed to use the Kodak Ektar Aero Lens together with the Speed Graphic. Before purchasing the Speed Graphic Camera and the Aero Ektar Lens, carefully read these pages to avoid disappointments.
The Aero lens can quite often be found on EBay. Bidding ends mostly around 75 US$ up to some hundred dollars, depending on demand and quality. Some of these Aero lenses are used or even abused, some of them just used with marks of intensive wear but in a good shape and some of them are almost as new. Ask the seller for more details or better photos. Do not bid on Aero lenses "sold as is" and "I don't know nothing about lenses" unless the pictures are looking very good and you feel very sure about the offer and the seller. Aero lenses should have preferable a sunshade, front lens cap and rear lens cap. The diaphragm mechanism should be working perfect. De diaphragm blades should be dry but running smooth. No dust particles inside the housing of the lens and between the lens cells. Front lens should be free from cleaning marks. To determine the year of manufacturing, use the camerosity code, where C=1, A=2, M=3, E=4, Y=0 etc. EA= 1942. EE = 1944 etc.
finally won an eBay auction to get one of these classic lenses which led to
the second problem. How do I mount this beast on my Graflex Speed Graphic. I
considered a few options but decided to go with a custom manufactured option
I am impressed with the quality of this lens board and worked perfectly with the lens and camera....(Kirk Salomon)
Click to learn the differences between these two cameras:
Pacemaker versus Anniversary .
In more than its 6 years of its existence it has proven to be the best solution to couple the Aero lens and the Speed Graphic camera.
It has a reliable solid construction and the clever design makes it possible to exchange lenses in a second.
Click here For more details about the special designed JoLo 44 lens board for use with the Anniversary Camera.
Back in 2005, I tried to find a way to mount the heavy Aero lens to the Speed Graphic and "invented" a poor designed home made flat lens board with two separate bronze rings. One ring served as a sort of spacer and the other was the retainer ring. The second generation was a cup shaped lens board like the original Graflex and again I used the two bronze rings for fastening the lens to the board.
Unlike the first flat design, the new JoLo Mark III lens board has integrated
space and fastening rings as well as a light trap.
The board is milled out of one block of aluminium thus already including the thread of the front spacer and the retaining ring.
The lens can be fixed on the ultimate focus position in the lens board by the build in grub screw.
You won't need a ring or adaptor or any special tools to mount the Aero to your Speed Graphic camera when using the JoLo Mark III lens board. This distinguishes the JoLo board from other boards not having a screw mount. Unlike a tube mount, which causes a vertical abbreviation of the lens standard, the JoLo board carries the lens in perfect weight balance in the lens standard.
Seen from the back with removed bellows to show the protruding rear lens element on the back of the lens board for a better weight balance!
To mount the Aero lens on the Pacemaker standard I designed an aluminum copy of the original lens board and completed it with an integrated fitting mount for the Aero thread. This Whitworth thread has also been used on a JoLo adaptor which enables the use of all sorts of other classic lenses. For more info about this click here.
The JoLo Mark III lens board with the integrated fitting mount fits exactly to the thread of the Aero lens and has been completed with a hex fixing screw. The JoLo Mark III Aero lens board is the only one which guarantees fast and safe lens changing in seconds without worrying about the earlier fixed focus distance.
JoLo Mark III lens board
More about the new lens board and how to order
With the help of a few inch of Teflon tape, the desirable Pentac 8 inch lens will fit to the JoLo Mark III as if it was made for it.
Click here for further details.
As you can see, the lens board front side with hex grub screw and diaphragm adjusting spot lay in one line. Right photo the rear side of the Jolo Mark III Lens board. Integrated rings keep the lens perfectly balanced and tight in the lens standard. The shape of this lens board has been exactly copied from the original Graflex lens board and is guaranteed light tight. There is absolutely no better alternative for mounting an Aero lens to your Graflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic. Carved from a single block of aluminium, it is more durable than ever.
