What questions to ask and how to examine a used 8x10?

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I'm going to purchase a used 8x10 in the next couple of months. Leading candidates are Cambo Legend and Calumet C-1. What should I ask about prior to purchasing one via the internet? If I get the chance to examine it in person before purchasing, what should I look for other than smooth movements and obvious damage? Is there a way to check for bellows leaks? Poor alignmenet?

-- Chris Hawkins (peace@clover.net), January 24, 2000


Check & see how many good photos have been taken with it. This usually correlates with the price the camera sold for new. Each one has only so many good photos in it(roughly one per dollar of camera cost-a reason so many photograph with expensive lenses, to get more good photos)and if they have already been taken, you have wasted your money.(Yes, a bad joke, I know) Other than cosmetics, smooth operation and how it 'feels' to you, put a mini mag light in the bellows in a dimly lit room & look for light leaks. Small ones can be fixed with black gaffer tape easily, or possibly some of the rubber coatings available on the market. Look for a lot of wear in the area where the film holder inserts and for play between the back & body. A lot isn't a healthy sign. Basically, do what you are doing, make sure it works smoothly & the front & back standard are parallel. A small mistake like misalignment of the focusing can usually be fixed by taking the standard off & re- aligning by putting it on straight. Small stuff won't hurt much & big problems will usually jump out at you. If you are really nervous or worried, get ahold of a good repair person first & arrange to have them look at it while you have it during a 1-2 week return period.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), January 24, 2000.

Everything should work smoothly, not bind, and lock securely. Watch out for stripped threads, gummed up slides or gear racks. They can be cleaned, but the value is not as high as if they are in good shape to start with. Look for cracks in castings that may indicate hard use.

To check a bellows, either turn out all the lights and hold a small flashlight inside with the bellows racked all the way out, or turn ON all the lights and stick your head inside. Check all the corners, since this is where bellows start to pinhole first. Small holes can be patched fairly easily, larger tears means more involved repair. Either one lessens the value. Check where the bellows mount to the front and back frames for leaks, cracks, bends and buckles, etc.

In general try to form an overall impression of how much and what kind of use the camera has had.

-- Tony Brent (ajbrent@mich.com), January 24, 2000.

I don't know how much you are spending, but if I spent a few thousand dollars for a used camera, I would consider sending the camera to a qualified repair facility like mamiya USA that can check it with a sophisiticate laser system, to see how aligned the entire system is. this is one of the few things that is difficult to eyeball. If not, a few very careful film test shot wide open with new holders should get you close to the answer of alignment. I agree with the posters above about the physical nature of the camera. Beware when new gg / fresnels have been installed, this is sometimes the begining of alignment trouble.

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), January 25, 2000.

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