The 7" Kodak Aero Ektar Lens and The Speed Graphic.
Personalize your Speed Graphic.
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...
The Kodak Aero Ektar
during WW II
TSgt. Al Ciurczak dressed for shooting from an open window at high altitudes.
Photo: International Combat Camera Association.
For Peaceful Purposes
It all began after the end of World War II. The Kodak 7 inch Aero served during the war in reconnaissance missions, mounted in the huge Graflex K-21 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 Originally made for military purposes by Kodak and sold to the US ministry of defence for about US $ 800 a piece, as much money as a Chevrolet fastback two-door "Aerosedan" would have cost in those days. The Aero-Ektar lens incorporates rare earth elements which provides the glass elements with a high refractive index with a low dispersion, a highly desirable combination. Even by today’s standards these lenses are very fast (f/2.5) for the 5” x 5” negative size for which they were designed. These lenses are most often used wide-open. After the war, these lenses where sold as a bargain for about 79 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.
Well know professional photographers from all over the world, try to gain the knowledge of this magnificent way of creative artistic photography by trying to find such a lens and 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. It is not only the size and weight of these huge cameras and lenses, but also working with the focal plane shutter and focusing using the ground glass is very cumbersome. In addition the handling of the sheet film loading, opening and closing the darks slides and and finally the developing and scanning or printing is not everyone's cup of tea. Never the less for every professional a real challenge to grow his niche by applying this unique photographing style.
Nowadays you may find a suitable Aero lens on eBay. Unfortunately the price will be a bit higher than US$ 79,50. Up to 500-900 US $ is no exception. Sometimes even a complete K21 camera including a brand new lens can be found on eBay.
left: advertisement for the $ 800 Aero lens. Right the Chevrolet Aerosedan priced for $ 880 in 1942 proves how expensive those lenses were at that time.
Click here to find out how to remove the lens safely out of the camera.
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. This 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.
Once you found an Aero Ektar Lens...
The Aero lens can quite often be found on Ebay. Bidding ends mostly 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
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 from
I am impressed with the quality of this lens board and worked perfectly with the lens and camera....(Kirk Salomon)
attach it to your Speed Graphic camera.
The JoLo Lens Board has proven to be the best possible solution.
Specially designed and manufactured to couple the Pacemaker
Speed Graphic camera with the Kodak 7"Aero Ektar lens.
First check if your camera is compatible.
Click here to learn the differences between Pacemaker and Anniversary.
This is the JoLo Mark III lens board specially designed for use with the Pacemaker Speed Graphic camera.
Once again this board does not fit to the Anniversary Speed Graphic.
In more than many years of its existence it has proven to be the best solution to couple camera and lens.
Reliable solid construction and clever design makes it possible to exchange lenses in just a few seconds.
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 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.
The new designed JoLo lens board has integrated space and fastening rings.
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 your favourite position with the build in grub screw.
This lens board, missing the heavy bronze rings is lighter in weight and the fixation of the lens is not only easier but also more precise.
You won't need additional rings or adaptors or any special tools to mount the Aero to your Speed Graphic camera.
I took some photos to
show you how the lens fits into the lens standard of the Pacemaker Speed Graphic
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 aluminium copy of the original lens board and completed it with an integrated fitting mount for the Aero thread.
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 grub screw to fix the position on the thread. 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 lens board attached to the Speed Graphic Camera and the JoLo lens hood with integrated filter holder.
JoLo lens board
More about the JoLo Lens board and how to order
There is one more desirable lens that can be mounted to the Speed Graphic by using the JoLo lens board.
The Pentac 2,9 - 8 inch lens.
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 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.
Make your Aero operational under all circumstances.
With the new Lens Hood with integrated filter Holder
exclusively designed for the 7" Aero Ektar Lens.
To learn more of this indispensable and exclusively designed lens hood and filter holder for Kodak Aero,
please click here.
To shoot with the the 7"Aero lens you need
the Pacemaker Speed Graphic 4 x 5 camera.
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 don't intend to use a roll film holder, there is no need for a Graflok back. A normal spring back would do than.
How to proceed.
Do I have to readjust my Speed Graphic ?
Yes...but it is not absolutely necessary, as you'll be able to focus on your ground glass...!
First of all there are two different
Speed Graphics. The one with the side mounted Kalart
rangefinder and the other with the Graphic top mounted rangefinder.
Continue for recalibration the Kalart Rangefinder and click here to continue for the Top Mounted Rangefinder.
However if you like to be undependable from your ground glass, since it takes time and quite some efforts, especially when taking pictures of sport or other events, you'll need to replace the infinity stops and adjust the infinity eccentric screw, then you'll have to recalibrate the Kalart Range Finder. 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 of 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 can recalibrate the rangefinder.
Using the Personalized Speed.
The craft of analogue photography merged
with passion and talent.
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
possible images from the combination.
For more info how to start using this camera
Polly posing to the Speed Aero...
the beauty and the magic of un-sharpness:
The degree of blurring along the boundaries between different regions of the image.
One Shot Developer needs about 8 minutes to transform the invisible image on the
sheet film into a negative.
The best way to obtain a good photo of you precious negative, is scanning.
For that purpose I've now got a V700 Epson which is the top of the bill for professional photo and negative scanning.
No more sweating in the darkroom. On the picture: the Depth of field lays exactly on Polly's eyes . Speed Graphic with Aero 2,5-1/250
More about how to get the real picture
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
Photos by Weslie Pangemanan
Weslie did a great job by spending a lot of time and patience to learn working with the Speed Graphic equipped with the utimate
Kodak Aero 7 inch lens.
First shots with the Speed Graphic Camera equipped with the ultimate 7 inch Aero lens mounted with the JoLo Mark III lens board.
1/125 - f4 Iford HP5 developed in Rodinal. November 2015.
© Weslie Pangemanan Singapore.
by Trajkovic Miodrag Belgrade Serbia
Civil War Reenactment. Long Beach California 2011.
Civil war sewing ladies...
Speed Graphic with Kodak Aero. JoLo lens board. 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).
About Jason Jue
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.
First attempt July 2008 Speed Graphic Kodak Aero Lens and JoLo Lens board.
Jürgen H. Krause Cologne Germany
Guido van Damme
Dayel Van Damme on Ilford HP5.
Anniversary Speed Graphic equipped with Aero 7" mounted on JoLo 44" lens board.
Program Manager/ Senior Photographer
NASA Headquarters Washington DC
Back to the forties with the Pacemaker Speed Graphic and Aero 7 inch.
Aero equipment complete?
Okay let's make things very easy!
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