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These links take you to various articles relating to using press cameras

Weegee's Way

Pete Marsilio wrote:

"Liked your website, I'm into the graphic 4x5. its a classic!! Do you know the lens aperture settings, and film speed, or flashbulb type that weegee used? Someone told me that he used f11 at 200/sec from ten feet --please, correct this fact if it is wrong."


Thank you for your kind comment about my website, Pete.

As I recall from his books, Weegee used either Super Pan Press type B, or Super XX. He did most of his flash shots at either 10 feet, or 6 feet. He had memorized the settings for both distances. Of course he basically worked for 3-4 decades and things changed over the years, but the following would be appropriate for the late 40's through mid 50's.

Looking in my old Kodak Master Photoguide from the 50's the following settings would be most likely. According to that handy little book, Super Pan Press was rated ASA 125, and Supper XX was ASA 100. That gave a #5, or Press 25, clear flashbulb guide number of 220 at 1/50 second for Super Pan Press, and 200 for Super XX,. or f22 at 10 feet and f32 at 6 feet for either of them. You will note that f22 @ 1/50 gives the basic daylight exposure also. Back in those days they were interested in getting a usable shot, and not in being perfect, so did a lot of their work by rules of thumb like this. With practice it is fairly easy to recognize those two distances, and by presetting the camera that means you only have to move into that distance and take your shot. They would get exact framing by cropping the print. Eventually I plan on having articles on the website describing many of the techniques the old timers used.

A couple of points here.

First, they tended to use longer exposures and smaller f-stops than is common in 35mm work. One should be able to hand hold a Speed Graphic at 1/25 of a second with a normal (127-200mm) lens no problem, and take a chance at 1/10, or even 1/5, with a good probablity of getting an OK shot especially with a 127 or 135.

Second, with flashbulbs, unlike with strobe, the guide number changes with shutter speed. Wanting the higest practical guide number, and therefore maximum DOF, they tended to shoot slower speeds than modern photographers would think likely.

As an example this photo was shot hand held, 6 feet, 135mm lens, f32, 1/25sec, on Plus X rated ASA 80, #5 flash in a five inch reflector. I scratched the negative in processing, and it is not retouched at all, but it does show what you can do with these old cameras using the old techniques.