View Full Version : Buying Used Lenses?Cln Marks, Small Scratch Rear Ele.

7-May-2002, 20:35
"Condition is everthing." But for a large format lens user who wants great print quality on a limited budget, must the glass on the lens be visually perfect? Shopping around for used lenses, I find many highly touted examples, often with small imperfections, but also at an alluring price. Will I be sorry later? My question is, what imperfections or blemishes on the glass can be tolerated. I know this is a subjective subject, and depends on the specific example, but I would appreciate your opinions.

7-May-2002, 21:44
Marks on the front, like cleaning marks, usually don't do anything. You have to have a pretty deep gouge on the front to matter. The rear element is more sensitive becuase it is forming the image, not gathering light like the front. I would be more careful about the rear. Luckily, the back is more protected anyway and tends to be in better shape. And then, I have an old Graphic telephoto lens with a decent size fungus "starfish" within the rear element--doesn't matter a bit. I bet with a bright light in just the right place it would, but not for a regular landscape. I could kick myself for not buying a f2.8 Rollei that sat in a local store literally for years because of a deep scratch on the front. I finally decided I would run a roll through it at the store, but it was gone. It probably would not have mattered, either.

Kerry L. Thalmann
8-May-2002, 02:28

Yes, it does depend on the specific example, the type of flaw, the location and the severity. In general, defects like "cleaning marks" scratches, chips, abras ions etc. will cause a reduction in contrast and an increase in flare. How much , it depends. In general, the effect will be a function of the surface area of the damage. A faint barely noticeable surface abrasion that covers a large area (say something the size of a thumb print) will generally have a greater impact than a more noticeable chip or scratch in the glass. As far as cleaning marks g o, several faint marks may have a greater effect than a single obvious scratch. As Chris stated, defects on the rear surface will have a greater impact than de fects on the front element.

A few faint cleaning wisps won't make any noticeable difference in the final ima ge produced. On the other hand, if it looks like someone cleaned the front elem ent with a Brillo pad, I wouldn't buy it no matter how "attractive" the price. In cases where the defect might not impact image quality it will still effect th e value of the lens (and the price I would be willing to pay). I just returned a lens that I bought on eBay. It was a fairly rare lens and at the "Buy It Now! " price of $750, I thought it was a great deal. The seller listed it as "Very C lean". It was not. I stopped counting the "cleaning marks" on the front elemen t at 10 (there were more, those were just the most obvious, deep marks). There were also significant cleaning marks on the rear element, and to top it all off the coatings on both the front and rear elements showed significant abrasion - l arger in diameter than a quarter. These defects were significant enough that th ey most likely would have reduced the overall contrast of images made with this lens. Bottom line was I'd rather spend $150 - $200 more to get a pristine sampl e of this particular lens. It would hold it's resale value better, and there wo uld never be any doubt that it would be performing to the optimum level the lens designers intended. Had the defects been fewer and less severe, I would have k ept it and considered it a good deal at $750. As it was, I returned it, without hesitation, for a refund.

That said, I do have a couple older lenses with a cleaning mark or two and they still produce wonderful images. It is a question of degree of damage and how mu ch you are willing to pay for a damaged lens. Even if you don't think you will ever resell the lens, the price you negotiate should still reflect the degree of the damage and the impact it has on the resale value of the lens. If the damag e is minor and the price is right, it can be a real bargain. If the damage is m ore significant and/or the price only slightly less than a better sample, I see no reason to overpay for damaged goods. There are plenty of good clean lenses o n the used market. Many at incredibly reasonable prices. Often, if you are pat ient and shop wisely, you can get a price on a clean used sample that is as low, or nearly as low, as some sellers charge for obviously damaged goods. At the v ery least, use the prices on the clean samples from reputable sellers as a barga ining chip when negotiating the purchase price on the imperfect sample.


David Karp
8-May-2002, 10:36

Nothing to add to these two excellent discussions regarding imperfections on the glass. This note is just to add that it is very possible to pick up outstanding examples of used lenses for great prices. Two of my lenses, a 125mm Fujinon and a 450mm Nikkor M were purchased at extremely low prices compared to the "normal" used prices for those lenses. The glass, barrels, and shutters on both of them look like new. The price for the Nikkor M was so low (compared to other 450mm Fujinons or Nikons) that I could not pass it up, even though I was looking for a Fujinon! If you keep looking, you can usually find a lens for a good price that is in excellent condition. My other lenses have a few imperfections, but none of them are on the glass. If the glass is marked, I take a pass on the lens.

Todd West
8-May-2002, 14:09
Kerry, that lens sounds pretty clean to me. Not in good shape, or worth buying, but definitely CLEAN. :-)

I've bought a couple early 80s lenses in eBay and, after allowing for eBay's very generous estimations of condition, wound up with about what I thought I was buying. In both cases, though, I found one or two very small bits of the front element's coating came off the first time I cleaned it (I have 10 year old filters that have been cleaned probably once a week on average and look new, so I'm pretty confident my technique is not the problem here). Both are optically great and I fortunately haven't lost much in the way of resale value, but it's something else to watch out for.

I've personally developed a strong preference for buying used equipment after I've seen it with my own eyes, rather than sight unseen.

Dick Roadnight
8-May-2002, 15:29
Defects at the edge would not make much difference if you use small apetures.

Scratches create additional flare, so use a lens shade.

I would try painting scratches black - this would, I would think, considerably reduce scratch-induced flare.

James Driscoll
15-May-2002, 22:19
i own several late 60's era schneiders that were purcased off e***, and have noted several things among my experience among view lenses. older schneiders usually have "edge separation" and "paint flocking", this looks like white specks on the edges of the lens elements, this not being in the light path does absoluty nothing. I have a 300mm Symmar that I paid $102 for, it has cleaning marks, paint flocking, and CENTER separation in the rear element group. The effect: NOTHING I have used this lens for tabletop work in the 2X-3X lifesize range, and there is not much of a difference between its modern APO-SYMMAR brother. The biggest problem with semi-abused lenses and older lenses to me is that the shutters usually need overhauls. This takes on $100-$200 depending on the shutter. As sidebar, I did do a quick and dirty test to research the test the diff. between old single coated symmars, and the new multicoated APO-symmars, side by side comparsions of the same subject on the same type of film (e100 VS) same lab, taken within two minutes of each other yielded not much of a difference to justify the price diff. between the lenses. Also, lens data is availible at www.schneideroptics.com, for all new and old schneiders, and you will notice how they play with the numbers to make the new lenses look better. Eg: the image circles of the older Symmars are measured at F16 where as the APO-Symmars a

Sal Santamaura
16-May-2002, 12:45
James, we're not at photo.net yet. You can say eBay!