Want to buy 8x10 set-up used: is this possible for less than $1000

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I've just gotten the notion to get into LF--I want to do contact prints and some alternative process stuff. I want to 8x10. I've been counseled against this--too heavy, too expensive, etc. I'm mostly interested in shooting landscape shots. Any ideas on how to put a used system together for under $1000? Is it possible? Suggested reliable cameras. I've been checking some on Ebay, but would welcome any advice. Thanks.

-- Robert Brown (brown@pacifier.com), May 02, 2002


For used equipment, I'd try to find a used beatup Deardorff outfit. I've seen some on eBay for around $1000. These cameras and lenses are not in great shape, but they're capable of taking great photographs. And it's a good investment - you can have it restored.

As for new equipment, the Tachihara 8x10 sells for about $1200. This is the same camera as the Wista. It does not have a lot of extension, but it is a good camera to start out with, given its cost.

Last year a used one (in mint condition with very pretty pictures) sold for $1300 on eBay. I kind of laughed at that. Jokes aside, the fact that you can turn around and sell the camera for nearly what you paid for it is something to consider. If you don't like the format, you can simply sell the camera.

-- E Rothman (erothman@hotmail.com), May 02, 2002.

Another option is the Kodak 2D, I got one for $600 with new bellows. Midwest had a metal 8x10 (maybe a Calumet C-1) for about $400 -- good cameras from what I read, but insanely heavy. Holders should be able to be found for about $10 each used. I assume you have a light meter. The lens is what is going to kill you, but if you don't mind barrel lenses (no shutter) you can get some good ones for cheap.

If you hate it you should be able to sell it for what you paid for it. Also, be sure to shop around, eBay has not been much of a bargain haven -- used items can often cost more than what I could buy the equivalent item for new.


-- Jennifer Waak (jen.waak@visi.com), May 02, 2002.

Sure you can do it with a little care -- I've done it myself. Check with Midwest Camera Exchange or Quality Camera -- they usually have several. Lightweight old wood cameras are often suitable for landscape work -- Folmer & Schwing, Korona, Agfa/Ansco, Eastman Commercial, Kodak 2D, Seneca Competitor View -- and these are often available for $200-600 on E-Bay, sometimes with lenses and even tripods included. Will take some time and some scouting, but you can do it.

-- Donald Brewster (dpbrewster@prodigy.net), May 02, 2002.

Let's not forget the Burke and James! I got an old "grover" for 300.00 and I have a love/hate relationship with it but I really didn't want to spend allot and didn't want to get all hung up on technical stuff either. I just look at it as a mere tool to help get me to the final result. Would I like a nicer camera.?yes I would. Do I need another camera......? No I don't I have produced some wonderful images with it. I just picked up a 158mm Wollensak off ebay for 255.00 mounted in an Alphax shutter. Edward Weston was always complaining about wanting a new camera as his was always falling apart. A Soligor spot meter will work fine and one of those is about 150.00 used. So if you are careful and have patience you could do it easy for under 1,000.00. Best of luck to you in your venture!

-- Michael Pry (vila@busynet.net), May 02, 2002.

Shen Hao was also making 8x10 in addition to 4x5. I don't know if they still are. Badger Graphic sells the 4x5. You might contact them and see if they could get an 8x10 and what it would run.


-- Dave Willis (willisd@medicine.wustl.edu), May 02, 2002.

I just got started in LF for well under 1000.00 I bought a used Calumet C-1 with a Schneider Symmar S lens from e-bay. Everything worked great. Just keep looking.

-- Jerry Cunningham (jkc@digisys.net), May 02, 2002.

There are plenty of older 8x10 cameras out there. Mine is a Seneca Improved (almost identical to the Kodak 2D mentioned earlier), and i'ts fairly light too. Get a good older lens for it. My cost was $100 for the camera and $250 for a Commercial Ektar in an Acme #4 shutter. A few more dollars for a new groundglass and some used holders and I was in business. Deardoffs are great, but unfortunately, owners don't like to give them up.

-- Steve Gangi (sgangi@hotmail.com), May 02, 2002.

There is a good supply of Agfa/Ansco 8x10's out there. You should be able to find one in excellant condition for under $600. Try some of the better LF dealers or check out ebay. I got into 8x10 this way and still use the Ansco. The camera is fairly rigid and enough movements for field photography. Morley Baer used an Ansco.

