View Full Version : Is my Linhof Master worth fixing?

Darin Boville
7-Sep-2011, 10:33
Last month I posted a note about fixing my Linhof. The strong consensus was to send it to Marflex, which I did.


The news is not good!

Here is what Martin says it needs (so far!):

1) New bellows

2) Replace lift lever. As you can see from the earlier thread, the lift lever would bang against the front standard frame at times. I can get around this by only moving the lever in smaller arcs, to avoid the frame. Martin says that part of the problem here is that some of the teeth in the middle of one side of the mechanism are sheered off. Another big factor is that a prior owner repaired the lift lever. Instead of using a screw to attach it they used some sort of rivet.

3) Spring for the came shoe/Cam shoe lever loose. Martin says I need this even if I don't shoot handheld and don't use the rangefinder. It still needs to move as the camera opens and is used.

4) Felt needs replaced.

And with that he stopped since the repair bill had reached just over $1000. He thinks the total will be about $1200-$1300 (somewhat of an guess since the camera has not been disassembled yet. Might be a few surprises waiting.

I bought the camera here, in late June, a few days before I left on a long trip. Had the camera sent to a friend's house. So by the time I opened the box it had already been almost two months since delivery. Not my normal way of doing business!


So...what do you experts think? I paid about $2000 for the cam + viewfinder + lens. The grip it came with it beat up, not worth much. The lens seems excellent, so does the viewfinder. Seems like I have about $1200-$1300 in the camera net already--is that right? So the repair would double that.

Thoughts on whether it is worth it? What would such a camera sell for post-repair (it won't be for sale, just checking)?

Sigh. So much for expensive impulse buys! :)


Bob McCarthy
7-Sep-2011, 11:16
It seems like you'll have roughly $2500 in the camera after repair. Isn't that also roughly the value of a perfectly restored/overhauled master.

I get that the plan was not to spend that amount of money, but at this point do you have a choice?

I've been in your shoes before, doesnt feel very good..



Eric Rose
7-Sep-2011, 11:47
Is the seller willing to pony up some compensation? I read the original ad and it seems like it was either misrepresented or the original seller had no clue what he was doing.

That being said after the dusts settles you will have a great camera for about what you would have spent for a similar condition (post fixing) Master. Sucks that you now have to deal with the hassles. Puts a damper on the enjoyment for sure.

7-Sep-2011, 12:21
It does seem the seller should take some responsibility, he did claim it was in excellent codition, apart from the rangefinder alignment. Make sure you keep a copy of his sales advert thread as they get deleted automatically from the Classifieds section.

You do need to contact the seller.


Bob Salomon
7-Sep-2011, 12:41

A new Master technika Classic has a suggested list price many times what you paid. Dealer cost is several times what you would have invested in it if you do the repairs and there are no major additional surprises.

What condition is the camera in otherwise? If it is a real beater then heavy investment isn't worth it. But if you come out with a "good as new" camera after the repair then you can always get your money back, and probably more, if you maintain it in that condition.

The list price or retail selling price for a new MT would not include a lens, board, grip or Fresnel. Just the camera body with the Folding Focusing Hood and the standard GG.

Len Eselson
7-Sep-2011, 13:01
I agree that the camera is worth fixing, providing there are no major surprises. I would suggest that before committing to fix it, you ask Martin to open it up and complete his estimate. That might cause you to have to pay some up front money, which would of course be part of the task if you decide to go ahead and fix it up. I have had Martin work on an older Technika in the past, and the work was supurb. Definitely contact the seller. He may have had no idea of the real condition of the camera.

Len Eselson

Darin Boville
7-Sep-2011, 13:11
I contacted the seller for his thoughts.

I also checked e-bay and there are few easy-to-compare prior sales there right now. I do see one in Australia which went for about $1500 USD, but I also know things go for if not so far away.

Martin will be out of the country until the end of the month so I have time to ponder :)

Thanks for your comments. Any additional thoughts are welcome!


