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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
    May 2006
    grand rapids

    Re: How to Value LF Equipment

    Sounds great. Now if only people would read this or use google before posting.

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