View Full Version : Used lens price trend?

Don Miller
4-Apr-2006, 09:43
What has been the price trend over the last year or two for used modern 4x5 field lenses? Looking at the market today there are fewer lenses for sale than two years ago. I can't find the most popular lenses used, so I can't compare prices. Are fewer lenses listed today on ebay due to concern about fraud? What are the markets besides ebay, mpex, photonet, and possibly KEH? Thanks.

Eric Biggerstaff
4-Apr-2006, 09:56

Seems to me that all things LF are getting snatched up pretty quickly and the bids/prices continue to rise on the used market. Some of this may be driven by the idea that availability of new products is on the decline ( examples are Kodak leaving the B&W paper business and Nikon exiting the LF lens market) which may be fueling the fire a bit.

I have been waiting on buying a few items to try and score a good deal at auction, but when a price is reached that I think is about correct for the item, it continues to go up! Often times WAY up.

This is probably a good thing for the future of LF, but a bad thing for me!

George Stewart
4-Apr-2006, 10:07
I think the used market for LF is pretty slim right now. There is stuff around, but the prices are rather high.

On the other hand, I've been scarfing up Pentax 67 lenses like they're going out of style (which they are). Lenses that would have gone for $6oo+ used just two years ago are now slightly over $200. I would have never even considered a soft-focus lens, but for $220, I certainly won't lose money on it. Since I shoot mostly B&W, I have no fear that the results from a digital SLR will embarrass me anytime soon.

Bruce Watson
4-Apr-2006, 10:08
I just saw a used Fujinon-A 240mm lens go by on that auction site for $690. I bought mine new from Badger Grapic just a few years ago (three?) for $740. Hard to believe.

OTOH, I bought a used 80mm SS-XL for something under $1000 last year when new (Badger Graphic again) was around $1500. Also hard to believe.

The used lens market is a typical spot market I think. It varies widely and churns a lot. You have to decide what you are willing to pay and make an offer. Sometimes you'll get what you want and sometimes you won't. It doesn't pay to be desparate; patience is the key.

Besides the markets you list, don't forget the used equipment boards at APUG.

Christopher Perez
4-Apr-2006, 10:11
I find the used lens market pricing is still mixed.

"Classic" lenses will fetch a lot. But they did during the height of the dot com days on eBay too. There were some seriously silly prices back then.

Little known lenses, or barrel, or uncoated optics still seem to fetch next to nothing.

But there is another effect that I think accounts, in part, for the stability or slight rise in prices. Look at the value of the Euro and Yen against the US dollar. Compare this against four years ago. Notice any trends?

Oren Grad
4-Apr-2006, 10:20
Some exchange rate info:

Today (4/4/06): $1= Y117.82, 1 euro = $1.2124
4/5/04: $1 = Y105.36, 1 euro = $1.2008
4/4/02: $1 = Y132.3, 1 euro = $1.13908

4-Apr-2006, 10:25
Eric, I have noticed the same thing about prices going up. I will be selling a camera soon that will fetch more money on Ebay than I payed for it. In fact all of my research on this camera tells me I will be unlucky if I get 1.5 times what I paid for it. I have seen a couple go for twice what I paid, and mine is in better condition.

I have been wondering if this situation is due to the way some folks enter maximums in thier snipe programs. If you look at the bid history of recent items you can see when the snipe programs are at war. I think there are some folks who enter a very large amount in their snipe programs (much more than what the item should go for) and then probably poo their pants when they see what they have to pay. This seems to happen the most with lenses That I have seen. A feeding frenzy for a flash mount comes to mind. New, the item sells at B&H for 23 dollars. SOme sucker paid 60 dollars for one rated at bargain with a broken lock, by the seller.

ANother trend I am noticing is higher starting bids.

Don, I don't think it is a case of less stuff. I think it is Ebay's categories and some folks not knowing where to list stuff or not cross listing them. I have seen lenses in the regular LF film camera section, the LF lens section, the parts section, and I scored my dagor in the MF lens section with the name mispelled. Not all of the lenses are cross listed.

Another thought is, the price and availability of the used stuff has opened the door for more and more people to hop into the sand box. What was reserved for the affluent or pro is now within this poor guy's grasp. This means things get snapped up pretty quick, as Eric said, and not put back on the block.

