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02-10-2012, 11:27 PM   #1
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How do today's lenses compare to older ones in average quality?

I got into an interesting debate with a Nikon friend, he couldn't understand why I am hung up on exclusively the older Pentax SMC-A series lenses, and only the fixed aperture zooms and faster prime ones. He see's my array of lenses and compares it to his single 18-250 variable aperture Tamron auto zoom and just shakes his head. I told him I can't afford the newer stuff of a quality I like and I don't need the auto zoom.

Am I just not realizing what these SMC-A lenses (or the better SMC-M's too) actually cost back when they were new? Or is a well built higher quality lens no longer what the market demands outside of the insanely expensive pro lines of lenses like the * series and such. Perhaps I'm just out of touch and people actually do want lots of plastic for weight reduction and variable aperture for a smaller overall size. I'm not saying many of the new budget lenses couldn't equal or or even better the images from my older lenses, but I feel like while the prices have increased, the average bar has lowered for what is expected. I think this is true of bodies as well as lenses actually.

What would $1000 lens today have cost in 1975 or 1985 anyways?

02-10-2012, 11:55 PM   #2
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Generally older lenses are just as good, though not so much when it comes to zoom lenses as the technology there has improved. The only issues is that older lenses produce more aberrations on digital as they were designed for film, which was much more tolerant to that kind of stuff.

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02-11-2012, 12:01 AM   #3
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Should be able to answer your question but my memory don't work too good.In the late 1960's or early 1970's a Spotmatic wit a 50 f1.7 was around $180-$225.
Jake
02-11-2012, 12:25 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by bjake Quote
Should be able to answer your question but my memory don't work too good.In the late 1960's or early 1970's a Spotmatic wit a 50 f1.7 was around $180-$225.
Jake
Well $200 back then worth much more than $200 now. I googled and found that minimum wages in 1970 was $1.60 an hour while 2011 is $7.25/hr (4.5 times). So the kit mentioned above would be $900 now.

02-11-2012, 12:27 AM   #5
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The tools to answer your last question (in both directions):

Prices and selection

Vintage Camera Store Mail Order ads - a set on Flickr
Pentax Advertising - a set on Flickr

Inflation Calculator

The Inflation Calculator

The lens lineups of years past did resemble the current lineup in that if you went for something wide, long and/or fast prices rose rapidly. Some of the older lenses have kept their value much better than others, but many of the lenses that were exotic and expensive new still are (50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.4, 135mm f/1.8, 400mm f/2.8)
02-11-2012, 12:50 AM   #6
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Do remember this from early 1970's.Was shopping for a lens longer than my 50mm at the camera store where my brother in law worked,
he was highly recommended that I buy a like new used Pentax 85mm for $65 but instead I got a new Vivitar 135 f2.8 for $47.
Jake
02-11-2012, 01:06 AM   #7
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@bjake - Not a good long term investment on your part (as you are no doubt already aware). With the benefit of hindsight the 85mm would have come close to doubling in value after adjusting for inflation, while the 135mm only holds at best 15 to 20% of its 1970s value after inflation.
02-11-2012, 01:11 AM   #8
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I think M was the last high quality series lenses Pentax made then the build quality started to slip. However, optical designs have improved greatly on zooms and colour rendition. The problem with today's AF lenses is their inability to maintain optical alignment due to aggressive cost cutting, loose QC and the way they were built. Still, a good old A prime should outperform 18-250 for corner to corner sharpness. But every lens is different, so they should be evaluated individually. Personally I like how the M lenses feel against A lenses, or any modern AF lenses. Wish I could afford those nice ZK lenses.

02-11-2012, 01:15 AM   #9
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Yea, but I bet bjake had a lot of fun & good times with that 135mm.

QuoteOriginally posted by Steinback Quote
@bjake - Not a good long term investment on your part (as you are no doubt already aware). With the benefit of hindsight the 85mm would have come close to doubling in value after adjusting for inflation, while the 135mm only holds at best 15 to 20% of its 1970s value after inflation.
02-11-2012, 04:58 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
What would $1000 lens today have cost in 1975 or 1985 anyways?
About $250 in 1975 and $500 in 1985.
02-11-2012, 05:27 AM   #11
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Nikon mount Tamron autozoom????? Little confused by that when did Nikon start supporting power zoom features?

Back to the topic at hand. I love using old glass it gives me that old classic feel and generally makes me happier. As for quality, if you talking about build quality the Pentax M and M42s and even the A are built like tanks. If I recall it is only the M's and A's and subsequently afterwards that plastic was used for pretty much every part. The M's and A's having plastic on the aperture ring. Image quality wise I find them on par or better then most budget lenses.

His Tamron 18-250 is 5.6-6.3 variable aperture I believe? Or maybe 4.5-5.6 I don't recall the exact specs but that is one somewhat slow lens it might be handy in terms of not having to change the lens. However, If he brings that thing indoors he'd need to use the flash for everything he shoots even at 18mm. Those super zooms are not easy or light to carry around.

As for market demands vs build quality. I think you have hit a good point. I'm not a statistician but I found that in todays world of high ISO beasts the need to have apertures at 1.2 1.4 or even 1.7 has decreased for the general public/non pros. And thus we see the DA 35 2.4 budget line and not a DA 35 1.8. The cost to produce a 1.8 maybe significantly more money and a good body can compensate for the light difference. If DOF is not an issue
02-11-2012, 05:58 AM   #12
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A Nikon ASP-C body with a 18-250 slow zoom is no better than a bridge camera. It is really a P&S on steroids.

Although the sensor might be better than my Kodak 5MP DX7950 when you consider my lens was a 10:1 zoom at F2.8-3.8 it equates to the same thing. So here he is 8 years later than my old Kodak paying probably 3 times as much for equal performance

What do they say about a fool and his money?
02-11-2012, 06:36 AM   #13
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The fool and his money...

Gets mad respect because it is a nikon with extra length.?
Gets mad respect because its not a Pentax.?

02-11-2012, 09:19 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by wlachan Quote
I think M was the last high quality series lenses Pentax made then the build quality started to slip. However, optical designs have improved greatly on zooms and colour rendition. The problem with today's AF lenses is their inability to maintain optical alignment due to aggressive cost cutting, loose QC and the way they were built. Still, a good old A prime should outperform 18-250 for corner to corner sharpness. But every lens is different, so they should be evaluated individually. Personally I like how the M lenses feel against A lenses, or any modern AF lenses. Wish I could afford those nice ZK lenses.
I prefer the feel of the M series to the A series for the most part as well. I prefer the feel of the K series to any bayonet mount Pentax ever made. That said there are some awesome A series lenses: A* 85/1.3, A* 200/4 macro, A* 300/2.8 and others which are amongst the best Pentax ever produced. I wouldn't buy a zoom from K, M or A series which, although useable, just don't compare to modern zooms.

Tom G
02-11-2012, 09:30 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by 8540tomg Quote
I prefer the feel of the M series to the A series for the most part as well. I prefer the feel of the K series to any bayonet mount Pentax ever made. That said there are some awesome A series lenses: A* 85/1.3, A* 200/4 macro, A* 300/2.8 and others which are amongst the best Pentax ever produced. I wouldn't buy a zoom from K, M or A series which, although useable, just don't compare to modern zooms.

Tom G
I agree most part on the zoom, however modern zooms are pain to manual focus compared to the K/M/A zooms.
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