Mark Sampson
7-Sep-2011, 13:22
We've all been upside down on some piece of hardware due to repair costs (usually a car, but I digress). If you get the Linhof repaired it will likely last you for the rest of your life, or with the Marflex service records you can ask more for it should you sell it. And what are your alternatives should the seller not want to take it back? Let it sit, taking a big loss, throw it in the trash, ditto; sell it in its current state and take a smaller loss? Fixing it seems like the best idea to me.

Frank Petronio
7-Sep-2011, 13:47
Sorry that really is sad, it's really a shame having the delay or you could have had a better case for a refund or negotiation. I hope the seller steps up and does right by you.

Unfortunately for you the resale has been dropping, for no good reason, but I've noticed a lot of Masters have lingered at fair prices... it's really a shame because you pay the extra for a Master figuring it is the later model and won't have the problems that a 50-year old camera might have... only to find out that a 25 or 30-year old Master has had plenty of time to be abused. But bottom line is that it would be lucky to get $2500 for a CLA'd Master in today's market, although to me it is a better deal than the $1900 ones that might be as funky as your currently is. This is the screwy logic of people who pay $5000 for a wooden camera that isn't nearly as practical as a good Technika.

You could always sell the viewfinder, grip, and even the lens to help pay for the repair. I found that the wire frame was nicer for the way I wanted to work, and a simple hand strap was fine. Not having to pack the grip and viewfinder slims the bulk down quite a bit and they really aren't essential. And there are always more inexpensive yet good lenses to use.

You might luck out and find a used front standard on eBay or from asking around. Just substitute a good solid knob-rise Tech IV front for the levered one. Unless you use a lot of wide-angles, I think the knob is better and stronger than the lever.

If you plan not to use the rangefinder you could see what it costs to remove it, as once you do that you don't need that cam spring (drill it out). I did this to a beater and it wasn't pretty, neither was the $89 DIY-install Chinese bellows.... but it would get the camera usable. Although you'd ruin it's resale value, it would then be a $700 beater. But if Martin removed the RF and patched the hole professionally you'd have a nice field camera that people might even pay more for, such is their logic ;-p

I would suck it up and fix it. The parts value probably isn't enough to recoup your cost. And then use the Hell out of it and have a good story to go with it years from now.

8-Sep-2011, 00:11
Repair the one you have. A good camera that you know you can trust is worth every penny of the repair bill. Don't think about resale value - think about the use value instead. :)

Brian Ellis
8-Sep-2011, 08:12
If you really love the camera have it repaired. But you said it was an impulse purchase. So maybe you're really not in love with Technikas. In which case cut your losses - try to sell it as is with a statement of repair costs from Marflex. If the final repair estimate is say $1,200 you might be able to get $800-$1,200 for it, possibly even more. Some people might pay a premium for a Technika that's been thoroughly inspected and brought up to date by Marflex. If you could sell it for $1,000 you'd be out of pocket $1,000 but you'd still have the lens that came with it and $1,000 cash to apply towards another camera. And of course if you sell on ebay you could put a reserve or opening bid minimum on it to make sure nobody bought it for peanuts.

IMHO there is no "repair it" or "don't repair it" clear answer. I think it all comes down to how badly you want the camera.

Sideshow Bob
8-Sep-2011, 09:45
If you are handy you can do most of the repairs yourself. I bought one of those Chinese bellows that Frank mentioned and was surprised how well they are made and installing them is not that hard.
I bought some felt material on eBay several years ago and have a lot left, if you send me your address Iíll send you some. You will have to cut and paste but it also isnít hard.
I also have some parts from an old Tech including most of the front assembly including the rod with a knob used for rise. I have no idea if is similar to the Master rod but I can email you a photo of it and you can compare. Or, Iím in the south bay and you are welcome to come by and look at it. Iím surprised that the spring for the cam is required if you are not using the range finder but what do I know.

8-Sep-2011, 11:03
Personally I'd probably try to sell it in its current condition (unless you can get a refund from the eBay seller of course). I had a bad experience where I bought a TLR for a "bargain" price, spent money on a total overhaul including shutter repair and new GG, only to find that the lens was not parallel to the film plane. That could of course be an issue with any camera, but heavily worn ones are more likely to have subtle (perhaps non-fixable) problems to surprise you.