There is absolutely no need to alter (to Dremel) the square camera light trap in the camera-standard. Just turn the lens board on the Aero and mount the lens board together with the Aero on the standard. The rear cell of the Aero lens fits into the square of the lens standard. For more details you may download the mounting instructions here.
To learn more of this indispensable and exclusively designed lens hood and filter holder for Kodak Aero,
please click here.
Unlike the Crown, the Speed Graphic, has a Focal Plane shutter, with the shutter controls on the right side of the camera. The Focal Plane shutter or back shutter, allows the use of barrel lenses, thus lenses without a build in leaf shutter in between the lens, like the Kodak Ektar Aero. The Crown Graphic Camera misses the winding key, the read out window, the Front-Back switch and the flash bi-post. Whether the camera has a Graflok back or Spring-back, is not essential. However a Graflok back is preferable, especially for use with the Roll film holder. Personally I prefer the Kalart Side Mounted range finder rather than the Graflex Top Mounted range finder, as you wont need a special, very difficult to get, cam for the 7 inch lens.
Click to learn the differences: Pacemaker Top Mounted and Side Mounted Rangefinder .
If you do not plan to use a roll film holder, there is no need for a Graflok back.
Apart from that, you always can use a pair of clamps to fasten the Roll Film Holder.
and using the rangefinder for portrait work is the smartest way.
can focus on the subject, while having already pulled the dark slide, having
set the exposure time and thus stand by to catch the ultimate moment.
focusing on the ground glass is giving you the perfect final image, it has
the disadvantage of the time needed to insert the film holder on the back of
the camera, to wind the focal plane shutter key and to pull the dark slide,
before finally start shooting.
I cannot judge your eyes nor the brightness of your cameras' rangefinder and its
focusing precision. You could start with cleaning the three windows of the
rangefinder. Do not clean the mirror by rubbing. The thin coating comes
easily off and your rangefinder would be worthless. If you are not a handy
man, forget working on the rangefinder.
with the Kodak Aero lens and relying on the rangefinder is a choice you have
to make for yourselves.
with this fine instrument is a joy and will give you a lot of fascinating
experience. Never the less there is no guarantee to be successful if you
want to work with the ultimate wide open lens on a nearby subject. You could
try this way of portrait photographing using one or two stops less than wide
open to start with and see what happens.
working with a rangefinder is based on experience.
If you like to be undependable from the ground glass, since it takes time and quite some efforts, especially when taking pictures of sport or other events, you'll have to prepare your camera for use with the rangefinder. You'd need to replace the infinity stops and adjust the infinity eccentric screw, done that, you'll have to recalibrate the Kalart Range Finder which is quite a job. After you finished this job, you can rely on the side mounted Kalart Range finder and shoot whenever you like, without first focusing on the ground glass.
Adjusting the rangefinder begins with the replacing the infinity stops. The infinity stops are normally set for a 127 or 135 mm focal length lens. To reset these stops unscrew the tiny little screws just enough to move the infinity stop fore and backwards. Place the Camera on a tripod and after mounting the Aero you may focus on a subject some hundred yards away using the ground glass and a good magnifier. Now when having the far away subject clear and sharp on your ground glass, you may shift the infinity stops against the front standard of the camera and screw the little screws to lock the infinity stops at that position. Having done that you may continue to recalibrate the side mounted rangefinder.
Click here for recalibrating the Top Mounted Rangefinder.
Not only the impressive performance of yesterdays technique and design, but the usability, reliability and challenge to creativity must be the motive to take
today's impressive pictures with this
beautiful work horse of American camera history. As far as focus is concerned, one tends to forget that general-purpose large-format cameras, like Speed Graphics, were more likely used with lenses that had maximum apertures around F:4.7 or smaller, and those lenses were
most often used stopped down several stops at least. Such small apertures produce fairly large depths of field, and that tended to offset any inaccuracy brought about by film holders with large clearances, or by film that wasn't held perfectly flat. When the Aero lens is attached to the Speed Graphic, it's at
least a theoretical mismatch that requires perfect adjustment to deliver the best
possible images from the combination.
