Is it worth investing in a lens?

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by quezra, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    And I mean, literally, buying a lens with expectation of it appreciating and selling for more. When I read old mirrorless discussions, I often see touted prices of lenses at far less than you could get today. Mirrorless has certainly brought back a lot of SLR lenses back into the game and will only get more popular. And now Canon is in the game, I see a huge increase even if most EOS-M users will probably stick to EF lenses (one of the reasons I like FD lenses so much is Canon fanboys - my brother's already told me he'd buy my FL55/1.2 if I ever sold it and I was nice enough to tell him over my dead body in polite language :D).

    Is it worth a shot? The obvious risk of course is damaging your investment, and secondly, if you buy a lemon that isn't returnable, but if you can pick worthwhile lenses it should be quite safe? I mean I look at Nikon lenses that seem to go for double the price of everyone else even if they're ugly, worn and fully manual. Then there's the 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor that seems to only get more expensive every year...

    So far, I've not bought a lens I've sold for less except Sony originals that obviously depreciate as soon as you take it out of the box. But legacies all went for more and now I'm seriously thinking of moving up a level in prices to get into the $500-3000 range of lenses and prepare to sit on them for a few years while mirrorless markets grow. It's basically antiques trade specializing in working lenses plus having an excuse to try out that lovely Noct-Nikkor :D

    Good idea or bad idea?
  2. RalllyFan

    RalllyFan TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 2, 2012
    I bought my Nikon 28mm 2.8 AIS a long time ago, for about $50 used. It's in amazing shape, and I see them on eBay and other sites for $200+, and those don't come close to matching mine in terms of what shape they're in. The thing is though, I don't care what it's worth. I'll never part with it. I also think the market is rising a bit with more and more people using legacy glass, and with less good copies available, but unless you're investing in Leica, I don't foresee it being a long term investment that you can turn around and sell for more in the future. I don't even think it will be that way with most Leica glass. Certainly there is a future for certain glass that performs amazing and just isn't around in mass quantities, but I have to believe that for standard Nikon/Canon/Minolta/Pentax/Etc. lenses, the market is close to peaking.
  3. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Personally I think the potential future value for a lens is directly proportion to its rarity. IOW the more rare it is now the more it will be worth later.

    This is born out by Claire's post about the K55/1.8. This lens was only made for 2 years vs. the 14 years/several iterations of the m42 version. The K version is much harder to find and much more expensive than the more common m42 version.

    So, if you can find a lens that is fairly uncommon, is something people want, and you can pick it up for a decent price- then yes, you can call it an investment. Otherwise you're probably better off buying "user" lenses and expect to get back what you put into them with maybe a little profit over time.

    Then again, I could be full of bunk. ;)
  4. kevistopheles

    kevistopheles TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 18, 2012
    Depends on the lenses. Since more and more folks are discovering (rediscovering) legacy lenses I have seen the prices jump quite a bit in the past few years. You can still find deals but they are harder to find. I'm not sure you could see them as investments unless you are looking at Leica or other high end glass. That said, I think buying lenses is a relatively low risk thing to do since you can often sell them for close to what you got them for. I've bought and sold a lot of legacy lenses in the past 3-4 years and for the most part I've broken even.
  5. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    I buy lenses to enjoy and/or try them out, and do entirely different things to try and save for retirement.
  6. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    As an investment lenses are general not a good idea.

    As stated, some of the rarer lenses go for a good amount, but most don't retain value.
  7. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    The recent rise in legacy lens prices could turn around as soon as Sony picks up on filling out their lens range. It looks like the Sony community is a few years behind the µ4/3 world, where people were actively using 50mm lenses before the Olympus 45/1.8 came out. A camera like the NEX-6 is sorely lacking a solid lens line-up and it might well be that legacy lens prices go down again within a couple of years if Sony broadens their lens program. If Sony doesn't do that, their camera line has a fair chance to fail and that would also be a reason for a price decrease of legacy stuff.

    If you want to invest in lenses, you'd better do that in top-of-the-line gear, like Leica, that seems to hold its value fairly well. I'm an active Minolta lens collector, but I don't think of my stuff as an investment, Minolta is definitely not considered a premium brand at the moment, it's an insider's tip at the most.

