Why are large format camera bodies so expensive?

Recent Classifieds

Forum statistics

Threads
179,476
Messages
2,470,975
Members
94,825
Latest member
masterjbates
Recent bookmarks
0

Sean

Admin
Admin
Joined
Aug 29, 2002
Messages
11,488
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Multi Format
I can't get over the prices on some of the large format cameras out there. How do they justify these prices?

zone VI 8x10 Ultralight Field Camera $1.995.00USD
canham 8x10 $2,650.00USD
Wisner 8x10 Expedition Camera $4,195.00USD
8x10 Kardan Gt , $5,699.95
8x10 Kardan Gtl , $9,995.00

For the most part, it looks like the materials involved in these cameras probably cost around $100-$200 max. Some wood bits, some machined metal bits, a bellows, a piece of glass. This is a real bummer because I live in New Zealand where the exchange rate is 48cents on the US dollar. To get an 8x10 Zone VI camera body would cost me close to 5,000NZ dollars! I guess I'll definitely have to buy used! Has anyone come out with a quality large format camera that challenges the pricing schemes of the main market? I'm surprised a company hasn't come out with a quality 8x10 for under 1,000 bucks. Hell, they'd still probably make 800 bucks on the deal. I'm new to 8x10 equipment hunting so maybe there is an alternative I don't know about.
 
OP
OP
Sean

Sean

Admin
Admin
Joined
Aug 29, 2002
Messages
11,488
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Multi Format
This is about the cheapest new 8x10 I've found so far

Tachihara

Tachihara 8x10 Cherrywood Field Camera
SKU # VW810FC

Our Price: $1,299.95
 

David A. Goldfarb

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Sep 7, 2002
Messages
19,851
Location
Honolulu, Ha
Shooter
Large Format
Most of these items are relatively small production cameras, in some cases made to order. With Linhof, you're paying a premium for the name, but they're solid, precision machined cameras, and you can get parts for them off the shelf relatively easy, which comes with being a bigger enterprise than the others.

Shop used, and there are fine cameras to be had within your price range. Also look at Shen-Hao, which is making what seem to be great cameras at very reasonable prices. Peter Gowland makes some interesting ultralight 8x10" monorails at very reasonable prices as well (www.petergowland.com and click on "their cameras"). I have a Gowland 8x10" and like it, but it's not for everybody--you're sacrificing a certain degree of precision for portability, but that's not such an unusual tradeoff.
 

BobF

Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2002
Messages
204
Location
Pikes Peak
As David mentioned the problems of small volume production are probably the main reason for the prices.

But the good news is that a used LF camera has a very limited number of things that wear out and are therefore good buys. If you put a new or nearly new lens/shutter on a half price or less used body you have new performance.

Probably the biggest problem with a cared for LF camera would be bellows light leaks but I have a 40 year old Linhof that is in almost perfect condition that I bought on the net (not Ebay). That is a real option even in NZ with only a little extra shipping cost.
 
OP
OP
Sean

Sean

Admin
Admin
Joined
Aug 29, 2002
Messages
11,488
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Multi Format
Cool. I haven't looked at the Australian market yet either. They might have some used gear there. I'll probably just go through a used dealer in the U.S. and take it on the chin with the shipping costs. I'll be heading over to the U.S. sometime in April though. If I'm lucky I'll have my funding by then and can purchse the gear in person.
 

David A. Goldfarb

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Sep 7, 2002
Messages
19,851
Location
Honolulu, Ha
Shooter
Large Format
Also, if you're contact printing (or even if you're enlarging to sizes less than 40x50"), you don't necessarily need the newest lenses. Even if you could afford the newest lenses, many less costly classic lenses have visual qualities that make them quite attractive in their own right.
 

