View Full Version : Calumet made me feel blue

Chris S
6-Jan-2006, 19:39
Went into my local Calumet today in search of chemistry and some type 55 p/n.Upon entering the front door I did not recognize it anymore.All the employees I use to know by name were gone.Its been probably two years or more since I've been there.When I asked where the chemistry was, I was told "whats left is over in the corner, nobody buys it anymore" When I asked where the 55 was I was told "Be my guest, its over there, nobody buys it anymore either, everybody is turning to digital" Well I just got me a 4x5 starter kit from badger a few weeks ago and have been pretty excited, reading all I can on the subject, studying my old zone system books, reading up on chemistry, looking at the works of the masters, just getting all jazzed up at the prospect of doing LF photography.Well after talking to these Calumet guys for about 25 min. and being lectured on how with an EOS digital camera, a tilt shift lens, photoshop, and an Epson printer I could match and exceed LF quality, even in B&W, I left there feeling pretty blue.Is this standard protocol for them these days?Are they just trying to push digital cameras?How much truth is there behind what they were saying.I really feel like never going back there again.

Sal Santamaura
6-Jan-2006, 19:44
Yes. Yes. None.

6-Jan-2006, 19:54
what sal said ...

Doug Dolde
6-Jan-2006, 19:55
It's true.

Michael Graves
6-Jan-2006, 19:55
Not always. Absolutely. None.

They're okay on the phone.

Ron Marshall
6-Jan-2006, 19:59
Tilt and shift lenses can't do all that the movements on a view camera can, and you can't get the look of a fiber print from an inkjet.

However, a 12MP digital will give you an excellent 13x19 inch inkjet print. I love LF but I still plan to buy a 35mm digital sometime this year. I intend to use them for different purposes.

Bruce Pollock
6-Jan-2006, 20:02
A few months back, I was out with my daughter looking for a camera (digital, of course) as a graduation present. We found what we wanted and the sales clerk started to push the extended warranty which has become ubiquitous with any high-tech gadget you buy these days.

Sensing my hesitancy to get sucked in, she started talking about the complicated technology of digital cameras and how it was sensible protection. "How long are you planning on owning the camera?" she asked. She said something to the effect that if you were planning on owning it for more than a few years it was an excellent investment as protection for the inevitable problems that would arise. I just about lost it at that point.

It just so happened that they had a Leica M3 on a cloth draped pedestal standing all by itself in a glass showcase across the store. A dinosaur on display. It may be irrelevent that its list price was 3 times that of the digital camera we were about to buy. So I said to the clerk "You know, that camera over there has been taking photographs for 40 odd years and it will still be taking them 40 years from now. Why can't I expect the same service from a digital camera?"

She had no answer, of course, but she dropped the extended warranty pitch.

Don't worry about it. Don't fight it. Digital is the future. But don't give up on analogue either. It ain't dead yet.

Paddy Quinn
6-Jan-2006, 20:16
Tilt and shift lenses can't do all that the movements on a view camera can, and you can't get the look of a fiber print from an inkjet.

ahh but it's getting closer every day - smooth-gloss coated cotton fibre based papers with DMax between 2.25 and 2.4. Deep rich shadows, not bronzing/differential. An image that looks "ebedded" in the paper, not applied to the surface. Close to (but not quite the same as) a nice air dried glossy FB surface (and far nicer looking than RC Silver Gelatin prints)

6-Jan-2006, 20:18
Calumet has been moving towards the high end pros for a long time. We all miss the old real photography camera stores. We have none in Milwaukee. Not enough good things can be said for B&H. Support these folks. I think they are still in the film users corner and provide excellent service and keep products in stock. The prices have been lower then Calumets.

6-Jan-2006, 20:26
I had the absolute opposite experience with Calumet in San Francisco. I went in last week and had a great experience. They had a ton of digital gear, along with a ton of film and chemicals. They had ektaflo developer and pmk pyro kits (which I bought), and a whole wall full of b&w papers. I spoke with one guys (Doug, I think) who was the typical digital salesperson, full of hyperbole and nonsense, but when I asked about large format, I was referred to William, who knew quite a bit about lf and is a graflex collector and user. He laughed off what Doug said about the Nikon D2x "rivalling medium format" and said that Calumet SF still sells a lot of 4x5 and 8x10 film and he showed me the Calumet Zone VI 8x10 camera. I had an enjoyable experience. I guess it just depends on what Calumet you go to.