    Another thing is maintenance. Manual focus legacy stuff is mostly over 30 years old and needs to be taken care of to hold its value, like dry and cool storage to prevent fungus and oily diaphragm leaves. Lubricants deteriorate and need to be replaced at some point in time. And it's impossible these days to find an older Minolta MF lens with a decent lens case, these have deteriorated so much that you have to wash your hands after handling one. That means that a collector's piece consisting of the lens with packaging and everything decreases in value as well and there's nothing you can do about that.

    Just some thoughts. If I had money to invest (theoretical situation) I'd go for real estate these days, not camera gear. Then again, if I knew how to invest I would have been rich...
  8. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    My 02 cents :

    Basically : NO. I would not, ever, see it as in investment. Here in Europe (can't speak about the US) the recession is here full force (and maybe still worsening a tad) and people can't seem to pay for anything. I've had my FL 55/1.2 listed for weeks at the lowest price over Europe (based on eBay France, Germany and the UK) and I get daily inquiries about dropping price, but no solid buyer. And I'm just trying to me a lousy 20 euro margin on the lens !!
    Indeed, the rarity of the lens is a huge factor. I tried to buy Fujinon and Mamiya Sekor nifties for kicks and have given up. That was more out of curiosity as I truly do NOT think they will surpass my K, FL or Rokkor lenses in quality, yet the prices were a little ridiculous and I just dropped it.
    The last point also makes huge sense : NEX users buy legacies like crazy, but VERU LITTLE M4/3 folkds do so !!!! (tried and tested). They do have a vast lens line up and don't have peaking, so they don't go there in the first place, or if they try it they're very quickly discouraged. As a m4/3 user I'd rather use a 250€ Oly 45/1.8 that focuses super fast, is insanely sharp with nice bokeh, and go thru painful MF with a legacy...
    When Sony a) gets their head out of their behind and start releasing a real useful array of lenses and b, make NEX AF competitive with m4/3, I'd bet my boots legacy love will dwindle quite a bit, even in the NEX crowd. I'm sure a handful of us will still keep and love a couple of pets lenses, but most users will buy and tend a stable of AF lenses according to their needs, and that's it.
    However, as Dixeyk stated, if you're careful to not overpay at purchase, you can usually resell at no loss or with a small profit, so no reason not to treat yourself to lenses that truly call you...
  9. Phoenix

    Phoenix TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 25, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Phoenix Gonzales
    I think most of the sentiments are right on the money, I still do believe that investing in a good lens is twice as worth as spending it on a camera as cameras tend to depreciate quicker than lenses, however I think it would really be hard to invest in a lens if the main reason for investing in it is to have it appreciate over time as there are certain factors determine how much is the lens going to appreciate / depreciate over time.
    How popular the camera will be, how rare the lens is, how good is the lens performance, are among some of the factors that influence how much will the lens appreciate / depreciate over time, etc..

    Some of the lens prices has inflated over time due to trends and speculation. e.g. Minolta Rokkors, while the 50mm 1.4 & 1.7 can now be had dirt cheap the 58mm 1.2 (PG version) is worth more now than what it was worth back when it was released due to the "bokehmania" and narrow DOF that is so popular nowadays same as the Leica Noctilux 50mm (1.0 version) that was worth below $1000 back in the 90's but is now worth anywhere between $6000 - $9000 used.

    It really is anyone's guess now which lenses will be worth more 5-10 years from now, the growing popularity of mirrorless cameras has really influenced this trend. Personally I think a good rule of thumb is to invest in a lens that you will enjoy using, take care of it, keep it clean and fungus free, and in 10-15 years if it was worth more than what you originally purchased it for, great! if not, just keep on using the lens that you enjoy :D
  10. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Thanks for all the opinions, many wise words on this forum as always. :) I think the prevailing opinion is that if it's good it's no harm buying but don't buy with intention to profit. Fair enough. The question then is whether your cashflow can take it.

    I've now tried so many lenses in the last few months that I have come to the realisation that I've already got the best lenses in the bargain section, if I want better I'm going to have to move up a price bracket or three, and I think all items immediately depreciate when first bought, but only really special items will rise again once out of production. Anyway I may or may not try out one or two such lenses in the new year :)
  11. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    we are *exactly* on the same boat here, considering how many nifties I've tried in the past 6 months, the only thing that could yield different/better results is moving way up on the price ladder, not quite sure I want to do that. The next logical step for me would be the Zeiss 50 in C/Y mount that is still affordable, but I truly wonder how much better that could be over the fantastic MC 50/1.4 or amazing K55/1.8. In fact I expect the Zeiss to be very comparable to the Rollei I had which was crazy good for its price, but not as pleasurable to use as more mellow lenses. The focus action was not as buttery as my other pets so I sold it. But IQ wise it was pretty stellar.
    Now I'm not sure I want to shed 150€ for a lens that will be 95% similar in optical performance to my 60ish € nifties.
  12. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    I've encountered this same question with music gear - especially when stuff that went for a couple hundred bucks back in the day, then fell out of favor and was hard to give away for a while now fetches 5 figures! Some folks who are more savvy than me - about the collector and financial realm - were opining that it's best to keep one's toys and investments separate.

