Old lenses as good as new lenses?

Started May 31, 2007 | Discussions
RolfGuenter
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Old lenses as good as new lenses?
May 31, 2007

I already tried to got some answers in the Open Talk Forum. But seams to be that there are only cannon guys. So I try to get an answer here, repeating my last question in the thread:

"... The minolta 24-105 is just an example for a film lens, before minolta designed the 7d. I don't want Your opinions upon this lenses, but want to know if it makes sence to buy old lenses for still a lot of money. May be the general opinon of the users who own older and newer lenses is to look forward for the newer lenses coming, or that the older lenses still produce a profit. I read at dyxum that the old minolta metal 75-300 lens has about the same scores as the newer 100-300 APO D. I was surprised. So, is the the 75-300 as good? Or are the expectations of the guys less and a 4.5 for an old lens is equal to a 3.75 for a new lens?"

Michael Fritzen
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to RolfGuenter, May 31, 2007

Hi,

from my point of view it's a clear

"it depends on".

New glass is new glass so you need not to worry about dust, fungus, sticky aperture blades.....

OTOH an "old" lens in very good conditions hasn't lost it's optical qualities and so it can be par with new lenses (or superior). The Minolta guys and gals 10, 20, 30 years ago already new how to make good lens stuff. The main questions considering used/old lenses are how much they were used (so some parts can be worn out mechanically) how they were treated and how they were stored.

Cheers,
Michael Fritzen

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Richard Evans 13
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to RolfGuenter, May 31, 2007

Does it make sense? No. New lenses should be cheaper because of a larger market and modern production techniques. Plus most new lenses are produced in developing nations rather than Japan which should make them cheaper but so far I don't see that either. My advice on used lenses is that you try before you buy. Failing that, buy from a store with a return privilege. I really can't emphasize that enough. I bought two Minolta lenses from dealers and they are both mint. I went to a private residence last night to look at three Minolta lenses. One was actually a Sakar (?), the 50mm (I was buying for a friend) had a really stiff focusing ring and the 75-300 BBC was pretty beaten up. Yet the seller described them as 'very good.'
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Richard Evans 13
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to Michael Fritzen, May 31, 2007

Michael Fritzen wrote:

Hi,

from my point of view it's a clear

"it depends on".

New glass is new glass so you need not to worry about dust, fungus,
sticky aperture blades.....

OTOH an "old" lens in very good conditions hasn't lost it's optical
qualities and so it can be par with new lenses (or superior). The
Minolta guys and gals 10, 20, 30 years ago already new how to make
good lens stuff. The main questions considering used/old lenses are
how much they were used (so some parts can be worn out
mechanically) how they were treated and how they were stored.

Cheers,
Michael Fritzen

I would add that prime lenses are usually safer because there is less mechanical wear. Also note that zoom lenses actually suck in dust when they are extended and retracted. The air inside isn't sealed in a vaccum.
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Richard B.
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to RolfGuenter, May 31, 2007

If you are talking old design vs. new design, I would look at it case by case. There are some very good older lenses. A plus for older (full frame) designs is that edge performance of the lens is often better than edge performance on new APS designs. However, new designs tend to have better coatings for control of flare etc. From an optical perspective, its really looking at the image quality of each lens individually.

If you are talking new vs. used, the condition of the actual lens is a big factor. I have an old Minolta 70-210 f4 - optically excellent and works great, but condition of used lenses can vary significantly. I also bought a new Minolta 24-104D f3.5/f4.5 just over a year ago, optically it was worth it and since it was new there were no worries about condition.

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Ray Garrison
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to Richard Evans 13, May 31, 2007

The perception that old lenses are as good as, or better than, new lenses involves a lot of factors other than simple optical performance. A few come to mind...

When a particular lens was produced, say 20 years ago, it might have been a superb performer, head and shoulders above the competition. In some cases, relatively inexpensive lenses might have been "diamond in the rough". They gained a reputation as begin "the lens to own." The beercan comes to mind here. That reputation grew over the decades to achive almost legendary status. The question, of course, is whether what was true 20 years ago (head and shoulders above the rest) remains true today. Is the 70-210 f/4 really better than the 18-200 f/3.5-6.3? It's sure faster at the long end, but is it optically superior?

Then there's what we perceive as quality. Lenses made years ago were, of course, full frame lenses. Bigger and heavier than current digital series lenses. And they tended to have metal mounts rather than the advanced polymer compounds today's lenses frequently use. In most hobbies (audio, cars, whatever) bigger, heavier, metal stuff is almost always perceived to be of higher quality than smaller, lighter "plastic" stuff. Is that true?

In the old days, lenses were made with a lot more human workmanship, and made in factories in places like Germany and Japan. Now, they're made in China or Malasia or God knows where in highly automated factories (well, the kit lenses are, anyway...) Is a vintage 1980's old Japanese engineer capable of better optical alignment and assembly than some robot from the 21st century?

