Graflex was a manufacturer, a brand name and several models of cameras. William F. Folmer, an inventor, built the first Graflex camera in 1898, when his company was called The Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company, founded originally in New York as a gas lamp company. As the gas lamp market dimmed, it expanded into making bicycles selling cameras of other makers as accessories, then making cameras themselves, dropping the bicycle line. That firm in 1905 was purchased by George Eastman. In 1907, the company became the Folmer and Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak. After a few more interim changes of status and name, it finally became simply "Graflex, Inc." in 1945.

From 1912 to 1973 Graflex produced large format and medium format press cameras in film formats from 2 1⁄4 × 3 1⁄4″ (6 × 7 cm) to 4 × 5″. They also produced rangefinder, SLR and TLR cameras in a variety of formats ranging from 35mm to 5 × 7″.

Most sports photography in the early 20th century was done with Graflex and similar cameras with a cloth focal plane shutter. To get shutter speeds high enough to stop fast motion they had to use a narrow slit, which exposed different parts of the film at different times. To set the shutter speed, you wound up the shutter to one of a series of tensions with a key. Then you selected the slit width with another control. A table on the side of the box gave the shutter speed for each combination.

Graflex Speed Graphic folding cameras, produced from 1912 to 1973, also have a focal plane shutter, although they are often used with a between-the-lens shutter mounted to the lensboard. Crown Graphic cameras are similar to their corresponding Speed Graphic cousins; however they are an inch thinner and about one pound lighter because they lack the focal plane shutter. However, because of the shorter possible lens-to-film plane distance, the Crown Graphic can use shorter lens focal lengths, allowing a wider field of view.

The top-to-bottom shutter motion exposed the top of the film first (i.e. the "bottom" of the inverted image), so many photographs of automobile racing taken with Graflex cameras depicted the wheels of the car in an oval shape leaning forward. This feature became a conventional indication of speed, and many Cartoonists drew wheels the same way to indicate fast motion.

Read more about Graflex:  Pop Culture

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