When buying a second hand lens......?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by melmoth, Feb 11, 2006.

  1. melmoth

    melmoth Member

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    Hallo all.

    I conceed that this may be a very silly question but bear with me.

    I was looking at second hand nikon lenses on ebay recently and I was struck by the various descriptions given by sellers when describing the glass on the lens. In particular, glass which have very minor grazes on the front of the lens.
    One seller wrote that a certain amount of markings on the glass exterior was acceptable and would not appear on the photo; grazes on the glass exterior at the back of the lens barrel ie opening into the camera body, were more significant and detrimental.
    The seller's observation started me thinking: is there an acceptable level of marking on the front lens that will not appear on the finished photo?

    I would be grateful for any wise words.

    Cheers M.
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The "acceptable level" is individual, and based on experience. I have lenses with anything from "cleaning wisps" to "deep gouges - looks like it's been in a fight with a bobcat and lost". I also have a few lenses with minor marks on the rear element.

    The bad thing is that everything will influence the image. It might be as little as a hint more of flare when the sun is in the frame, to complete and utter rubbish. The nice thing is that all these faults reduce the value of the lens so that a really nice lens can be bouhjt for pocket lint!

    One of my "rear scratch" lenses in my favorite 4x5" lens. Perfect sharpness and a truly wonderful "rendition" - yyes, it's one of the "magic" ones. The catfight loser turned out to be missing two of the internal elements! No loss to me - it was an LF lens, so I got a perfect shutter (which I needed) for about $20!
     
  3. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    This question is not silly, but is almost impossible to answer….

    I have a late model lens with a “slight cleaning wisp” in the coating. How’s that for a vague description? Could this be described as “acceptable”? I’ve photographed a resolution chart, and don’t see any problem. But I didn’t test it’s resolution prior to the “cleaning wisp”, so I can’t compare. I suspect you could take two identical lenses and test them, and get different results. But what is YOUR standard for “acceptable results”? On any lens with any marks whatsoever, the only safe way to buy would be to do so with a test period, so you can run your own tests, and determine your own satisfaction with the images.
     
  4. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    If you're concerned about making a bad mistake, don't buy on eBay, buy from a reputable dealer like, e.g, KEH, who stands behind what it sells. You may pay a tiny bit more, but if you're really worried about being stuck with a horrible lens that you can't sell without losing more money or integrity than you can afford then KEH is worth their premium, if any.

    Personally, I'm with Ole. I've bought awful LF lenses for approximately pennies because they were in usable shutters. And I've bought LF lenses with "cleaning marks" that shoot much better than well enough for me. But not everyone is as willing to make a mistake as I am and think he is.
     
  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Bless those who must always have the latest, greatest and sharpest: for they feed us with exellent "junk". :D
     
  6. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Junk? Junk? Are you sure?

    I ask because test shots made with my new $49 + postage 420/9 Apo Nikkor "with cleaning marks" came back from the lab today. Its as good as my pristine Apo Nikkors. There's not much usefully sharper ...

    Melmoth, don't let Ole and me sway you. We're both fearless risk-taking types, and lucky too. This doesn't mean that either of us knows very much that you don't. KEH's prices for used Nikkors in F mount are pretty competitive with typical, not abnormally low and hard to capture, selling prices on eBay. FWIW, I'm contemplating buying another Nikon. If/when I do, it will probably be from KEH, probably not via eBay.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2006
  7. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Let me just complicate the discussion by pointing out that even if a lens looks pristine, it could have flaws that aren't easy to spot without actually using it. An element could be misaligned (because of a physical shock or just plain bad assembly at the factory) or have subtle manufacturing defects within the glass. With older lenses, coatings might be substandard compared to modern lenses. What's more, sometimes coatings change within a model's production run. Then there are physical problems, like sticky aperture blades.

    I don't mean to scare you off, though. I've bought many used lenses via eBay, most of which have been quite satisfactory. (Of course, you might have higher standards than I do, so take this with a grain of salt.) IMHO, the savings compared to buying new lenses, or even used lenses from a dealer who carefully checks the lenses out, makes the risk worthwhile. My suspicion is that, statistically speaking, you'll come out ahead buying on eBay, so long as you exercise some common sense.
     
  8. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    melmoth
    condition vs cost.
    Like new glass=$$$$$
    cleaning wisps=$$$$
    light scratch=$$$
    heavy scratch=$$
    gouge=$
    It really comes down to definition. I've seen lenses very badly abused described as mint and very seldom vice versa.
    It's in the sellers best interest to get the most for his stuff and your opinion may differ from his.
    In my dealings on Ebay over the past few years I've only had one bad experience as a buyer & it did take a couple of weeks to straighten out, it was a camera described as excellent with working shutter. When it arrived, the shutter was inop & there was rust on the aperture blades & some of the internal screws. Needless to say it went back to the seller.
     
  9. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    True. And I would say what you should avoid is fungus inside of a lens because it grows and spreads in a long run.

    I usually choose a lens that's clean enough, so I don't have to worry about it for a while.
     
  10. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    A friend send me a picture of a Zeiss lens with a huge crack right through the front element and a piece of it missing all together, along with an image taken with that lens. Guess what: it still gave a pretty good image!
    I guess the rule of thumb is that the front of the front element will have the leas effect on your pictures, but no matter what, the image has to be affected by any physical obstruction in the path of the light. That's why I lose it when I read the favourite "will not affect image quality at all" line.
    Having said that, it is very likely that a mortal human will never notice the difference as long as the damage is small enough.

    One more thing: a reputable dealer will advertise ANY marks on the lens. I have seen lenses that for the life of me looked spotless that were advertised to have a mark. An honest retailer with a reputation on the line (ie KEH) will always go with the cautious route, most often I can't see these marks even if I look for them. Its good to support businesses like that, its good to reward their integrity, in my humble opinion. This is not to say that I don't buy from eBay, I do and see nothing wrong with it (I don't buy into the whole eBayis the spawn of satan mentality that some people have - it is what it is) - but you do take a risk as you would with any private sale.
     
  11. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    One thing that inexpert lens sellers will do is inspect a lens superficially by reflected light and describe it as perfect if they don't see anything amiss. Most nit-pickers (including myself) will inspect a lens by shining a torch through one end (on-axis) and viewing it at the other end slightly off-axis. If I see any specks, I regard this as incipient mold (inexpert sellers call it "dust"). I would avoid any lens at dealer prices with this manifestation, lenses via e-bay I accept if the specks are small and the price is low, but I will most likely send the lens in question for cleaning. I have learned from bitter experience that mold can grow in a lens AWFUL fast!
     
  12. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    I always feel encouraged by a retailer who is willing to go out of their way to describe any and all faults, no matter how minor. I have seen lenses described to have "some minor dust" that, much as withthe scratches, I can not detect personally. But I will definitely consider givin by business to the retailer who leans that way rather than the other. These guys are out there and they deserve our business as a reward of their consciencious business practices. That's just my take on it...