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View Full Version : Zone VI Cameras - Going, Going, Gone!



Eric Biggerstaff
12-Dec-2006, 13:01
I posted this in another thread but thought I would start a new one as well.

I called Calumet today and asked if they had any Zone VI Ultralight cameras in stock. I noticed they were not listed on their site any longer. I was told that as of the end of last week, all Zone VI cameras have been discontinued. never to be made again.

What a shame, as they were/are a great camera ( at least the older one I have is) and in many ways Fred Picker and Zone VI got people excited about LF again. I wish they had made a 5X7 version!

I decided to go through the Calumet site, and of course, it appears there is very little left in the way of traditional photography, LF in particular.

Just thought some of you may be interested.

Ted Harris
12-Dec-2006, 13:10
Nor were the cameras sold by Calumet, with the exception ofthe first ones that were assembled from stock accquired from Fred Picker/Zone VI, quite the same as those that were manufactured by Fred, Richard Ritter and Company. Even those that were made from the original parts didn't have the same attention to detail that Richard insured went into every camera that left the plant.

Kirk Gittings
12-Dec-2006, 14:07
I decided to go through the Calumet site, and of course, it appears there is very little left in the way of traditional photography, LF in particular.

Long live those retailers who see a future in LF, Freestyle, J&C, Midwest, Photo Warehouse etc.

Eric Biggerstaff
12-Dec-2006, 14:08
Yes, we all need to support them the best we can.

naturephoto1
12-Dec-2006, 14:14
Long live those retailers who see a future in LF, Freestyle, J&C, Midwest, Photo Warehouse etc.

Don't forget Badger Graphics, B&H Photo (and Adorama), and KEH for used equipment.

Rich

Gary Smith
12-Dec-2006, 14:30
Sad to hear about the loss of the camera, but they still had a fair amount on there website. One the the big problems, is the old webpage had LF as a seperate page, not its all bundled into Film cameras. I think part of it its not as easy to find anymore, but alot still seems to be there. But thats just my opinion.

Gary

Ron McElroy
12-Dec-2006, 18:05
Supporters of Zone VI lost bigtime when Calumet bought the company. I don't know what the corporate philosophy is at Calumet, but they obivously didn't have a clue on how to incorporate Zone VI into their business.
Fred Picker was a great cheer leader for large format photography for amatures, very good at marketing and assembled a team that designed and built good products. I'm sorry to see it all go away.

Capocheny
12-Dec-2006, 18:35
Fred Picker was a great cheer leader for large format photography for amatures, very good at marketing and assembled a team that designed and built good products. I'm sorry to see it all go away.

Ron,

I agree with your comment...

People like Fred and Richard championed their business because of a love for what they were doing... in other words, it was a passion that grew from the heart!

Corporations, on the other hand, tend to be more "ABOUT" the bottom line... that is, the financial statements. Although this is not ALWAYS the case, in general, it is!

Cheers

Frank Petronio
12-Dec-2006, 18:57
Good riddance, Calumet has sucked for years

At least Picker cashed out OK, didn't he?

BrianShaw
12-Dec-2006, 19:02
I decided to go through the Calumet site, and of course, it appears there is very little left in the way of traditional photography, LF in particular.

I'm broken up about the loss of another great camera, but is this really a fair statement? I went to the Calumet site, too and found a bunch LF cameras still being offered:

Calumet - 3 models
Cambo - 3 models
Pilhole Resource - 5 models
Sinar - 3 models
Toyo - 8 models
Zero - 1 model

Plus a whole bunch of accessories.

Eric Biggerstaff
12-Dec-2006, 20:05
Well, Brian makes a good point.

Perhaps I didn't dig deep enough, there is still a good selection - perhaps not what it once was but few retailers do, so I think I was premature in writing them off. Thanks Brian.

I am still sad to see what has happened to the Zone VI line however.

Alan Rabe
13-Dec-2006, 05:46
For a couple of years I have noticed Calumets lake of commitment to the Zone VI product line. What they did to Brilliant was a crime. It comes as no surprise thay have discontinued the camera. The light weight version was a pale comparison to the original anyway. I'll bet ol' Fred is turning over in his grave. I am a little glad he didn't live to see this. I have for the past year or so been purchasing materials and such from other vendors, mostly B&H, they were always about 10% cheaper that Calumet.
But I guess it makes all my Zone VI stuff a little more valuable.:)

RichardRitter
13-Dec-2006, 06:53
It was a sad day at Zone VI when we were told that Calumet had bought Zone VI. Right then and there everyone I worked with knew that was the end of Zone VI.

I can tell who made the camera without looking at the serial number if it was made by the old Zone VI or the new. The people that worked for Calumet did not have pride of craftsmanship.

