Friday, May 25, 2007

A Sad Day (In a Way)

Today, I made a big decision, one that is the reverse of the culmination of my goals from 15 years ago.

15 years ago, when all I had was 35mm equipment, I began accruing my medium format equipment. But, it wasn't just any equipment, it was the best -- Hasselblad. No Pentax, no Mamiya for me. I wanted to deliver the best images possible, and the optics that Victor made were the best for that. So, instead of spending 10k for an entire Mamiya kit, I bought, piecemeal, my Hasselblad. A body here, a lens there. As I evolved, I found myself with a full kit, able to serve whatever clients needs were, from fisheye to 300mm, and most everywhere inbetween.

I learned the 'VHPICTURES' decoding scheme (123...0) to determine the age of backs, bodies, and so on. I scoured the camera shows looking for unique items, pre-ebay. I learned about element arrangements, why FLE was better than it's predecessors, why early lenses were silver, and other Hasselblad users thought that using anything other than a WL viewfinder was cheating. I remember loving that I never had to "go vertical", I was a square guy, and proud of it.

Many of my favorite images were made with this equipment, and there is nothing like seeing 120mm transparencies on a lightbox in a dim lab. Sadly, that lab closed 18 months ago, yet I have been unable to bring myself to dispense with my blood-sweat-and-tears earned equipment. They are more than tools to me, they are a representation of achiving "professional" status many many years ago. It was my Hasselblad equipment that allowed me to say "absolutely, we shoot with Hasselblad" when an art director called, and asked "do you have medium format?" It was an immediate differentiator. That always made them happy.

Now, it's no longer necessary. I haven't used the equipment in atleast five years, nor had a request for it. Editors have stopped asking for medium format, and I miss saying "yes" to that question.

Yes yes, I know, many of those lenses can be used on Hasselblad digital bodies/backs. Oh well. I haven't had a client ask for that either - the file sizes we are delivering are frequently too large for clients, and we have to down-rez them so they don't crash their computers.

Motivated by what was essentially a free-listing day on e-bay, I posted up my body with a rare winder, a Customized 500C/M, my Modified 500 EL/M, my body for interiors/architecture, the SWC/M, my "solves a tight space issue" lens, the 30mm fisheye, my favorite portrait lens, the 150mm, my second favorite portrait lens, the 120mm, and my wide angle 50mm, along with a few accessories.

If it all sells at the "Buy It Now" price, I'll generate $10,105, and with free shipping/insurance probably costing me around $100 for all items, I'm left back at $10k, which, in the end, is about 1/3 of what the lot cost me when I first bought it all new. I suppose, that's not bad, a two-thirds depreciation for 15 years or so.

I know they're supposed to be just tools, but to me, they were like family.

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Anonymous said...

Now you are an adult. It is not about toys anymore. It is about professionalism and the images you create.

Glad you made the leap forward.

Anonymous said...

That's a nice chunk of cash, but I wonder if kept another ten or so years the value would go up significantly as it achieves antique status. Of course, you'd have to store it for that long...

Anonymous said...

I would keep them. They will potentially go up in value but more importantly, they are a symbol and a reminder of your commitment to offering your clients the best. The best service, the best equipment, the best photographs. Put them on display so everyone in your organization has that reminder too. Plus, old camera stuff looks cool.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for my film cameras sitting in the closet also..makes me sad and they're not even H-blads :(

Mariana said...

it's very sad what you say.
but why sell all the equipment separately? I know selling it as a pack would be a high price... but it would make sense to keep them working together.

for example, I bought a Cambo through ebay, and it was the whole set from a photographer, it had three lenses and everything you would ever need (even a replacement ground glass!). The guy was actually very pleased that it sold together (when I bought it, it was listed for the second time, lower price than the first, but if it didn't sell, then he would have to try selling everything separately), and he was happy to know that someone would take care of his old equipment and keep it together like a family. This might sound like 'too much' for some people, but from what you wrote, it seems like you feel your equipment as a family too, they just worked so well together...

Best of luck


ps: i wish i had the money to buy it all right away!!! i wouldn't hesitate! :'(

Anonymous said...

Folks are kidding themselves if they think there will be value in this gear in ten years. Old Hassy stuff is barely able to be sold.

It is a business decision. If it does not produce income....than out it goes.


Anonymous said...

Doing it as many "lots" means you could sell your favorite lens and nothing else. Would it be worth it if that happened?

GothamTomato said...

"Folks are kidding themselves if they think there will be value in this gear in ten years. Old Hassy stuff is barely able to be sold."

Not true. If it is in good condition there IS definately a market for it.

I was recently talking with a pro dealer in NYC who said that there is actually a reverse trend: Photographers who've dumped all their medium format film equipment, are coming back in to buy it back. Some are getting requests for jobs on film again. And others are enjoying just shooting film for their personal work.

I'd never sell my Hasselblad system, and not only for sentimental reasons.

Iris&David said...

I have had a rule for 30 years, don't sell anything: well.. i mostly held to that , but now and then, (when polaroid stopped making 665, I blew off my two pack cameras in a weekend) and often read of John's situation. I have 1970s & 80s Canon gear.. some of which needs a 6v battery (less groovey) and a few Canon F1s.. which will work well after the giant electromagnetic pulse blows out all the electric circuits in the world, including 5Ds and D2s. Will i have film? good question.. the Speed Graphics still rule, but true, if its only about money.. then sell them. On the other hand, I guess we should all be driving SCIONs since they hold the most gear. Ill be keeping my Miata for those tight parking spots.

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