6-Jan-2006, 20:34
The time is coming so that LF film and supplies, will be found in specialty shops of an entirely new kind, and most will be online. Old eventually becomes a new niche. Personally, I find it liberating.

If I have to explain why to a digimaniac, they wouldn't understand, and I don't care.

John Kasaian
6-Jan-2006, 20:58
I just dropped of a few rolls of MF b&w (VP!) at one of the last real camera stores in my town as I'm too lazy to unpack my MF paraphenalia. I was told that they're doing a lot of b&w processing these days because I live in a college town and students are working in b&w.

"Wouldn't they be developing their own film as part of the class?" I asked.

"Most students don't have the time and besides, theres no funding for dark rooms anymore." I was told.

"Well if theres no darkroom, how do they print?" I asked.

"The scan it and work with it in Photoshop."

Just then I thought I heard a spirit behind me remark:

"It is true that I am of an older fashion; much that I love has been destroyed or sent into exhile"---GKC

6-Jan-2006, 21:02

They are sales people. Theirs is a business of selling photo stuff. What does truth have to do with anything any salesperson says? They'll praise whatever has the fattest margin and denigrate anything else. Just ask any *used* photo equipment salesperson and you'll likely get significantly different spiel.

The way you talk about this stuff, I'd say you're an amateur too, just like me. I used to do 35mm B&W long time ago. Came back to it after even longer break. Being very comfortable with Photoshop and very technically oriented at the same time, I bought into digital. It was great fun, but something was missing. I am just now getting back into film, this time with LF, and it seems like I am going to settle for a hybrid - I have no place for a full blown darkroom and I will satisfy my sense of smell developing film, but then I am going to scan it and do the rest the new way. And keep a digital p&s for snapshots and scouting.

I think it is an excellent hobby and it is also much more cost effective - I consider myself lucky if I'm able to devote two weekends a month for it. How much am I going to shoot each time? With 35mm it would probably be a roll or two per occurence, with LF most likely a handful of shots. That's what, a dozen or so shots a month... A low- to mid-range digital Canon body with a couple of L class zooms could (did) easily cost well over $3000. A used 4x5 with a used 210 and a tripod, all in very decent and very usable condition, cost me less than $500. That leaves more than $2500 for film and chemicals, but lets be conservative and round down to $2500. Given my rate of shooting, say mixed b&w and color, a dozen a month - say average $3 per shot with processing - would come out at about $36 per month. Let's bump it up to $50 per month, to be on the safe side. That's 50 months, or slightly over four years.

Now, what do you think those salespeople would rather - sell you a $3000 worth of digital equipment in one loud pop now, or keep selling you $50 worth of film and chemicals and processing over next four years? Assuming, of course that you'd keep buying AND processing only at their place for all that time... Oh, and by the way, persuade you some two years down the road that it's high time for you to upgrade to the next greatest digital body, because everybody else is and because yours is hopelessly obsolete. Much cheaper this time, only about a $1000, beacause you already got the lenses... That's another 20 months or more than a year and a half of film...

So, yes, digital IS in, and yes, film IS on its way out of mainstream photography, both commercial and snapshooting, but that has nothing to do with either you or me. There's a lot of guys like us out there, quite a few like me, coming BACK to film, either as a hobby or maybe even as fine art, if they are really good at it. Either way, there's enough of us, I believe, to sustain film as a viable niche for a (relatively) long time to come.

Now please excuse this lenghty rant, I had to let it out. Makes me feel better about it too :)

David Karp
6-Jan-2006, 21:09

I teach at a Community College (not photography). The photography instructors tell me that they have had zero dropoff in their intro photography/darkroom classes even as they have added more and more digital classes. The intro classes are primarily filled with students taking the class as an elective. There are not enough photo majors to fill up as many intro classes as we offer. We have a nice darkroom facility, and whenever I drop by it is busy and full. The students develop and print their own stuff too.

That is not to say that overall interest in film photography is diminishing. Just noting a difference between what is happening up by you, and down here, at least at my school.

Neal Wydra
6-Jan-2006, 21:44
Dear Chris,

I was in the Bensenville, IL store a few weeks back and while digital is certainly the stressed direction, they had plenty of film and darkroom chemicals and paper. I even got some friendly conversation and some moral support. Fresh film and good prices, at least for now.

