Zone VI Studios buyback???

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by witold_grabiec, Jul 13, 2002.

  1. Someone had a great idea on Fred Picker's death post. Buy Zone VI
    back from Calumet and bring it back to where it once was. Any
    thoughts on that?

    In my view Zone VI products are no longer what they were. While the
    product line may have remained the same, none of it feels like the
    original anymore. Almost immediately after the take over they dropped
    the LifeTime warranty, which says a lot about Calumet's thinking
    process (accountants run their business). On top of that all the good
    stuff that was always part of Zone VI Studios catalogs (like it or
    not but very informative) was gone at an instant. Results to me have
    been sort of like learning the Zone System by using expired
    materials, broken spot meter, and a hand held flashlight as the
    enlarger light source (with expired batteries of course).

    It always seemed to me Zone VI was never meant to be acquired by such
    a mamoth as Calumet. It was a typical small company approach to doing
    business, and doing it very, very well. Complemented by such a great
    mind as Fred's it was a success from the start. I'm yet to see (or
    hear) anything but positive on Zone VI as it once was.

    Let's get some minds (and cash) together and make Zone VI Sudios
    shine once more.
  2. Witold, Zone VI died before Fred Picker passed away. Let them both rest in peace. There are plenty of new companies, with new ideas, out there. Even some old companies with new ideas. Fred was a unique individual. Until another person with his capabilities comes along, look for other alternatives. Certainly, Calumet couldn't carry the ball. I doubt that any other vendor could have sucessfully continued Fred's hands-on philosophy.
  3. Eugene,
    I'm not sure I completely agree. It's true Fred Picker was one of a kind and there is few who could match his approach to successfuly managing a business directed at such a specific market. If I did not think there is people who are not only interested but just as capable to continuing the great (in my view) Zone VI Studios tradition, I'd have never posted this.

    I personally missed the Studios. I do not believe there is another company of this sort on the market today. Calumet had the financial means to making it a stand out excercise, but they did not care enough, or did not understand the uniqueness of the Studios, to accept the challange.

    As for letting them both rest in peace? Fred Picker's death has been one of the greater losses in recent years, especially to all B&W printers. He, through his own efforts, instilled in many an understandable approach to making the fine print. I'm one of the many who wanted to meat with him one day, participate in his workshops. The death will surely make many realize the meaning of his contribution to the developement of the medium. While Zone VI Studios were of his creation, nothing should stop anyone from trying to bring it back to life. I actually think, if Fred Picker knew what a disaster the Calumet's take over turned out to be (or what the photo community's feelings were), he would've encouraged others to do exactly that.

    My post does not have any disrespectful implications. I'm simply saying: there was something out there one day, most of us liked it, why not try to have it back again. It's only the matter of finding that capable and willing certain someone.
  4. I'm glad nobody thought that Harley-Davidson should rest in peace after being taken over and run into the ground by AMF in the 70's. A buy back and many years of hard work brought that company back from the dead, thank goodness, and it could work for a company like Zone VI as well.
  5. In defense of my remarks: I was one of Fred Pickers admirers from the first time I read his book, over twenty years ago. I purchased, and still use, many of his unique Zone VI products, including the Zone VI VC lamphouse on my Omega D2 enlarger. I had conversations with him over the phone. He was always helpful and considerate in his own unique way. Fred was Zone VI. He had his reasons for selling to Calumet. I don't believe that he realized, at the time, that Calumet would be bought out by another company. Fred's writings, photos, and instructional videos are still available. Zone VI cameras, enlargers, and printing paper are still available from Calumet. The only thing missing is Fred. He cannot be replaced. That's what I was trying to say.
  6. Witold

    The process is not all that difficult. An inquiry to Calumet would be the first step. If in fact it is for sale, you could become an "incorporator" and register a corporation with your Secretary of State. the next step would be to inquire of others interested in large format photography of their interest in an investment in such a venture.

    I too spoke with Fred Picker on a number of occasions, and I have letters from him as well. I can assure you of one thing, and that is that whatever else Fred Picker was, he was also a shrewd businessman.
    You can be sure that he made money on his sale to calumet. And who can blame him for that.

  7. Eugene,

    Your point on Fred Picker is well, well taken. He cannot be replaced, but someone could step into his shoes. It'll be a different person but could potentially be as successful.

    I think Fred Picker's success with Zone VI Studios was a result of not only his great business skills but a complete dedication to the cause. If he did not take pride in delivering the best goods possible, he would've never succeeded to that degree.

    While the possible take over might require a group of individuals for financial reasons (I really have no idea what Zone VI is worth to Calumet these days), it will take a single person to meet expectations. I think Fred has left a generous amount of information (books, videos, newsletters, catalogs) so the future man in charge would have a good take on the spirit behind the success of Zone VI. He must do it out of love for photography and love for making things right. On top of that he could improve in some areas, especially pricing which was (with few exceptions) on the high side. I also believe that some products have substantial room left for improvement. This would especially include the enlarger and the field camera. While the enlarger is by far the best America has ever put out, it should not stop someone from making it better, something like Zone VI simple and Durst precise. As for the field camera ... well, wooden fields are far from what they could be. Even Wisner does not come close to filling the potential of the design. But that's another thread I might soon put out here.

    Since I believe there is many years left in traditional film processing, there is also a need for the old Zone VI Studios.

    As for what's available today? Fred's videos are no longer stocked by Calumet (what a shame and crooked thinking). They used to be available through Fred's web site

    but after his departure it may not happen again (I recently inquired about it and had a response from Fred's nephew stating they're trying to replanish their own stock).

    All in all, recreation of the old Zone VI spirit would be (if nothing else) a tribute to Fred and his hardly measurable contribution to fine photography.
  8. By the way, there already is one gentleman that is attempting to take up where Fred left off, sort of. The name of the company is Fine Art Photo Supply and the fellows name is Anthony Guidice. He has started a newsletter very much like the one Fred Started so many years ago, and he offers a couple of items, such as a print washer and a printing frame. A long ways from an enlarger and a camera for sure, but maybe supporting his venture will help him to build a company in the same manner that supporting Fred helped him to build his company.