Or, Maybe Galli is gobbling it all up.

Bruce E. Rathbun
4-Apr-2006, 10:25
"Little known lenses, or barrel, or uncoated optics still seem to fetch next to nothing."

I only wish that was the case for barrel lenses. It seems as if an Artar lens no matter the condition seems to be increasing in price. Keep in mind these are the larger lenses for ULF. For the past two years I have been looking for both a 24" & 30" Artar. I did manage to find a 24" for a price of $475.00. The cheapest 30" Artar that I have seen is around $900. More like the 30" barrel model goes for around $1,200. This rise in price may be a direct result of an increased interest in ULF. The prices seem to be shifting toward the seller and not the buyer.

David Richhart
4-Apr-2006, 10:25
Maybe the lenses and cameras are getting into the posession of photographers where they are being used, or at least appreciated? In the past several years, Ebay has given me access to more LF eqipment than I had seen in 35+ years of camera swaps, and Midwest Photo in Columbus, Ohio, which is only a 1 hour drive away.

Having sold a few things on Ebay I can tell you that overseas LFers are grateful for anything they can get and are willing to pay top prices + high postage costs because they have such a limited scource for equipment. That helps drive prices and the equipment is gone from the market.

If you are like me you get a nice camera and some lenses and hate to let them go. I have more decent equipment than I have the time to use, but I simply enjoy having it around. A lot of it I found for what I considered bargain prices on ebay. Some of it I have never seen anywhere but Ebay, That amounts to a lot of stuff that is off the market until I am gone.

Christopher Perez
4-Apr-2006, 10:48

Here's a perhaps more complete picture of the value of the US against other currencies:

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=USDJPY=X&t=5y - Yen

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=USDEUR=X&t=5y - Euro

I hope this helps.

Dan Jolicoeur
4-Apr-2006, 10:52
Bruce you may want to consider making your own barrel lenses? From my understanding, "very limited" but hearsay from people who know optics, the math is easy and the designs, and formulas are out there. The optics are much cheaper and better. A cylinder with spacers is basically all you are talking. Many have made microscopes with modular optical rings and standard lenses. If you are using the hat trick with a barrel lens why not do a little research and build your own?
Then again if your time is money then you may be better of disregarding this, but if it is part of your hobby it could be a way to enhance your knowledge of photography even more?

Just a thought?

Joseph O'Neil
4-Apr-2006, 10:56
IMO, it's not just Ebay, but a whole trend all over the place. I got into 4x5 a little over ten years ago, and i have noticed both less gear around and higher prices not just on Ebay, but used stuff in camera stores and used camera shows/swap meets.

The rise in price is not just lenses, but all LF gear - enlarger, enlaring lenses of 150mm or larger, cameras, lens boards, even JOBO tanks that take 4x5 sheet film. The list goes on.

If you want to knwo the *exact* amount that prices have jumped - I have no idea, it seems to be all over the place. But the most extreme example, to me, is 20 years ago at a Detroit camera show, I saw used graphic lens boards for 25 cents each. Now - if you can find one - average price is clsoer to $25 US - but again, that varies too.

All I know for certian is I can probally sell gear I bought ten years ago for more now than what I orginally paid for it - but I'm using it, so that's not going to happen.


Oren Grad
4-Apr-2006, 10:58
Christopher -

Yes, having the complete curves is much more useful than my snapshots. Given the participation of foreign buyers on eBay on the one hand, and lagged-exchange-rate-related changes in the price of new equipment on the other, there is surely an impact.

Don Miller
4-Apr-2006, 10:59
Will buyers of more expensive items ( >$1000 USD) pay for escrow.com? It sounds like I should allow international buyers, but I was nervous recently selling a $600 lens to a guy living 80 miles from my house. I have several specialized items (like nikkor tele) that have high demand but relatively few potential buyers.

Don Wallace
4-Apr-2006, 11:11
Here's my two cents. Used lenses and cameras are getting slightly more expensive and scarce because there is a continuing and even increasing interest in large format (see a recent View Camera article on sales). As digital takes over the mainstream market, it might be that large format photography is seen as a more "serious" form of artisitic expression, attracting a demographic (so-called baby boomers) who are now retiring and have a little more cash and time. Professionals go digital mainly because of workflow, throughput, and convenience. At the same time, and again because of digital, darkroom equipment has plummetted in price as technologically savvy middle-aged hobbyists make the best of the old and the new.

