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09-24-2011, 12:32 PM   #1
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To clean or not to clean?

Afternoon Folks,

I had an opportunity to acquire a set of Contax equipment. It was a package deal - the entire lot, and not individual items, from a retired couple in the mid west who had used the equipment for 30 years. I slept on it for awhile and then went ahead, as there was one item I had been looking for. Since I shoot Pentax, I am really only interested in the newer MM mount version as opposed to the AE version of the C/Y mount.

I have two lenses are in the AE version of the C/Y mount I intend to sell (no not on the Marketplace as these would really only appeal to Canon and 4:3 shooters). The bodies of the lenses are in very good shape, however the glass is in disparate need of interior servicing & cleaning (dirt - no mold or fungus). If you are going to open up the lens to clean the glass elements, you might as well service the entire lens. I know of a shop that specializes in Zeiss lenses and is able to do it - but it is not inexpensive.

So the question is - Do I bring the lenses to pristine condition and then ask top dollar, or just sell them - with the understanding that they need to be serviced, leaving the servicing cost and some additional value to the buyer.

The reason why I ask, is that one of the lenses is a classic. B&H is selling one for $1,800 and there are a couple of others on ebay (BIN) for $1,700 to $2,700. Servicing the lens (tear down, clean, lube, re-cement, align and rebuild) could run as high as $900. The other sells for $300 to $350 and would cost $195 to completely service.

So what do you all think?

09-24-2011, 01:33 PM   #2
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I've had lenses taken apart for dust removal done relatively cheaply. On the order of $50. They didn't spruce anything else up, but it did the job. On an $1800 lens, I'm sure that a $50 cleaning would pay for itself.

I don't see the value in servicing the lens (outside of cleaning) unless something needs servicing.

Ask about the cleaning-only price. Just my two cents.
09-24-2011, 01:59 PM   #3
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I would be inclined to service the classic lens. However I'd do a little research as to how often the classic actually sells at $1800. If you spend $900 to service the lens, and by virtue of its retail value it rarely sells, you could be waiting a while before you see a return on your investment. That said, I recently did the same with a valuable Nikon tele I had on the shelf for a number of years (slight fungus problem). I didn't make much on the sale, but as long as I made a little, I was happy to get that lens off the shelf and onto a fellow photog's camera, capturing images as it was intended to do.
09-24-2011, 05:30 PM   #4
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A lot depends on the market where you'll be selling them and your competition. If clean examples are easily obtainable, no one is going to look at your stuff without service. If a lens only shows up for sale once a year, condition won't matter.

09-24-2011, 06:25 PM   #5
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If I were to spend $900 on a very special lens, I think I would keep it and get a FF Canon to enjoy it with. I had a guy in NYC that said he worked on contax lenses clean and adjust my old tamron 80-200mm f2.8 adaptall. I can't find his number, but I got it from tamron as he serviced older lenses that they no longer did. It may be worth getting another quote. I think it was about $160 to fix the focus helicoid, clean all the lenses (some fungus) and adjust.
09-24-2011, 06:45 PM   #6
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Like others have said, try and determine value. Not what someone wants for one on ebay, but what someone has actually sold one for on ebay. Why would someone pay 2700$ for one on ebay when they can get one from a reputable dealer (b&h) probably with some sort of warranty and or guarantee and or return options for 1800$. Sure it happens but I wouldn't count on it, especially if you are not willing to sit on the lens for a long time re listing it several times. Figure what you can actually sell it for and estimate low. Then use that figure to decide how much you are willing to pay as an investment in cleaning.
As far as that shop, is it the same shop that wants 195$ for the other lens? If so, why is the other one 900$? Is it because of re cementing and possible resurfacing etc? Does it really need it, and how much would it cost just to clean, lube and adjust it? Have they looked at it and gave that estimate? If they are willing to give a free estimate after actually looking at the lens I would do that.

I'm thinking spending 900$ is a very risky investment. You might not get much more than that for it and if it is that dirty, there may be unseen damage that may lower its value below that. If the Lens that could cost 900$ could be cleaned, lubed and adjusted for 200$ like the other lens, I would consider that shop, but if not, I would consider other shops. While you want to go to the best for a lens like that, is it cost effective in this circumstance? I don't think I would do a 50$ cleaning either (I would do it on one of my lenses but for that I would pay a bit more to go to a highly reputable shop). I called canon about clean, lube, adjust and minor fungus removal. They said the lens was too old for them to work on but they referred me to a shop that said about 150-200$ (they would have to see the lens to give an exact estimate but the estimate was free other than shipping costs. Maybe try calling some of the major manufactures to see who are authorized shops for them (just tell them you have one of their older lenses).
A couple of hundred dollars for a clean, lube and adjust, maybe (and see if you can get any free estimates). 900$? I would think twice about that (even if the cost is justified as it needs something like re cementing, is it worth the investment)? If you are not finding options you like, you could also try selling it on ebay as is for what you think its worth as is (buy it now or auction with a high reserve for what you think its worth in that shape)? Of course a buyer taking the gamble on its post clean up value will lower the price a lot, but what you are talking about is taking that gamble yourself? It would suck if they charged you 900$ and it came out flawed, and they said thats the best that can be done?
09-24-2011, 10:25 PM   #7
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Good Evening Everyone,

I have to thank you all for your comments, suggestions and recommendations. I use to think that I could find just about anything on the net in a few minutes. Usually that has been the case. In this instance, I have spend a bit over a week, as I have had time in the evenings, and come up with just a few hits, but nothing like I usually am able to do.

On the topic of pricing, its all over the place - as you all indicated, it comes down to what someone is actually willing to pay. The evilbay offers are just that, something there waiting for someone to counter with something less but acceptable. Actual sales are again few and far between. Given the few actual sales, there is not a long history on evilbay since most of them have fallen off the bottom. They are also dependent on who just happens across the auction and if folks are either actually looking or have some knowledge on the lens (which is turning out to be very few). So, the actual sale prices run the full gamete.

The box arrived today, and the condition is dirty glass, but no separation or fungus/mold - which is good. The expensive lens contains 15 glass elements, and weighs in at 1,150g - the heaviest zoom Contax ever made (there are other telephoto primes that weigh in heavier still). The other lens is a 50mm, small and simple, hence the price difference. The servicing price for both lenses was off the same website, and the guy - essentially does everything "his way". Actually the price on the large lens was 575-900 but since this is the one with all the glass, I just assumed the worst case. Since this is the weekend, I have only been able to go on the information on the one website that does specialize in this. I need to call Monday, however - the suggestions about calling some other lens repair shops is a very valid one. Here in the Phoenix area, there are a couple - one in particular I had used before. I was going to try to swing by and take the lenses in to see what they think. If the lenses can be done with a relatively simple cleaning - obviously that is the way to go. I will probably email Eric and see if he would be game to even consider taking a look at the lenses. He has been kind enough to swap mounts for me on my other Contax lenses.

There is no way the $900 will happen. As ripit observed - way too much risk......

Anyway - its late and I am going to trundle off to bed. My head aches - 2 aspirin also sounds appropriate .....

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