    The phone number is 585-865-4793

    ONe last thing. Please put up that thread on wooden field camera design. I am sure there are many here who would love to contribute.

  9. Let's give Calumet their due.

    Prior to purchase by Calumet, the Zone VI 5x7 enlarger did not cover 5x7, contrary to claims. I know, because I own one of the earlier models. (The Type I.) Upon purchasing Zone VI, Calumet completely redesigned the enlarger to fix this problem and to make other improvements.

    What impressed me was that Calumet designed a second head capable of printing 5x7 to fit the older Type I enlargers already owned by pre-Calumet Zone VI customers, and it was sold at half-price to those with a trade-in. This was unnecessary, and I've always thought that it represented a touch of class on Calumet's part.
  10. First I will say Fred was sorry he sold Zone VI after he saw what happened to it. As to the enlarger it was designed as a 4 x 5 with an over sized light grid to give better coverage on a 4 x 5 negtive. Calunet owned Zone VI at the time the enlarger was designed. Fred never wanted the enlarge sold as a 5 x 7.
  11. Thank's for chiming in Richard. You're one of the few who actually were close enough to know the facts. There was an article in View Camera implying that Zone VI would eventually make a comeback, without Calumet. What ever happened to that idea? Aren't there any Zone VI employees out there who would like to continue on their own, like the Harley Davidson people did? Evidentally, there are investors just waiting to hand out the money and consumers eagerly waiting for the next new product to come out.( I'm being sarcastic. haven't had my cup of coffee this morning).
  12. I don't want to necessarily pick on the pre-Calumet Zone VI organization. I recognize the excellent contributions that Fred Picker made to photography. For example, I have both the enlarging and the developing compensating timers, and I think they are outstanding tools.

    But, I have a Spring 1995 Catalog in which Fred Picker himself is describing the "Zone VI 5x7 Enlarger". In this description, Mr. Picker compares his new enlarger to his Codelite head that he had purchased in 1965. I quote from this description:

    "Rather than size the heads to marginally cover a 4x5, we made them big enough to generously cover a 5x7."

    The enlarger shown is clearly the Type I enlarger. This was a deception. It was based on this statement that I purchased my enlarger.

    As it is, I sold my 5x7 camera, and my enlarger works great for 4x5 and smaller negatives. It's a first rate enlarger.
  13. Neil,

    Perhaps Richard can shed some light on this. If at the time Calumet had already owned teh zone VI, then maybe it was not Fred's voice anymore. I do not believe he would willingly misrepresent anything he sold. I think the history of Zone VI prior to your mentioned add should speak for itself. It had been nothing but a great display of integrity, which I believe Fred understood as being the single most important thing in gaining repeat customers.
  14. When I started working a Zone VI Fred explained his philosophy to me, in that Zone VI would sell the best photographic products available. When Zone VI started making their own gear this philosophy was carry over to the items we made and designed. We were to use the best parts available and produce it to the highest quality possible. That's why Zone VI was able to offer the life time guarantee.
    We all know what happens when a company is bought out. Some things go by the way side. As I said in an early post the enlarge was never to be viewed as a 5 x 7. Fred did not like the size. As to the copy in the catalog it was a surprise to every one at Zone VI when it arrived. When it happened we were never given a clear answer as to why the change other than "don't worry". Wiltold as you said Fred would never deceive any one that was not his way. As to why the change we will probably never know the answer.
    As to the redesigned of the enlarge it happened when Calumet Holdings sold Calumet and all its other companies to the British Holding company.
  15. Witold,<P>have you looked into the View camera store's
    offerings? They are exactly the kind of small very niche focused
    company you are looking for.Perhaps Mr. Picker needed to sell
    the business because of his long term illness? If there had been
    no one interested, what then would have become of the
    company? There recently was another small manufacturer of
    high end products aimed at the photographic craftsman. they
    made high tech darkroom tools that made most competing
    products look crude ( I am not knocking the very fine Zone VI
    products and innovations); That company was Salthill. Where is
    Salthill now?
  16. I think it's a nice idea to keep something alive, especially something that had such a name attached to it. I wonder tho the practibility of it for a small outfit and the profitability that could be realized in todays market. There is alot of competition today making very good products, and if anybody were to buy the VI operation from Calumet it would have to be someone with the means to exist while building a business and perhaps reengineering upgrades that is unto itself a mighty expensive operation.
  17. In defense of (old) Calumet, let the history books show that when everyone thought large format was dead Calumet brought out their big old tanky 4X5's for $80, and when there were only high end German lenses available for what most Americans considered a decent used car price, Calumet went looking and re-vitalized Ilex to make their Caltar's and later paved the way for the Japanese to compete with the Germans ie. Computar Symmetrigon by Kowa which ultimately resulted to some degree in the plethora of good balance we enjoy today. They consistently rendered the large format community a good service for a fair profit.
  18. Jim,

    I think everyone would appreciate the OLD Calumet or any company that would willingly care about the product, the customer etc. We're driving here at the new "improved" way of doing business. Current Calumet is not alone. More and more outfits are nowadays run by accountants. I'll say it as many times as I need to: accountants have little clue on how to run business, they refuse to understand the word "repeat customer", they've historically driven many outfits out of business, and all of it because they've been given way too much power. What companies do these days is a complete joke. Integrity is gone. They lie on the phone, the lie in their emails, they don't take responsibility for their own mistakes, and so they survive in this crude business world ... for a few years. Then CEO's get great pay-outs and that's the end of it. Don't take me wrong, there is still few good people with sound business knowledge. Good for us so we can actually purchase what we think we're purchasing. Let's hope those will stay in business forever. For everyone else I have NO respect. Zone VI belonged to the best. And that's the reason why it'd be nice to have it back. If there is any small company that preaches Zone VI ideology (not that they couldn't have their own, as long as it makes sense) that's great. Credit to them.
  19. "...They lie on the phone, the lie in their emails, they don't take responsibility for their own mistakes, and so they survive in this crude business world ... for a few years. "
    You know it is funny but in twenty plus years of dealing with Calumet or it's new president, Peter Biassotti -- who befriended me when i was just starting out and he was running his own small photographic store in New York -- I have never had any of the above happen. I have never, ever been lied to over the phone or in e-mails; they have always taken responsibilities for their mistakes and been prompt at issuing refunds when something arrived in less than pristine shape or when things did not arive when promised. I almost never buy mail order but when I do I know that i can trust Calumet.
    The only connection I have with Calumet is that they sometimes get my money and always put up with my calls.
  20. Well,