Mark Sampson
13-Dec-2006, 11:05
I'm sorry to see these cameras disappear. I've used one since 1992. Mine is now a sort of hybrid- it crashed to the ground in 1999 when a tripod leg failed; several wooden parts splintered. I sent the camera to Calumet under the lifetime warranty. They did a fine job repairing it for free- I call it a 'hybrid' because they used the current "ultralight" parts, so the rear standard and one of the bed focusing tracks are satin finish rather than glossy. That doesn't bother me in the slightest. But as far as claims to "pride of craftsmanship", the gold plating on the hardware (a big selling point for Mr. Picker) began to oxidize almost immediately from new. Someone should have checked that out before the cameras left the shop... Not that it's made any difference to the camera's capability, or to the thousands of photographs I've made. I still think it's a fine camera, and I plan to keep using mine for a long while.

Martin Courtenay-Blake
13-Dec-2006, 11:12
I guess I must be one of the lucky ones to have bought a new Zone VI so recently (just a week or two ago). As some of you who have read my recent posting will know it is the older (pre lite) version with all the gold/brass fittings. It is a beautiful camera - I only hope I can do it justice.

Martin

Scott Davis
13-Dec-2006, 12:02
I got really lucky and found a mint, essentially-new-in-box (really- it was shipped to me in the original foam-padded cardboard box!!!) ultralight Zone VI 8x10 on feePay for about half what they went for new. It is an amazing camera and I feel very fortunate to have one. Regardless of Calumet's support for it or lack thereof, I'm glad they did make it to market.

Alan Rabe
13-Dec-2006, 15:08
I bought my Zone VI in 89 from Zone VI and took it with me to the Zone VI workshop that year. It is a joy to use and I treasure it. By the way Richard it's serial number is 2123.

Kirk Gittings
13-Dec-2006, 15:55
I have a fond place in my heart for these cameras. Fred Picker made getting into LF very accessible. In the early and mid seventies I had an interest but didn't know where to start so I just shot MF. Then Picker came along and made some sense of allot of confusing information and in 1978 I bought a Tachihara (I couldn't afford the Wista Zone VI at the time). When Fred was designing his camera and taking suggestions, I sent him a few which he thought were pretty superflous. I went through two Tachiharas (the last was stolen) and was about to buy a used Walker at the local camera store when someone walked in wanting to sell his Zone VI! I couldn't pass it up.

It was like finally getting a date with that chick in high school who thought she was too good for you. Sweet. I've used it ever since. I'm off the market.

John Bowen
13-Dec-2006, 16:07
I'm the proud owner of a Zone VI 4x5 and 8x10. Both are "made in VT". I acquired both off Ebay. Perhaps it is the quality of these cameras that eventually led to there being discontinued by Calumet. Why pay retail for a new one, when a great condition used one is listed on the auction site every few days and available for about 1/2 the cost of new?

I discovered Zone VI from a friend of mine when I was in college in 1979. I firmly believe that if it weren't for Picker I wouldn't have the passion for LF photography I enjoy today. His quarterly newsletters always had some words of inspiration combined with a teacher's kick in the pants....get off your butt and go do it quality. I know I've read them from #1 through the last issue more than 5 times over the past few decades. His videos were priceless to a young photographer just starting out; but not having enough $$ to attend an actual workshop.

Large Format Photography could use another Zone VI and Fred Picker.

Bruce Barlow
14-Dec-2006, 05:02
I helped Richard Ritter build the first 1,000 4x5s and first 350 8x10s after Wisner stopped making the 4x5s. It was an exciting time.

I remember gluing bellows to plastic bellows frames from 7 until midnight, then getting up at 5 am to drive 65 miles to the editing studio to edit the first video - "Printing with Fred Picker." Then back down to more bellows. There was so much adrenaline I never felt tired. A little high from the contact cement, maybe...

Ralph Barker
14-Dec-2006, 06:28
. . . A little high from the contact cement, maybe...

Quite possibly. Doing that much bellows work, I'm surprised you didn't fold, Bruce. ;)

Kirk Gittings
14-Dec-2006, 08:10
I helped Richard Ritter build the first 1,000 4x5s and first 350 8x10s after Wisner stopped making the 4x5s.

Which means that you guys assembled my Zone VI. Cool.

Mark Sampson
14-Dec-2006, 11:06
An annoying fault in the Z-VI cameras is that the plastic bellows become quite inflexible in cold weather. This has caused my wideangle bellows to seperate where the bag part is glued to the pleats. Always happens when trying to get front rise with a 90mm in the winter. The holes are nearly invisible with the bellows on-camera and they've caused light leaks and fogged film several times over the years. Luckily I've learned how to fix them myself... although I'm not nostalgic for the aroma of contact cement.

