Worth picking up Nikon film gear?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Ian Rance, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. As a Nikon film user I have two F3's that I mainly use when doing landscape or macro. They are great cameras and never give trouble. Well, occasionally I see them for sale in my local shop. Being of a slightly frugal turn of mind I usually say 'no thanks' when they are shown (they know my interest) but last week they had an almost new F3HP with red leather case for 150 Pounds. I wavered and had it anyway - too nice to leave.
    I have it here now, re-foamed and ready to go, but it got me wondering. On eBay, prices for similar are around 300 Pounds, but is that people buying for collecter value or use would you say? F3's do seem to be selling well there. On the other hand, less films than ever are available and I suppose when only expensive pro labs are all that is left (rather than the High Street labs), then Nikon film gear will plummet in value...
    So, I suppose what I am trying to say is is it a bad move to buy near mint film gear at this stage (even at a low price) or is it still an OK buy?
    Store staff: "He got a real nice deal there - a great camera at a fair price" or "Told you so - knew he would buy that old junk camera"
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Ian, as far as I can tell, other than a few collector's items, film SLR prices have already plummetted several years ago. I am not sure how much further down they can go. There simply isn't much room left to drop further.
    If your purpose is to collect, I have to admit that I am strictly a photographer and cannot understand the collector's mind set. If the purpose is to take pictures, IMO you already have a lot more cameras than you need.
  3. 150 pounds with case is indeed a good price. I paid $225 without a case for my current F3HP, in exc+ condition but not near mint. It arrived with a broken rewind knob but fortunately I had a spare and installed it and now the camera is in fine shape. I always struggle which camera to use when I shoot film, the F100 being so much more convenient to use with AF and motor drive and such a nice grip. The F3HP being more retro and "stylish" if there is such a thing. But I find myself forgetting to advance the film at times which makes me feel foolish, being so conditioned by shooting digital cameras.
    So now you have 3 F3 cameras. More than enough, perhaps give one as a gift to someone, perhaps a young relative interested in getting in to photography? We gave my brother in law my father's old FE2 years ago but he's since switched to digital. Hate to think the FE2 is sitting in a closet somewhere with a nice 50mm 1.8 AIS attached to it, gathering dust. Not to mention the two Vivitar Series 1 zoom lenses as well...
    I don't think Nikon SLR cameras are collector's items per se, certainly not the average F3. There is a much stronger market for the rangefinder bodies, but even they are not going up in value. Nor are Leica rangefinders. Seems that the allure of shooting film attracts users more than collectors these days. I see film era lenses going up in price but not film bodies.
  4. I really don't want to get into collecting cameras - that is a slippery and non-productive slope. I know a few and they are an odd lot. A hairline scratch is a chasm and no rest until all marked parts replaced. Then the camera is locked away.
    I have a few that I enjoy though, but I struggle to hold off on a perceived 'bargain'. Those cameras used to be 1000 Pounds...
    Yes Dave, that would be nice. It is nicer to give than receive sometimes.
  5. " I see film era lenses going up in price but not film bodies." -- Dave Lee
    That's probably because those lenses are being quietly lapped up by micro 4/3rds users like myself.
    I used to be heavily into the Nikon system in a past life. After selling both DSLRs I have completely switched to m4/3rds and now extensively use Nikon F, C/FD, P/K, OM, Konica mount legacy lenses on them via Novoflex, Voigtlander and other adapters. I am actively on the hunt for legacy gems these days and I notice prices of film-era MF lenses slowly yet noticeably increasing month-on-month.
    I should mention I kept two FM3A bodies :) As a collector? - Maybe. But those are for my kid to hold and marvel at when he grows up. I do use them every now and then to shoot Kodak Ektar 100.
    To Ian, if you are serious about continuing to use the F3 bodies well into the future it probably makes sense to pick up another couple as parts bodies, because I don't think you get spares for them anymore.
  6. I think it's safe to say that film ain't never gonna make a comeback. I'm sure that quite a few Daguerrotypists held their breath waiting for the neg/pos process to die, and the Callotypists, and the wet-plate enthusiasts after them, etc. etc.
