View Full Version : How many new LF cameras/year are sold?

31-May-2005, 09:35
There seems to be more-or-less a dozen manufacturers of Large Format cameras scattered throughout the world. I believe that (except maybe for Phillips) no one wants to release actual production figures, but I wonder if there is any accurate estimate of how many new cameras are sold each year. I would guess that the amateur market is probably stable or even increasing, but that studio and commercial/industrial sales are drying up.

Louie Powell
31-May-2005, 10:49
I count a couple of dozen (Zone VI, Wisner, Canham, Phillips, Horseman, Lotus, Wista, Shen Hao, Tachihara, Osaka, Linhof, Walker, Ebony, Sinar, Arca, Fatif, Cambo, Toyo, Toho, Gandolfi, Deardorff, Layton and Gowland - and there may be a few more). There are also a number of private label variants - Calumet, Fine Art Supply and Badger Graphics come to mind. In addition, there are folks like Richard Ritter who produce custom fabrication of speciality cameras. According to the rumblings on this and other forums, some of these these folks have a significant production backlog - Wisner is notorious for this, I think it was Phillips who announced that to manage backlog, they would not be accepting new orders, and I read something recently about long deliverty from Shen Hao. What that suggests is that while the market may not be expanding dramatically, it is healthy enough for a fair number of people to have reasonably successful businesses.

I agree that the amateur/art segment is probably growing. but I really wonder if the studio and commercial/industrial segments are "drying up" - my argument is mainly with the choice of words. These segments may not be growing as rapidly as the amateur/art segment, but my sense is that they aren't in a death spiral either.

David A. Goldfarb
31-May-2005, 10:56
Even if commercial studios are going digital, I don't think the half-dozen or so PC lenses available for DSLRs and a couple of PhotoShop tricks can replace a real LF camera with a digital back or scanning back for tabletop work. I would think that for that reason, the commercial segment may not be drying up as fast as one might guess.

31-May-2005, 11:10
Okay, so I just felt like Trolling this morning. Sorry. I'll try not to do it again (for a while).

Mike H.
31-May-2005, 12:21
Ok, so let's not let the thread end there. The original question about how many large format cameras are sold each year is interesting. Given that each purchase is normally in the multiple thousands of dollars, you can probably assume that the buyers are serious. And, if you assume (right or wrong) that the majority may be first time buyers, you could get an estimate of the numbers of serious people taking up large format photography each year. I'd be interested in the estimates.

Kirk Gittings
31-May-2005, 12:39
In a discussion about 4 years ago with a marketing person from Calumet. He told me that they were selling in the neighborhood of 6 8x10's per year per brand. I think at the time they had two 8x10 brands so that would be 12 8x10's per year for Calumet 4 years ago.

31-May-2005, 13:42
What would you guess was the ratio of 4x5s to 8x10s? 100:1 1000:1? More? Less? Does anybody have an "in" with Badger Graphic and could ask for their input?

Ted Harris
31-May-2005, 14:16
Over the past two years I have had several discussions with both dealers and manufacturers. Based on reasonable extrapolations from that information I would make a rough preliminary guess that industry-wide annual sales of large format cameras in all formats does not exceed 4500 units. Again, that is a very rough number but I would be surpriesed if it is too far off. Then again, even if it doubled it is sill very much a niche market.

31-May-2005, 14:55
I know for a fact that the total amount of mediumforamt cameras sold last year was 12.000.
This is hasselblad, contax, mamiya, pentax, alpa, rollei, bronic, fuji and propably a few others...
from this figure, my guess 4x5 and up up is what.....500-800 new cameras in total ??!!

Bob Salomon
31-May-2005, 14:56
I'll give you a clue.

One of our largest market segments for 4x5 monorail Linhof cameras is for cameras used on very large copy stands with high end digital backs. That is a market segment that you don't seem to be considering and it is a market that is growing.

Not all 45 cameras are used for product or landscape work today.

31-May-2005, 15:04
Right, I don't see how the move to digital will have much effect on large format cameras. It will eventually eat into large format film; but people who need a big image and movements are still going to be using these funny cameras that haven't changed much in the last couple of centuries.

george jiri loun
31-May-2005, 17:07
Actually, the digital cameras market is, paradoxally, good for the LF market as well. The more amateurs get involved in photography (and their number is growing thanks to the digital cameras) the more of them can find a taste for a better way to see the world from behind a lens. It is not so much important if the LF is a mass hobby - it's enough if it is a known hobby that is in reach of anyone seriously interested. The fact that LF photography is a speciality is a fact that plays in favor of it, not against it. If anyone gets taste of the photography hobby (something never realised with film cameras) there is a good chance that many more will get caught into the realm of the "real" photography.