    I just got my first snail mail Fine Art Photo Supply Newsletter, out of Rochester, newsletter, with remenisences of Fred Picker details of their first few products (print washer, contact print frame and tacking iron) and ruminations on the zone system, and ideas for a new developer and fixer

    So I guess someones already trying it

  21. Apparently, my original response got lost in the electron flow.
    Probably shouldn't try to write after midnight or so. Anyway, I'm
    sorry that I don't have the final answer either, just shared
    thoughts and frustrations with the loss of things that we've all
    used and enjoyed the generally good craftsmanship of, whether
    Zone VI or other companys' goods. Personally, I've had good
    luck with Calumet as an entity since the mid-1980's, whether
    buying for the museum where I was employed, the school for
    which I now teach, or my personal use. Yes, there are less
    expensive markets, but I've never had Calumet not come up with
    a satisfactory answer, or go out of their way to find "stuff" for me if
    it wasn't readily available through the catalog.
    I digress (I think Fred said that.) What I'd like to know personally
    is whether there are any Zone VI newsletter subscribers out
    there who might still have [extras?] the last three issues. I have
    through Number 80 of 12/94, and understand that there might be
    as many as three more before it folded. I'd be most interested in
    knowing that they exist, moreso that they might be available.
    Regards to all. Good question! Think Tri-X.
  22. Ellis,

    I appologize for the mistake I made by not clarifying my statement up front. My comment was NOT related to Calumet as I was rather relating to MOST large businesses (although some of it DOES apply to Calumet as well, read on please).

    Calumet, in my view, wasted the ZONE VI name. That's the problem I have with them. Unfortunately, since we're talking Zone VI/Calumet here, whatever is said, it automatically applies to either one. My reply was to the post praising OLD Calumet. Perhaps you don't see the difference. I would bring up the enlarger issue and what the posts were saying. Since I will never agree with anyone trying to undermine Fred Picker's integrity, then wasn't it Calumet deceiving customers about enlarger's capabilities? What would you call that? My "they lie here and there" was meant to generaly describe current, widely spread practices of many (way too many) companies trying to make a buck in any way possible. Unfortuantely, most of them are told to do exactly that. You won't experience that if you simply call in, place an order, pay, and eventually receive the item. It's when there is a problem you begin to see the real picture. How many times have you had a phone rep and asked him to be connected with a supervisor? It is a general corporate practice these days to NOT do that. You'll get all kinds of silly excuses. Isn't it running away from accepting responsibility?

    Zone VI was one of the few places where you could expect fair treatment day in day out. My original thread on the BuyBack was caused mainly by above reasons. There isn't too many places that do that anymore. Accountants HAVE succeeded. Corporate takeovers created large compilations of unrelated subjects. Those in charge of a division have usually no related background (if you agree that a photographer is likely to understand another, for example).

    I don't have a problem ordering from Calumet (apart from the high prices and dwindling product line, I'm sure by numbers they keep on adding "new" stuff). I still order from B&H, but web site only as they've been driven away from sound practices as well.

    All in all, I respect everyones views. And again, I appologize for not being clear enough in my thoughts.
  23. Witold, have no regrets about not dealing with Calumet, anymore. After eighteen years of buying my equipment and supplies from Calumet, by phone order, I also changed over to B&H phone order for my supplies, and Midwest Photo Exchange for my equipment. I found that Calumet's prices were becoming un-realistic, and they always seemed to be out of stock on many of the items that I needed. I look up the catalogue item numbers on the B&H website before I call. It avoids a lot of confusion, because the order takers at B&H always seem to be too busy to answer questions or discuss problems. "Old" Calumet always made time to do that.
  24. Thanks Eugene,

    As for the B&H, I dealt with them a lot when I ran a photo club in collage. That's some eens years ago. Then they had a motto: "the price you see is the price you pay". It was sooo true then. I remember purchasing a Minolta X-700. I was still learning NY's mail order and B&H had a decent price but still about $20 above few other places. In the end I ordered from them anyway because of shipping charges. With others you saved $20 on an item and they got you by $40-50 on the shipping. So B&H used to be great. Same went for their staff and willingness to spend time with you. It started to change I'd say some 7-8 years ago. Exactly what you mentioned, get the order and don't bother explaining anything. At least they're still on the competitive side in the pricing department. I switched to net ordering because it started to irritate me too much.

    I obviousely have strong feelings about corporate world. It all comes from plain old fashined personal experience. I wish I had none of that sort.

    Since Richard's post on the enlarger issue I have that much less respect for Calumet. But this thread is suppose to be more about pulling away Zone VI than bashing Calumet. It's sure good to hear of some small outfits trying to fill in.
  25. Witold thanks for yothe apology and my apologies for my rant.
    I mentioned "The View Camera Store in an earlier post in this thread. Their website is still listed under their former name "Darkroom Innovations" and that URL is
  26. I beleive Witold is correct when he mentioned that some of the new policies of Calumet were less than honest. I have a personal experience with them that truly demonstrated to me they were out to make a buck not take care of the customers. Back many years ago I ordered an Apo-Symmar 150 lens. As is turned out the lens they sent me was a "gray market" lens in order words it had been imported directly by Calumet. Now I dont mind "gray market" I have bought many lenses like this "BUT" the problem was that Calumet charged me full price, as if it had been sold to me with a USA warranty. When I called them they told me, "a we imported this lens and we will give you a "Calumet" waaranty" I said this is not good enough, the price difference is significant between a gray market lens and a USA lens, why are you selling this without making your customers aware of your practice? In the end, I kept the lens, it was my fault for not asking before I ordered. But I feel I should not have to ask, that they would have dealt with me in an honest manner. Needless to say I never ordered any equipment from them unless it was something for my Zone VI enlarger since I was stuck with them.
  27. After reading all the post and the finger pointing on the enlarger. It appears we will never know the true answer on the enlarger issue and at this point who cares it past history. My question is why do you want to buy back Zone VI. Don't you think Calumet doesn't wants it out there being a threat to its business again if it ever was. Why not ask the question, A business is going to be modeled after the original Zone VI what can be done to make it better. I miss the original Zone VI it was a place you could call with a problem and they would take the time to help you out. The staff knew their products and if the sales staff didn't know the answer. There was always Fred and Richard who were both large format photographers. Fred was sometimes hard to take and did sometime belittle you. Richard on the other hand didn't care what you asked him even if it had to do with color he would help you out, I sometimes found him to be more helpful then Fred.
  28. Here is a new website from a Zone VI disciple:

    "Different is not the same" but at least these guys are trying.
  29. Todd,

    You're probably right in your assumptions that Calumet would not easily give up Zone VI. I'm not completely convinced that's the case though, simply because Zone VI branded line has actually shrunk in recent years. This tells me that business "gurus" at top of Calumet never realized the potential Zone VI name brought along.

    As for the NEW Zone VI, I don't think it would have to be improved right away. Getting it back to basics should suffice. As I pointed out before, the pricing could be better (although in the old days they DID have a few products you could not get cheaper anywhere, print drying screens come to mind for sure). Obviousely for any business to succeed, it MUST adjust to changing market conditions. I think we all agree that Zone VI type of company would rely on a rather small customer base. With internet being as useful as it is (I'm not talking an on-line store, that's a given)it could be utilized for market research and direct input of ideas. As I shoot around I always seem to come accross something that could be fixed by a product that isn't there. If I had a place to spell out my concerns, I'd do it in a heart beat. Especially if I knew that my input:

    1. would be read by a human being

    2. would result in a direct response (no matter what that response might be)

    3. would occasionally help create a product that addressed my initial concerns (I say occasionally as user concerns have to be prioritized, some will thus fall out of the picture as soon as they get in, others may not carry enough merrit to bother etc.)

    In the end I'd like to see the following:

    1. Zone VI Studios back the OLD way with the addition of an on-line store

    2. Existing products updated (and of course improved)

    3. New products developed

    Any new attempt to recreate OLD Zone VI would obviousely not have Fred. However, I don't think that's entirely necessary. While he was one of a kind, his sound business approach CAN be recreated with same (or vastly similar) spirit. His successor would have to love photography, understand it very well, be a hands-on type of a guy, and above all, would have to display highest level of integrity. To me that's doable.
  30. Jorge,

    Thanks for pitching in. I'm sure there is many stories similar to yours. As I pointed out earlier, Zone VI mentality NEVER belonged with Calumet (or any business of that size). We, who used to love Fred's venture, know it better than anyone.
  31. It kills me that you folks seem to think that you can just snap your fingers and start a company and then the whole world will instantly notice and make you profitable. I've been in photography since 1972 and just now have gotten around to starting a photographic supply company. You all are welcome to try out our website and read about our products (, but business isn't as simple as hanging our a shingle and buying a wheelbarrow to throw your cash into.

    Calumet is a distribution company. If you sell thousands of items, you can't possibly have a personal voice and give the kind of personal service and information that Fred Picker did. But you can carry all sorts of items for all different types of photographers. Zone VI didn't and we don't. It doesn't go both ways. Why do you think Calumet bought Zone VI - to advance large format B&W photography and personally cater to it's advocates like Fred did? ... because they were all as serious about photography as Fred was? ... Because they are all fine art large format photographers like Fred was? That's silly. They are a catalog company and the name of the game in that business is to have a mailing list and Zone VI had a very valuable mailing list. That's why they bought it. Producing and mailing a catalog like the Calumet catalog is very expensive and they cannot afford to carry products that don't "pay their way". They discontinued items that weren't worth carrying because they are a completely different business -- they can provide some wonderful services but they are completely different services from the type Zone VI provided.

    Do you think it's that easy to just start up a photo company from scratch? Calumet might sell you the Zone VI name, but do you think they are stupid enough to give you their mailing list too? Maybe they could throw in about $200,000. in start-up capital while they are at it. Mercy!

    I love that comment that we don't have Cameras and Enlargers yet but it's a start. That's brilliant. Suppose we had cameras and enlargers and spent the money on inventory, copy, packaging --- and the marketplace doesn't want it? What then? Fred Picker was successful because he could personally and knowledgeably educate the marketplace about what he was selling, and he was a good businessman too. And Zone VI started out small - very small. Their first tripod was a Majestic - the same one we carry. Their first print washer was an Arkay drum washer! Ours is proprietary, and has about 25 years of research behind it.

    If any of you guys have a magic lamp that you can rub and out pops a Zone VI Studios complete with a customer base, supplier base, physical facilities, working capital, and about 17 years of experience in the marketplace -- God bless you. Give me your name and I'll sign over Fine Art Photo Supply to you.

    Anthony Guidice
  32. Anthony,

    I'm quite frankly surprised at your comments. That's not the impression I've got from the few posters pointing at you and your company as a new, promissing, and notably good thing. I've only just now heard about your company, and I'm sorry but I have not had a chance to check out your web site (yet). Since I've initiated this thread AND you sound upset (correct me if I'm wrong please) here is my summary:

