View Full Version : need advice on buying 4 x 5

Jennifer Tell
18-Jul-2007, 16:41
I'm looking into buying a used calumet 4 x 5 camera, 210 mm f5.6 lens, 10 film holders, black cloth, and a case. All in good condition. The seller is asking $600.00. Does this seem reasonable? Thanks, JT

Peter De Smidt
18-Jul-2007, 16:54
Personally, that seems a little highish, but it depends a lot on the lens. Brand and condition are important. ("Good" condition is a little vague. One person's "good" might be KEH's "Ugly")

18-Jul-2007, 16:55
Also which Calumet model.

18-Jul-2007, 17:45
The older (and perfectly usable) C-400 (metal, gray) go for $200ish.

steve simmons
18-Jul-2007, 19:00
Before buying a camera may I suggest some reading

Getting Started in Large Format. This is a free article in the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site


Also, one of these books

User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone
Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga
Using the View Camera that I wrote.

Try your local library.

This may or may not be the right camera for you depending on what you will be photographing and where the subject(s) are located.

How old is the lens? Is it in a good shutter? What condition are the film holders?

steve simmons

Brian Ellis
18-Jul-2007, 21:01
Need more detail. If the lens is a modern Schneider, Nikon, Fuji or Rodenstock in excellent condition with a functioning Copal shutter it would bring roughly $400 by itself so $200 for everything else would be a good deal. If it's an old lens in an old shutter but in excellent condition then it might go for $150-$200, in which case $400-$450 for everything else probably isn't such a good deal. And if there are problems with the lens or shutter - scratches, speeds off or not working, etc. - then $600 is a bad deal. The particular model of the Calumet camera is also relevant. So you need to provide more information about the camera, lens, and shutter to get any useful information.

As an aside, "Good" is actually not a particularly good rating if it's used the way it's often used for photography equipment. The ratings used by people who do this sort of thing a lot are often based on the old Shutterbug system, which in decreasing order of desirability is: like new, mint, mint minus, excellent ++, excellent +, excellent, excellent minus, very good, and good. But perhaps your seller isn't using the term in that way. Regardless, I'd certainly ask what it is that keeps these items from being rated mint or excellent.

18-Jul-2007, 21:12
One person's "good" might be KEH's "Ugly"

Or KEH's "Like New Minus" might be an overpriced 90mm SA f8 with very obvious "cleaning marks" and "schneideritus" to boot, which they charge you a "restocking fee" to return.

Buyer beware...

19-Jul-2007, 03:25
Sounds out of line to me.

Jennifer Tell
19-Jul-2007, 07:41
Thanks for all the insight and knowledge. The seller was too vague, I spoke with him again he said he THOUGHT the camera was a Calumet Cambo or a Caltar, with a Caltar 210 mm lens, and a copal shutter. Now... it's all in excellent condition. I feel the buyer beware seeping in. Can anyone recommend a legitimate site to buy a 4 x 5? I'll be using the camera to make daguerreotypes (the plates will fit in the film holders) and contact print daguerreotypes from my negatives. The images will be medium to close up portraits, taken inside & out all with natural light. Thanks for the expertise.

John Kasaian
19-Jul-2007, 08:04
You might talk to Jim at Mid West Photo---tell him what your budget is and see if he can come up with a kit for you. He's very honest, knowlegeable, and a pleasure to do business with.

19-Jul-2007, 09:23

You could also try placing a WTB in the For Sale section of this forum containing a description of what you need and give it a week or so for responses. Most people on this board are honest enough, in my experience, and they often have lots of "back up" equipment sitting in their closets. :)

If you don't want a hassle or simply don't have the time, I will second John's description of Jim at MPEX.

19-Jul-2007, 09:49
An old Calumet CC401 [long bellows model] would likely do every thing you want for not much money. Add the portrait lens of your choice. I'm sure Mpex can help.

19-Jul-2007, 09:56
Good deals are to be had on Ebay as well (not sure if that's where you met this buyer, but I suspect not). It helps to be circumspect, and not too impulsive. There are so many variables in terms of brands and how kits are put together, but there are ways of determining whether the price is right or not (in addition to asking here!), such as searching the closed auctions to see what things are actually selling for. I can also recommend butting up a 'want to buy' post here in the 'for sale' section.

19-Jul-2007, 10:20
Hey Jennifer, I pm'd you on this as well...I know a guy who has 26(!) Cambo monorails that he's planning on selling along with a whole boatload of Caltar lenses, pm me if you're interested and I'll put you in touch with him.


19-Jul-2007, 10:23
I'm a newcomer to LF, and I second the thought on Jim from Midwest. Great guy, very helpful

19-Jul-2007, 16:29
I third Jim at Mpex. Great dealer.

Ted Harris
20-Jul-2007, 05:29
LOL, I'll fourth Jim. Email him at jim@mpex.com right now as he is at the show in Santa Fe until Sunday. He'll be back in the store on Monday 614-261-1264.

MIke Sherck
20-Jul-2007, 05:49
I'll second the recommendation to call Jim at Midwest photo -- www.mpex.com. Kind of the Superman of the large format sales world..