This is NOT a swipe at digitial, but merely a suggestion that LF image capture has a cachet of "craft work" that appeals to a particular market in a way that digital doesn't. This interest sustains a demand on cameras and lenses but not darkroom equipment.

Eric Leppanen
4-Apr-2006, 11:34
I have been tracking Ebay sales activity of the modern LF lenses I own or desire for the last several years, and I have not noticed any major change in market liquidity (sales volume). The prices have just gone up, with a noticeable price spurt within the last year. Most of the lenses (and even a camera or two) I bought new several years ago I could now sell at a profit.

I agree that part of this is due to currency changes and just flat-out increased demand (more baby boomers nearing retirement age indulging in LF as a hobby, plus I agree that international Ebay bidders are playing a role). I also suspect it is due to the realization that, unlike most other camera market segments, digital will not replace LF film in the near-term, and in fact the digital manufacturers for the most part are not even targeting the LF market (they continue to battle over the 35mm and MF market segments). Additionally the major MF digital suppliers (Phase One, Hasselblad/Imacon, Leaf) so far are narrowly focused on high-end professional studio photographers, leaving high-end amateur enthusiasts (who previously would have bought MF film-based solutions) in the cold. For example, in the film days, an amateur could buy a used Pentax 67 kit for less than $10K, whereas today a used 22 megapixel back by itself costs that much, not to mention a camera, lenses, memory cards, computers, etc. There do not seem to be any prospects of this situation greatly changing in the next several years (the Mamiya ZD and Pentax products, even if they are successful, compete more against Canon than they do against MF digital). This leaves MF and especially LF film solutions beckoning, as LF clearly so far has been the superior investment.

Ralph Barker
4-Apr-2006, 11:43
When I grow up (I'm only 60), I want to be like Jim Galli or Dagor 77, scoring great lenses at below-bargain prices in markets seemingly known only to them. ;-)

Although the used LF lens market does seem to be thinner and pricier today than it was a couple of years ago, I don't have solid evidence to support that impression. In fact, when I think about it, I can remember looking for specific lenses several years ago, and feeling the few examples that came up were over-priced even then.

Frank Petronio
4-Apr-2006, 12:01
I think forum talk drives up the prices on cult items. Schneider probably should thank this forum for selling hundreds of 110XLs based on the fanfare from here alone -- same for Ebony and Wehman cameras.

All the recent talk (by Galli mostly!) has driven up the prices of old portrait lenses. I bet this forum has influenced dozens to try 8x10 -- I know it did for me.

OTOH, Sinar Ps are really cheap these days!

Richard Schlesinger
4-Apr-2006, 12:38
The really nasty, rotten, stinking hell of the digital revolution or whatever and the availability at really low prices for some things i.e. the Pentax 6X7 lenses mentioned above and some 35mm stuff, is that now that prices are low and I can afford some of this stuff I'm too old and feeble to make use of it!

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
4-Apr-2006, 12:52
There are observable spikes in price after a particular lens or kind of lens are discussed and praised on any of the on-line forums. A few years ago, when the Cooke PS945 came out, the price of Verito and other SF lenses went through the roof. They have remained quite high. More recently, prices of Petzval type lenses have quadrupled, as a direct result of discussions on various boards.

4-Apr-2006, 13:14
If what you say is true, eBay should become a shareholder in the various forums, as they are obviously profiting from our chatter. :) - or at least sponsor people like Galli to keep on driving the prices up.

Jim Galli
4-Apr-2006, 13:45
I think Ebay needs to add a .1% surcharge to any pre-1960 camera lens sale and send the proceeds directly to ME! That way I could profit from all the prices I'm supposedly driving up :~'))

Mark Sampson
4-Apr-2006, 13:46
Well, the antiques and "classics" in my lens collection don't seem to be gaining in value. I found 'em cheap and so they remain. And the "modern" (post-WW2) lenses that I use to make photographs, I'm not checking their values, because I'm keeping them. One thing for sure- places like this forum have greatly increased my knowledge of LF lenses in all their variety. So I'd guess there are fewer bargains than before. If only I'd bought a multi-coated 14" Schneider Dagor when they were new, and I was a beginner...

