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Thoughts on used lens pricing?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Jim_C, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. Jim_C


    Aug 17, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I have my own biases, but I'm curious what others think about the issue of used lens pricing.

    I've been watching the For Sale forum. To that end, the market sets the price for used lenses. For popular lenses it is possible to get a sense of the market value there. (Though it isn't entirely clear for how much below, if at all, the lenses sell below their asking price.)

    But that isn't really my question...

    My question is at what price would you consider a used lens to be a good deal vs buying new?

    At what percent discount off new? At what absolute dollar value? Do those limits change as the absolute price of the deal goes up?

    Here are the issues that I'm trying to come to terms with:

    For older screw drive lenses, there is relatively little that can go wrong with them simple due to age. (One notable exception are some lenses known for sticky aperture blades.)

    Add AF-S and VR, and the things that can go wrong increase, as does the cost of repair.

    So what is your threshold for buying used, from an unknown (effectively anonymous) seller, with no return privileges or warranty?

    I have my biases as to what my limits are, but I'm curious what the thinking of others is on this issue.

    One issue I'm having a hard time justifying, to myself, is that while I generallly never buy extended warranties, I'm seem loathe to give up the factory warranty without a sizeable savings by buying used. (I know it might not make sense, but there it is.)

    - Jim
  2. I often (perhaps TOO often) buy used kit from KEH.com - and that also sets an upper limit on what I'll pay. I've only ever had ONE lens that has needed more than one repair for any reason. Generally speaking if the price used is within about a repair cost of new, I buy a new item. For example, at one point the 200/f4 AFD Micro was going for around $1100 in LN- condition and I could get it for around $1200 new from my brick & mortar store. No conceivable repair job could be done for less than $100, so I bought it new. These days the used price at KEH is more like $900, and there's no question I'd buy a used one instead now.

    Right at the moment, a 400/f2.8 AFS II would cost me around $5000 used, and a new AFS VR version would run $8500. I can get the older one repaired five or six times for the difference - and that'll never be necessary. I don't expect to buy a new one of those, and the 400/f2.8 is definitely my next big lens purchase.

    When I got my 35/f1.4 AIS, the KEH price for a BGN condition one was around $400, B&H was asking around $900 for a new one - nobrainer.

    Now I sure don't need a 200/f2 AFS VR, but having read that thread, I am more than aware of the prices. A used one, if you can find it, will run $3500+. A new one is $3999. I'll buy that one new. (groan)

    The other consideration is that I'm more than willing to take a cosmetically lousy sample. These are tools, and I'm not buying them to impress anyone. A BGN copy is fine with me, and they generally run a LOT less money than a LN- copy. My 35/f1.4 AIS is cosmetically ugly (a long-ago owner scribed his name and phone number on it by hand, and did a lousy job of it), but the glass is fine - and it cost me a boatload less than $400.
  3. I'm a seller more than a buyer. I guess I'm just anal retentive, I don't like used equipment. This is also why I get good value on my used gear since it looks brand new.

    I'll only buy used when it's a savings of 15% or more. This is not very common for pristine glass so this is another factor pushing me to buy new.
  4. weiran


    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    When buying used equipment from a reputable seller, you know that the kit works and you can get example images of the photos it produces so you know exactly what you're getting. Plus when you come to sell it, you have usually lost no money as lenses don't devalue (unlike bodies!)
  5. kirbinster


    Nov 24, 2007
    NJ, USA
    I have had very good luck buying used photo gear. I would not buy it on ebay as there is too much fraud there. But from some of the dedicated photo boards I have done really well. I bought my D80, D300, 18-200VR, 70-300VR, 80-200 f/2.8 and tripod all used. I have gotten great pricing. When I bought the D300 I got it with only 125 shots on it about 5 months ago for $1,300. I got the 80-200 f/2.8 barely a year old in mint condition almost never used for $600. Be patient and you can find some very good lightly used stuff for low low prices.
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