For more info how to start using this camera
Rodinal One Shot Developer needs about 8 minutes to transform the invisible image on the sheet film into a negative.
For the negative scanning I got a V700 Epson which is the top of the bill for professional photo and negative scanning.
On the picture: the Depth of field lays exactly on Polly's eyes . Speed Graphic with Aero 2,5-1/250
Some more info about developing
Another example of the ultimate marriage between the Speed and The Aero Ektar is the portrait of Wijnand Thönissen, a well known Dutch painter.
Photo Copyright: Jo Lommen
Photo Jo Lommen
My wife Marjo, reading the local paper on a sunny Sunday in June 2006.
Speed Graphic, Kodak Aero Ektar 2,5 - 1/1000 sec. distance 7 feet. Polaroid 59
Civil War Reenactment. Long Beach California 2011.
Civil war sewing ladies...
Speed Graphic with Kodak Aero. Handheld photographed by Rich Drysdale.
Ann Magdalene Baltimore, Maryland USA
Ann Magdalene Baltimore, Maryland USA
FANTASTIC BERGEN NORWAY
Christmas Tree 2010
By Bjarte Bjørkum.
Bjarte Bjørkum- Author and Photographer.
Speed Graphic equipped with Kodak Aero lens. Harbor view.
Hard to believe that this is a real photo of a real harbor.
It was a great pleasure for me to help Bjarte almost on line with his Pacemaker Speed refurbishing project. Including reinstalling a new curtain and completing the project by electronic adjustment of the Focal Plane shutter.
Gazet van Antwerpen, Belgium.
Photos: copyright Patrick Hattori.
An and Tommy good friends and volunteering posing models at Patrick's first attempt as a Speed Aero novice in July 2007.
Technical data: Speed Aero 1/30 sec on Polaroid T55-25 ASA scanned on Epson V750 flatbed.
Light source on the left on about 45 degrees and a reflection screen at the right.
Professional Photographer and Research Journalist
The Netherlands - Dutch Radio
Photo on the left: Drs. R.F.M. Lubbers. Prime minister of The Netherlands (1982 - 1994).
I'm 31 years old and live in Culver City, California, USA. I've always had an interest in art and my first serious interest in photography was in 1994 for my class yearbook. There I learned to shoot, process, and print film. Since then I've shot with many formats - 35mm, medium format, 4x5, stereoscopic, and digital.
I initially worked with 35mm film cameras and then started getting into using a Holga and a stereo Realist camera. I don't mind digital for certain shoots, but, find more interest in film and more alternative type cameras (toy, vintage, and stereoscopic cameras).
I've used my Speed Graphic Aero Combo since late 2006, and ever since then that's been my preferred camera to use. It's big and heavy but always well worth the haul.
Please take a look at some photos I realized with the Speed Graphic and the Aero Ektar lens by clicking the thumbnail.
Roanoke, Virginia USA
thanks so much for the lens board it's working out great......but wanted to send you a first few frames...just playing around, but I love the set up.
Hope all is well, and thanks so much for your work, helping photographers get the equipment.
Tarsk Bedortha - Coburg OR. USA
First shot with the Speed Aero plus JoLo lens board
First attempt July 2008 Speed Graphic Kodak Aero Lens and JoLo Lens board.
Dayel Van Damme on Ilford HP5.
Anniversary Speed Graphic equipped with Aero 7" mounted on JoLo 44" lens board.
Back to the forties with the Pacemaker Speed Graphic and Aero 7 inch.
Perhaps you're impressed by these results, or just curious how it feels to work with this huge camera equipment and want to have one for yourself.
Please feel free to contact me.
It would be nice to have some more Speed Aero friends out there.
Click on this link to learn more about
and how to order.
Photos © Jo Lommen