View Full Version : Lens values up?

Vick Ko
8-Jun-2012, 07:17
After shopping for lenses that I stupidly sold years ago, I see that their values are way up.

I'm intrigued by this.

What are the reasons for the resurgence?

I don't think it is digital because my impression that digital backs for LF are non-existent or stupendously expensive.

Is it because of the rediscovery of film and large format is coming back in a big way?


8-Jun-2012, 07:29
What lenses are you referring to? I can't help with advice but I'm interested in in the topic.

E. von Hoegh
8-Jun-2012, 07:33
I think some lenses gain internet cult status, and demand increases. Internet sales have increased the value of some things, decreased the value of others.

Gun values are another category where similar changes have happened, although it seems to be a more uniform upward trend.

Tim Meisburger
8-Jun-2012, 07:36
I see "Buy it Now" prices on ebay for lenses and cameras which seem to have gone up, but if you look in the completed listings most of those never sell. The lenses and cameras that do sell seem to be going for much lower prices. For example, I'd like to pick up a Sinar camera when next in the states and I often see them priced at $1000 or $2000 dollars, but when they are put up for bid they seem to go for 300-400. I bought a lovely fujinon/nar (I can't remember) 135mm in a copal 0 a few weeks ago for $210, which seemed a pretty good price.

But I do think film is coming back, and the super cheap deals are fewer these days. Still, top quality LF is a lot cheaper than top-end digital.

Vick Ko
8-Jun-2012, 07:49
I'm lusting (irrationally) for an APO-Sironar-S 150mm. Sold one 3 years ago at $450. Now they are fetching $900 to $1K

Also looking at the uber-rare 135mm f3.5 T* Planar, say $3.5K~$4K in 2008. Now asking $5K~$10K. Maybe won't sell at that price, but still, what justifies that asking price? It's way beyond a user's budget.


8-Jun-2012, 07:52
Wet plate collodion seems to really be driving the fast brass lens market.

I thought it would have slowed by now but it does not seem to be slowing.

The dall 5 a thaT sold for nearly $ 10k was a huge surprise. Looks like the big ones are really up there. Anyone want one? I got a couple inthe back closet somewhere! :)

John Kasaian
8-Jun-2012, 07:53
I noticed that too. I think that through the internet word gets around quickly about "sleeper" lenses, and as mentioned there are the newly created "cult" lenses. Also with Nikon out of the biz and Fujis not being widely distributed in the US the only options for buyers are either very expensive new Rodenstocks and Schneiders OR used.

E. von Hoegh
8-Jun-2012, 07:54
I'm lusting (irrationally) for an APO-Sironar-S 150mm. Sold one 3 years ago at $450. Now they are fetching $900 to $1K

Also looking at the uber-rare 135mm f3.5 T* Planar, say $3.5K~$4K in 2008. Now asking $5K~$10K. Maybe won't sell at that price, but still, what justifies that asking price? It's way beyond a user's budget.


Why did those stupid Beany Babies sell for so much?

John Kasaian
8-Jun-2012, 07:59
I suspect many of the more desireable lenses are targeted by collectors and investors more than by photographers---that will lead to higher prices as well.

8-Jun-2012, 08:18
Speaking for the collectors - Antique lenses had always taken a back seat to cameras up until about 10 years ago. Milan Z and others brought much more attention to lenses as collectibles in and of themselves..... Couple that with high user interest in the older processes (dag, wet plate, tintypes) as well as the "look" of antique lenses provide to LF imagery and voila, the market for older brass lenses has skyrocketed...


8-Jun-2012, 09:32
It's not just lens prices that are up so are the prices for vintage wood & brass cameras at least in the UK.

What's also noticeable is there's far less LF equipment as a whole being listed on Ebay, this is probably because most professionals who switched totally to digital have finished selling off redundant equipment.


8-Jun-2012, 10:35
If that's true (I don't know if it's generally true, but it seems to be the case for at least some items I've looked for), then reduced supply would tend to drive up prices even if demand is not higher. As with film gear generally, not a lot of new stuff is being produced, while the older stuff gets older. While it seems like you can still buy good lenses at fair prices, it's harder to find bargains.

Mark Sawyer
8-Jun-2012, 10:51
It's an odd market, as little niche markets usually are. While very nice lenses may not sell at very fair prices, we've all seen a number of so-so lenses go for far more than they're worth. With a fair number of people relatively new to large format and alternative processes, there are a lot of inexperienced buyers out there. And sometimes people get ebay-fever and will pay any price to get a bargain...

