We have all bought a camera or lens and have told our wives that this will be a very good investment but have you considered what is the reality in today's recession. Very often I have a telephone call from an old Club Rollei member who has switched, dare I say it, to digital - or would like to if they could sell their old film camera. When I give them an estimate of what I think it is worth, I soon discover I have lost a friend.
The reality is that today film has almost disappeared and I do say almost, as many still use film cameras and enjoy the dark and safe haven in the attic or cellar, to get away from their wife, to process their award winning film. Film cameras have very little value in today's market place. Camera shops that sell secondhand equipment are fast vanishing due to poor sales and increased rent and rate bills. Camera collectors are, as they may call their old customers, a dying breed.
Selling a Minolta 9000 SLR
Besides photographic shops, another popular sale venue was in the UK’s Amateur Photographer magazine. Have you read a copy lately? In January, I had a Minolta 9000 SLR camera and three different lenses given to me by a relative who had converted to digital. The flashgun I kept, as I could use this with my Rollei 2.8GX. I telephoned many camera shops in the UK that I thought would be interested in making an offer for the Minolta. What a waste of time and cost using the telephone, as calls made from Jersey to the UK cost more than calls made within the UK. NOT ONE shop was prepared to make an offer, not one! I was so disappointed because I thought, with a nice portrait f 2.8 135mm lens and also an f 2.8 300mm telephoto lens, they must together be worth £500. I had the receipt from my relative who bought the camera in 1998 for a total cost of £4,575.
I did receive an offer, the only one, for £125 from an advertisement I placed in Amateur Photographer magazine, providing I had a working battery and charging leads etc. For those who are not familiar with the Minolta system, have a look at the photo and you will note that this is top of Minolta's range complete with built in motor drive and AF. Hazel, my wife, suggested I went into my study and use my computer to see if I could find any information on the Minolta camera.
Well, well, what did I find? A big surprise, Sony had acquired Minolta and there was someone looking for some lenses for his Sony SLR. I found that the Minolta lenses did fit the Sony. The new price in the UK for the 135mm and the 300mm lens was £6,018. To be correct, the Sony portrait lens is now 100mm f2.8. The Tele Apo 300mm lens is today considered one of the sharpest and best, being a fast f2.8 lens. Current UK price is a whopping £4,399. Not many can afford to have one in their gadget bag. The Canon equivalent Costs £5,300. A shop in Hong Kong was advertising for an f2.8 300mm lens. I sent them an e-mail and mentioned that the lens, I thought had not been used, had its box, certificate etc. Tal Sung photo shop in Hong Kong offered £1,250, so I e-mailed and asked for £1,600 for the two lenses to include airfreight and insurance, which I am very glad they agreed to.
Oh what luck I had. A friend was going with his wife to Hong Kong for their annual holiday. They took the two lenses plus the Minolta camera with a standard f l.4 50mm and an f2.8 28mm lens. My friend took the camera and lenses to the shop. They were paid £1,500 by bankers draft and £100 in the equivalent of Hong Kong dollars for the two lenses. My friend asked how much they would offer for the Minolta camera with the other two lenses. The best offer was a shock, only the equivalent in UK money of £164.67. So he decided to use the camera, as he found that film was freely available in many shops in Hong Kong. He did trade in the Minolta camera for a Sony Alpha 380. The UK price with standard lens is £550. He paid £380 for the Sony, kept the two Minolta lenses and gave me £200.
So what about Rolleis?
So what is a Rollei camera or outfit worth today? A 1976 Rollei SLX with standard f2.8 80mm lens, an f4 40mm lens, an f4 150mm lens with accessories, (see list Lot No. 287) and mainly boxed was offered for sale at Auction Team Breker in Koln (Cologne) Auction Team Breker charge a buyer’s premium, which amounts to 19.3% plus 19% tax on the premium charge. Therefore total charge is 22.97%. Lot No. 287 had a reserve price of 200 Euros plus buyer’s premium. If you bought at the reserve price, the cost with commission would be 245.94 Euros. The seller also has to pay, I think, the same commission. Auction is not cheap when you add the two commissions, the Buyer and seller total cost would be 45.94% At the bottom of the description of each lot they give the estimate, in the case of Lot 287, 400/600 Euros. The 'hammer price' at the auction was 560 Euros, with buyer’s premium the buyer paid 723 Euros. At the moment a Euro and a UK pound are almost equal. Now consider the cost price of the SLX in 1976, as offered in Lot No. 287; it would have cost £4,368. Interestingly, lot No. 286, a 6008 outfit with many accessories, including 120mm, 150mm and 250mm lenses, a two-times converter, prism and bellows, had a reserve price of 700 Euros. This lot sold for 1,360 Euros. This outfit when bought in 1997, would have cost £11,933 without VAT. The total price the buyer had to pay was £1,586 or 1672 Euros. This represents 14% of the original cost price. The older SLX would have been 16.2%.
Clearly buying a camera and expecting to sell, as a collector, and make a profit in years to come, is most unlikely. However, there are those who still collect mint Rolleiflex TLR’s, whose second hand prices have started to rise. A mint Rolleiflex 2.8GX Expression 1995, with a reserve of 550 Euros sold for 1,721.54 Euros with buyer’s commission. A mint Rolleiflex 2.8GX is certainly a good investment. In the same auction, a Jersey Edition 2.8GX also sold for 1,721.54 Euros. Rolleiflex TLR's, in good/mint condition, will always be valued by collectors. These cameras are manually operated and not like the SLX, whose battery is difficult or almost impossible to be replaced. This applies to all electronic cameras, so only buy one if you want an ornament, otherwise keep to the Rolleiflex TLRs. There is a good second hand market for the Rolleiflex 2.8GX, 2.8F and the SL66. I know several people are looking for these cameras. Today anything that needs a battery, that may become obsolete, will not interest collectors. To obtain a catalogue for one of the Auction Team Breker sales would cost 37.5 Euros. Their address is PO Box 50 11 19, 50971 Koln Germany - website at www.breker.com. They do accept credit cards.