Are lenses now "disposable"?

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Velocity of Sound
Velocity of Sound Contributing Member • Posts: 522
Are lenses now "disposable"?

When cameras went digital (and perhaps even before then?) the saying that was often passed around was, "invest in glass; bodies will come and go, but good glass doesn't become obsolete."  The thought was that sensor technology advanced fast enough that most would be cycling bodies every few years, but a good lens would last through multiple bodies.

And perhaps when lenses were fully manual, mechanically controlled objects, that was true.  But now that electronics heavily comprise a lens' makeup, that has become questionable.  It's not just compatibility with the camera body, but availability of parts for repairs.

The recent issue with Anne's 100-400mm is the most glaring example of potential trouble, but I've seen threads where users of the old 4/3 lenses (in particular, the 50-200mm) can no longer get certain failures serviced, due to lack of availability of the parts.  The original Zuiko Digital 50-200mm was released back in 2003, and it was replaced by the SWD (wave motor autofocus system) version in 2007.  So in theory, a lens sold about ten years ago might be unserviceable.

Granted, things might have been different if 4/3 didn't become µ4/3.  But the fact remains that modern lenses are much more complicated, and rely on proprietary parts, compared with those older lenses.  The old, mechanical lenses are still kicking decades after being produced, and can be serviced in numerous ways.  Modern lenses have more points of failure, and repair is much more difficult, if not impossible.

It makes me question the old saying that lenses are the thing worth investing in.  The way I see it, lenses are becoming almost as disposable as camera bodies.  It's not that they're made obsolete in the way that camera bodies are, but that they can be made completely useless once they suffer failure, assuming the manufacturer is no longer producing them (or parts to support them).

Nothing lasts forever; I'll shoot with what I have and enjoy it, but it does make me rethink spending more on lenses (particularly older electronic-based lenses), no matter how good they are optically.  It's unfortunate, but that's the downside of the digital world.

 Velocity of Sound's gear list:Velocity of Sound's gear list
Olympus E-M1 II Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm 1:2.0 Macro Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 35-100mm 1:2.0 Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG Macro HSM Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro +6 more
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