    Are film cameras an investment - nope! There's far too many of them out there, many in mint condition, but if you want to collect nobody's going to stop you.
  7. I kind of feel your pain. I grew up in the 60s and 70s lusting after Nikon F2s. I finally bought a brand new one in 1978 after scrimping, saving, and picking up pennies off the street. Nowadays when I see a mint condition F2 go for peanuts, well, I just can't help myself. I often buy it just because. I now have a dozen F2s in different flavors. Of course, I never use 35mm film anymore as my D700 does all the mini-cam work I need, but I love the F2 mechanical precision. It's a sickness and perhaps my fairly economical antidote to Nikon Acquisition Syndrome. But are they decent investments? Not at all, in my opinion. Did you get a good price on the nice F3? Yes, I think so and especially if you actually still use 35mm film. Personally, my film use is limited to medium format and a little 4X5. I rather fear that I will live to see the day that 35mm film will be all but impossible to obtain-and I am 54 years old. But I am mesmerized by those damn pretty F2s!!
  8. You may just have to stay away from the camera store and ebay. It is one thing to buy something to use and maybe a spare but you are not helping yourself when buying something just because it is a good price. I know as I have done a bit of that myself. A rule for myself is: if I have not used it in three years it goes!
  9. I really don't want to get into collecting cameras...​
    I understand the difference between collecting cameras (and like Shun, I fail to understand the collector's mindset) and simply accumulating a bunch of them. Not too long ago, I owned 2FA, 2F3, 3F4 and an F5 - now all what's left is one 30+ year old F3 that I keep for sentimental reasons (though it is in mint condition, I can't bring myself to offer it for sale. It is very likely though that I will never run another film through it). I also received a few Nikon cameras a couple of years ago (F55, F65, F80) but sold them off right away - though at the time prices had already plummeted. Similarly, the Leica SLRs I received a short time later (R4, R-E, R5). Can't bring myself to sell off the rangefinders (M5, M6) and the medium-format Rolleiflexes (SL66, SL66E) - again mostly for sentimental reasons. I hardly use them - but always hope that this will change - and I know that once they are gone, I won't purchase anything similar again.
    I certainly won't purchase any new film bodies though. 150 pounds isn't a bargain if you don't intend to use the camera - then it is simply 150 pounds sitting idle and wasted on a shelf. Am actually surprised that F3s can still fetch 300 pounds - even in mint condition; I didn't even get that much for the mint Leicas I sold a couple of years ago. Maybe prices in Europe held up a bit better than here in the US. The fact that a F3 cost 1000 pounds once is irrelevant to its value today - all the Leica SLR bodies mentioned above cost even more back then and their prices have dropped even more than the F3s in recent years.
    Back in 1979, I badly wanted an F2AS - way too pricey at the time. Never purchased one as by the time I had the money, there were better offerings. That particular model seemed to have held its value quite well, though I haven't looked for a few years now.
    Worth picking up film gear now - for myself, a clear NO. For you, the answer might well be YES.
  10. Ian, you’re over-thinking this. You're asking others to project their value system on your world. The bottom line, aside from any fiduciary responsibilities, is 'enjoyment'. You don't mention the word 'investment' but I believe it's on the periphery. Forget about 'investment' in the strict, monetary sense. Consider the derived pleasure as your return. Buy whatever it is that meets YOUR goals and objectives, be it a dozen F3's, a house in the country, etc. Your concern or interest in the store's take shows you're looking over your shoulder and not forward. You don't need validation from the store or pnet (gallery). Only your validation matters. The rest is noise.
  11. If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad
  12. Film cameras are pretty much going the way of manual typewriters except for the really rare models. Nikon film gear fetches more than most brands (except Leica) but I doubt anyone will make a profit on gear they have now, in their lifetimes.
    I have a couple of F bodies, an F2 and an FM. I'll probably keep them, even though they are far from pristine--primarily because it would be more trouble than they are worth to try to sell them. I appreciate the film bodies for their mechanics rather than their collectability. I haven shot film in a Nikon for a couple of years because even my D50 backup takes higher quality images than a film body can produce. (OK boys. Fire away!)
