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Wednesday, 24 February 2010


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Looking forward to hearing about your adventures with the Mamiya 7 -- and seeing the results!

I wonder if the lens had some history behind it that would contribute to it's perceived high value. Maybe the photons of a nude Marilyn Monroe passed through it's lenses.

Well, who knows? But $39,000 pales next to the $120,000 that B&H is asking for a used Canon 1200mm with EOS mount! Myself, I get nervous enough taking my used Leica lenses out on the street, but since that's why I bought them, I do it anyway.

This reminds me of a smaller-scale predicament I found myself in a few months ago. Smaller scale because the lens involved is the Pentax 31mm Ltd, which B&H asks $965 for, but I still had the same problem: I was afraid to take it out and use it.

I posed this question on a forum and found out I was quite alone in my fear. My thinking about the matter now is quite the opposite: The lens cost a lot of money (to me), so I should use it as much as possible in order to make the expenditure worth while.

But I think this reasoning breaks down for a $39,000 lens—I would definitely leave it at home.

People routinely drive $40K cars. The depreciation hit they take the moment they leave the lot is probably more than most spend on cameras and they continue to deprecate after that.

My question would be, why would you buy a lens like that and NOT use it.

The thing about auction results that always amazes me is that whatever the winning buyer's motivations were to justify paying such a high price for a lens, there was a second person who was willing to pay nearly as much for it.

The recoated collapsible Summicron is easily replaceable, you just need to accept that your $450 lens is actually a $1500 lens. John van Stelten at FocalPointLens can recoat another one for you if you lost the one you had. I have one, and a rigid and a DR, with all the surfaces recoated by Arax in the Ukraine bfore they stopped offering this service. I have also used a rigid which had been multi-coated - that cost about $5K to do, probably out of any sane person's range.


If you don't use the lens, somebody else will! It was designed and built with the exclusive purpose of being attached to a camera and taking photographs, hopefully nude photos of MM but whatever. If you have fallen in love with an inanimate object please seek therapy. Except for me, the love I have for my equipment is very special.....get it? The opportunity in life to participate in something so special as the casual carrying around this lens and use it as your own will only come around once my friend.....enjoy it.

Everything is relative...

Most of my users are, well, users. Not that it was planned that way, just cheaper to buy equipment that has cosmetic wear and are not rare collector items. Even have a 24mmm f2.8 with a tiny gouge out of the front element. Doesn't affect the performance but sure lowers the resale value. It's comfortable using well worn equipment.

This lens makes me wonder if the person using it would list it in the title of image(s) they make with it. List the equipment used when a picture is made is such a strange thing to me. It is as if the equipment used should be used as a handicap for bad images. I have never had a moment looking at an image where I go, "Oh, i didn't realize that this picture of your cat was made with an L lens and 5D mkII. That totally changes everything."

How strange would it be to see "Yosemite Valley, Winter 1940, Rodenstock 150mm @ f64, 8x10, Plus-X."

Just doesn't have the same ring to it.

PART of the answer is "what are you doing with it?" - why make an f2.8 large format lens in the first place?

If you are "making money" (or otherwise succeeding at something important) the price might not bother you if the item enables success.

I think you'd be much safer with this antique lens (mounted to an antique camera) than you'd be swinging any DSLR around in a tough neighborhood. A friend was beaten and robbed of an iPod (to which he was listening) while walking home from work last Saturday. I'm thinking that those kids would probably not have knocked him senseless for his view camera.

Why on earth is it worth so much? You can't even use the movements, a 150 Xenotar just covers 4x5.

Actually, I put about that much into two Leica M8.2s and a handful of Leica lenses. Literally. Why? Because, at the time, I could and I had worked very hard to be able to finally try out the equipment on a trip abroad for a month. Was it worth it? Yes, indeed I found that I shoot these particular rangefinders and those particular lenses very well. And- yes there is something different about Leica. What that 'sparkle' is....well that is subject of many a blog. Is the Leica premium worth it? Probably not and I will likely in the end get myself down to just one rangefinder and one lens (& recoup most of the expense). Leica is very good but my Nikon D3 with Zeiss glass is better and my Contax 645 with Zeiss glass is best. I can assure you that explaining to my spouse how I have near 40 grand worth of Leica did not make for a easy chat. Thank God, I did not have to justify but one Schneider Xenotar lens. But a Phase One 65+ MF digital back for measly 39 grand sure is tempting.

I was gonna buy that but nobody makes an F mount adapter...

Oh well.

I agree with Miserere. The 1700 dollar lens I bought needed to go out and capture high quality images to justify its purchase. I needed to leave my fear at home and walk around with the lens, not the other way around. Which turned out not to be too hard because the images from the lens were surperb in quality and well worth the $$$.

Can't wait to hear about your adventures with the Mamiya 7II - I think you'll love it !!

