The Visual Guide To Press Cameras/Speed Graphics In Movies

Filed under Photography in Movies and Television.

I've always held a suspicion that large format press cameras such as the Graflex Speed Graphic are the most widely used prop cameras in cinema. Doing the research for my Photography in Movies and Television series of posts certainly helped me keep that belief. Attempting to create a list of every sighting would be a massive task, but who says I can't try?

This list will most likely never be complete, and currently isn't very big or even near complete, but I'll keep adding the sightings as I come across them. I already have a list of movies to get screen shots from, but I can only have so many Netflix movies out at once. Plus, instead of just fast forwarding through a lot of these movies which I haven't seen, I want to actually watch them.

If you know of any other movies which aren't listed here, mention it in the comments. I'll go hunting for video still and give you credit when I post them.

Band of Brothers (2001)

Box Set @ Amazon

During Episode 7: The Breaking Point a team of war journalists is seen interviewing the men. One of the journalists is using a Speed Graphic.

Band of Brothers (1)

Press Camera in Band of Brothers (2)

Back to the Future: Part 2 (1989)

Back To The Future Trilogy @ Amazon

There is a very quick glimpse of a flash pan taking a photo of Biff. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

Back To The Future: Part 2

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Very early in Creature from the Black Lagoon a doctor runs out of his tent with a Speed Graphic to photograph their latest discovery. I'm not quite sure about how the man is framing his scene. He appears to look into the back of the flash pan when he makes his exposure. In a more authentic depiction of how a Speed Graphic is actually used, it is visually obvious that he forgets to flip the dark slide after exposure.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1) Creature from the Black Lagoon (2)

Enemy at The Gates (2001)

Blu-ray @ Amazon

Plenty of Speed Graphics are present during the press meeting at the Soviet headquarters. Would the Russians have had access to this many American cameras during World War II?

Enemy At The Gates (1)
Enemy At The Gates (2) Enemy At The Gates (3)

Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

DVD @ Amazon

Considering that the plot of Flags of Our Fathers resolves around the people involved in what is probably the most famous photo to ever be taken with a Speed Graphic, you would expect there to be a lot of press cameras in this film. Don't worry, there is.

Flags of our Fathers (1) Flags of our Fathers (2)
Flags of our Fathers (3) Flags of our Fathers (4)
Flags of our Fathers (5) Flags of our Fathers (6)
Flags of our Fathers (7) Flags of our Fathers (8)

Futurama (2001)

Wait? Isn't Futurama a cartoon? Yes! But that doesn't stop a press camera from making an appearance in the episode Roswell That Ends Well.

Animated Press Camera in Futurama

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

DVD @ Amazon

Throughout The Great Muppet Caper Gonzo is seen holding, and using a medium format press camera. As an added bonus, during the darkroom scene, he is actually shown inspecting sheet film. No photography fail for the Muppets. Thanks to Charles H. for tipping me off.

Gonzo with a Press Camera (1)

Gonzo with a Press Camera (2)

Sheet Film in The Great Muppet Caper

Gonzo with a Press Camera (3)

Hollywoodland (2006)

DVD @ Amazon

Press Cameras in Hollywoodland (1) Press Cameras in Hollywoodland (2)

H.O.T.S. (1979)

DVD @ Amazon

My sassy comments for the appearance of a Speed Graphic in H.O.T.S can be found in my earlier post Beyond 35mm.

H.O.T.S. (1)

H.O.T.S. (1)

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Blu-ray @ Amazon

At the end of the movie a photographer is seen slinging a Speed Graphic. In perfect eBay seller form, the bellows appear to be way over extended.

Speed Graphic in James and The Giant Peach (1)

Speed Graphic in James and The Giant Peach (2)

L.A. Noire (2011)

L.A. Noire is an upcoming crime drama video game being produced by Rockstar Games. The first trailer that they have released depicts a photography using what appears to be an accurately modeled Anniversary Speed Graphic. The full trailer can been seen at the Rockstar Games website.

Press Camera in L.A. Noire

A League of Their Own (1992)

In one scene a press photographer who appears very bored sits ready with his Speed Graphic in hand. Dotti decides to liven things up and give him something worth photographing. Like a true pro he jumps to action without hesitation gets his photo. Old timer didn't even need to use a cable release.

A League of Their Own (1) A League of Their Own (2) A League of Their Own (3)

Midnight Express (1978)

Blu-ray @ Amazon

After the Turkish police rummage though Billy's possessions near the beginning of the movie, he is forced to get his photo taken by a man with a press camera. I'm not sure of the model, but it doesn't look like a Graphlex. It also looks larger than I'd expect, so possibly it is a 5x7 instead of a 4x5 press camera.

Press Camera in Midnight Express

The Money Pit (1986)

During the opening Rio de Jeneiro sequence, a photographer with a Super Graphic pops a photo of the newly wedded couple. Strange enough, for a photo taken with a full flash bulb mounted on the upper right side of the frame, the resulting image appears to be strongly lit from the left. Notice the shadow form the man's head being cast onto the arm of the woman behind him. The air in Brazil must make light behave differently.

