Prices and availability of new LF gear (ridiculous)
For a few years now I've been agonizing over a LF monorail (I started out way back with a monorail, recently went to a field folder, now want to go back to a monorail). I had an APUG thread going a while back on this. Anyhow.
People always say to buy used, but frankly I don't really see a lot of good used gear around the web, and who knows what you're buying etc.
I keep flopping between Sinar (my first camera was a Sinar), Linhof (TK45s or Kardan), Arca F-line, and Toyo VX125.
I haven't had an opportunity to even see any of these cameras "live". I've asked some of my favourite working photographers who use (or have used) these cameras for opinions etc., but there's still nothing quite like seeing something for yourself.
Suppose you want to buy one of these things. The prices of accessories are frankly insane. For example it is nearly $1,000 for a Linhof wide angle belows. Are you serious? WTF? Anyone look at the price of a lens board from one of these companies? A compendium shade maybe? Jebus H. it's ridiculous.
And availability? Where the hell can you get a Toyo VX besides B&H with a 6 month wait, no exchanges etc.? Can you even buy a Sinar P2? And could the websites be any less clear? There are cryptic indications on
Sinar's site the F2 might still be available. But I'm pretty sure it is not.
Anyhow if anyone out there is in the same boat give me a shout.
In a small market, you only need a little bit of used oversupply to really screw up new sales. Photographers are dying or converting to digital faster than new LF cameras are wearing out. The high prices are fine if they are only to replace stolen insured gear.
I'd buy a new Canham if I were in the market; it's not much more than a used one. But I don't think they do monorails for you.
I don't see a need for new production of monorails at the moment with so many good used ones out there. Many are well cared for and I don't think it's financially wise to ignore the used options.
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the transition over to that other technology is now mostly complete. Now the pendulum has (as was inevitable) begun to swing back a little bit. But not nearly enough to justify restarting production of either discontinued or still marginally continued equipment.
Thus, the prices for the good used stuff and the little bit of still available new stuff have skyrocketed. New demand is causing it, but not enough overall demand to ramp up production for stuff that originally required half the world's population as a market to be economically feasible in the first place.
I took a look at KEH for the first time in years the other night. Holy cow. Compared to 4-5 years ago, the cupboards are bare. Nothing like it used to be. And everything remaining in BGN condition. Somebody has bought up all the good stuff.
I settled on an antique Calumet C1 8x10 largely to stay away from the ridiculous LF prices. Fully restored and gleaming, old-school quaint, it still does the job with style. And is a wonderful conversation piece for the curious.
"There is very limited audience for the arty stuff, and it is largely comprised of other arty types, most of whom have no money to spend because no one is buying their stuff either. More people bring their emotions to an image than bring their intellect. The former are the folks who have checkbooks because they are engineers, accountants, and bankers—and generally they are engineers, accountants and bankers because they are not artists."
— Amanda Tomlin, Looking Glass Magazine, 2014
used prices are insanely ridiculous, even for people trying to sell ...
there is a massive glut in the used large format marketplace with people
( like me ) trying to recoop at least half of what they paid new...
10-12 years ago new was expensive ( it still is ) and half of expensive is still expensive.
not to mention LF accessories cost a fortune new back then, and used they were often rare and never cheap.
Linhof in much more expensive in the States (& Canada) than here in Europe. Their price list is available via Linhof.de.
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Another vote for not skipping used gear. Prices for used gear are, I think, at or near historic lows when it comes to LF stuff. I bought a Sinar F to use as a teaching tool for my Intro to LF class for under $200. Toss in two extension rails and the bag bellows and an adapter lensboard to let me mount my Technica lensboards on the Sinar and I was still under $400. Shop around and you can get a P for under $1K, a P2 for under $1500, or if you want to go old-school, a Norma for under $1K.
If you are not a member then join Large Format Photography Forum. After you are a member on there for 30 days you can view the for sale section. Used monorails come up on there periodically so it's somewhere else to watch.
I bought my 4x5 Sinar P off Ebay for $600.00. It included a nice Schneider Symmar 210 f/5.6 lens. Later I bought a Sinar F cheap for the front standard, lens board, extra bellows, bag bellows and extension rail. I parted out the rest of the F camera and sold it. Sinar items are much cheaper in the U.S. than Arca or Linhof due to the larger supply available.
Good luck to you!
Last edited by Alan Gales; 07-21-2014 at 04:48 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Buy used, budget for repair/extra purchases as necessary (because you can buy several used systems for the price of a new one), spend the savings on film, and go out and make photographs. Much more enjoyable than agonizing over equipment.
The Cambo Legend that I got for $320 used is currently listed in the Calumet catalog for BP 2,946.
“You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.” - John Galt
Would you be interested in a 8x10 Sinar P?