Ivan J. Eberle
8-Sep-2011, 11:11
I'd want to know if the standards are parallel before restoring it, too. Did Marflex determine that the geometry is correct and that the front standard isn't bent out of shape (from, say, a hard knock or fall)?

Darin Boville
26-Feb-2012, 20:46
It is done!



Frank Petronio
26-Feb-2012, 22:25
Congrats, it looks great!

If you go back to the original seller's ad, the photos of the camera look great, they would have fooled me. Did he ever compensate you for deception?

Darin Boville
26-Feb-2012, 23:19
Congrats, it looks great!

If you go back to the original seller's ad, the photos of the camera look great, they would have fooled me. Did he ever compensate you for deception?

I don't think the original seller ever intended any deception. He seems to have a rather amazing travel schedule to far flung places--I bet he just didn't give it a good enough look. In any event I suggested an appropriate partial refund and he immediately accepted. All is well in that regard. I should have posted about that back in December--didn't occur to me that I sort of left things hanging regarding his sale.

I do have one small issue with the repair I'd love to hear advice on from you Linhof experts...the rise lever, which was replaced (along with the rise/fall tracks) wobbles a slight amount left to right. Nothing major. Also, when using the lever it skips every once in a while. I've sent Martin an e-mail but I was wondering if tightening that security screw would resolve both issues?


Frank Petronio
26-Feb-2012, 23:26
I don't know. Just don't force it too hard, that is not the strongest design, it is easy to strip gear teeth.

27-Feb-2012, 08:57

the big problem is that you will need to buy ANOTHER camera from ebay..or here..if you part out the first one...and that one may also have 'problems'

but say..you could get a body only for 1500 in EX+ shape...you could part out, sell off yours for..oh 500-600 bucks..then your still 900-1000 short...which is only 200-300 off getting yours repaired and confidently solid


get it repaired and see if the seller might rebate you some of what you paid

Noah A
27-Feb-2012, 09:49
The lever on my MT2000 may wiggle a tiny bit from side to side, but not much.

The lever can skip sometimes. In my experience, when I try to runs things I may inadvertently pull in the rotating tip while using the lever, which can cause the lever to disengage and skip. You may be experiencing the same thing. As long as the gears are not stripped (which I doubt if the parts are new) and the gears appear to be aligned properly, it may just be a case of getting a feel for the camera.

So are you keeping it?

27-Feb-2012, 10:28
Take note of the camera that the seller kept:

I still have a large Toyo 45A kit for those times I want to kick it old school.

Instead of sinking $3300 into a camera system that still has issues you would, IMO, have been way ahead of the game by purchasing a brand spanking new Toyo 45AII from B&H or Badger and have tons of dough left over.


Frank Petronio
27-Feb-2012, 11:04
haha the Tech has a lot of advantages over the Toyo in terms of having a rangefinder, much longer bellows, able to fold with a lens, etc but I do like the philosophy of not buying more than you need - for most landscape photographers the Toyos are great.

27-Feb-2012, 11:48
You can buy the rangefinder and mount it on the Toyo's accessory shoe(I have one which I keep in my pocket). As far as bellows extension, the Toyo will accomodate lens up to 350mm T without the extension back which will take you to 450mm.


Darin Boville
27-Feb-2012, 11:53
I actually *do* have a Toyo AX. I bought the Linhof on a whim because it seemed like a good deal at the time (!). An awful lot of people seemed to like Linhof's and I thought Id give them a try. (For complicated reasons I have a second Linhof, too....)

I haven't really used it for anything serious yet, just playing, but I find certain aspects rather odd, perhaps frustrating. I'll have to make a list and see what more experienced users think. So, maybe I'm just not a Linhof Person but it's far too soon to tell yet.

In any event, I didn't sell the Toyo because I want to see how the Linhof goes. In the end I want to sell either both Linhofs and keep the Toyo or sell the Toyo and the one Linhof and keep the other Linhof. (or maybe sewll all three and buy something else....ha!) I'm paring my LF stuff way down as I move to a D800e...