That's bizarre. I bought one of those lenses (albeit without a shutter) about 4 years ago for $500. Either there's something unusual about this lens or is provenance or I need to buy a safe. In any case, since I use it all the time, I'm glad I'm not looking for one right now.

The little Linhof shield is pretty cool though ;-)

I had one of those once. I wasn't that great a lens. Buying and selling price was under $500.

I think the whole thing is a fraud.

Insurance if simple replacement is otherwise too dear.

As I was reminded just a few days ago, what is the point of having very capable equipment if one does not use it? The best camera is the one with you, but why not have the best camera with you, with you?

I have been gun shy with taking best gear on trips, having had a few thefts, decades ago. I have now come to the state of mind that I will use my best, that I will trust that most folks are decent and not out to steal cameras they do not even understand.

And, I bought an insurance rider. Don't want to use it, but life will go on with replacement gear if needed.

"I think you'd be much safer with this antique lens"

The serial number puts it at ~1974-75.

We're all getting really old, really fast...


This is quite simply an absurd case of bidding fever. The 150/2.8 Xenotar isn't the most common lens in the world, particularly in such nice condition, but it was a standard Linhof offering at one time, so they're out there. Jerry Spagnoli uses one for daguerreotypes, and I don't suspect that he paid anywhere near that price for it.

I'll content myself with my Zeiss 135/3.5 Planar (second version) as my 4x5" speed lens, which came with my Linhof Tech V 4x5" kit. I paid $3400 for the kit including 4 cammed lenses, one or two rollfilm backs, a good set of Linhof drop-in filters and shade, the Linhof ergonomic grip, a few other odds and ends, and the aluminum compartment case. I've seen the 135/3.5 Planar listed for around $2500 lately, but I don't know that one has sold at that price. I would value it at around $1200, but maybe $2500 for the third version with T* coating, produced in a special run of 100 lenses for the Japanese market.

Use this lens? No, I don't think that would make any sense. I don't think it is particularly good in any way.
And auction results like this are quite questionable, I watched a number of 1971 Hemi-Cudas seem to sell at the collector car auction in Scottsdale AZ in 2006 for $2 million each.
Nobody was going to use them, and as it turns out, I would doubt that any of those transactions ever really happened. Look at the values of them after the sale. Very fishy.

I'd like to point out that, for many amateur photographers (especially students), scraping together enough cash to get a DSLR and a decent lens is, in relative terms, much the same thing as what you describe. That is, if they drop the camera and it breaks, their limited budget may very well preclude its replacement. I imagine a lot of amateur photographers use the most expensive gear they can afford, and if that gear were to be lost or broken, it would often be next to impossible to completely replace.

Miserere, I was going to post essentially the same thing. I found an amazing Craigslist deal for the FA 31 (and FA 77, K20D, grip, etc., etc.) over a year ago. For the first couple months, the Limiteds never left their leather pouches.

Today, they are packed in a non-distinct bag with a Spiratone 20mm/2.8 and a plain Takumar 135/2.5, the finish on their black paint jobs getting more scuffed up each time I go shooting. Sometimes I don't put front lens caps back on when swapping glass. Horror of horrors, I opened a bottle of champagne too fast a few weeks ago and got a good splash all over the 31. The aperture ring now rotates a little gooey, particularly in this colder weather.

I bought this gear to be used and while I'm cautious about thieves and accidental drops, I can't enjoy their abilities as picture-taking equipment if I have to remove two or three layers of protection each time a moment crosses my eye.

I'd love to see some pictures taken with that crazy Schneider Xenotar. Or at least one of it in the field, attempting to dwarf the photographer's head!

Enjoy the Mamiya...I use mine a lot and it is great for street shots and landscapes but I have trouble using it for portraits....I can't seem to focus it properly for close up work and prefer the waist level focusing screen on my Bronica.
Still in love with film but love digital too...not enough hours in the day!


As an aside to Seth's featured comment, I always like the story of Julian Lloyd Webber having buy another seat on the plane for his Stradivarius 'cello - that thing, for all intents and purposes (except insurance) IS priceless.

Obviously, 38,000 of those 39,000 dollars is for the collectible aspect of this lens, since a Xenotar 150/2.8 can usually be had for less than 1K; thus, the question, in this case, *is* moot. You don't buy a collectible item to use, you buy it to collect.

However, there are cases of rare lenses (not synonymous with *expensive*, since expensive lenses can easily be replaced, so long as you have the mula) where the question is pertinent. I guess one of the rarer ones that I have is a Hartblei 35mm f2.8 tilt shift lens in Pentax K mount. I don't think I've seen a single used version of this up on Ebay in the last 1.5 years (there's currently a new/old stock version that is going for $1600 OBO).

