A Godfather question for photographers

At the wedding party, everyone lines up for the group picture, and Michael grabs Kay. IRL, would that photographer have been able to get everybody in the shot from as close as he was? Looked to me like he would have had to use a really wide-angle lens, but would that have given acceptable results?

IIRC he was using a Speed Graphic, a press camera. The lens you will find on most of these (I own probably a dozen or so and have actually used one for publication) is a 135mm. For a 4x5 camera that’s a wide angle – but not extremely so. He would have need to step back a little (but it’s a movie, they wanted him in the frame.

The widest lens you can put on a speed graphic is a 90mm – but you have to drop the bed down and he isn’t in that scene. Camera is pretty correct from what I can see in the scene for the time period.

What would that 135mm lens be equivalent to in 35mm terms?

About a 40mm

Answers, we got answers!

I have a Schneider Super-Angulon 90mm lens on my Speed Graphic. (I inherited the camera from a late relative who kept it in near mint condition, and I still use it, albeit with a 120 rollfilm back.) I’m not sure what you mean by “drop the bed down.” My lens fits fine on the camera without doing anything to the folding base that holds the rails on which the lens board is placed and which the bellows slide back and forth. Because the lens protrudes further than the stock lenses for the camera, it cannot be fully folded up and latched, though.

From where that photographer is standing, there’s no way in hell he would have gotten everyone in the frame even if he had a 90mm lens (which he doesn’t.) It’s just not a realistic scene - but the majority of viewers wouldn’t notice.

In order to shoot 4x5 on that camera with a 90mm (90 isn’t wide on most 120 roll film backs), you have to drop the bed (there is on notch on the rails that lets you drop the bed down below level. Wish I could post a picture here, but it’s in the manual.

The reason is that a 90 is wide enough it will actually get part of the bed in the photo. So you drop the bed down, raise and tilt the front standard to bring in line and you can get the wide shot without part of your camera in the image.

Interestingly enough, the crown graphic (the version without the rear curtain can take a wider lens (75mm I think). Because you can get the flange closer to the film plane.

I love the super angulon 90 – I use one on my bigger 4x5’s (my speeds I keep pretty stock).

This is a photo I did with a 90mm Super Angulon, on a calumet CC402 – which was a special wide-angle version of their monorail. It’s one of my favorite shots to this day – great lens.


Ah…so it will let you post photos…just as links.

Here’s a speed with the bed dropped – although you wouldn’t need to with that much bellows extension.

for comparison, the CC402 is the one with the red bellows: a speed graphics the bottom center, crown graphic bottom right – allong with the final evolution of the speed graphic, the Super Speed Graphic on the bottom left.


Yes. It’s been a long time since I though about this, but there was a period where I had both a Crown Graphic and a Speed Graphic and I recall the Crown could take a wide lens because it didn’t have that additional layer of mechanism to accommodate the bulk of the curtain shutter.

ok, one more and I’ll quit – maybe. This is my latest – when I bought my house in Chicagoland the basement was full of junk – found this guy in one of the piles.

It’s a first year, pre-war speed graphic. Notice the Chrome fittings.

My much cleaner Anniversary speed graphic, but wartime production. Note the lack of Chrome. Good chance this one was military (not all of them got marked)


This one is a Korean War era military speed. Still regret selling this one. First year they used green leather.


Thought it would be handy to actually link to the scene the OP was talking about.

Difficult to work out how exactly far away the photographer is actually standing here. Slightly depends on the focal length of the film camera lens!

Yeah, pretty sure he is going to need to move back a bit.

Looking up Speed Graphics on Ebay, I expected the prices to be astronomical, but the prices are (imo) pretty reasonable. They remind me of old typewriters in that they’re crazy complicated and precision, yet there are enough of them out there to keep prices low.

Like anything else collectible – there are cheap ones and expensive ones. I buy and resell old cameras, but I have a particular affection for press cameras.

The pre-anniversary(1928-39) and anniversary (1939-46) cameras bring the least. Anniversary’s are my favorite. Most people who have buy them buy them to shoot – and those are kinda primative. The pacemakers(1947-1970) are the most common, and a good one can be had for a few hundred. Probably the most practical. There are also small speed graphics that film is hard to get for – those can go cheap. The 4x5 models are the ones to get. Military cameras bring a premium.

The super speed graphic is a completely different beast. Regular Speed graphics are made out of mahogany, covered in Moroccan leather. The Super Graphic and Super Speed Graphic used a metal body, had no rear shutter curtain and had a rotating back. They aren’t nearly as common, but they aren’t as a cool to most people as the wooden ones. Chuck Bronson used one in “Man with a camera”

I used to love using one shooting for the paper well into the digital area. I did a lot of stuff in music venues and you come up to someone with a digital and a flash and blind the hell out of them in the dark they get pissed – you fire off a flash bulb with an old bellows camera and they think it’s cool. Once they can see again. I even had a few ask for the used flash bulb.


So that allows some perspective control for architectural photography?

If the Godfather photog did have a lens that would fit them in at that distance, I would guess it would be a fisheye. The distortion would be unacceptable to a wedding photographer.

For example

Before and after software correction, unavailable to Don Corleone

The rise and tilt can definitely be used for perspective/architectural photography – but in this case you are just using the rise to get the bed out of the photo.

There are super wide lenses for a 4x5 that might do it – and some of them are nearly distortion free – I have 65 mm I use sometimes --and it’s pretty distortion free. That’s about a 20mm in 35mm. Courthouse photo below was taken with it using a Deardorff with the front standard tilted all the way back and a recessed lens board that moved the lens up into the bellows – it barely worked – I usually use the cc402 with it. It is impossible to use one on a speed graphic, however. Even with a recessed lens board (which I used in that shot) you wouldn’t be able to get the lens close enough to the film plane. And if you did, somehow, you’d get the bed in the shot (even dropped). I had a heavily modified crown graphic that could use one at one time. It was – interesting.

The gas station photo below was taken (not by me) with a 47mm – which is about a 14mm in 35mm terms. Not much distortion there either. Large format wide angle lenses don’t fish eye – they were made for architectural photogs and had to be flat. But again – won’t work on a Speed Graphic.