31-May-2005, 17:50
When I received my Walker Titan a couple-three years back, it had a serial number of 0149. As Mike had been making cameras for 12 years, that works out to about one camera a month. Though he may contract out parts manufacture, I get a strong impression that he is a one man operation. I wouldn't be surprised if a good half or more of the LF manufacturers are similarly small in scale. Phillips told me (also a little while back) that their current manufacturing run was going to produce a grand total of 13 cameras, because that was the practical maximum for his workshop.

The big question for me is how much larger in scale must film, chemical, and paper manufacturers be to thrive. Between Photo Formulary and Bostick & Sullivan, it looks good for chemicals. I remain uneasy about the continuing availability of film and paper. Just last week I started wondering if it might be time to buy my film freezer...

31-May-2005, 18:25
I think you can not make a judgement about the LF equipment market without looking at the dramatic downward spiral in photographers income. The group who could afford buying something like a Linhof 679 and a current digital back gets smaller and smaller. And even among these happy few some have decided that something like a Canon 1DSII with TS-E lenses would fit their needs better.

I don’t believe that amateurs/ artists can cushion the impact of this trend as their budgets are usually much smaller and buying second hand is often preferred…

Bob Douglas
31-May-2005, 19:22

I would contact Keith Canham http://www.canhamcameras.com/, 1.480.964.8624. He actually answers the phone or returns v/email and is quite honest with folks on engineering questions. I would ping him for the info on Canham output by camera size.

Good luck in finding an answer as many could benefit from it.


Philippe Gauthier
1-Jun-2005, 01:53
I know for a fact that the total amount of mediumforamt cameras sold last year was 12.000. This is hasselblad, contax, mamiya, pentax, alpa, rollei, bronic, fuji and propably a few others...

Is this figure (and the estimate of 4,500 LF cameras sold) valid for the US only, or for world markets as well? It would make, err... a world of difference.

Calamity Jane
1-Jun-2005, 04:03
"And, if you assume (right or wrong) that the majority may be first time buyers, you could get an estimate of the numbers of serious people taking up large format photography each year. I'd be interested in the estimates."

I'd be amazed if that was the case.

With the amount of used equipment changing hands on the Net and at local pro shops, and considering that "serious amateurs" usually don't have a huge amount of money, I would suspect that most people venture into LF when they run across a used camera at a reasonable price. I think new camera buyers are probably people who got their feet wet with used.

For more than a year I have trolled e-bay watching for old cameras (and LF supplies) and see nice used LF cameras sell daily at a fraction of the new camera price.


Emmanuel BIGLER
1-Jun-2005, 05:39
Just for fun and for the pleasure of quoting absolutely funny and useless figures, I remember from memory the official report on new medium and large format cameras officially imported to France by official companies importing MF and LF gear in France.

For year 2002 or 2003 the report was : 14 (fourteen) new large format cameras and 400 (four hundred) new medium format cameras. Figures quoted by the very reliable professionnal magazine 'Le Photographe'.

Some obvious comments
- those figures did not take into account the number of new MF/LF cameras directly bought by French customers in border-free Euroland,
- did not take into account free travel of used MF / LF cameras within Euroland,
- did not anticipate and of course could not take into account that as of 2004, the 1.25 / 0.8 currency ratio vs. the USD has "offered" transatlantic travel to numerous new & used or (new & second-hand if you prefer ;-) MF/LF equipement.

So, even if the US market figures for LF certainly account for the most part of new LF equipment sold in This World plus probably Titan, Oberon and Io, it is more and more difficult to trace where LF equipement has been bought, and used LF equipement is probably even more difficult to reliable record & trace.
The most difficult might be when you are dealing with statistics for used system monorail cameras that you can easily build from parts coming from all over the World and not only from, say, Schaffhausen in Switzerland ;-);-)

1-Jun-2005, 10:15
What Jellybaby and Calamity Jane said.

Mike H.
1-Jun-2005, 12:04

You make great sense regarding the used equipment market. Knowing just a tad about your background (and having the utmost respect for anyone who can make a really neat 4X5 from scratch out of cherry wood - seeing as how I don't know which end of a screwdriver is the business end), I can see where you are coming from. I, on the other hand, got into large format because of the need to get detail which wasn't available in the smaller formats. And, I went for high end (IMHO) new equipment by getting a brand new ARCA-SWISS. (I buy only new cars for the same reason: I feel more comfortable with them.) So, for purposes of this discussion, there are people all across the spectrum getting into LF through various means. All we can do is look at the statistics that are available and make our best informed estimate. Me? I'm still watching what people report in terms of sales and trying to get my arms around it.