    Part of your reply repeats what I've said all along, that is Zone VI NEVER belonged with Calumet or anyone of that size, simply because of different business mentality. Zone VI, as started AND ran by Fred Picker, was a well thought out approach to selling what's needed in fine photography without OVERstocking or OVERkilling inventory with stuff available cheap from some well established mail order outfits.
    This way he did not need large employee base, large warehouse, an army of accountants etc. While I call it Zone VI business mentality (they were the first company of this kind I came accross) others may think otherwise. One thing remains though, Fred was successful because of that. I agree that Fred's great strength was in educating the market in what it needs. That much credit to him, but nothing new in principle (unfortunately you could get fired for thinking along those lines in almost ANY larger business).
    In my latest post I sort of put out a "business plan" for the new Zone VI. It's not really that. That's just a very simplistic way of explaining (my personal) desires. I missed that. Maybe you're trying the same approach (so I'm hoping anyway). There is a noticable void in the market place for small and personal. The big guys have been buying out the small in order to shrink available options (or to acquire a sound mailing list, but whatever Calumet paid Fred it was NOT worth a mailing list of ANY quality). The more I think of the Calumet's acqusition the more I see it as a hostile takeover. They could have made a good chunk on it had they thought of it more like a merger: leave the name as separate division, keep the little catalog running, continue with the newsletter and workshops. Neither of the latter two required Fred for too long. Then there was time to find his successor. But given what happened that was not Calumet's thinking. Instead of improving products they either left it alone (the best they've actually done to Zone VI line) or dropped it (Fred's great videos is one for sure) or made it worse (Zone VI field camera)(I can just smell the enlarger issue flying in).

    I certainly never thought a buyback would be easy or an instant success. I only intended to fill in the existing void. Many responses proved me right.

    If someone hoped you would (perhaps) one day bring along an enlarger or a camera to the market, you should see it as a complement not a display of ignorance. Either they misread your business intentions, or you misread theirs.

    I define a successful business as something one can enjoy. Historically that's been the case. If one can't keep it going, can't seem to find new challenges, he quits. If it feels more like a day to day chore, he quits.

    I view this entire forum (and every thread in it) as nothing but education, education, education. So it kills you, and that's too bad, too bad. I only hope you did not make yourself a bad name.
  33. "I define a successful business as something one can enjoy..."
    I define a successful business as being a business that makes a profit. A successful businessman is one who enjoys running that business. even Picker was a pretty mean "bean counter" atthe end of the day. Witold do you run your own business? Have you ever done so? I can't understand why you are jumping down Mr. Guidice' throat simply because he is pointing out some very basic realities. Actually, if as you say Calumet is run by "bean counters," They'd probably be happy to sell you the Zone VI business as I seriously doubt it is a profitable division of their business if you offered them the right amount of money. You could probably even harvest an e- mail list from the members of this forum and from the usenet large format forum.
    Zone VI started as a spinoff from Picker's Zone Vi Workshop, as a place that people who attended those workshops could order supplies and then cameras they couldn't easily find elsewhere. Hell you might even look up Lillian Farber or Picker's companions and cohorts to see if they are willing to help.
    Yes it is a shame that Fred Picker is dead. It is a shame that he had to sell Zone VI. But there are many other small companies that fill those niches: The View Camera Store, Canham Cameras, Photographer's Formulary, Bostick & Sullivan, Wisner Cameras, Mr. Guidice's company, ...and those are the ones that come to mind in less time than it'll take you to read this sentence.
  34. Ellis,

    I think it's inapropriate, to say the least, to discuss Fred's "other side", here or anywhere. That's especially so given what was happening in his late years, and where he is now. Some, like yourself, seem to feel the urge to do otherwise.


    What the hell are you talking about? NO, I don't have my own business. I have not done so yet. So what does that make me? An idiot on the subject? If you decided to go that far with your silly assumptions, why didn't you state your great business background, why didn't you tell everyone how successful you've been, why didn't you tell all of us how great a business you have run WITHOUT enjoying even one day of it? What does that grime of yours suppose to mean? That one must've owned a business before he can discuss what others do? I don't care what your background is, and you shouldn't care about mine. I'm not going to get into credentials of anybody on this forum. It's pointless. It's only what people say that matters to me. It either makes sense, or it doesn't.

    Read my post carefully as you have not done so. Read his as well, and again, and again. Was I jumping down his throat or was it the other way around? Mailing list? You've got to read what I said many, many more times. I stated clearly "whatever Calumet paid for Zone VI it was not worth a mailing list of ANY quality". Buy out of Zone VI had NOTHING to do with Fred's mailing list. Mr. Guidice said it did. Calumet would easily give up Zone VI because it's not a profitable division? Probably so BECAUSE they've screwed up. I said that too, and not just once.

    Was Mr. Guidice stating basic realities of owning a business, or was he just plain sour because "he's been in photography since 1972 and only now got around to starting his own photo supply company"? What does he mean? I've been in photography since 1968, what does that mean? NOTHING.

    The trouble is that this forum is for discussing all kinds of matters related to photography. Some, like yourself, don't want that every time. I don't mind the nay-sayers. They stirr things up and that makes it that much more of a joy. I'm not going to restate, again, what I've already said about Calumet and Zone VI. It's here, go back and read it if you care. I've worked for several companies. From small, few emplyee type, to the largest corporations of America. When I think of how diverse my background has been, it gets overwhelming sometimes. But I've seen enough to state what I've stated over and over again. And I can defend that too.

    What I said about enjoyment goes far deeper than you think. Of course it depends on how one defines "enjoyment". It has nothing to do with having an easy day, every day. Stupid is the one who thinks that. Running a successful business is hard work, and that NEVER changes. One must:

    1. understand the challenges before him

    2. accept meeting them as THE driving force in succeeding

    3. foresee problems before they become an issue

    4. have fluid mind and adjust objectives as required by the changing market conditions

    5. must ENJOY hard work it takes to meet the above four

    If any of the above 5 fall out the window, it's probably time to call it quits.

    Sure, easier said than done. Successful people have little, if any, time to play. Often times success eats them up. Often times they give up on their families. Some times it ends tragically. It's a jungle and one better knows how to survive.

    I've said it many times why Fred was successful. I could care less what started Zone VI. It's what happened afterwards. Fred had clearly had sharply stated objectives and met them beautifully.