-- Pete Roody (therood@mindspring.com), May 02, 2002.

I bought a Calumet C-1 (8X10) last week on eBay, which I intended to use as a source for spare parts for the one I've been using for ten years, made out like a bandit at a cost of 400 bucks. The new one has parts that are in much better shape than the one I currently use, so I'll swap some components (entire front standard assembly). The Calumet C-1 is all metal, sturdy, and well worth the small cost. They frequently make an appearance on eBay. The most important thing to remember is the same for all used equipment... condition, condition, condition. There are several post on the archived section of this forum that might assist you, check there as well.

-- Dave (davedb@hotmail.com), May 02, 2002.

I agree that it is entirely possible to put together an 8x10 kit for under $1,000 but it would be close. I've seen old 8x10s on ebay for under $500.00, if they are in working order or not would be the biggest issue. If you are a wood worker or have a friend who is, old woodies are pretty basic. The bellows and all those odd bits of hardware are probably the most expensive or complicated components to fix/repair. A Bender 8x10 kit would probably be your best bet unless you knew of an old 8x10 personally and could either inspect it yourself or have someone who knows something about lf inspect it--- and maybe shoot a few sheets in it as well. Other expensive components would be the lens and the tripod. Fortunately, there are plenty of old 12" and 14" Commercial Ektars out there, as well as wollensaks, tessars, and ilex paragons that will give you good to excellent performance in the $250-350 price range. Your can get barrel lenses even cheaper, but unless you have them mounted in a shutter you might not enjoy using one. Assuming your lens has a working shutter, a CLA by a highly recommended shutter repair shop would probably be in order but not you could probably put that off for awhile. You can use your light meter from your 35mm SLR if you have one, make your own dark cloth, and use inexpensive trays for developing and an inexpensive 8x agfa loupe for focusing too, that leaves a tripod and double cut film holders, both of which are available used. Get the sturdiest tripod you can find/afford! For holders, used wooden ones are availabe costing about $35-40 for two or three. Test them for light leaks by loading them with 8x10 enlarging paper and leaving them out in a brightly lit room. Return any that leak light to the place you bought them for a replacement (new liscos are about $120 for two new so going used offers a substantial savings if the used holders are usable)For cheap film, chemicals and paper get in touch with Freestyle Sales. Arista film and paper is good stuff and about as cheap as you'll find, they also have NACCO chemicals which are popular with high schools. They are very economical and are easy to mix liquids. I think freestyle also has good prices on Lee filters you might want to keep in mind for the future. Lets see , what did I leave out? A safe light? Try GE Guide night lights, two for about a buck at the drugstore. If you can get a good deal on the tripod and lens I think you'll be in the under $1000 price but it'll be close. Of course it will also be a heck of a lot of fun! GO FOR IT!

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), May 02, 2002.

I think I paid around $550 for my Gowland 8x10" Pocket View, without lens, so I think you could definitely get started for under $1000, purchasing used.

-- David A. Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), May 03, 2002.

While finding an 8x10 camera for under $1,000 isn't too difficult, you need at least the following at a minimum in addition to the camera: (1) lens; (2) film holders, three at a minimum for field work; (3) dark cloth; (4) tripod; (5) meter (8x10 film is too expensive to be guessing about the exposure, though you could get by with the meter in a 35 mm camera if you have one), (6) back pack or something else to carry everything in. Doing all of this for less than $1,000 isn't going to be easy. It helps that you're planning only on contact printing because that will let you use an inexpensive old lens - almost any old lens in good condition by a reputable manufacturer will give great results for contact printing. I'd guess $400 for any 8x10 field camera that's usable without needing any repairs or a new bellows, $250 for the lens, $150 for a tripod and head sturdy enough for an 8x10 camera if you're lucky. That's $800, leaving $200 for everything else - holders (used on e bay is a good source), dark cloth (some people use black T shirts), meter (tough if you have to buy a hand held meter but maybe you can get by with a 35 mm camera and lens though more weight and bulk isn't what you want with 8x10), and backpack (try a camping store - the camping packs are much less expensive than dedicated photography packs and often are more comfortable). On cameras, I'd disagree with the person who mentioned a Deardorff. They're great cameras but any Deardorff that costs in your price range of about $400 to $500 is almost certainly not going to be usable - even mediocre Deardorffs go for $800 or so and ones in good condition are well over $1,000. I'd look for cameras that were good cameras in their day but that don't carry the cachet of a Deardorff - Agfa Ansco, Fulmer Schwing, Burke and James, Korona, come to mind. You want to make sure the bellows doesn't need repair or replacement. Don't buy from someone who says something like "the bellows looks fine but I inherited the camera from my grandfather and I've never actually used it." On lenses, I have two old Wollensak lenses that cost about $250 each and they produce beautiful contact prints. There are many others out there, just make sure the shutter works properly - with large format lenses the shutter often represents more than half the total cost. Yes, you could try a barrel lens (a lens without a shutter) but since you're doing contact printing I think you should be able to find a lens in a shutter that doesn't cost more than $250 or so and not having to mess around with a barrel lens would be worth that to me. View Camera magazine carried an article a few years back on geting into 8x10 on the cheap. Reprints are available. I don't have the article handy but if you're really interested let me know and I'll dig it out.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), May 03, 2002.