Like many have said above, I got the lens to use, so I use it. Some day, perhaps, something will happen to it––get stolen, dropped, etc. My hope is that if/when that happens, I can look back and say to myself "Well, at least I got my money's worth!".

I won't be able to say that if I don't use it :-)

You sure? These things run about 800€ as far as I can see. Please show me the link. I can't imagine that price unless there's a really nice Linhof kit goes along with the lens and lensboard!

But if you buy it -- it's best to use it!

If you don't use the lens, you're essentially in the position of not having it, unless you're a collector. And if you do use it and damage it beyond repair, you're where you'd be if you'd never bought it.

(Minus the money, but it's just money. And I'm relatively poor.)

I was going to say I was jealous of whoever bought that multi-coated collapsible from you, as I have the `normal' one and love it, but I'm scared of the soft coating*, and then V.I. Voltz posts a link to a guy who can do that for me...

Now I have to convince myself NOT to blow a lot of money on a lens older than my father...

Oh, and I'm with the crowd that says NOT using a lens like that is sacriledge...

*It's the only lens I nearly always use with a protective filter. Though since I shoot B&W with my M3, having a yellow filter on there isn't so bad.

For a large format lens, that is some useful piece of kit - but family harmony has to come first...

I'm having a job working out for what kind of photography it would be useful to have such an excessively fast LF lens. About the only use I can see is night-time work, astrophotography (but why LF?). Any other takers?

The problem of priceless Stradivari and the fact that they and other great fiddles by Guarnerius and Amati are so totally out of the reach of working musicians ($500,000.00 and way up) has been somewhat addressed in an interesting way: foundations are set up to buy the instruments as they become available. Deserving young players are identified, through conservatories I'd imagine, and they are lent the instruments for their entire career.

I can't see that happening anytime soon with $200,000.00 Les Pauls.

How can someone drive a 1.7 million dollar car around? And then crash it into a lake becuse he didn't see a pelican coming? :)

BTW, at one moment I had about $22,000 of photo equipment in a car that I sold a year later for $100, just so I don't have to pay the towing to the dump. :)

In some fields you get used to handling huge heaps of value. Film production, for example. On a "no-budget" feature project a friend did, we were using a camera body apparently worth $45,000 and a lens worth $25,000. Since I was the assistant camera operator, many times a day I would be crouching there with the lens in one hand, shining a flashlight into the body through the lens mount to check for hairs or anything stuck in the gate; then putting the lens back on. And hauling both around into various interesting locations. Never did actually drop it or whack it into anything, but you never know! (And that was 15 years ago; the actual equipment would be worth a lot less now presumably, but the dollars were worth more then!)

For most people, the level of photo equipment many of us take for granted is pretty scary. My "normal" camera bag loadout would cost considerably over $8000 to replace; most people don't haul that kind of money around very often. (Except, as has been pointed out, for their cars. But, again, we all get used to that and don't think of it that way.)

Since people are asking, the completed ebay auction is here. You need to be able to log in to ebay to see completed auctions, and you'll need to scroll down to see the actual auction (they fill the top part of the page with "related" current auctions when you follow a link to a completed auction), and it's only available for 30 days or something. But it's there, and had 38 bids.

I'm kinda impassioned about lenses and have no fear about taking them anywhere. My two favorites are the fast Super High Grade Olympus lenses, the 14-35mm and the 35-100. They are both gorgeous, both nearly $2500 apeice and both rattle around in my camera bag just like the steerage class lenses. The ONLY reason to own them is to shoot with them. Anything else is just bling. If we toast them in the service of art----then it will be a noble toasting and we'll salute them. If we destroy them in the service of commerce we'll chalk it up to the CODB and move on.

Why waste the time shooting if it's not going to be special?

I just flashed on what it might feel like to turn and see your $40K LF lens bouncing end over end down some trail at Arches, heading for a big old rock...

As David said, insurance is peace of mind.

That said, it's not much good if a replacement can't be found.

As for items that can be replaced, why wouldn't you use it? Unless you're just into something for collecting, why not use it? If the reasons you purchased a lens were because of superior/unique qualities, well it doesn't do much good sitting at home. My kit zoom does better on the camera than your L, ED, etc. does in a bag.

As the gunfighter says, a .22 in hand beats a .357 at home.

The reverence given to an exceptional instrument is itself a source of inspiration and attention to the craft. Mind you, masters can excel with the most inept tool, but the instrument can propel common mortals to a higher level. This may be because one then formally acknowledges the personal value given to the craft. Call it the *Leica effect*: if you are (stupid/dedicated) enough to get one, you are serious. But $39K after shipping? This would good enough a motivation NOT to take pictures. The terror of damaging it is not a good source of inspiration. This one will go in a museum or a bank vault.

That's weird. Twice I've tried to post the link to the auction, and both times the comments disappeared. Hmm.

Anyway, it's item number 110495954201.