    It's good there is still some smaller companies out there that we can relate to and/or purchase from. That has NOTHING to do with what's been happening to Zone VI while at Calumet. There is a void and that's what this thread has always been about.
  35. Witold,

    Interesting. I just took a look at the Fred Picker Print Club website that you posted. Another indictment of Calumet. I followed Zone VI studios for many years, but lost track during the late 80's early 90's due to a relocation and heavy work schedule. After I heard that Calumet had bought Zone VI, I called them in about 1996 to ask if Fred was still active in any way with photography. I was told that he was no longer involved in photography in any way and was rtired to fly fishing. The web site seams to say otherwise. I commuted through from CT to Burlington Vermont for 3 years passing through Dummerston, not knowing he was still active. How long did he run the print club?
  36. Yeah well, I had put Fine Art Photo Supply on my favorites list, even before he posted it on the forum, but after that rant it is going to the waste basket. Apparently only Mr. Guidice, and Ellis are the only ones with the smarts and know how to start a bussiness. Good luck to them I say!
  37. I'm going to add my two-cents here. Nothing that was said was an attack on Witold but rather a comment on the idealistic approach that was taken. Fred was a terrific businessman--he realized who his market was and catered to them. That is what we are attempting to do. But you guys don't seem to understand how difficult (translate to $$$$$) it is to get out to people and let them know you exist or to make sure you are offering them products they want to buy from you.

    Calumet was not the right place for Zone VI but by the time Fred sold it, he wanted to relax. Believe it or not he told us he wasn't photographing much any more and that, "he loved to fish". He spent all those years building that business and he has a right to sell it to the highest bidder.

    We are trying to get Fine Art Photo Supply established because we feel there is a need in the marketplace for a company like this. In the meantime, we need to eat, have bills to pay, etc. We're not a .com company like an Amazon that has tons of financing to go years without making some money.

    I'm sure the mailing list (full of real customers) was very valuable to Calumet. Prospecting is expensive and often doesn't yield customers. We all agree that Calumet isn't the right place for Zone VI or a company of its type.

    This certainly has been an interesting exchange. I wonder if the other threads going have been as busy!
  38. Sorry if I ticked anyone off. I apolgize if I sounded like a jerk. I probably did. Look, I'm only an expert in my own opinion, that's it.

    How about a peace offering? If any of you would like some free samples of our exposure record forms, e-mail me and I'll send you some. -- Anthony
  39. Ok Anthony, you are back in the favorites. When I first saw your site it was because of a mailing I got in hotmail. Although I did not see anything I need now I thought your business was interesting and should keep it in mind for the future. What I dont think you or Ellis realize is that for all we know Witold is a millionare and/or does have the backing to do just as he wishes. Dont dismiss someones idea just because it does not conform to your experiences, I really dont think he was naive or that he is unaware of the financial commitment something like this would take. Anyhow, I do wish you all the success you envision and will keep you in mind for future purchases.
  40. David,

    I honestly don't know how long Fred ran his photo fan club. When I came accross his web site I immediately inquired about the videos. Response I received educated me on his death. While the site is currently still on, I don't know whether it'll continue. My reply to his nephew (who answered my video inquiry) bounced back as undeliverable. Maybe someone knows what to make of it.

    Anthony (Guidice),

    I think I need to add my own worth here as I believe some of my statements in response to your original post could be subject to interpretation. Maybe this will help clarify them:

    I need to start with the definition of success.

    Bean Countaneers at Calumet sort of places will set a $$ value that needs to be made on each $1 invested. As long that value is met, that's it. It will not matter whether they lost in the process (say) 10% of customers due to crappy treatment or policies. They made the buck required and so it's a success. Not in my book though.

    I'm glad you brought up Amazon as I nearly did it myself a few posts ago. Amazon was (is) the best thing that happened to on-line shopping. Mr. Bezos had a vision that went far beyond the brains of most Stock Marketeers. I'm glad he's proving them all wrong. This is not to compare the venture capital available to Amazon with resources available to a small company like yours. It's about the importance of concept and determination in implementing it. Mr. Bezos faced more advertisity (especially from the so called market analists) than most big time CEO's, but that did not scare him away. Only because he believed in his, seldom seen, intuition.

    I, as I'm sure most other posters here, fully understand the need of supporting family, paying bills, putting bread on the table etc. It DOES make it far more difficult to ENJOY running a business.

    I take issue with my "idealistic" approach. Every business owner will have his own measure of success. Some will go with the money-and-nothing-else approach and as long as they make enough dough they'll be happy (enough being another subjactive matter). Nothing really wrong with that, except it isn't a success in my book. Many owners I've happened to know don't refer to their business in "successful" terms because, while making a good living at it, they feel there is something missing, something that makes it NOT feel complete.

    As I've worked through the years under, for, and with different people I've come to realize one thing: if one takes pride in the ownership of his company he will go many extra miles to make the customer happy. Proud owner is a happy one. One must be HAPPY about the way he runs his business in order to make it success. This kind of success puts a lot more weight on the customer following than the financial side. Please don't misread this, successful business MUST make profit. Profitability MUST be sustained over time. But that's just one of the goals that need to be met. It's complemented by fequency of repeat customer. If that's in high numbers it will help spread the GOOD word and bring in more first time customers. It's like a chain reaction. It may sound simplistic (and/or idealistic) but not easy. In order to meet these goals the product offered becomes the key. That's obvious but let me just say this one more time: Fred Picker and Zone VI had the right product. It was a combination of great choice of quality merchandise complemented by proper customer care. The latter requires a high level of integrity as it boils down to dealing with unexpected problems. It is very difficult to stay on top of things in a customer care department. Easiest approach would be to NOT let any of it happen. But that'd be asking too much. How one deals with that is another story and I don't see room for that on this forum.

    As for the mailing list: I could see a value in a mailing list 10-15 years ago. What would happen if one posts a link to a new place on the net here, on this forum? Provided that place offers something others don't, I see a great many numbers check it out. If the offer is right they'll go back. I think the years of maiing out brochures are gone for good. There is still need for product literature as many (including myself) like having a paper proof of what's being offered. But this is nearing extinction too as pdf downloads become more and more common.

    Usually history judges successful ventures better as it takes time to instill success in the books. And history may have spoken on the Zone VI success right here, on this forum, perhaps even in this thread.