Josh Z.
6-Jan-2006, 23:45
Was in the main chicago store just the other day and they still have plenty of LF stuff. Lenses and cameras on display, and a real interest amoung the staff when I had a custom lens board for an old camera (looking for lens caps)... Anyways, the Bensenville store is pretty good, but the main one in Chicago is really pretty cool. Also Central right downtown had some really old equipment that was a joy to see.

7-Jan-2006, 00:28

Yup, yup, nada!

So.... I hope you asked them for a GREAT deal on the chemistry and Type 55 since "NOBODY is buying it anymore! :)"

If not... go back and load up the car! :)


Duane Polcou
7-Jan-2006, 00:52
An organization actually exists of atlatl enthusiasts. People who like to make, use, and exhange atlatls. Hunting instruments that I believed Neanderthals used. Why? Because they find it interesting and challenging and enjoyable. They are crazy, wonderful dinosaurs.

You are trying to match your enthusiasm for equipping youself to work in what has effectively become a photographic niche, to the motivation of a salesperson to earn a paycheck. Apples to atlatls.
Do yourself a favor. Do whatever you want and don't look for the approval or even cooperation of anyone and/or everyone in the photography field. Many of them haven't sold, published, exhibited, or even taken a worthwhile picture in their entire lives. The people you respect? You'll find a way of running into them.

jonathan smith
7-Jan-2006, 03:19
The last time I went into my Calumet (LA) they treated me like a god once I started buying 8x10 supplies. Here was one guy who really "did it", made the uncompromising choice, to heck with all the convenience cameras.

Like it was said, I think it depends on the local manager/staff. Sure, there's tons of digital, but they have everything. One side note, the company that makes Lisco film holders is right next door in this crummy little shack. I think they don't even have a door, just a dark slide.

tor kviljo
7-Jan-2006, 06:41
You can get incredible sharp pictures with LF-added movements with a top quality Canon DSLR & T/S lens, as You can with a RZ67 with digi back & the tilt/shift converter, as You can with a Fuji 680GX with its built in tilt/shift, as You can with any desent-pro digi camera back & Tilt/shift system/lens/add-on these days. Only rarely You may encounter the need for biiiiig enlargements where You need the extra resolution of LF.

However, in addition to shooting film - which behaves entirely different than pixels - being non-uniform/organic in structure & having variable resolution itself - depending on contrast of subject, I feel the main issue with using LF is that You are given the near total control only a 4"x5" (or bigger) GG with 10x loupe & all the camera-movements in the world can give You. If You are able to pick the perfect photo-point & field of view & determine where the plane of sharp focus ought to be in just a minute or two - then maybe You could be just as happy with a Eos D1S or whatever they are called - and the T/S lenses.

If You - like me - find out that good images is made partly using a fair amount of time before finally setting up the tripod - partly during at least 10 minutes under the cloth - steadily altering lens/perspective/ and-where-is-the-##(+%!-plane-of focus now! -issues & being able to use both eyes to view the final setting on the GG, and partly in wet or dry darkroom, then it's easy to see that LF is more a craft & process than D-SLR'ing.... Most of the 3 steps above is heavily amputated or absent from a typical D-SLR session, as I can judge it after travelling with "digiteasers" now & then. I find I take better pictures using LF - and I have over the years used & enjoyed everything from 8x11mm (Minox) to 8"x10" + Eos 20D, so I stick to LF for the kreative part - uses the 20D for a little moneymaking (aerial photography - it's great for that)..... That thing have still not yet helped me take a picture I enjoy myself...

David A. Goldfarb
7-Jan-2006, 10:14
Calumet NYC has also gone pretty much digital, with less and less space for conventional equipment and materials. I went there to buy a large Zone VI darkcloth once, which seems to be the largest stock conventional darkcloth on the market, and they only had a few small ones, because they just didn't sell anymore. Fortunately, I can still walk into Photo Gizzmo or Lens and Repro, and they're enthusiastic and supportive.

David Luttmann
7-Jan-2006, 10:36

Don't sweat it. I picked up a high end turntable awhile back. I have no problem finding LPs, both new pressings and old. Enjoy. While everyone pays $15-20 on a CD, I find used pressing in pristine condition for a couple of bucks. There is a whole new turntable industry that has been created for people who want it. In fact, there are more high end turntable makers now than 10 years ago. I see the same niche market for film. You will pay for it though. But then again, we all pay for the things we want!