  13. You can never own too many F, F2, F3 etc.
  14. Ian I see no further drop in price. Who still owns a film body of any good technical quality will keep it at current prices.
    OK I guess from my own feelings. I still own an F90X and an F100. Both good cameras for film. The F90 was a working horse and the F100 is just beautiful. I bought it almost unused at a low price just to have it for occasional BW film shooting using silver based film. However I rather keep them than sell them for almost nothing. If I find a person I like who is going to use film I will rather give the bodies away as presents than to sell at current rates.
    So far I found many people I like but none of these is going to use film :)
    Still have my film development equipment in the same place (unused except for occasional BW silver film) where I left it after last use since D70 days^^.
    BW cost me almost nothing since I can use 30m film cut to pieces and home made mix of chemicals for development. Waste disposal will be a problem once I have no access anymore to silver recycling in the near future.
    Color negatives are very expensive since for excellent quality I have to buy expensive chemicals or send to a pro lab.
  15. Regular Nikon SLRs are hardly good financial investments, unless you pick up some unique version cheap, like a NASA variant or something like that. However, they're so inexpensive these days, it's hardly an issue, IMO. I'm somewhere between collector and user - I currently have 4 Fs, 2 F2s, an F3HP, an F4S, an FM and a Nikonos V, with various MF Nikkor primes. I really only use the F3, the F4 and occasionally the Nikonos, but I find it hard to pass up an old Nikon if it's going cheap (my latest F cost $20 off Craigs*list). Waste of money? Maybe, but the feel, sound and gravitas of these old beasts gives me immense pleasure, and they look great on the shelf, so I consider them to be an investment of sorts, albeit not a monetary one. An investment in my wellbeing - works for me. Personally, since I shoot B&W almost exclusively and will be developing and printing my own stuff imminently (darkroom days from completion), I'm not worried about film or developing services disappearing - not in my lifetime anyway. In fact, I think this is a great time to be a film photographer (the demise of Kodachrome notwithstanding) - I get to use cameras and lenses that were miles beyond my financial reach when they were current, and they're still just as much fun to use as when they were new.
  16. I, myself try not to buy as often as I feel like it or when I see a good deal but these days I am trying to find a Fujica ST605 in great condition since it was the first camera I ever owned(offered as a gift by my parents for Christmas)....I know, getting a little off topic:(
  17. I "only" own an F and an FE these days (and a digital Nikon, too, for that matter :). I use both occasionally - probably two films per year in each - since I also have two leicas and a Contax mount Yashica... I shoot B/W only and enjoy the process and the results more than with digital.

    Anyway: The only point that I would like to make is that in my opinion, pro labs are probably going away (or, rather, moving to digital printing only) before high street processing disappears.


  18. Going against the tide of some comments here in Australia. These comments are from our direct experience from our store in Sydney.
    Film sales are showing a modest increase in 2010. Used prices for recognised quality film cameras in the Nikon range: F series up to F4, FM2n, FE2, FM3a are all going up. Its common to see $650 for a good FM2n. And an F4s with both data backs sold here for $500. A mint FM3a will achieve $800. A good Leica M3 SS will achieve $1500+ and a mint M7, $2500. These prices in some cases are more that the original purchase price. You will never see that in digital.
    Medium format film cameras have taken a hit though. $500 will get you a good Hassy body and lens. But european 6x12/17 cameras are still way over $5000 used. The Hassy X Pan II is strong at $3000++.
    Every market is different. The majority of film diehards love landscape work here. We now have a choice of four pro labs in Sydney for film developing. Two years ago it had dropped to two. And there is a lot of buyer resistance to the stupid 12 month upgrade cycles in DSLRs which are destroying secondhand values. A D100/200 would be almost unsaleable here. I sold my mint D300 two weeks ago and the best I could get on ebay was $800. And we now see prices for used D3's holding up at about $4000, and the retail prices for the D3s and D3x have slipped to 15% discount . I detect a lot of resistance over $6000 for anything.