    Anthony, I personally wish you and FineArtPhotoSupply the best of luck in filling in the void left out by the Calumet's Zone VI acquisition. I trust you're a clever businessman and hope to become one of your steady customers.
  41. Thank you very much. We agree on many things, really. I couldn't run this business if I didn't love photography. And I know lots of guys, expecially back home in NJ-NYC who are making lots of money and not much else.

    I would dearly love to have that mailing list, though!

    Success certainly is not only about money. Building a business is also building a community, and for me, making the photography market better than it was before. I couldn't sell doorknobs or kitchen gadgets even if I could make a lot of money doing it. You certainly do have to love what you do. I don't think Calumet really cares what they're selling; it could just as easily be a doorknob.

    Isn't that what made those Zone VI catalogs and Newsletters so great? --especially the early stuff. You could just feel his enthusiasm and excitement exploding off the page at you...

    That's why this is a wonderful economic system we have. Anyone is free at any time to bring an idea for a business or service into the marketplace and try it. We'll do our very best, we promise you that.

    Your remarks are very encouraging, and thank you very much again.

  42. Ellis, I think it's inapropriate, to say the least, to discuss Fred's "other side", here or anywhere.
    Witold, I have absolutely no idea about what you are talking about. I am really completely in the dark here. If you like please respond privately.
    I am really sorry that you have taken offense at what I wrote, I was just trying to point out that it isn't as easy as you seem to think.. I'm not being sarcastic. I wish you well in your new venture. Once again sorry I caused you distress.
  43. Ellis,

    "even Picker was a pretty MEAN bean counter at the end of his day" is yours, isn't it? Perhaps I misread that, sorry if I did. Perhaps I read too much into that. However, "mean" relates to ones character to me and that's what ticked me off. Since there were other posters earlier suggesting that Fred not always was a nicest of people, I wanted to stop that. I should have put that in front and start with your name afterwards so it would be directed at everyone rather than, apparently, just you.

    I do take offense when my words get twisted. I don't think I misread the part where you clearly suggested the mailing list was something I wanted to have. I did not, I stated that rather strongly in the post you were responding directly to.

    There is no need to switch to a direct, outside of this forum exchange, as we should all be able to either, defend our remarks and opinions, or admit a mistake. It's what integrity is all about and that's what I cherish most.

    Sometimes, in the heat of things, we may go a bit too far with our statements. It happens. When it happens to me, I admit it.

    You had a problem with my reply to Anthony's post, I had one with yours. In the end, this is the place to argue, one way or another.

  44. In American English, "pretty mean bean counter" is equivalent to "pretty good bean counter." It carries no temperment connotations.
  45. Thanks Sal, I stand corrected (?) You mean to say you've been reading this thread and the only thing you disagree with is my (mis)understanding of "pretty mean bean counter"?

    American english is a great thing isn't it? "pretty mean bean counter" in and of itself is indeed what you say it is, or is it? I'd take issue with whether it carries temperament connections, but I think that'd be taking this thread a bit out of this world. Trouble is Fred was not one of them. Let's not take things out of context here. One cannot have "PMBC" approach (as the American english would imply(?))and CARE for what he does. Then again, did he care? That's of course my opinion, as everything else I said here.

    I have to get back to the States quick and put myself in the same time zone again as I've been shooting at you guys from accross the world. Meaning have been doing it around 3 a.m. of my time (not by choice but mostly due to work schedule, see I'm a pretty mean bean counter myself and sometimes my work takes me deep into the night).
  46. Sal's right. Ellis tylko mowi po Texasku. That's just an idiomatic expression meaning "he was a serious businessman" even as he was dedicated to his art form, not that he was miserly or anything of the sort.
  47. Hi David,

    As I said "I stand corrected (?)" provided of course, I fully agreed with the meaning of the expression. I'm not trying to reinvent American english, but would take issue with the lack of temperament connection within the expression itself. Again, I don't feel the need to do so within this thread or this forum. If my logic is right on that then the connection I made would be correct as well. It's sure good to know though, there are more people reading this thread than the number of contributions would suggest.

    As I stated in my reply to Ellis I may have misread his intentions and in the heat of things threw it where it did not belong.

    Sorry Ellis for making others think you were a mean machine, and my apologies to Sal and David for not being that much of a point maker.

  48. speaking as a Brit living in N America for the last 13 years, it's a very common phrase/use of the word "mean" as defined above, and has no negative connotation at all. Quite the opposite.

    get over it guys

  49. Thanks Tim,

    I agree, we need to get over it. That would include you as well. Anyway, let me just redo something here:

    While I stand by what I said about the "temperament connection" within the PMBC expression (which again, I could easily take issue with) the following happened:

    - I know I'm capable at times of unorthodox views, if they're not explained right up front they often times lead to confusion

    - given the official meaning of the PMBC expression I shouldn't have expeceted anyone to know what was driving my mind, given that I should have thought things over a bit more

    - since Ellis' post was directed right at me, and twisted part of my statement as explained earlier, I responded too quickly and made a mistake

    - Fred Picker was NOT a PMBC (in my opinion of course) which does not (and should not) take anything away from him being one of the best businessmen within the field, I stated that many times. Reason I say that is BECAUSE of how I feel about the PMBC expression. This is not something that just happened (provided you can belive I had heard the expression before). I understand that most (or all) feel that PMBC contains zero negatives, I don't. It goes with the way you think of running your own business. I only now realized how strongly some can disagree with that, and only now see how it lead to confusion completely created by my own ignorance.

    All in all, my apologies to all mislead.
  50. "Thanks Sal, I stand corrected (?) You mean to say you've been reading this thread and the only thing you disagree with is my (mis)understanding of "pretty mean bean counter"?"

    If that was a question for me, the answer is: One can neither agree nor disagree with your misunderstanding of an idiomatic expression. I simply observed and noted it. My silence concerning the rest of this thread is intentional, and should not be construed as agreement or disagreement with anyone's positions.
  51. I, for one, miss Zone VI studios. I miss Fred Picker. I miss his sumptuously illustrated catalogues that arrived in my mailbox and made one's mouth water, causing me to yearn to take up that arcane thing called large format photography.