7-Jan-2006, 10:50
Ironically, Calumet is one of the "select dealers" through which Ilford chose to market their special run of ULF film. Try to find it on the Calumet web site, though....

Oren Grad
7-Jan-2006, 11:07
Will, Calumet still sells gobs of sheet film, and provides good support via phone and email, even if the stores are hit-or-miss. What amazed me is that Hunt Photo was listed - it's been years since they've had anything to do with LF, other than perhaps selling a stray box of 4x5 film once in a while.

7-Jan-2006, 11:33
Well, I meant "ironic within the context of the original post". When I lived in the Bay Area I found the SF Calumet store to be a valuable resource and I only wish there were a store like that where I live now. Still, it surprises me that the Ilford ULF film is not listed on their web site (at least, I couldn't find it). Then again, their web site is topic for another thread.

Oren Grad
7-Jan-2006, 12:05
No, the Ilford ULF film isn't listed on the Calumet website, and yeah, the site is also, shall we say, hit-or-miss. I don't know of any photo retailer website other than B&H that combines such comprehensive listings and product information with current stock status. If any other exists, I'd sure like to know about it.

ronald moravec
7-Jan-2006, 12:20
Many pros are being forced to use digital to remain competitive to either time or price constraints. If we amateurs do not have the same contraints, film is better. I can always scan film, and I do, to either send files over the internet to be printed or to share pics with friends or to do manipulations I can`t do in my darkroom. I has its place.

No 12MP will not be better than 4x5. You must remember stores can only stock what they can sell. If you had a store, you would do the same. It is a shame amateurs are being sucked into this digital abiss because it is not cost competitive to most amateurs.

7-Jan-2006, 12:28
Although I have had great service from Calumet both by phone and at their Boston area store. It is worth noting that Hunt's Photo is also a supplier of ULF Ilford. The film guy I talked to was very eager to offer deals on film.

Kirk Gittings
7-Jan-2006, 12:48
While Calumet may up front be pushing digital, because of market forces, they continue to stock LF equipment and materials. You can still get from them the old ZVI meter scales made by Picker!

Chris S
7-Jan-2006, 14:24
Thanks guys for the encouragement.I do have a Canon 20d and some good glass, but working with this new 4x5 has been much more fun than my digital.

David Karp
7-Jan-2006, 14:28
You would think that Calumet would be out there pushing LF. They own Cambo and still sell field cameras under the Zone VI label. It could be the interest of the sales people at a particular store, or it could be that each store stock what is in demand. Calumet is also a co-sponsor of that Silver International (or whatever they call it) along with Ilford. It seems that from the corporate perspective they are trying to stay in the analog and LF game.

7-Jan-2006, 16:40
In speaking with one of their salespeople, I found out some interesting things. While Calumet still is committed to film, it is impossible to overestimate how much of their business now comes from people using digital. It's not so much that they push one product or another, they are just interested in filling people's needs (like all retail stores to some extent). They wouldn't be pushing digital so much if 80% of their customers weren't coming in to buy digital inks and papers and digital cameras and hard drives. Why would you be pushing 8x10 film and cameras if you were fielding 60 calls a day about when the new 1DS was coming out? When I worked at a camera store in the 90's, we would have sold all pinhole cameras if that's what brought people in the front doors. No camera store, be it B&H or Calumet, make much money at all on the cameras or other hardware. It's all the accessories and high turn items.


Scott Davis
9-Jan-2006, 10:32
Will, Calumet still sells gobs of sheet film, and provides good support via phone and email, even if the stores are hit-or-miss. What amazed me is that Hunt Photo was listed - it's been years since they've had anything to do with LF, other than perhaps selling a stray box of 4x5 film once in a while.

--Oren Grad 2006-01-07 10:07 PST


Gary from Hunt's is their LF guy... I met him at the View Camera conference in Springfield last year, and he now calls me about once a month (sometimes more often) with deals on LF film. They've become very serious and aggressive about selling LF film - I think they worked a deal with Fuji to help them empty their film freezers when their stock gets short-dated.

Oren Grad
9-Jan-2006, 15:26
Scott, thanks for the tip. If the deals are about clearing out color film, it's not of any use to me, since I do B&W only. In any case, I appreciate hearing from you (and Phil further up in the thread) that Hunt has become more serious in this area - although I'm currently in discussions with Calumet about my Ilford special order, sounds like I ought to check with Hunt after all before making a decision.