4-Apr-2006, 15:16
a swiss second-hand market place (in german):


Henry Ambrose
4-Apr-2006, 16:38
I think that part of what we're seeing is the end of the "great liquidation" of ex-pro LF gear. As that stuff dries up and is distributed out to the larger world, prices are coming out of the trenches - where they've been for a couple of years. So as this classic commodity gear disappears the scarcity provides support for price rises in newer gear. Add that to the exchange rate differential and here we are.

I'm seeing amazing things on eBay right now - to the point that I'd almost not even try to buy anything. But boy-oh-boy if you're selling there seems to be a sucker behind every mouse. Of course there are a few bright spots for buyers but not anything I want right now at these prices.

Al D
4-Apr-2006, 19:35
The exchange rate is definitely a factor here. And let's not forget that's influencing the price of new gear, too. Four years back you could get an APO Sironar-S 150mm for $650. It's about $835 now.

I do think that hype is a factor for certain lenses. I did note the absurd price for the Fujinon-A 240mm this past week. Yet a mint 150mm Symmar-S MC just closed unbid at $200.

Another HUGE factor here is auctionsniper.com. People are less certain they can close the deal in the final seconds and they raise their maximum bid. This is doubly true for big-ticket items.

I just landed my very first LF lens, a multi-coated Sironar-N 150mm, for $270. I thought that was reasonable and probably about $75+ less than I would pay at a camera brokerage.

Al D
4-Apr-2006, 19:42
The exchange rate is definitely a factor here. And let's not forget that's influencing the price of new gear, too. Four years back you could get an APO Sironar-S 150mm for $650. It's about $835 now.

I do think that hype is a factor for certain lenses on EBAY. I did note the absurd price for the Fujinon-A 240mm this past week. Yet a mint 150mm Symmar-S MC just closed unbid at $200.

Another HUGE factor here is auctionsniper.com. People are less certain they can close the deal in the final seconds and they raise their maximum bid. This is doubly true for big-ticket items.

I just landed my very first LF lens, a multi-coated Sironar-N 150mm, for $270 on EBAY. I thought that was reasonable and probably about $75+ less than I would pay at a camera brokerage.

David Karp
4-Apr-2006, 20:44
Seems like a mixed bag. Some cameras, especially monorails, are going dirt cheap. Sinars, Cambos, Toyos, etc. They seem to be going for much lower than in past years. As others have mentioned, some lenses have been going for extremely high prices. Sometimes higher than if purchased from MPEX or KEH!

Kerry L. Thalmann
4-Apr-2006, 20:54
Yes, the weak dollar and the number of international buyers have definitely increased the prices for many items. I remember five or six years ago when the euro was worth about 85 cents, you could get some real bargains on the German eBay site. Now that the euro is worth about $1.23. The opposite is true. So, five or six years ago, there was a lot of LF gear flowing into the US from other markets - and now the direction of the flow has changed. Many of the really high eBay LF auctions are being won by non-US bidders.

For example, just in the last two days two f6.8 Zeiss Goerz-Dagors have sold on eBay at astromical prices. One was an 8" that sold for $1499.95. The other was a 12" that sold for $1649.95. Keep in mind, theses are not the f9 Zeiss Dagors with the huge coverage. Nor are they "Gold Rim" or "Gold Dot" Dagors. They are uncoated f6.8 Dagors made in the late 1920s or 1930s. Both went to the same buyer in China. And, in both cases the second high bidder was from Japan. Obviously, buyers in these markets REALLY want these classic lenses - for whatever reasons. It appears the "Dagor Cult" is now an international phenomenon. Combine that with a increased demand due to the expanding global market for these lenses with the weak dollar and the prices skyrocket. Coupled with that increased demand, is a fixed supply. Last I checked, neither Zeiss, nor Goerz were making any more Dagors. So, fixed, limited supply + increased demand = historically high prices.

On the other hand, relatively modern lenses, which are in more abundant supply and have not acquired any sort of "cult status" can be had for a fraction of their original selling prices. For example, over the last several months I have managed to accululate a set of four wonderful, modern 8x10 lenses for just a couple hundred more than the closing prices of those two Zeiss Dagors. The lenses I purchased (210mm Super Symmar HM, 300mm APO Sironar-S, 450mm Nikkor M and 800mm Nikkor T-ED) were picked up used for less than 40% of what they sold for new less than five years ago. And, ironically, two of those lenses were purchased from Asian sellers (the 210mm Super Symmar HM from China and the 450mm Nikkor M from Korea). So, there is a bit of back-and-forth going on in the international market.