John Kasaian

Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2002
Messages
1,024
Ross, I figure $1200 should get you a user 8x10 'dorff or Kodak Masterview. Very nice cameras that fold to small packages and are easy(?) to carry afield, but if you want to get into the game for less bucks, look at Kodak 2D, Agfa Ansco woodfields, Gundlach Korona and Burke and James or similar models, a good one should run you about half the price of a 'dorff or Masterview. They aren't self-casing and I find them a bit more of a hassle to carry long distances---they're usually heavier and have separate extension tracks to schlepp around, but they are workable and if you're a carefull shopper(very carefull) I think it is still possible to get an 8x10 outfit---camera, tripod, lens with shutter and a couple of holders for less than $1000.00 or there about. It won't be light wieght, the tripod might be a fossil from the past and the lens will probably be uncoated in a shutter that needs a cla ( or perhaps a APO with a packard shutter) but it should still do the job. ----cheers!
 

George

Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2002
Messages
135
Ross, besides the small production volume there is relatively a lot of precision hand work on a LF camera assembly. The tolerances are sometimes very small! It is the cost of this work which puts the camera prices up.
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2004
Messages
1,059
Location
Westport, MA
Shooter
Large Format
I know it seems high at first.. I bought a 4x5 speed graphic body for $99 (used) and some nice process lenses in barrel ranging from $10 to about $50 (used). Film holders 20 for $75 (used)..

The nice thing about lf is that if you start off with a korona you can eventually get the dorff or masterview. The lenses and holders you won't need to replace.
I like that about large format.
 
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
229
Shooter
8x10 Format
Kodak Master View. I got mine for $800. It's a tank and a workhorse.
 

laz

Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2005
Messages
1,117
Location
Lower Hudson
Shooter
Multi Format
George said:
Ross, besides the small production volume there is relatively a lot of precision hand work on a LF camera assembly. The tolerances are sometimes very small! It is the cost of this work which puts the camera prices up.
I don't quite get this. Seems to me LF is far simpler than any roll film camera. Which tolerances are very small?
-Bob
 

argus

Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2004
Messages
1,128
Shooter
Multi Format
laz said:
I don't quite get this. Seems to me LF is far simpler than any roll film camera. Which tolerances are very small?
-Bob

LOL.

George posted that some 3 years ago.
Someone is specialised in hauling up old threads :-D

G
 

Dave Parker

Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2004
Messages
4,031
Shooter
Multi Format
When I first saw this, this morning it was confusing as I know Sean has a Deardorff....until I looked at the dates on the postings.

Dave
 

laz

Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2005
Messages
1,117
Location
Lower Hudson
Shooter
Multi Format
George posted that some 3 years ago.
Someone is specialised in hauling up old threads :-D
It was:

Phillip P. Dimor
Member
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Westport, Massachusetts
Shooter: Medium Format
Posts: 157

My god Phillip, why? (How?)
 

David A. Goldfarb

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Sep 7, 2002
Messages
19,851
Location
Honolulu, Ha
Shooter
Large Format
I could tell it was an old post from the fact that it was from the days when we weren't sure whether Sean's first name was Sean or Ross.
 

lee

Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
2,912
Location
Fort Worth T
Shooter
8x10 Format
just to add mud to this thread, the reason LF is so expensive is they know I use them. That my friends is the only reason I think

lee\c
 

Dave Wooten

Subscriber
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
2,724
Location
Vegas/myster
Shooter
ULarge Format
I have made several attempts at making a LF camera....pathetic, pathetic, pathetic .now I look for bargains on the used ones and am glad to pay the price, thankfully we also have folks like Sandy King to make the holders and give techincal expertise...I feel the sky is the limit to what format you really want to shoot...

the camera is a joyful tool....get the best one you can't afford...
 

SchwinnParamount

Subscriber
Joined
Nov 29, 2004
Messages
1,691
Location
Tacoma, WA
Shooter
4x5 Format
laz said:
I don't quite get this. Seems to me LF is far simpler than any roll film camera. Which tolerances are very small?
-Bob

It is a simpler design. but it is not mass produced. Wisner and Deardorff are hand crafted in small volumes.

A little careful work with a table saw and a ruler with 1/32nd inch demarkations will get you within your tolerances for the wood bits. Better yet, spend $17 on a digital caliper from Harbor Freight and USE IT when you thickness plane your wood. You'll get your wood dimensions right and have no real tolerance problems.