Drew Wiley
8-Jun-2012, 11:25
It's all about supply and demand. Some cult lens will fetch a high price on the auction, so
then several of them will turn up for sale and end up fetching far less. A some of the absurd asking prices go unsold. Collectors per se of rare view lenses or film Leicas etc are
slowly dying off. The next generation won't even remember why those things are allegedly
so valuable. But in general, I think quality used view lenses are dropping in value. If you
just HAVE to own a specific golden dagor or Struss or P&S etc, and have to have it right
now, I guess you'll pay. But for most of us, there are plenty of more affordable options for
actual practical usage. I once dropped a Kern dagor, sold it for what I paid for it, and bought another one mint for about the same sum. Now they want four times the price and
it just ain't worth it in terms of actual performance. Auctions site do funny things.

8-Jun-2012, 12:28
The reduced small supply of some of these lenses does funny things to the prices as well. If a lens is sufficiently rare so as to not show up on ebay anytime you want one, it's price can vary. Someone might want one "right now" and be willing to pay a higher price because it's the only one on the "market" at the time, or it's better than the other one for sale at the same time. Whereas, if it's a forgotten or unpopular lens, it could be rare and nutty collectors/users could just quietly take advantage of the opportunity presented when the buyer has the upper hand.

Among younger photographers, I think the LF lens market has a strong future (but perhaps not new-lens-priced strong). With the weakened dollar and advanced technology in modern photo equipment, we are used to paying huge $ for DSLR lenses. e.g. nikon 70-200 2.8 vrII is $2400 - for a common zoom range, which the photographer will use to shoot a few portraits without having to zoom with his/her feet. If you go to a sufficiently upscale or newsworthy event, it's not uncommon to have people with camera setups more valuable than most cars on the road. It's a Canikon technology arms race, which real people are paying for. Actual news reporters now use point and shoots since the newspaper business can't afford photographers except for sports where the point and shoots don't work. Many weddings are shot by soccer moms with very good cheap kit lenses on their DSLRs. The world of photography is changing. If young people of means (unmarried working people living at home for a modest example) will pay $1000-?000 for a nice DSLR lens and don't use it professionally ever, I don't see why they'd fuss over similar or less $ for a LF lens of decent quality.

What's not mentioned is the NEED to have experience with old lenses to get the most out of them. Buying a lens and using a couple times a year isn't going to make you effective with that lens. There's a bunch of lenses out there I'd like, but know I don't have time to figure out. There's a bunch I have bought, because the price was right, which I hope to figure out eventually. I don't use them because I haven't mastered to my satisfaction the ones I have. I know photography isn't about mastering lenses, but making photos you like, but you have to be competent with your tools. You NEED to burn through film in many occasions to be sure that lens is going to do what you expect before exposing film. It's a serious challenge. It's more of a challenge than digital. Digital was a challenge for a couple years for me a decade ago, and now I'm over it. Doing an awesome job with the older stuff is more of a challenge, and more rewarding than keeping up with the jones's of current tech.

Drew Wiley
8-Jun-2012, 12:37
I'm just patient. Everytime some "gotta have" new digital studio upgrade appears on the market, a bunch of traditional view camera stuff will temporarily pop up cheap. When that is gone, prices will rise. But I'm at the point where I've got enough, and should probably start selling off some duplicate MF or Nikon gear before getting any more view lenses. How many of the damn things does one need anyway, esp at my age? If I had extra money (all spent stockpiling 8X10 film), I'd
like to put some of my Apo Nikkors in shutter - some incredible optics
there, but not as compact as my regular lens selection.

10-Jun-2012, 14:45
Part of what is driving LF lens prices up are folks who had paid premium prices for digital lenses. DSLR lens prices are out of this world. When a few folks go into shooting film and try their hands on LF photography ----- LF lens prices seem cheaper compared to prices they were used to paying for digital lenses.

Perhaps this falls under the 'supply and demand'....but a number of folks in my digital photo club have won bids paying more for lenses. Specially if it is a German brand.

10-Jun-2012, 15:16
I suspect that there is a LF trend corresponding to the recent popularity of small format film photography and vintage lenses on digital cameras in China - Chinese collectors/enthusiasts have driven up the prices of small format lenses and cameras quite dramatically in recent years.