Pacemaker Crown

by Jo Lommen

Top mounted  RF              Side mounted  RF      

Left: Top Mounted Graphic Rangefinder.                                    Right: Kalart Rangefinder and tubular viewfinder on top

In the late 1950's this top mounted range-finder with automatic parallax correction and interchangeable cams, appeared on the 4 x 5 inch camera only. Interchangeable cams were needed to calibrate the range-finder for different focal length of the lens.

Graphic Top Mounted Rangefinder

The principal feature of the new rangefinder is that it is instantly adaptable to any of the 9 standard lenses of different focal length. This is accomplished simply by changing a small cam at the time the lens is being changed. Each interchangeable cam is matched at the factory to the lens which it will be used and is designed to operate the rangefinder throughout the range of working distances for which the lens is intended. The camera cost in the year 1958 US $ 404,40 . At that time the average wages in Us were US $  3673,80 per year !


The P5 cam for use with 135 mm lens. Some other cams and their numbers:  P8 = 152 mm , P11= 162 mm,  P14= 90mm ,  P3=127mm ,    P25= 8 inch,  

The right picture shows the ingenious tube with the plunger. On top of the tube the cam.

The cams are small, odd shaped metal plates that fit in a receptacle at the top of the camera; they serve to operate the rangefinder  mirror by means of an arm which extends through the top of the camera. The motion of the lens track of the camera is transmitted to the cam through a row of metal steel balls encased in a tube; a small plunger enters the tube at the bed and pushes the entire row of balls through the tube. At the end of the tube , the last ball pushes another plunger , activating the cam, which in turn operates the rangefinder mirror. Thus the tube filled with these small metal balls, takes the place of a complicated mechanical linkage which has always been through necessary previously; the simplicity of this new system containing no levers or connections to get out of order, adds a new degree of reliability to the rangefinder. Cams can be changed quickly and easily, without any tools. 

The earlier Crown with the side mounted Kalart Rangefinder as shown on the right picture and as described below.

The Pacemakers were the last Graphics made from 1947 to 1973 .

Two types were introduced. The Speed Graphic which has a Focal Plane Shutter and the Crown Graphic has only a front shutter. Both Speed and Crown were available in three sizes: 2 1/4 x 3 1/4,  31/4 x 4 1/4 and 4x5 inches. In 1949 the versatile Graflok back was made available on all Graphics.

Comparing to their predecessors, the light trapping of the lens standard and lens-board were of metal as was the back and the focusing hood. Striking are the hinged infinity stops, the new  focusing scale and a more solid wire sports-finder. Further more a tilt was added to the rising and shifting frond. The new built in shutter release was a very useful device enabling  to control the shutter without loosing grip of the camera house. 



Restoring The Graphic Crown

it can be done!

Some time ago I purchased this used Graphic Crown. Besides the fact that it has had a bad time and probably due to that, was held mainly together by glue, I was intrigued by its very rare attributes mounted inside and outside the camera body. There was a huge electric switch, including two plugs  found on the right side of the camera, right behind the Kalart Rangefinder and a strange aluminum part inside the housing, what later appeared to be a battery holder. The camera seemed to need a good cleaning, so I decided to dissemble the camera to  all its parts. Not at least to find out the meaning and working of these two unknown attributes.


I had to disassemble the camera completely to  remove all the glue, dust, dirt and rust



The two unknown attributes

On the left: Dismounted battery holder and Focuspot switch.              On the right: The battery holder inside the camera body.

Resulting in the

The Night Hawk 

This modified Crown, probably personalized for night photography by a former press photographer, was equipped with an electric release button on top of the camera and a huge switch, located behind the Kalart rangefinder to control the Focuspot. To power the shutter solenoid, this camera had an extra 2x2 parallel 1,5 volt cell battery pack inside the housing thus having an output of 3 volts. The solenoid operates independently from the flash battery holder.

A =  almost hidden behind the solenoid, we find the plug coming from the electric release on top of the camera.

B= Shutter release lever controlled by the solenoid.

C= indicator shows the selected bulb ignition 

D= fires bulb when shutter is open on selected peak by C

There is an extra battery holder attached inside the housing against the top of it. This unit powers the electric release knob on top of the housing which makes the shutter goes off by tripping the Graflex solenoid. (A ) which opens the shutter by release lever ( B). The shutter on its turn makes the flash goes off (D)

After cleaning, rewiring and adjusting, I replaced the electric button on top. Instead of the Heiland, I replaced a Graflite battery holder. I found new parts for the electric switch and after repairing, cleaning  and repainting it, I mounted it on its original location. I connected the Focuspot switch to the BATTERY outlet and the Graphex shutter bi-post to the SHUTTER outlet of the Graflite Flash.

Main switch of the Graflite on

Well, now it is quite easy to take pictures in dimmed light. The photographer can switch on the Focuspot to focus on the subject with  the focus knob using his right hand. Once the subject is in focus, he just has to push the electric button with his left hand forefinger, making the shutter and flash to fire. I believe this is more fast and secure than the original Graflex configuration, as there is no time lost by moving his right hand and loosing grip of the camera after  focusing, just to find the main switch on the Graflite . Another advantage is the hidden solenoid release cable and  the short Kalart Focuspot wiring. Imagine two more coils hanging around the lens trying to sabotage your picture. Really a very smart construction I'd say !

The Focuspot controlled by the earlier mentioned switch (photo on the right) is powered by the flash battery holder. 

 Now it all works fantastic. Focusing and shooting ...perfect synchronised, swift and reliable.

More about this restoring project

Build in Shutter release



Crown Graphic. Adox 400 film, outside night-time concert, half a second at f11 or f 8 using direct flash.

Photos by Matt Bigwood

Enter the world of Graflex  

    Speed     Crown     Restoring the Crown Graphic    Pacemakers   Anniversary   Key control functions

Flashing    Flashguns    Bulbs     Focusing   

Home Jo Lommen Cameras  Any questions feedback