    The trouble I see with lenses is, you just don't know what may happen to impact a certain item's desirability. A lot of the cheaper old primes are likely to remain so IMHO because their actual performance can be exceeded by modern offerings (particularly on the very demanding hi-res sensors). But the modern offerings are often less durable and there's planned obsolescence to watch out for - particularly with those zooms. Maybe you'll get lucky and get one of a small run of something that gets discontinued and replaced with something not as good. Or the opposite takes place and you're hosed. Unless you have some insider info and/or a REAL good nose for this, it wouldn't be very hard to "buy the farm".
  13. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    I wouldn't go buying older SLR lenses at current market prices with the expectation that their value will go up. Of course it's always possible that if you look for long enough you'll be able to pick up the odd lens at less than market value. You just need a little know-how and a lot of patience.
  14. MikeCaine

    MikeCaine TalkEmount Rookie

    Nov 28, 2012
    Isle of Man
    I've a Canon 7 with the Canon f 0.95 lens. Wonder if that's worth anything now?
  15. Dioptrick

    Dioptrick TalkEmount All-Pro

    Feb 4, 2012
    New Zealand
    Hi Mike... sorry mate, that 0.95 is pretty much worthless these days. Might as well send it to me... :p

    (joking aside, welcome to the forum btw... and a photo of that lens would be nice to see :) )
  16. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    If a Full Frame mirrorless were to come out, then manual lenses are going to have greater demand than they do today, and Sony are imo only a year away from this, and have focus peaking to make it worthwhile. I'm looking at Nikon lenses particularly and a few special lenses. But Zeiss and Leica and Voigtlanders will probably have the lead to begin with, and they also put the upper cap on the price of lenses (i.e. no manual legacy will ever surpass one of these unless it is really special like the Noct-Nikkor or Canon 50 f0.95).

    I've decided it's a win-win proposition to just get whatever lens I crave and shoot with it for now, then wait for the FF mirrorless cameras to roll out and cash in.
  17. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    It is true - I am trying out the best fast 35s I can get my hands on, knowing full well that I like that focal length a lot better on full-frame than I do, cropped. :eek:

    But when FF mirrorless finally does happen, I expect certain legacy lenses will further disappoint our more demanding modern standards. (If you thought vignetting, CA, soft corners and/or color casting were rearing their ugly heads on the outer edges of the APS-C frame...) FF bodies are not going to be aimed at consumers at all - they'll be for enthusiasts and pros - folks who are largely quite zealous about IQ and intolerant of mediocre performance. So in some cases, demand for certain lenses could just as easily fizzle as skyrocket.

    Not to be raining on the upcoming FF MILC parade - I am very much looking forward to it. Just saying if you're buying lenses to bolster the kids' college fund, you had better choose wisely. ;)
  18. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    It would seem logical. But recent years have shown aquiring expensive photo gear has much more to do with bragging rights and status than about skills as photographers. The sheer number of folks who jumped on the X Pro 1 or D800 (goes for OM-D, NEX 7, 5D3 and all top tier models) and obviously have ZERO skills (not only that but the *beginning* of a clue, either) is downright appalling ! Just check any board on DPR and go crazy at people whining about skintones of band X or Y, and then saying "white bal.. WHAT ??". Duh. And that's just a random example.

    So when mirrorless FF comes out it's gonna be all the rage, and that same population is gonna rush on it, and then whine all the more. LOL.
  19. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    I'm sure there are some who have crystal balls that are better than mine. I'm just happy when a lens investment seems to be justified by its short-term value. It will be interesting to see if the E-mount stands the test of time, 'cause if such a short mount doesn't work out, the lenses are not going to be moved to other mounts as M-mounts (for example) can.
  20. MikeCaine

    MikeCaine TalkEmount Rookie

    Nov 28, 2012
    Isle of Man
    Thanks :)


    I've a couple of 7's - one with the standard 50mm lens and one with the f0.95 lens
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