Baby Speed Graphic – Impulsive eBay buy at 1:00 A.M.

    I always liked the 6x9cm format. It is large enough to bridge the world between medium and large formats, small enough to take any place, rectangular enough for landscapes, and since you’re using 120 roll film much cheaper than 4×5 or 5×7 sheet film. At one time it was the main format in the amateur level folding cameras any one over 80 is familiar with. As a matter of fact here is my dad playing with one of those during WWII (he had me very late in life.) It was such a popular format that there was sheet film made in that size in just about every emulsion available, though it was known by it’s “English” nomenclature as 2-1/4X3-1/4 or simply 2X3.
I have a massive Mamiya RB67 but find I can’t hand hold it and it weighs as much as an 8×10 view camera, that makes it a studio/tripod only camera. I wanted something I can hand hold. The Fuji Range-finders are great but out of my budget right now. Then I remembered my college days wanting to be the ghost of Weegee and using a Graflex Crown Graphic 4×5 hand held. I also remembered Graflex made a camera in  2-1/4X3-1/4 and if I bought one made after 1955 it would be able to easily use roll film adapters. Add to that limited movements and a ground glass I’d have a poor man’s Linhof 2×3 camera. It’s also easily hand holdable.
I thought about it on and off for a year or so. I bought a box of 6×9 roll film backs from a friend of mine, talked to a photographer I know who had one for sale but it just never clicked (I probably will buy his soon actually.) Then late one sleepless night I saw one on eBay. Well to be honest I saw a lot of them on eBay, but none I wanted to invest in. This one was different though… The price was not too high and somehow it called to me. I put in a low ball bid not thinking I’d actually win it; I rolled over and closed my eyes trying to sleep again… Minutes later I heard the “you just won an auction” chime on my iPhone. I was the proud owner of a mid 1950’s Baby Speed Graphic.  The seller, Mario, went so far as have me call him when he thought I misunderstood something about the auction and told me how this was his uncles life blood when he had a wedding photography business. I promised to take good care of the camera in it’s new life and anxiously awaited the box to arrive.

A week later it was there waiting for me when I came home from work. It great well loved condition. The parallax correction dial fell off in shipping. No big deal. The Cable release to the front lens shutter was broken but I am sure no one knew that and it’s an easy work around. The rear shutter did work and seemed spot on. The range-finder was very dim (the sliver oxidizes off the beam splitter over the years.) I can easily fix that or do as I did and put some red cellophane over the top window for extra contrast. I loaded up some Ilford HP5 and drove off to Stockbridge MA for some “test” photos I have bellow. All said and done I gave it a little TLC and have a great vintage camera for hand held or tripod mounted 6x9cm camera.

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