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Zone VI Studios buyback???

Witold Grabiec , Jul 13, 2002; 11:30 a.m.

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.


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Eugene Singer , Jul 13, 2002; 02:18 p.m.

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.

Witold Grabiec , Jul 13, 2002; 03:04 p.m.

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.

William Levitt , Jul 13, 2002; 04:48 p.m.

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.

Eugene Singer , Jul 13, 2002; 05:53 p.m.

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.

kevin kolosky , Jul 13, 2002; 11:02 p.m.


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.


Witold Grabiec , Jul 13, 2002; 11:03 p.m.


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.

kevin kolosky , Jul 13, 2002; 11:13 p.m.

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.


Neil Poulsen , Jul 14, 2002; 02:20 a.m.

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.

Richard Ritter , Jul 14, 2002; 09:12 a.m.

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.

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