So, the prices on desirable older equipment in fixed supply are going up rapidly, and prices of more recent lenses, many still avialble new (or at least used in abundant supply) have gone down. At some point in time, after some of these lenses have been off the market for a while (the Super Symmar HM and the two Nikkors), prices will probably start to creep back up. In fact, based on recent selling prices of 120mm and 150mm Super Symmar HMs, I'd say the market for those lenses have already bottomed out and are on the rise.


Jack Brauer
5-Apr-2006, 09:57
Certainly the ease of digital photography has created many new photographers who wouldn't have really considered film photography before. They start with a small digital, then get into it more and get a dSLR. Then after becoming serious about photography and realizing the resolution limitations of dSLRs, and considering the slow evolution, they decide to jump into LF. That's my story. Maybe it's rare, maybe not. But at the least I'm sure that digital has brought many more people into photography in general.

Wayne Crider
5-Apr-2006, 16:00
After reading Kerry's response I would think that maybe some of the guys around talked a little too much about the Dagor's? The next you'll know, all the really old lenses Jim Galli buys will be more pricey as well. In the end I can only hope that with the interest in the larger formats, enough out there will be buying new as well and supporting the companies that manufacture. I think that it's evident to a degree with the Chinese cameras coming out and I wonder if China will continue with lenses as well. Btw, prices have been rising ever since 9-11 when they hit the skids.

John Kasaian
5-Apr-2006, 16:53
I think an important consideration is that lenses don't generally wear out. My two Dagors were born in the oughts ( as in "nineteen ought" and one APO Artar is from the 20's. They are in great shape and represent three focal lengths I will probably never consider purchasing again. Ever(unless I get butterfingers.) My Ektars are later, but in the same way I'm kind of set for life. Aside from the new LFer's who are building up a kit, or the rarer upgrading, I think much of the market is driven by GAS---Gear Aquisition Syndrome. There is only the most laughable excuse why I should possess three 12" lenses, two 14" lenses, two (no, make that three) 19" lenses plus a 9-1/2" 10" and 10-3/4" lens and all covering the same format. Fortunately for my family I bought these beauties on the cheap when a lot of people were abandoning film for digital. If I were starting over and were limited to buying new, expensive stuff there is no way I could afford it. As far as 8x10 goes, I'm out of the market for lenses (except if a real nice 9-1/2" Dagor comes around, or a 120 Nikon SW, or a Cooke triple convertible, or a Wollensak 530mm APO Raptar or a 16-1/2" Artar or a Darlot that'll cover 8x10 or....)

neil poulsen
5-Apr-2006, 21:20
A gold-rim 300mm Dagor in an Ilex shutter just sold for about $2400. Probably an auction war.

Kerry L. Thalmann
5-Apr-2006, 22:01
Neil - A gold-rim 300mm Dagor in an Ilex shutter just sold for about $2400. Probably an auction war.

It went to the same Chinese buyer as those two f6.8 Zeiss Dagors I mentioned above. Kind of makes that 8" Gold Rim Dagor that went for only $1025 yesterday look like a "bargain".


Hugo J. Zhang
6-Apr-2006, 09:43
Don't we love to see the prices of our old Dagors go up like this? I sold one of my back up 18cm Zeiss Dagor f/9 a few weeks ago and have used the proceeds to: 1. put a shutter on my Trigor, 2. buy a Kodak 2D 8x10 as my "dedicated" portrait camera plus a couple of Dallmeyer and Heliar in barrel, 3. a mint 13cm Weitwinkel Perigon in shutter, 4. a mint Docter Germinar 36cm in barrel for less than $200, I still have a couple of bucks left for films.

These Chinese guys are not foolish. Our mighty dollar is 30% overvalued against their Reminbi and our government is putting lot of pressure for them to devalue our dollar. It's really a wise move to put their money on rare Dagors than to hold US dollar which is sure to lose its value.