Super Graphic in The Money Pit

Photo supposedly taken with a Speed Graphic

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

DVD @ Amazon

There are a few press camera cameos at the beginning and end of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. The late Phil Hartman also makes an appearance alongside one of them!

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1)

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (2)

Raging Bull (1980)

Blu-ray @ Amazon

Plenty of Speed Graphics appear ringside in Scorcense's boxing drama set in the mid 20th century. One lucky photojournalist even manages to get his hands on a model with a top mount range finder for a fight that happened several years before they were introduced. Also noted is the close up of 127mm Wollensak Raptar.

Press Cameras in Ragng Bull (1)

Press Cameras in Raging Bull (2)

Press Cameras in Raging Bull (3)

Press Cameras in Raging Bull (4)

Road To Perdition (2002)

Blu-ray @ Amazon

Evil doer Jude Law uses a Speed Graphic throughout Road To Perdition. He actually puts it on a tri-pod!

Speed Graphic in Road to Perdition (1)

Speed Graphic in Road to Perdition (2)

Seabiscuit (2003)

Blu-ray @ Amazon

Seabiscuit (1)

Seabiscuit (2)

Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Blu-ray @ Amazon

Shawshank Redemption (1)

Shawshank Redemption (2)

That Taco Bell Commercial Where Charles Barkley Raps

Probably one of the worst commercials of all time, in my own humble option. View it here. But hey! We get to see the rare left handed Speed Graphic! Any by rare, I mean that it is just footage of a typical Speed Graphic obviously mirrored during post production.

Taco Bell Commercial - Left Handed Camera

Taco Bell Commercial (2)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

DVD @ Amazon

Roger Rabbit (1)

Roger Rabbit (2)

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  • Ren Bostelaar

    This was just a pleasure to read, thanks for putting in all the hard work. My eyes always dart to any camera that sneaks into the corner of a frame of movie film, I'm glad I'm not the only one.

  • K. Praslowicz

    Thanks. I started putting together this post back in June, and I still have a lot to go through to add to it. I imagine that someday this post will be MUCH longer than it is now.

  • Bruce Thomas

    The bottom right photo of the WWII movie Enemy at the Gates shows a Graflite flash, not manufactured until 1948. OOPS!!

    Great scenes with classic press cameras....well done :)

  • K. Praslowicz

    I totally somehow edited out my entry for a League of their own. It is now reincluded in the list.

  • Whitney

    Jude Law with a speed graphic mmmm. The only thing sexier is a stuffed lion with a blue velvet jacket and pants.

  • Charles H.

    Great article! Sometimes I hunt for cameras whenever I watch a movie too, especially if it's a period movie or a classic. (And isn't that a post-war Speed Graphic in A League Of Their Own?).
    I recently saw The Great Muppet Caper for the first time in ages and Gonzo carries what appears to be a miniature Speed Graphic, and it takes quite a beating! Understandably, he never seems to change his film or flashbulbs.

    And the Midnight Express camera... could it be a Linhof Tecknika?

  • K. Praslowicz

    Thanks for the sighting Charles. I've added The Muppet Caper to the list.

    Not sure about the Midnight Express camera, but there was some talk about it is on the forums.

  • K. Praslowicz

    I've added screenshots for L.A. Noire

  • K. Praslowicz

    I've added an entry for 1986's The Money Pit

  • Moopheus

    Quiz Show has a couple of press mob scenes.

    In Alice's Restaurant, the cops use a Speed Graphic, as well as couple of Polaroids, including, rather oddly, a Swinger!

    Get Low has a couple of older Speeds.

    King Kong (1933)--Kong is sent into a rage by press photographers!

  • K. Praslowicz

    Screenshots for Creature from the Black Lagoon have been added.

  • George

    I'm usually amused by the press cameras in movies.
    So many 'prop masters' seem to think that the bellows must be fully extended.
    Not so! Most normal lenses would reach only about half-way along the front extension.

  • Martha Hart

    Love this!
    HIS GIRL FRIDAY (Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell)

  • K. Praslowicz

    Sweet Martha. That movie isn't on Netflix streaming, but the whole thing appears to be on Hulu.

  • Anthony Billings

    It isn't a movie, but have you ever seen the old Charles Bronson TV show "Man With A Camera?" He often used a press camera. He switched between a press camera and a 35mm rangefinder depending on the situation. They seem to get everything down pretty well. Bronson adjusts aperture and shutter speed before every shot. He sets up a bulb flash unit for the rangefinder. Even the occasional darkroom scenes appear properly done. The entire run of the show is available free on Hulu. It isn't exactly the height of television art, but it could be viewed as an interesting history lesson for some budding photographers out there.

  • Brian Cuyler

    Love it!
    North by Northwest
    When Cary Grant is at the UN

  • Jon

    1992 movie "Public Eye" with Joe Pesci was based on Weegee. It's all speed graphics and press photographers wrapped around a NYC mob story. Watched it last week on netficks streaming.