    I also see people being a lot more discerning in their purchases. The internet has made access to forums and reviews very easy and now that the Aussie $ is at parity for the US $, we are getting a lot more competition from eBay sales from US sellers. Often Adorama or B&H can ship a new camera to you here from NYC faster than we can source from Nikon Australia. We are also not hung up on the warranty issue here as Nikon must by law honour the warranty globally, and they do. Just make sure the original purchase was from an authorised outlet, thats all.
    The other side of strong eBay prices here is that trade ins are becoming rare. This means that buyers crunch retailers on the new price for cash and the retailer can't use a possible resale of the trade in to subsidise the discount on the new sale. That makes it tough. Its a bit like selling cars now. We are spending some time actually buying in used camera stock for resale.
    I genuinely hope that film sales stabilise as there are a lot of people who like the simplicity and photographic purity of that medium, and with scanners becoming cheaper and better, the film to computer workflow is much easier than it was.
  19. I bought a beautiful F3HP from KEH for $185 and I use it a lot! If I saw a mint example at a good price I'd buy it; they sell pretty well here in the States, and I think a lot of people are buying them to use. With camera prices as low as they are, now is a good time for a lot of us to buy cameras we couldn't afford when they were new. A new F3HP and 50/1.4 cost about $1300 new in the early 1980s, but I got my F3HP and Nikkor 35/2, both in excellent condition, for less than $400!
  20. I'm a serious amateur who, like some of the other posters, lusted after Nikon gear as a high schooler. I went to a private high school, most of the kids there had nice Nikon or Pentax SLRs. My family wasn't wealthy, so the money went for my tuition, not a camera. I finally got myself a Nikomat when I got to college. Bought a couple of good lenses for it, and then started a family. I recently picked up an F2 on C'list for $200 and an F3 for $220. They take my old lenses and for short money, let me have what I couldn't afford as a kid. I'm having a ball with them, and even after maintenance (the F2 went to Sover Wong for an overhaul and was well worth it, the F3 just needed refoaming and that I did myself for $10!), my two film cameras cost less than an APS-C DSLR. The lenses also work on my D700 (what can I say, I splurged!), which I bought to let me do things a point-and-shoot wouldn't do. I consider those old film cameras well worth the money I spent on them. In spite of the fact that film isn't as popular as it once was, I enjoy the experience of shooting with a limited resource, and the feel of the cameras. Shooting film forces me to take extra time and consider whether this is the shot I want (unlike digital, where you can machine-gun *until* you have the shot you want!)
    Kinda long winded, but my opinion is that if you can afford it, and buying a few old film cameras and using them occasionally makes you feel good, go ahead. I'm doubtful of any investment potential, unless you can find something rare. I don't think 35mm film is going away any time soon. Those single use drugstore cameras are still selling, and the big chain stores are still carrying film and offering developing services. And a couple of hundred bucks is cheap money for a high quality opto-mechanical instrument, so why not enjoy it (in moderation, of course). Life's too short!
  21. Do you mean as an investment? I wouldn't, unless it's just things you find well below market and flip quickly. I've made money that way using my local thrift shop. But on the real market I'd expect film camera prices to stay pretty flat for a long time.
    If you're going to buy older film cameras, buy them if you want to collect them, use them or give them as gifts to people who might use them.
  22. If you enjoy it, and can afford it, it worth every penny.
    I just picked up 2 N90s cameras with the MB-10 packs, one with a data back and a 35-70 lens, caps, etc for $110. The N90s without the data back looks brand new. I still shoot a few rolls of film a year, so they'll get some work.
    The reason was simple: I've had an N90s since 1998, and it's the best film camera I ever used (and I've had a bunch). Now I have two pristine units and can retire my old war horse to what my wife calls "the camera retirement home".
  23. Thank you for the replies. I agree, what I feel inside is what counts, but to not take on board others thoughts is not good either - and who am I to think that I know best?
    So, after mulling it over I will not be buying any more Nikon film gear. I too cannot see film ever taking off again, but in the UK film and film gear has been enjoying a modest resurgence and the local shop is always running out of film. Fuji Reala is a strong seller and gives great results with Nikon glass. I have plenty and must not sucumb to every temptation - nice though the cameras are...