I think it's safe to way that if you compare apples to apples - that is, lenses of roughly the same focal length / apature priced in the same slot relative to other current lenses - you'll find that today's lenses have better coatings (reduced flare and fewer internal reflections), reduced distortion due to advanced computer designs, possibly less CA due to more advanced optical materials, are smaller and lighter. Does that make them better?
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Dennis
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to RolfGuenter, May 31, 2007

RolfGuenter wrote:

"... The minolta 24-105 is just an example for a film lens, before
minolta designed the 7d. I don't want Your opinions upon this
lenses, but want to know if it makes sence to buy old lenses for
still a lot of money. May be the general opinon of the users who
own older and newer lenses is to look forward for the newer lenses
coming, or that the older lenses still produce a profit. I read at
dyxum that the old minolta metal 75-300 lens has about the same
scores as the newer 100-300 APO D. I was surprised. So, is the the
75-300 as good? Or are the expectations of the guys less and a 4.5
for an old lens is equal to a 3.75 for a new lens?"

I'm not sure what you're asking - you seem to have several questions rolled into one ! Some older lenses were excellent but the thing to watch for is condition ... I'd want to buy from someone with a return policy or someone who can vouch for how well it works on current cameras, at least if spending a couple hundred $$ on a 28-135 for instance.

The "beercan" is a quite good 70-210/4 that is popular because, at used prices, it offers a lot ... and there isn't a new alternative. The old f/4 lenses (24-50, 35-70 and 70-210) were all very good, but the two wider ones simply aren't that appealing, particularly on APS-C, for their range. There are other gems like the 28-85/3.5-4.5 which is quite good and a great bargain, but doesn't have a terrific range on APS-C, has lousy close focus and is a little big & heavy). Some lenses made since don't have a great reputation; notably the cheap kit lenses (28-80, 28-105, etc).

Personally, I'm not a fan of older lenses unless they offer something (range & quality like the 28-135) that newer lenses don't ... you risk getting a 'lemon' due to age and while they may be sharp, they're less friendly to digital sensors when it comes to CA, fringing ... I'll take a 24-105 or 100-300 over older lenses any day, and newer designed for digital, assuming the designed for digital lenses are good (for instance, the 28-75/2.8 in KM or Minolta flavor).

As for the 75-300 versus 100-300, I don't know where you found the ratings, but common wisdom is the 75-300 is a typical consumer grade tele zoom while the 100-300 is a gem of a sub-$400 tele zoom because it's actually quite sharp at 300 wide open. (AF is slow, but the lens is compact & light).

Really, unless you try older & newer lenses and develop a preferance (some love the old metal-barrel lenses), quality is really on a per-lens basis and market economics have them priced pretty fairly. Keep in mind that a quality 24-50 may be in low demand because nobody wants a 36-75 equivalent on APS-C ...

  • Dennis

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Looleylaylow
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to Dennis, Jun 1, 2007

I imagine the 75-300 referred to here is the big beercan, not the newer generation 75-300.

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Two Truths
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to RolfGuenter, Jun 1, 2007

I think that a lens is just worth what you are willing to pay for it;

============

First example...

A beercan (70-210mm F4.0) costs under £100 secondhand, whilst a Canon 70-200mm F4.0 L USM costs quadruple that cost new, and a L IS USM version costs twice again.

The Canon IS L USM lens is arguably better in many respects that the beercan, yet, for most purposes, is it really worth paying eight times as much?

============

Second example...

A 50mm F1.7 costs about the same again, give or take, second-hand. Yet a Sony 50mm F1.4 D costs about two to three times as much.

The features of the F1.4 version are:

  • ADI encoding

  • wider aperture

  • 1/2 EV extra max brightness

  • smaller minimum depth of field

The potential benefits are wide-spread but subtle; flash performance, anti-shake, image sharpness, focusing speed, maximum luminance, and bokeh are all fields where there is a potential gain.

However; most people swear by the 50mm F1.7, and fewer people have bought 50mm F1.4Ds. The thing is that people have not been swung across by the potential gains enough to fork out the extra cash.

Give them a Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 (same cost as the Sony 50mm F1.4 D), and they'll snap it up quickly. Personally; I think that the Sony 50mm is the better lens, though.

============

I think that improvements in glass construction for primes has been pretty slow over at least the last twenty years. I understand that improvements to zoom lenses slowed down only ten years ago, with a boost recently as 35mm lens designs were converted to APS-size versions.

Design revisions are made mostly either because of minor improvements or else cost-reducing modifications. That means that a new lens is likely either to be slightly better or slightly worse than an old lens. Only over several years of revisions is it likely that a lens design might have been improved upon - but - that is not necessarily the case.

I think that the new Sony 70-300mm will be better than the current Sony 75-300mm.

Anyway; I am tired, and am babbling with little point.
Thanks for reading this far!

