Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Biévres Photo Fair: Dull, drizzle but bargains to be had

Biévres Photo Fair: Dull, drizzle but bargains to be had

382
2

After an exhausting weekend I staggered back to London despite delays caused by a Eurostar train fault compounded by “demonstrations on the line”. This is the French equivalent of the British “wrong sort of leaves on the track”.

My build-up to the Biévres Photo Fair turned out to have been rather optimistic. The weather—with floods in Paris and lowering skies and much drizzle over Biévres—was very disappointing. It’s the worst weather for the fair, which usually takes place in blazing sunshine, in twenty years according to regular visitors. Unfortunately, as an out-door event, Biéjvres suffers badly when it rains.

 British dealer Peter Loy (right) shares an umbrella with Elaine Cooper of Red Dot Cameras. Ivor Cooper catches the drops next to Elaine
British dealer Peter Loy (right) shares an umbrella with Elaine Cooper of Red Dot Cameras. Ivor Cooper catches the drops next to Elaine

The weekend was saved by the good company, including camera enthusiasts from all over Europe and a strong contingent of British dealers, including Red Dot Cameras, Peter Loy, and MW Classic—plus many familiar faces from British fairs. All the dealers were happy and managed to fill their cars with good quality items for resale. It’s always difficult to tell whether poor weather improves or reduces prospects for buyers. It probably keeps many casual visitors away, but dealers have made an advance commitment and will turn up whatever the weather.

Below: No peace for the dealers as itinerant sales people invade the watering holes. The guy on the left had some goodies in his bag, including this Leica M3. Francis Qureshi of Red Dot Cameras tried it out and then Ivor Cooper explained why he didn’t want to buy it

My impression was that attendance was down on my only previous visit in 2015 and there were definitely fewer stallholders this year. I was also surprised not to see as many visitors from the far east as I encountered last year. The Biévres event, as with Photographica in London a couple of weeks ago, is almost exclusively concerned with old cameras with just a few stalls bothering with modern stuff.

 Top prices paid, even while enjoying the croissants and cafe crème
Top prices paid, even while enjoying the croissants and cafe crème

One retailer, Photo Gallerie, with branches in Brussels, Liege and Nivelles, started the weekend with a huge collection of boxed Leica M and film bodies together with an even greater number of M lenses. Much of the stuff was marked by Leica Camera AG as warranted but ex-demonstration or refurbished. The prices were attractive and it would have been possible to pick up a really nice first-generation M Monochrom, boxed and unused, for around €3,200 or £2,600. As I left on Sunday afternoon the stall was almost empty.

 Ex-demonstration cameras and lenses with full Leica warranty available at bargain prices at Photo Gallerie
Ex-demonstration cameras and lenses with full Leica warranty available at bargain prices at Photo Gallerie
 A backpack full of goodies and an enticing notice can help conclude an unofficial deal even as stallholders are rushing to set up shop
A backpack full of goodies and an enticing notice can help conclude an unofficial deal even as stallholders are rushing to set up shop

I wasn’t there with the intention of buying, although I took a bit of cash just in case. Biévres is mostly cash only, so advance planning is needed. Last year I picked up a mint, boxed M6 TTL and an inexpensive, six-year-old Leica X1. Last weekend I wasn’t over tempted but did acquire a cheap Olympus PEN-F half-frame film camera with 40mm lens. I wanted this to add to the original PEN digital, which I collected at Photographica, as background to my forthcoming review of the new Olympus PEN-F.

 David Woodford and Mahendra Modi of British retailers MW Classic Cameras spending the money and stashing the goodies. Since 1987 the pair have been travelling throughout Europe in search of classic photographic equipment
David Woodford and Mahendra Modi of British retailers MW Classic Cameras spending the money and stashing the goodies. Since 1987 the pair have been travelling throughout Europe in search of classic photographic equipment
 A British dealer assembling a stock of lenses for purchase
A British dealer assembling a stock of lenses for purchase

As I wrote on Saturday, I was very impressed during the weekend with the performance of internet taxi giant Uber. I had four faultless journeys, including to and fro to Gare du Nord and a couple of local lifts between Biéjvres and the hotel. It all went really well and I thought the prices were reasonable, the drivers friendly and the cars of a better standard than I had been led to believe. More to the point, the system proved very reliable and I never had to wait more than five minutes for a car to appear round the corner. 

 Well known Biévres visitor: The Druid who, he maintains, had a bad accident falling from a tree while collecting mistletoe.
Well known Biévres visitor: The Druid who, he maintains, had a bad accident falling from a tree while collecting mistletoe.
 Jim McKeown of  McKeown
Jim McKeown of McKeown’s Guide to Classic and Antique Cameras is a regular visitor to Biévres

Since I have recently been suffering from a persistent bout of backache I decided to travel light and my photographic ensemble was restricted to the Olympus PEN-F and two lenses, the M.Zuiko 12-40mm zoom and the Leica DG Summilux 25mm. In the end I used the Summilux, on manual focus, for almost all these pictures and I was very happy with the handling and operation of the little PEN-F. I’ll be writing more about it later.

 Pitch up anywhere, but not ideal on a drizzly day at Biévres
Pitch up anywhere, but not ideal on a drizzly day at Biévres
 Biévres is a magnet for collectors of 19th and early 20th century wooden photographic gear
Biévres is a magnet for collectors of 19th and early 20th century wooden photographic gear
  • Subscribe to Macfilos for free updates on articles as they are published. Read more here
  • Want to make a comment on this article but having problems? Please read this

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Mike. I have been thinking of attending this fair at some stage, but this year would not have been the year to go. I would be restricted by what I could carry on an Aer Lingus or Ryanair flight as well. I certainly would not go by car ferry and road. Life’s too short for that!

    Those ‘modern’ Leicas in the brown boxes look like ‘remaindered’ stock but I suppose the M240/M262 series is coming to the end of its production/sales cycle. Speaking of cycles, the absence of buyers from the East is not surprising as there has been some sign of a waning interest from that direction in recent years. Westlicht Camera Auction is on this coming Saturday, 11th June. There are still plenty of very nice items on the auctioneer’s website awaiting bidders. I have seen auctions before, particularly in the US, where there were almost no bids ‘on’ coming up the auction and everything was sold on the auction day. Bids made before the auction day on the auctioneer’s website will, of course, get priority on auction day, unless higher bids come in at that stage. There seems to be a lot of interest in ‘Leica copies’ and this is a growing field for collectors.

    You did not say much about the photographic exhibitions that go with this fair. Despite our online world, people still like to see prints hanging on walls or even tents.

    William

    • I think you would enjoy it on a better weekend. Surely there cannot be two drizzly weekends in succession so next June should be back to normal. I did see the tents with the photographic exhibitions but I was so busy ferreting around the gear stands that I didn’t get a chance to see much.

      That’s an interesting point about far eastern visitor interest waning. As a matter of interest I spoke to several people who could have been from Hong Kong, China or somewhere else in the far east so I could ask what brought them all that way. However, all spoke French and were from Paris or nearby.

      The social aspect is as good a reason as any to go to Biévres and the large evening dinners bring together dealers and collectors, plus luminaries such as Jim McKeown. I go as much for this as for the fair itself.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.