  24. Quality film cameras will live outlive God if film and chemicals continue to be manufactured. Digital cameras are light bulbs waiting to burn out. I don't look upon film cameras as a financial investment, but I think Leica will hold its value because of its cult status. I like film cameras because of how they were designed and manufactured, as opposed to being stamped out of plastic. I buy the ones that I lusted for but couldn't afford in my youth.
    I also use digital because of its convenience, but they don't evoke emotional appeal. How can they, with a half life of 18 months?
  25. I guess it is worth picking them up, if it is "worth it" to you.
    Being rather frugal, I can't see purchasing something you won't use, unless it's dirt cheap and going to be used as a decoration in your favorite room in the house.
    I have three cameras. An FG, which was my first, and really wouldn't fetch much on the open market. I keep it because I might want a small film camera that will use any of my lenses, on some minimalist trip. I have an F4, which is my main camera. I really like it. It just feels more solid than any other camera I have held. I also , recently, picked up a Minolta X-700 and a few lenses for a good price. It showed up a few weeks after I pondered trying to find a good XG-7, which was the thing I wanted to buy, when I got my first job. I never got the XG-7. I got the FG many years later. I figured it was karma that after thinking about it, a camera found it's way into my hands. One of the lenses, is a very well regarded lens that often sells for twice what I paid for the whole package. I could sell off this kit for more than I paid and turn a profit. I could use this sale to fund a D7000 purchase, but ... there is some sentimental worth to it, and I don't NEED to sell it, to be able to afford the D7000. I guess that means it was worth it, to me. On this occasion. I don't plan on getting another film camera, however.
  26. Are being conned into thinking that we need all these bells and whistles in DSLRs? The Japanese buyer has a dreadful habit of making purchase decisions based on the length of the spec sheet. They do it with computers and cars, and its a status symbol amongst them to have the latest and greatest gadget.
    They come to live in the west for a while (I was division manager for Hitachi) and are quite perplexed as to why we are not so impressed. Their marketing people are tuned to this upgrade path to keep sales ticking over. I'm not going to invest a couple of grand again in a DSLR until I can see some investment protection. I have a nice collection of Nikon FX lenses that I want to keep using and I do enjoy film, and the fact that you don't get immediate results. Its the surprise you get when you collect or process your developed film that I like.
    If I look at the whole lineup of Nikon DSLRs starting from 2008 the standout to me is the D700. FX and my lenses will work, as much resolution as a D3, and in a nice smaller, solid package. Its an FX version of the D300 which I loved, plus a nice fat sensor and full frame format. I'll keep on the lookout for a good one and then ignore the market for a couple of years.
    I have to say, though, that the new Fujifilm X100 may well win me over at a grand. At last a manufacturer has produced a high quality but simple digital camera for those who lust over but can't afford an M9. I think it will go gangbusters.
  27. For most people it's a hobby, and a hobby is something you do purely for the enjoyment of it, without the thought of any ulterior motives. Your hobby is cheap compared to that of a guy who owns a decades-old automobile into which he's sunk a whole year's worth of income or more, and which he may drive a couple of times a month and only in good weather. I can see that you like to photograph and that you also enjoy cameras as fine mechanical objects. What's wrong with that? I like the convenience and instant feedback afforded by digital technology, but I also own more than a dozen old Nikons, mostly F's and F2's. I love those old cameras and won't get rid of them, even though I may shoot only a dozen rolls each year. I work with digital pictures every day, so to sit and look at photographs on a monitor is not "fun" to me. I think people who develop their own b&w film will be able to keep doing so for decades. Sure, the price on F3's has gone down a lot, making it affordable to people who dreamed about owning one years ago. Didn't Nikon D1's go for $5,000 when they were new ten years ago? Have you seen what they are selling for now? Enjoy :).
  28. Just enjoy your hobby. Old camera's are great. If you want 5 or 10 of them then go for it. I have a Nikon FM2n and I think it's great. We are going to jouney far and wide together. Next month we are headed to Disneyland. My family will also be going of course.

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