    I miss his chatty Newsletters; I still have them all. I miss the well-written and helpful catalogue descriptions of the many products they developed and sold. You could learn more about LF photography reading a Zone VI catalogue than you can wading through most of the hype written about LF photography these days. (Present company excepted, of course).

    I miss Zone VI Brilliant. I miss their bottles of Benzotriazole, and the promise they held. I miss their Zone VI developer and all their other chemicals. Not because they were any better than the other stuff you could buy from Kodak, but because Picker's photographic potions had an air of magic or alchemy about felt you could turn out a better print by using them. Photographer's Formulary seems to have taken up the slack, but they still don't have Fred's touch.

    Their wood field cameras were lovely, simple, well made and reasonably priced. They worked. I had one for years, lugged it all over creation, dropped it and banged it up, made a ton of mistakes and really learned how to use a view camera. I managed to make some of my best negatives with the thing. Everywhere I set up a crowd would gather, ask questions, look at the image on the ground glass. I met a lot of interesting people using that little wooden camera. Strange thing...nobody stops to ask about my Canham.

    I sold that Zone VI 4x5. I sold it for more money than I paid for it, and it still worked perfectly. I still regret selling it. Damn.

    I still have their superb printwasher, their ridiculous surveyor's tripod built like a tank, their cold light head with the questionably useful dry-down controller feature, and a couple of boxes of their original Zone VI Brilliant in my freezer waiting for the perfect negative.

    At a time when it seemed that information about large format photography was limited only to certain individuals, jealously guarded by most practitioners and not easily learned or shared, Fred Picker's Zone VI Studios taught others what they needed to know to get started. If you did not know what you wanted, they answered your questions. If you were hesitant to take the leap, confused about putting together an outfit, they put together a complete large format package with a camera/lens/tripod/film holder/meter/with case to get you started. Nobody else did this as well as Fred Picker.

    If you had a lens question, Fred would answer it. He put me (and others) onto the wonderful G-Claron lenses instead of selling me a much more expensive Symmar-S when I needed a good, affordable 8x10 lens. I still have to laugh at the many threads on this site debating the merits of the G-Clarons: "they're only good for close-ups", "they're flat field lenses", "only process lenses", "non-Apo", "not multi-coated", ad nauseum. Fred said they were great lenses for landscape, and if you bought one and disagreed he'd take it back, no questions asked.

    Fred picker explained the zone system better than anyone. His book was the only thing going for years. He would read your negatives on his densitometer, mark them and return them to you. He recommended a good, cheap densitometer to me when I asked. He answered all my questions about enlarging lenses, what 4x5 enlarger to buy, what to avoid, and a host of other things. And most importantly, what a decent B&W print should look like; Fred would actually sell you his B&W prints (for practically nothing) so you could have a reference print when working, to see how a B&W print should really look. Who else would do that back then? You had to be in a graduate photography program to get that kind of help; later on I was, and even then the teachers were stingy with their advice and help.

    I miss Fred Picker because he represents that time of my life when I was just starting out in LF photography, unsure of the technical aspects of the LF craft. I was still full of enthusiasm and hope, and Fred Picker encouraged me as well as thousands of other folks. I sometimes wish I could recapture that sense of wonder and enthusiasm.

    Sure, Fred was a salesman. He was a marketing genius, shrewd and with a great business sense. He was out to make money, but he did it doing something he loved, and he did it honestly and fairly. How many of the LF businesses out there today can say that?

    I don't think Zone VI can be reconstituted. Fred Picker's gone; I think Zone VI died with him. I someone wants to start a new company, call it Zone VII, or whatever.

    Good luck, Sergio.
  52. That is really well said, Sergio. I have to take issue with one thing though. I went to a graduate photography program 23 years ago. You're wrong. They weren't stingy with their advice and help. There was no advice or help. They couldn't give out any because they didn't have any. Except for Judy H______ it was a colossal waste of time.

    and I hope our business is honest and fair! -- Anthony
  53. Sergio,

    You put it so well. It felt like going through my own mind reading it. I wish, of course, you had a different ending to it.

    It was Fred who tought me Zone System, introduced me (and few others through me) to the great many products he had to offer. My greatest regret regarding HIS Zone VI has always been that I did not participate in his workshops when I had time to do so.

    I now begin to wonder where the difference is in the way we all feel about the buisness that Fred Picker once instilled in us. We all seem to agree there was nothing like it then, most of us seem to think there is a need to experience that again, but in a somewhat different way. As I recently indicated, I personally hope that Anthony and his FineArtPhotoSupply will succeed and have a great following in all of us.

    When I originated this thread my Zone VI business formula was this (components are not listed in order of relevance and I may have missed a few):

    Zone VI = knowledge + information + catalog + product + newsletter + workshops + service/warranty + personnel + Fred Picker (all should have a "great" attached to them)

    Some of us seem to think though (as your last sentence indicates to me) the formula was actually:

    Zone VI + knowledge + information + catalog + product + newsletter + workshops + service/warranty + personnel = Fred Picker

    I think that's the difference. The latter cannot be replicated as Fred is not among us anymore.

    There is no question that Zone VI without Fred would be a different experience. While I do believe most of what we missed can be recreated, Fred himself cannot. But does that mean there isn't someone else with his expertise, enthusiasm, urge to help-edcuate-and-share ?

    If I heard of Zone VI back in business as it once was, it'd be like a relief for me. It would not mean I'd be just blindly purchasing from them, far from it. But I would not mind NOT having Fred on the other end of the line. As long as the NEW Zone VI delivers on its original values, I'd be very very happy.
  54. Look at what remains of the Zone VI product line now one year later- the VC heads
    discontinued- leaving us with heads that are totally inappropriate for the bulk of the
    papers manufactured today VC papers. I may need to get out of 8x10 for lack of any
    way to print enlargements from them since I can't get the VC head I'd been saving
    towards. And to hear from Calumet that the 5x7 VC head was not going to be
    discontinued and then to find that just two weeks later it is nearly out of stock and
    discontinued is just bad business.
  55. My Lab, Color Prints Inc, Milwaukee, has just informed me that my last order of five, 16x20 prints of Zone VI brilliant was absolutely the last. Ah, The melancholy of it all.

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