This specially adapted Graflex 4×5 Speed Graphic Pacemaker just sold on ebay for $1824, a huge price for a Graflex. Why?
The Speed Graphic was popular with press photographers for many years until the 1960s. I have one myself which came with a standard issue 135mm f4.7 lens, ie its maximum aperture is f4.7 – see this post on it.
My Speed Graphic with its f4.7 lens
But the Ebay camera is different, it has been modified with an unusual lens, one that makes it weigh almost double mine, 11 pounds or about 5 kilograms. That is not something you would want to raise to your eye as a press photographer. The reason is the huge f0.95 lens, a massive piece of light-collecting glass with a diameter of about 140mm. It’s 4.5 stops better than my lens, a huge advantage in low-light situations. This lens is so strange it doesn’t even have an internal aperture diaphragm, a series of circular aperture plates are attached to the front element.
The question is, why? What was this expensive lens used for? Night photography, surveillance, astronomy? The seller is in Serbia, part of communist Yugoslavia when this camera was manufactured. So my mind turned to surveillance, espionage, Cold War derring-do. But no, the explanation is innocent, it’s an aerial camera, used for photographing the ground from an aeroplane.