Alan Rabe
14-Dec-2006, 13:40
I have only been a part of this forum for a short time but one thing I have noticed is that every time some new LFer's asks what camera they should buy everyone suggests Shen's or Tachy's or some other manufacturer, no one ever recommends a Zone VI. I always had the feeling that they weren't looked on favorably by the members. This thread makes me feel a bit better about my camera. I have always felt it was an exceptional product, has all the movements I need and is solid and rugged as well as easy to use. It weighs a little more than some but not all that much that it should make a difference. Thanks.:)

shileshjani
14-Dec-2006, 16:28
I bought my Zone VI used a few years ago from someone I know from print exchanges (never met the chap). Mine is mahagony with gold plated brass and a plate on it says "Made by Zone VI Studios, New Fanes, Vermont, USA." I dont know when it was made. There does not appear be a serial number on it. I got a good deal, including 4 lens boards, bag bellows, and other miscelleneous stuff, all in excellent conditions for ~$900. The deal was "try it, and if you don't like it, send it back."

I enjoy using the camera with Nikon 90 f8 (<5% usage), Rodenstock Sironar 135-S (~15%) , Nikon M200 (40%), and M300 (40%) lenses. The 90 can be used with the regular bellows, but it is tight. i HAVE OFTEN CONSIDERED GETTING SOMETHING LIKE A 58 mm lens. Other than the weight, I have no complaints of the camera. It is a joy to use. True, the gold plating pits. I have often thought of replacing the gold plated hardware with gold-anodized titanium (I am a metallurgist). But what the heck, it works just fine. I should take better care of it than I do.

Short of a finacial calamity and abject poverty, I cannot image ever selling it. It is my first and only LF system.

Alan Rabe
15-Dec-2006, 04:59
The serial number is on the inside of the bottom on the tripod mount

eric mac
15-Dec-2006, 09:13
It's a shame to see the end of a fine line of equipment. I am relatively new to LF, but it seems to me that Fred Picker's legacy will be that he made large format photography more accessable in the same way that Norm Abrams opened up woodworking to many people. Sure, both had their detractors, but in the end, a lot more people picked up a hobby because of these gentlemen. They showed that things weren't as mysterious or mystical as we were led to believe, just common sense and a little hard work. It comes down to getting out there and shooting.

Eric

Bruce Barlow
15-Dec-2006, 13:06
Quite possibly. Doing that much bellows work, I'm surprised you didn't fold, Bruce. ;)

Didn't fold. Spindled and mutilated, maybe.

roxie409
20-Dec-2006, 18:29
Supporters of Zone VI lost bigtime when Calumet bought the company. I don't know what the corporate philosophy is at Calumet, but they obivously didn't have a clue on how to incorporate Zone VI into their business.
Fred Picker was a great cheer leader for large format photography for amatures, very good at marketing and assembled a team that designed and built good products. I'm sorry to see it all go away.

roxie409
20-Dec-2006, 18:44
My darkroom is, and always has been, a Zone VI darkroom. I bought my first, excuse me, second, 4x5 from Zone VI, in 1987. If they could have shipped it to me within five months of when they promised, it would have been my first. I gave up, sent Fred P. an animated cancelation letter and bought a Tachahara(sp) from Calumet. But the equipment I use and way I shot, process and print is solid Zone VI. Just today I was trying to find out if the Compensating Developing Timer was still available, as mine is getting old. What is going to become of Zone VI darkroom eqipment??

Turner Reich
20-Dec-2006, 19:42
Just one more reason to aviod Calumet Photo.

Jim Grimes
4-Jul-2007, 10:41
I just purchased a Zone VI 8x10 from Calumet at the View Camera Conference last weekend. I should have it by tomorrow as it was being shipped from Chicago when they return from the show. I also got a Schneider 360mm lens to go with the camera. The camera was unused but preowned while the lens is near mint used. They gave me a great price on both. When I consulted witrh Richard Ritter before the purchase, he recommended that I take advantage of the good price. Hopefully, everything works out well and I have a new friend to go places with.

J D Clark
4-Jul-2007, 16:41
Re-reading this thread got me to reminiscing about Zone VI, and Fred Picker. I first began reading Fred's newletters in the early 70s, and wanted to get a camera from him, but could never figure out how to afford it. When I finally decided I could get into large format in 1999, I bought a Zone VI. A few years later, I was able to buy one of the Zone VI 8x10 prototypes, apparently serial #7.

While I regret the loss of these cameras to people starting out in LF, what I mourn most is the discontinuance of the compensating developing timer -- I'm unaware of any replacement for it, please correct me if I'm wrong!

John Clark
www.johndclark.com

Alan Rabe
5-Jul-2007, 04:21
"While I regret the loss of these cameras to people starting out in LF, what I mourn most is the discontinuance of the compensating developing timer -- I'm unaware of any replacement for it, please correct me if I'm wrong!"

You are not wrong. However they do come up un ebay fairly regularly.

It, the modified light meter, and the Tik Tok enlarging timer are three items I can't live without. Along with my 1989 Zone VI 4x5.

CP Goerz
6-Jul-2007, 00:58
I still remember the day I opened up my big box from Newfane Vermont with my new 4x5 in it. When I finally got to the camera(serial number approx 2108)it was soooo beautiful. Its been the only 'new' LF camera I've ever owned and would recommend it to anyone. I didn't like the later gold plating, kinda made it look a little too bright and gussied up. I wonder whatever happened to that camera sometimes.....