James's Camera Collection: Graflex Century 35

Graflex Century 35 Japan Company History Owner's Manual 35mm cameras Sylvain Halgand
Graflex Century 35
Camera type: rangefinder
Approx. dates of manufacture: 1957 to 1960
Approx. original price: $50 (ƒ3.5), $64.50 (ƒ2.8)
Approx. street value: $20

click for larger a My father's camera—a gift from my mother before they were married; and when I was growing up, it was the serious camera in the family. My dad loved it—it took very sharp photos and it worked great. I think he had to have the shutter cleaned once in 30 years. It still works fine, though I wouldn't trust the top or bottom shutter speeds.

I never liked it. It's got a tiny viewfinder which looks like you're peering through a keyhole. The rangefinder is dark and I always had a difficult time focusing it. The focus ring is stiff, which makes it hold focus well but it's hard to turn. It takes Series V filters, which in the pre-internet 1970s were impossible to get when I wanted them (now I have a bunch, though no real need). It's all metal and it weighs about the same as a cinderblock.

That said, it was a real workhorse and it took great photos. It probably would still today.

The camera here is my own: I got it at a thrift shop for $10. The shutter doesn't work, and it's missing the leatherette (probably from when someone attempted to fix the shutter). Some day I may open it up and see if I can do anything with the shutter, but I've had very little luck with that in the past. Most cameras I've tried that on are now many, many pieces inside tin cookie cans or plastic bags. My father's camera is still in the family. As far as I know it still works. If not, I can use this guy as a parts donor.

This was made by Kowa in Japan, imported by Graflex to the USA so the cobranding can be confusing. Century was a model name Graflex has used since the days they were part of Kodak. I've got the ƒ3.5 model. Kowa made quality stuff, yet they weren't successful in the US market.

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