It is quite possible. if you live in a fairly large city or in close proximity, there are probably annual or maybe monthly camera shows where regional vendors and collectors sell cameras. This is how I have bought all my LF cameras. Has the advantage of being able to inspect the cameras in person and negotiate the price. Also, contact any local camera or photography clubs in your area. You may find others leaving LF for digital or other reasons that have not yet disposed of their LF gear.

A tripod is critical to ensure no shake and provide good footing outdoors. An extended 8x10 is a large target for the wind, the sturdier the tripod the less chance of the camera blowing over. That being said, you a can spend hundreds on a new one. I would try to find a used surveyors tripod. While heavy, it will be relatively cheap and if you stick with 8x10 you can spend the bucks for new lighter one later.

As expensive as they are, I would try to buy new film holders. I have never had many problems with 4x5 holders, but seemed to have problems with used 8x10s. New film holders will eliminate variables and be easier to load.

I agree with others on lenses. Choose a focal length you are familar with or one slightly either side. I would read the various articles on the LargeFormat site about lenses before purchasing. Also go to SK Grimes site for excellent info about shutters and which ones to stay away from.

Finally, I would encourage you to go through the archives of this forum pertaining to 8x10 cameras and lenses. If you find a camera but have additional questions before purchsing, post them to this forum. I am continually amazed at the knowledge base available here and the willingness of so many to share their years of experience.

Good luck and enjoy,

-- James Chinn (JChinn2@dellepro.com), May 03, 2002.


You should have no problem in meeting your monetary goal. I picked up an excellent Korona 8x10, complete with new bellows on eBay for $340. I purchased an extension bed from a fellow forum member (thanks again, Kevin) and constructed a lensboard adapter so I can use my Nikkor 300mm without removing it from its Wista/Linhof lensboard. While I already had the lens as part of my 4x5 system, I was able to jump into 8x10 (camera, ext. bed, holders, lensboard adapter) for less that $450.

One note when looking at eBay auctions -- be patient. Auction prices on eBay are extremely erratic. Sometimes complete junkers sell for exhorbitantly high prices while some real bargains go quietly unnoticed. I'm still kicking myself for sitting by and watching a Deardorf sell for a ridiculously low price. (Bad IRS, no refund!!) In my case, my Korona was merely advertised in the auction heading as a Gundlach view camera, and consequently did not attract many viewers.

Yes, the bargains are still out there -- just spend some time looking at auctions, retail stores, etc. and observing prices so that you are informed enough to react when that really great deal comes your way! Good luck in your 8x10 endeavours.

-- Matt Long (mlong@ycsi.net), May 03, 2002.

I, too, have an old Calumet C-1 that I purchased, with a Carl Meyer 300mm lens, for about $750 from Midwest a few years back. As I've mentioned before on this forum, I'm not inclined to use it much because of its weight. I think I bought it because I saw a Ries tripod ad in a magazine that showed Cole Weston using a C-1, and he looked pretty cool with it, and I wanted to look cool, too. Big mistake -- too heavy for me.

-- Ben Calwell (bcalwell@aol.com), May 03, 2002.

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