It brought to my attention these two auctions:
Check out the top bidders!

I'm not sure I understand. There are more than a few people hanging around this website that have $16,000 worth of DSLRs in their bag, and another $8,000 in lenses. That's $24,000 without batting an eye. Others have MFDB cameras where JUST the digital back costs $39,000.

Buy it, insure it, use it.

Dizzy Gillespie had no problem playing his unique bent trumpet, did he? I've heard the original one got bent in a car accident of some sort? Just use the darn thing and stop worrying.

Happy birthday Mike.

Unless I don't know what I'm doing (a distinct possiblity) the eBay bid history shows that a couple of bidders placed several consecutive bids without anyone else bidding. (Including one bidder who first bid $16000, the took it up to $38000 with NO competition.) Seems VERY shady.

There is a very stark difference with the instrument similarity, though.

A string instrument must be used no matter what, else they get very brittle in sound and become almost unplayable. For quite some reasons I guess only Ctein will care about, a regular concert grade cello must be played at least twice per day, and that includes 200 year old instruments.

That is not always the case with wind instruments, though, or keyboard instruments, which due to their nature, do get worse with the time and use.

So overall, regardless of the quality of a string instrument, you have to use them and do not keep them behind a glass, because they will lose value easily. That is the reason why all the Spanish Royal Stradivarii Collection is leant as a grant to several players.

A lens with a bling-bling coat of arms? Really? Was that necessary?


B.J.Scharp - you'll be stunned at what recoating can do. Even recoating the front and back elements in combination with a good cleaning can make a world of difference.

Multicoating is something else again, but I don't know of anyone who will do this commercially.

If you can, just do it.


As for what lenses like this were originally for--mainly handheld and low-light 4x5" photography, shooting press-camera style and focusing with the rangefinder. Linhof brochures of the 1970s often featured a svelte blonde model sporting a Technika with one of these mounted on the front. One doesn't use movements generally when one isn't focusing on the groundglass, so a large image circle isn't important. This lens isn't even cammed, though it probably was at one time, so if you want to use it on a Linhof with a rangefinder, figure another drop in the bucket for the cam--about $300.

Is a camera or lens worth more because somebody else once took a great picture with it?

"Unless I don't know what I'm doing (a distinct possiblity) the eBay bid history shows that a couple of bidders placed several consecutive bids without anyone else bidding."

Those are proxy bids. If the top bid is $10 and the bid increment is $1, and you enter a maximum bid of $100, your initial bid will be for $11. Then when another person bids $30, your proxy will immediately bid $31. Then someone else bids $55, and your proxy bids $56. Thus it looks in the record like you've entered successive bids of $11, $31, and $56, but in reality those are just your responses to other peoples' bids.


"A lens with a bling-bling coat of arms?"

That's the Linhof logo, and it's only on the board, which is not part of the lens.


"Is a camera or lens worth more because somebody else once took a great picture with it?"

That's called "provenance," and the answer is "sometimes." I've seen cases where famous photographers' equipment went for lots of money (the radio DJ Don Imus bought Ansel Adams's Hasselblads, for instance) and other cases where provenance doesn't seem to count for anything.

If I'm not mistaken, Ralph Gibson is still using the Leitz Focomat enlarger on which Robert Frank printed the original repro prints for "The Americans." I've suggested to both Ralph and to at least one photo curator at the Smithsonian that that enlarger rightfully belongs in the Smithsonian someday.


Dear Inaki,

OK, you've really piqued (peaked?) my curiosity. Please do explain about the need to play stringed instruments.

pax / curious Ctein

Piqued. Please. No peaked. Peaked bad.


Why so expensive? Is it the same as this one currently at $110?


Mike - Thanks. I should learn to read... I realized that there could be automatic bidding going on, but I didn't see this on the history page :

"Only actual bids (not automatic bids generated up to a bidder's maximum) are shown."

Mike, thank you very much, but I have to say that the comment was made with a tongue-in-cheek attitude.

I feel the same way (although at a completely different price level). Nothing is more reassuring that finding an ordinary piece of industrial work that you love. I bought an old 135/2.5 manual Pentax lens for my K20D for 90 bucks in like new condition. It has some limitations but it works ok for me, I love the built and the images it produces. But what I love most about it is that I saw four of those gathering dust on the same shelf as mine was on the place I bought it. So if I want to wade into a river to shoot some pictures, and things go wrong, I'll just go and pick another one. You get attached to the concept, but not to the object, and that's great.

I use to own this particular lens and had it modified to fit a Gowland Wide 4x5 TLR... it was great for portraits and general shooting where you want a shallow depth of field... sold the kit some years back and just to clarify I paid and got no where near this auction price... it is a huge piece of glass.... I have also owned the Rodenstock 150 5.6 S and it is a fantastic lens and much smaller indeed.

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