The National Graflex

Lunchbox or sophisticated well equipped all round camera?

The National Graflex was patented in the year 1934 by William H. Petit and Edson S. Hineline for Graflex Inc.

The National Graflex was marketed as a camera more or less suitable for woman because of its small size. However not easy to handle for amateur photographs. Unlike previous Graflexes, it has a self capping curtain, recalling European designs. The camera has a lot of features such as direct full view focusing by the mirror and ground glass. No more composition guess work. Takes ten pictures 2 x 2 inch on 120 film- 8 Exposures roll film.  Focal plane shutter. B&L Tessar series 1 c f=3,5. Graflex exposure guide shows correct shutter speed and lens setting for all conditions. Interchangeable lens. Remove the lens by lifting the nickel finished hors shoe clip directly back of the focusing lever free from the lens board.


A very nice and handsome design, but...

There are however a "few" things that need to be taken care of. 

You may ruin this camera if you do not respect the roll film type. It has to be the 120 type spool with the bigger hole at the end of the spool. The picture below shows the one with the wooden pivot is the right one. The other spool would not fit exactly into the film holder reason why the camera would not fit anymore into the housing.  Trying to close the camera with force may lead to oust the mirror house which disables the release of the mirror. 


Always open the lens door before opening the top cover.

Open the lens door by pressing down the lock button on the front side with thumb nail, Do not press in against the door when releasing it. To make sure the door is locked in open position press down light on the lens door base. Now slide the cover button C to the left. When the cover opens, the focusing hood automatically erects itself.

See that the mirror is set in focusing position with the knob K back before closing the camera.

Do not turn the shutter winding knob "J" while lens is folded in the camera.

Loading Film

Pull bulb release lever (I) to make sure shutter is released. Close cover slide bottom catches R to (O) open. Separate inner from outer case. Open cover.

Insert empty spool in spool chamber under winding knob B so that the slot engages properly. Remove sticker from film. Holding film release knob in direction of arrow, unroll sufficient film to reach take up spool. Thread into long slot with red paper spaced evenly between flanges. Turn the winding knob B until the film is taut.

Place the bottom case back on the camera making sure that it is seated against the top. While pressing the bottom firmly into place slide the catches R toward (C)  closed. 

While holding film release F in direction of arrow, wind the film with knob B until number 1 appears in the center of the ruby window W

Holding the release F toward arrow, pull up on the indicator knob G permitting it to turn freely until the pointer is just clear of the starting position S toward the number 9. Release F and turn winding knob B until the film is wound taut. The film is now in position for the first exposure.

We skip determining the correct speed number and focusing to continue with 

Setting the shutter.

First with the mirror set in the viewing position (knob K back) turn the Shutter Winding Knob (J) in a clockwise direction as far as possible.

To change shutter from a higher to a lower number, pull up on winding knob (this will separate outside knurled ring) and turn it clockwise direction until desired number is aligned with the white marker on outside ring (slight pressure required). Drop ring flush with knob. 

To change from a lower to a higher number pull up on knob and turn outside knurled ring in counter clockwise direction. Drop ring flush with knob. 



First wind the shutter by turning the wheel which is under tension so don't let it slip. Then choose one of the 9 shutter speeds.  (There is a table which gives the values (1/30th to 1/500th sec) Unlike the traditional Graflex focal plane shutter which has 6 slits and 6 different tensions, the National has a focal plane shutter which travels always at the same speed. The shutter speed can be controlled by changing  the width of the slit. On the inside of the cover you'll find a quite interesting exposure calculator using  variables such as the Time of Day, Dull Hazy of Bright and the months of the year for groups, portraits, street landscape etc, etc. Inside the pop up hood there is a build in magnifier for fine tuning the focused image on the ground glass.

Series I

Series II 

Several mechanical improvements were made, such as a provision for cable release and the mirror cocking lever from right to left.

I took off the focusing hood off for a better view on the controls. 


When you have made an exposure re-set the mirror and wind the film as follows: Press the film lock release F toward arrow. This unlocks the film measuring device ; wind the film by turning the knob B in clockwise direction until the film is taut.( It is unnecessary to hold the release (F) while winding the film.)  The indicator hand will point "2" You are now ready for the next exposure.



Graflex Cameras

National Manual

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