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Two Truths
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to Ray Garrison, Jun 1, 2007

Ray Garrison wrote:

I think it's safe to way that if you compare apples to apples -
that is, lenses of roughly the same focal length / apature priced
in the same slot relative to other current lenses - you'll find
that today's lenses have better coatings (reduced flare and fewer
internal reflections), reduced distortion due to advanced computer
designs, possibly less CA due to more advanced optical materials,
are smaller and lighter. Does that make them better?

And they are likely to have more advanced electronics; e.g. distance encoding, which may improve flash and/or antishake performance.

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dtrph
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yes, new ones are just as good but what about in 20 yrs.
In reply to Two Truths, Jun 1, 2007

i've bought lenses over 15 years old and by far the primes have been in better shape (50f1.7, 50f1.4 os, 24f2.8, 28f2, 135f2.8, 200f2g) than the zooms 28-135, 100-200, 35-70) with the exception of the 35-105 original style which is a solid build lens. the newer minolta/sony zooms have been great too (24-105, 28-75, 100-300apo) but i doubt greatly that any of them will be anywhere as good condition in 15-20yrs from now, the feel of the newer lenses just doesn't measure up to the heavier more solid older ones, which is why sony has to get busy making lenses.
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foot
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to RolfGuenter, Jun 1, 2007

I've bought both new and used lenses. Both have their advantages. I've never had a bad used lens, i'm either lucky or it's because I only do business with people that care about their reputation - such as having very good feedback on ebay.

For new lenses, they have the advantages of newer coatings and design to reduce flares, have more zoom reach, etc. Plus the APS-C ones are smaller and lighter than FF versions. Imagine the size of the tamron 17-50/2.8 if FF! They also come with warranty.

The downside is that when you sell them, you will probably take a loss. Plus the builds aren't designed for 10-20-30 years out. Modern design is all about reducing manufacturing costs, at the expense of longevity. The justification for this is that you can sell it at a more competitive price. A lot of ppl would rather pay less today, than spend more for quality build, especially in consumer electronics. And who can say they are wrong? How do we know that there will be a market for a used tamron 17-50/2.8 lens in 10 years? Maybe by then the lenses will be paper-thin, and use some kind of quantum/nanotech to do the focusing.

The advantages of old glass: they are built like tanks, and are still very good optically. They are FF. They can be cheaper than modern lenses, such as the beercan. What would that cost new? They might no longer be made, such as the 28/2, 35/2, 100/2, etc. When you sell them, you either won't take a loss or you could even make a few dollars.

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AdamT
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to Looleylaylow, Jun 1, 2007

I imagine the 75-300 referred to here is the big beercan, not the
newer generation 75-300.

The BBC I just tried belonging to my friends (the owner of the A100) wasn't very impressive - great at 75mm, good at 200mm and pretty soft and dreamy at 300mm like the also overrated Nikon 70-300 D ED .. Neither are anywhere near the quality of the even cheaper Canon 100-300 F5.6L (a 1988 push pull design and the only plastic L series lens) or the new and cheap Nikon 70-300 VR ..

The 70-210 Beercan I tried was excellent, better than the Canon 70-210 F4 Pump.. by a mile and on a par with the old Nikon 70-210 F4 Constant (rare and prone to front focussing on some bodies)

I guess it's down to the examples of the individual lenses and how worn out they are - remember though that there are some stunning new lenses which are well priced such as the terrifyingly sharp Sigma 55-200 DC (again if you can find one which doesn't front focus) the ones I've used are as sharp as the Minolta and Nikon 70-210 F4s and it's way smaller and covers a better range - it costs almost Nothing too !

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AdamT
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to Two Truths, Jun 1, 2007

A beercan (70-210mm F4.0) costs under £100 secondhand,

Actually EXACTLY £100 second hand (Various E-Bay sales, Giles cameras and Mifsuds Photographic) - the 70-200L costs £300 second hand in Mint condition (Park cameras have one now) and although the Beercan is very good indeed (as is nikon's old 70-210 F4) it doesn't come close to the Canon F4L - even Canon's own F2.8 IS version is beaten by it at F4 !!! - add lighter weight, an ultrasonic motor and zero CA / PF issues and you're looking at a lens which is easily worth 3X the price of a used Beercan ..

believe me, if this lens Fitted the Minolta A mount, there'd be a LOT of extatic Sont A100 and Minolta owners about.. Same goes for the wonderful if rather ancient slow and sloppy plastic bodied 100-300 F5.6L - I wish there was a Nikon version !! it's sharper than any Nikon Zoom covering the same range and eats the BBC too !

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Technophile2
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to Richard Evans 13, Jun 1, 2007

Richard Evans 13 wrote:

My advice on used lenses is that you try before you buy. Failing that,
buy from a store with a return privilege.

Yes. I bought a "near mint" lens off ebay. The faults on this lens would take too long to list here. As it was a 300mm f2.8 this was a very expensive lesson.

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RolfGuenter
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Re: Old lenses as good as new lenses?
In reply to RolfGuenter, Jun 1, 2007

Thank You for Your advices! All answers did help me a lot!

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