Darin Boville
1-Mar-2012, 13:32
I do have one small issue with the repair I'd love to hear advice on from you Linhof experts...the rise lever, which was replaced (along with the rise/fall tracks) wobbles a slight amount left to right. Nothing major. Also, when using the lever it skips every once in a while. I've sent Martin an e-mail but I was wondering if tightening that security screw would resolve both issues?


Talked with Marflex today (actually exchanged phone messages). He suggested slightly adjusting a different screw. If you raise the front standard about an inch you'll see two black screws in the bottom corners of the from standard, facing front. They are normally hidden by the front standard frame. These control how tight the front rise gear presses against the rise gear track. Seemed to do the trick for the most part but a slight turn of the screwdriver is a lot. The skipping I'm having is an anti-gear-stripping mechanism in the handle.


Noah A
1-Mar-2012, 23:15
You put a lot into it, so give it a chance. It's a bit quirky, but once you get used to it, using the technika becomes second nature. By all means post any questions or complaints you may have and maybe you'll get some tips or tricks...

It's not one of those cameras that sort of fades into the background. It does sort of impose its will on you. But a technika is quite capable and rock-solid.

Frank Petronio
1-Mar-2012, 23:31
It wouldn't be my choice for still life when I'd like a fall and shift but you can get nice Linhof monorails for peanuts these days, and they are very nice - same quality.

Darin Boville
2-Mar-2012, 00:30
I'm going to keep the Master for a while for sure to give it a chance. I'll keep the Toyo, too, and sell off the second Technika (a V, for sale soon!). I'm not sure where this will all end up--I'm selling off almost all my LF gear. I keep finding that I start projects shooting in LF but then end up in digital. I'm buying the D800e so that will only push me more into digital. Probably the right answer, if I am to stay in film at all, is to assume that projects involving portable cameras will always be the digital and go with something like the Discovery rather than field cameras for non-portable stuff (although, of course, the Discovery is very portable). I don't know. I'll pare down in the next week or two to a bare bones kit and then give it time.

Although I'm shooting less and less LF all the time I'd sure hate to give it up, for reasons I can't exactly articulate.

Paralleling those thoughts is the plan to buy an external viewfinder for the D800e and maybe even a dark cloth--set it up so I can shoot with it as 1) a parable, fast camera, 2) as a more thoughtful, slower working camera (with viewfinder and tripod, etc) or 3) as a high resolution camera (via stitching). Sure covers a lot of ground and a lot of modes of working. Add in a a tilt-shift lens and I'd have a lot of capability. Maybe I wouldn't miss LF at all. I don't know.


2-Mar-2012, 05:55
although a bit off topic, here's a few articles on the original seller's work:
Burdeny's work is stunning in many respects, but, uhm, he seems very 'influenced' ;)

Congrats with the Technika - I want one myself as a supplement for my TK.

Frank Petronio
2-Mar-2012, 06:53
Well if you are only going to do studio work then a monorail would be a better value and more capable to boot. The Linhof and Sinar monorails are bargains.

Have you considered the glut of the last model Medium format digitals hitting the market? I see a lot of Hasselblad H3D39s in the $7K range. The viewfinder alone might be worth it. Similar prices for the 2008-era Phase/Leaf backs and Mamiyas too. Plus that $10K Pentax that allows you to use the legacy lenses that are not very expensive.

Not that I actually consider that stuff!

Darin Boville
3-Mar-2012, 01:13
Have you considered the glut of the last model Medium format digitals hitting the market? I see a lot of Hasselblad H3D39s in the $7K range.

Yes, I've thought about it. My favorite camera of all time, the one I felt--as dumb as it sounds--special in some way, was my Hasselblad 500C/M. I just loved that camera. Bought it working minimum wage jobs so that was a lot of financial sacrifice, if you can imagine. If I had the money I would jump on one of those new backs.

But i would still need something more portable, I think. I'm hoping the D800E, once I get it all set up (I already have a bunch of Zeiss lenses so I sort of planned ahead in a way), will capture some of that old Hasselbald feeling. We'll see.