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Thread: How to Value LF Equipment

  1. #1
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    How to Value LF Equipment

    Large Format Equipment Valuations

    Requests for evaluations, valuations, and/or appraisals of LF equipment, particularly from members who are still in their “probationary period”, are not allowed on the LFPF for several reasons. First, such requests are often interpreted as an effort to get around the 30-day waiting period for access to the For Sale section. More importantly, it is impossible to suggest an accurate value for a camera or lens without a physical examination and some testing. Thus, the discussions are of little actual value to the persons initiating such threads. That said, it may be helpful to those who are new to large-format photography to provide a few pointers to information sources, so as to appease, at least partially, the initial curiosity and enthusiasm that we have all gone through.

    First, it is important to recognize that LF cameras and lenses that may not fetch high prices on the used market may be perfectly capable, if used correctly, of creating delightful images. Design characteristics have varied widely over time, making some cameras and lenses more sought after than others. That affects price, but not necessarily fundamental capability.
    Additionally, the “market” also varies over time. That means that a particular lens, for example, that was inexpensive at one time may be more highly-valued currently. The reverse can also be true. So, research is needed to determine if a current asking price, like Goldilocks’ porridge, is “too hot”, “too cold”, or “just right”.

    So let’s separate considerations into two categories: Price and Functionality

    Pricing Data Sources

    If you are considering the purchase of an LF camera or lens, it’s a good idea to check various points of sale for similar items. The data sources include articles on the LF Home Page, the For Sale section here on the LFPF (once you have access), auction sites (e.g. current and completed sales on eBay), and retailers of used LF gear.

    Used LF equipment retailers include, among others:

    - (
    - Midwest Photo Exchange (
    - Badger Graphic Sales, Inc (

    The lens comparison charts on the LF Home Page also include pricing information at the time the articles were written. That information, of course, is not current, but it may be helpful in establishing “ballpark” estimates.


    Functionality is a combination of design and condition. A camera design, for example, may be perfect for certain applications, but ill-suited to other purposes. You will need to make an assessment of the types of work you want to do, and decide on a design that is well-suited to those types of work. Similar decision factors apply to lenses, as well. Nothing is perfect for everything, but some products are more versatile than others. Articles on the LF Home Page may be helpful in this regard.

    As with most things, condition is key to the usefulness of a camera or lens, not to mention its effect on pricing. A camera with holes in the bellows, for example, won’t be of much use until it is repaired. In contrast, a lens might have cosmetic damage, or even substantial damage, and still be reasonably functional. The only real way to tell, however, is to actually test the lens by making photographs. Whether a seller will allow testing is a matter of negotiation in some cases. In other cases, the sale might be in “as-is” condition, with no return option. Make decisions accordingly.

    Lens Tips and Tricks

    If you can physically examine a lens, try shining a small flashlight up through the lens elements, moving the flashlight around while looking down through the lens. This will often show scratches, chips, debris and other faults.
    Cock and release the shutter at each of its available speeds, listening to the sound the shutter makes. Does it sound “happy”? Also, move the aperture through its range to see if it moves smoothly (aside from f-stop detents, if any).
    With older lenses, you may want to have the lens serviced (commonly called a “CLA” – clean, lubricate, and adjust, even though most parts don’t actually get lubricated) by a reputable repair shop, and have the shutter tested. Some adjustments or repairs might be possible, but in many cases, the shutter test info will simply be used to adjust for exposure accuracy. Factor in the cost of having this done into what you are willing to pay for the lens.

    Other members are encouraged to add their thoughts and experience to this thread.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    Ralph, thanks for writing this up.

    One amendment I'd add for now is that it's been a while since MPEX and Badger have carried much in the way of second-hand LF. KEH tends to have by far the deepest stock, although even they are starting to delete items from website-listed stock and put them on eBay ("KEHOUTLET"). B&H often has some used LF items - usually more lenses than cameras - but tends to be premium-priced, so may not be a useful guide to what an item would bring on the open market.
    Last edited by Oren Grad; 17-Sep-2015 at 19:25.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    I am very confused about this new sticky. What exactly is the goal you want to achieve with it? You start off with "sellers" and then you talk mostly about buying/evaluation by a "new" owner.

    I can't take anything written about valuation seriously which does not include the search of sold listings in Ebay.

    I doubt this is the appropriate thread for the section on lens/shutters and I find the content there somewhat thin (or worse).

    The sticky underneath this one is:

    Reminder: Lens threads don't go here.
    Folks, we've had a series of lens topics started in this sub-forum. Please remember that we have a lens sub-forum and post lens items there. It saves us having to move them.

    Rick "appreciative" Denney
    Couldn't you find a more appropriate thread to place all this?

    I find you have repeated the sticky down in "lenses" too.

    This will make any sensible posting impossible without cross referencing!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Massachusetts USA

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Tribe View Post
    I find you have repeated the sticky down in "lenses" too.

    This will make any sensible posting impossible without cross referencing!
    The sticky postings are notices. They currently appear in several places to make sure people see them.

  5. #5
    mike rosenlof's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 1998
    Louisville, Colorado, USA

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    The big auction site which shall not be named is another place to look for pricing info. Do an 'advanced search' and check the box for 'sold listings'. Current listings with a Buy it Now price may or may not reflect reality in what the thing is worth. A listing that has actually sold indicates that at least one seller and one buyer thought the price was reasonable. It's also best to look at the photos and read the description on the listing.

    I guess the "completed but not sold" listings can also be useful data. Of course the reason for not sold could be price, condition, description, or the seller itself.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Nov 1999
    San Clemente, California

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by mike rosenlof View Post
    The big auction site which shall not be named...
    eBay eBay eBay. There's no rule against naming it.

  7. #7
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    Tin Can

  8. #8
    unixrevolution's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Waldorf, MD

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    I"ve learned that LF equipment depriciates quickly when I buy it.
    Please, call me Erik.
    Find me on: Flickr Pentaxforums RangeFinderForum
    Omega View 45F Monorail, Super Graphic, Various Lenses (75, 90, 135, 150/265, 210)

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Philadelphia, PA

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by unixrevolution View Post
    I"ve learned that LF equipment depriciates quickly when I buy it.
    A cousin to your aforementioned "rule" is the rule of "defect magic." You can look and look at something. You can go over it with a magnifier and it looks great. You only see the glaring defects once you've handed over the cash and left the building.

  10. #10
    LF Newbie Islandor's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Phuket, Thailand

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    Hi, was curious as to why CollectiBlend is not mentioned as a source of finding estimated valuations? Are theirs way off or do you guys have any opinions about that site??

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