The metal bits are no more difficult to make correctly. Just ask BarryYoung. The real reasons why LF cameras are very expensive are 1: they are hand made by craftsmen... at least here in the US. 2: In order to cut the wooden pieces you see in the camera, you will waste wood no matter how efficiently you cut or plane. Figure it takes at least 50% more wood than you see in the camera itself. The same is true for brass. And by the way, a 12"x12" sheet of brass for parts is about 1/4th the brass you need for an 8x10 and that amount will still cost you upwards of $30. That doesn't count the cost of buying the equipment needed to machine the brass and wood.

So then, the total cost of materials including waste, labor, amortized equipment costs, rent of building space, utilities... it goes on and on. All of those cost are built into the price of the camera. If your shop builds 12 cameras a month then you are spreading your fixed costs a lot more thickly on the individual camera. If you can double your volume without requiring more space or more equipment then you can decrease your unit price somewhat... the non fixed costs such as materials and labor are unchanged though.

Think about your $65,000 BMW. Does the raw material that went into it really cost that much more than what went into my $17,000 Hyundai?. Yes it is more expensive. Better leather, wood rather than plastic. Stuff like that. That doesn't account for the delta though. Is it the labor cost? Sure. Is it the nameplate on the hood? right again! How about the high tech components? Yep.

All that being said, A brand new Wisner should justifyably be more expensive than a new camera built by me using the same design. Wisner's cost of brass and cherry are probably lower than mine due to purchase volume but his labor costs will be substantially higher because he employs professional craftsmen while I am just a hobbiest. His fixed costs are substantial while I have none.

Maybe I could sell one of my 8x10's for $1000 or so and it would be a good value. Wisner should be able to sell the same camera for $2500 and make a decent profit. But $4,000? That doesn't seem so reasonable.
 

Ole

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Sep 9, 2002
Messages
9,250
Location
Bergen, Norway
Shooter
Large Format
Because unlike d*g*tal cameras, LF bodies can be expected to last for a century or more. And often the same models sell for a century - I think the Gandolfi Traditional is essentially unchanged since 1900!
 

gr82bart

Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2003
Messages
5,591
Location
Los Angeles and Toronto
Shooter
Multi Format
I'm telling y'all - film photography is slowly passing onto the realm of the rich and elite. I'm not saying that's good, but it's slowly looking that way. Like high end collectible cars, it will be the rich and the enthusiasts who will have film cameras in the future.

I know you guys rag on me and my yellow Hassey, but the more younger people like me buy these 'kewl' toys, the more likely Hassey will be around for another 40 years making film cameras. It unfortunate, but I think it's another avenue for film cameras to stay alive - market to those that can afford it and will pay for the 'kewlness', hopefully converting some of them from noble collectors to enthusiasts in the meantime.

Art.
 

phfitz

Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2004
Messages
539
Shooter
Large Format
Hi there,

All very good answers BUT I think the real answer is that there is no target price point. LF and ULF are only used by pros and addicts so the price is whatever the market will bear.

Just a thought.
 

Curt

Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2005
Messages
4,620
Location
Pacific Nort
Shooter
Multi Format
The answer is simple: The camera manufacturers are going out of business and people are getting their life time supply of cameras!

Just kidding, it's probably because people are willing to buy them. Like Doctors, Collectors, Rich, Rich, Rich people. I have two 8x10 and three 5x7 and two 4x5 cameras that I bought over the Summer. None over $400.00. Granted they are Kodak 2D and Seneca models with the beautiful cherry and mahogany wood with solid brass and chrome plating. They are mechanically perfect and yes I need some bellows but that doesn't bring any of them up to 2 to 5 grand.
 
Photrio.com contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
To read our full affiliate disclosure statement please click Here.

PHOTRIO PARTNERS EQUALLY FUNDING OUR COMMUNITY:



Ilford ADOX Freestyle Photographic Stearman Press Weldon Color Lab
Top Bottom