And remember, this LF thing is just getting started in China, who knows how much these Dagors are going to be priced in a few years in China? One thing I know, Chinese prefer German optics. These people don't buy Fujis and Nikons. They don't like their looks, they claim.

tim atherton
6-Apr-2006, 09:49
"One thing I know, Chinese prefer German optics. These people don't buy Fujis and Nikons. They don't like their looks, they claim."

or maybe they don't care much for those who make them...? I understand there is still an awful lot of resentment about Manchuria, Nanking etc and the refusal to accept responsibility

Brian Ellis
6-Apr-2006, 19:11
"I'm seeing amazing things on eBay right now - to the point that I'd almost not even try to buy anything. But boy-oh-boy if you're selling there seems to be a sucker behind every mouse."

Maybe, but where were all those suckers and their mice when my like-new Linhof recessed lens board that I think sells new for more than $200 went for $40 on ebay?

19-Jun-2006, 21:22
I've been very lucky: 14 1/2" Verito for $180 and a 19" Goerz Artar for $175. I've seen the same Verito as a "buy-it-now" for $1100+. Don't know what Artars are going for. I think the Verito went so low because it looked like c--p in the thumbnails and nobody wanted to mess around with a studio shutter. The glass is wonderful for the age. I fixed the shutter and now it works great. Shutter speed is now as fast as your thumb can make it. It's a real soft-focus lens for almost nothing. Beautiful results.

The Artar is mounted in front of a Betax #4. The Betax was full of crud and wouldn't work, but once again, a screw-driver, naptha and patience has it running like a clock. It's an amazing lens. The Wolly 7" and 12" produce velvet images. My coated ILEX 12" takes razor sharp pictures, so does the 14 1/2" coated Ilex. All purchased at bargain prices.

Fortunately, I LIKE old lenses -- especially uncoated. Wollensak Velostigmats (7" and 12"), Ilexes, Zeiss Tessars. Ancient Goerz's pulled off junk cameras. If the glass is good, clean-em-up and shoot with them. If they don't fit a standard Copal hole size -- drill out the board. Sometimes these guys go for as little as $35 and take GREAT shots. Old Compur's have really accurate shutters, even when dirty.

I hope more people continue to sweat and heave over the sexy lenses -- It leaves the good ones for the rest of us.

George B.

JW Dewdney
19-Jun-2006, 23:22
It seems the big glass - or anything in a copal 3 is going DOWN these days though... or is it just me? I seem to see a lot of 300mm 5.6 plasmats (sorry to be so cliquish in my use of the word) in great shape for less than $500. That never would have happened a few years ago. Not for less than $900 anyway - and the vaunted G-Clarons, which were the HEIGHT of fashion, just a year and a half ago, IIRC, are selling for next to NOTHING now. One can almost predict the trends - ! Perhaps a good side-business fro someone.

Andre Noble
19-Jun-2006, 23:54
What's with the appeal for these OLD, yet now fashionably expensive lenses?

I can understand the guy who gets an 80 year old optic for $25 or $50, gets it modified, shutter serviced, CLA'd etc., and now uses it out of a combination of pride, curiosity and wonder.

But $2400 for an old lens? Don't understand it.

E. von Hoegh
20-Jun-2006, 09:52
I've noticed the wierdness in prices as well. When I was outfitting myself in the late
80s there were some real bargains available; I think the Internet has changed that.
For instance:Deardorff V8,fs,good user with 4x5 back, 2 8x10 holders and a case-$995
6" US dagor,$49; 9.5" US Dagor $89; 10.75 US dagor, $149; 30cm CPG Berlin Dagor, $200. And let's not forget the 14" gold dot MC for $ 739. None of these came from garage sales or the like, all were ordered from ads in Shutterbug. Also, I think the various cults had yet to develop. I purchased most of the old US Dagors from Brooklyn Camera, when I asked why they were such a bargain I was told "they're just old lenses". The 14' Kern Dagor came from KEH, they couldn't get rid of them!

Ole Tjugen
20-Jun-2006, 22:48
My only Dagor is an old "original" - a Goerz Berlin 180mm f:6.8 Serie III "Dagor". It cost me the staggering sum of $25. My most expensive "classic" lens was a $200 150mm APO-Lanthar. I got a 14" Petzval for $85, a 300mm Symmar for $200. Most of my lenses have cost less than $150, even in shutters. This is all during the last 3 years.

The bargains are still out there!