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02-06-2013, 06:19 AM   #1
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buying used vs new, what's the risk?

I have been interested in buying used zoom lenses, but the lack of warranty kind of scares me. If a lens doesn't have HSM or SDM, is there little to no risk in buying used? or said another way- are there any mechanics in such a lens (w/oHSM/SDM) that could cause failure? Is a 30% savings > a 4 yr warranty?
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02-06-2013, 06:27 AM   #2
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That's a hard question. With used you run the risk of damage to the optics from poor cleaning technique (scratches and damage to coatings), from drops (misalignment and mechanical damage), poor storage (fungus and water damage), and so on. If you buy here there is a lower risk in my experience than buying at eBay. Pentax in the US comes with a measly 1 year warranty so that is a loss but less of one than from either Sigma or Tamron. SDM has its troubles, and don't let anyone tell you different, but the other companies seem to have done a better job with silent focus motors.
02-06-2013, 06:41 AM   #3
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Allegedly, Pentax changed the SDM lenses in 2012 to eliminate the problems they were having. If I were to buy another SDM lens, I would make sure it was of the new design, having been bit on by SDM failure of one of my lenses.
02-06-2013, 06:44 AM   #4
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I just went through this decision. Buy a used lens for about 525 or buy it new for 620. While a hundred bucks is a lot of money I could use for many different things, I didn't feel it was enough to justify the risk involved with buying a used lens. For me, the warranty that comes with buying a new lens (I know some warranties are transferable, but I'm talking about a full warranty, not a partial one) is worth the hundred bucks. Extended warranties aren't cheap either. While the seller of the lens appeared very trustworthy and I believed he had taken great care of the lens he was selling, I just couldn't trust the technology. The lens had been used for close to two years and that could mean quite a bit of use.

I think it really comes down to how much you're saving and how much you're spending. I think a 30 percent savings makes it worth my time in considering, but it's not always going to be enough. Another thing I consider is that if I have to spend a lot of time justifying the expense (I'm not rich and I save for months to be able to afford to buy a new lens) then it's obviously worth it to buy it new and give myself that piece of mind. I have purchased used lenses and I've actually never had an issue with them, but I spent (at the most) around 100 bucks for them. They also happened to be older lenses that aren't in production anymore. A lot of times, there really isn't that big of a price difference between buying used/new. I've noticed most people tend to sell a used lens for about 70-90 percent of its new value. That really isn't worth the risk for me. If something happens to the lens, I have to spend 100 percent of what it costs to fix/replace and that's going to be worth more than 100 bucks.

02-06-2013, 06:50 AM   #5
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Yes, I feel the same way that 70-90 % of new price is a lot to pay for no warranty. BUT...

I'm wondering what could go wrong with a used lens. I would think the lenses sold here have been properly maintained and cleaned.

I guess I'm thinking more along the mechanics of a lens. If the AF motor is being controlled by the body of the camera, and if the lens has been well-maintained, then is there anything that can go wrong down the road, mechanically. if not, a warranty is just peace of mind, with no functional value, right?

I'm going thru this dilemna with the 10-20 I want to buy. $350-375 used vs $480 new.
02-06-2013, 07:01 AM   #6
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I think a lot of it also depends on WHY the lens is being sold, as well as who used it. I'm not likely to buy lenses from pro photographers because I know how the pros treat their gear. Optically they may be in perfect condition, but there's usually a reason the lenses are getting sold... Most pros don't baby their equipment, they don't have time for that. The only pros I know that do baby their equipment are the underwater photographers that I work with, and that realistically is only the housing. Almost all of my gear has been bought used and I've never had an issue. Bodies were because people were upgrading to the newest body. I couldn't justify the upgrade price to the brand new one, so I bought a K5 when the II and IIs came out. The body was $500, and works fine. It wasn't worth the extra $250 to me to buy a new K5 when I could use that money for a Q kit. Some of the other lenses that I have that were used were bought because they are no longer made. Tokina 80-200/2.8 is a perfect example. It wasn't used a whole lot, and it went for a good price. Since they aren't made anymore, and I prefer not to buy Sigma or Tamron lenses, I was forced to buy used.

Like what was said above, the price differential is key. If it is around 25% off of new, then I'll think about purchasing it new. If that 25% is less than $150, I'll almost always buy it new. If the difference is >$200, then I'll almost always buy used. Most of the manual or screw drive lenses won't have mechanical failures, and the high speed AF from Sigma is very rare to have issues *My only sigma lens is the 150-500. Bought used, and works great, just has a "cheap" feel to it compared to my Pentax and Tokina lenses*. WRT warranty, I think it depends on what the warranty covers, and if it is likely to have an issue. If the difference was 30% and the lens in question was a DA*16-50, then I would absolutely buy as much warranty as humanly possible, because it is around a $200 repair bill to have the SDM replaced. So your used vs. new price has to be at least a $200 difference to justify buying it used since you run a big risk of having to spend that $200 to repair a used lens. For me that means it has to be at least $400 under the purchase price of the lens, which I still base on what it should be sold for; around $900. If I find a 16-50 for $500, sure I'll buy it used, otherwise, I'll buy new. If you go in with that kind of mentality the thought process is a lot more sound, and you'll get bit in the ass a lot less
02-06-2013, 07:02 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by PBandJ Quote
Yes, I feel the same way that 70-90 % of new price is a lot to pay for no warranty. BUT...

I'm wondering what could go wrong with a used lens. I would think the lenses sold here have been properly maintained and cleaned.

I guess I'm thinking more along the mechanics of a lens. If the AF motor is being controlled by the body of the camera, and if the lens has been well-maintained, then is there anything that can go wrong down the road, mechanically. if not, a warranty is just peace of mind, with no functional value, right?

I'm going thru this dilemna with the 10-20 I want to buy. $350-375 used vs $480 new.
Mechanics of non-SDM lenses are pretty simple and fairly robust. Drops and misuse can mess them up, but buying here has been a very good experience for me. I got the Tamron 10-24 with a rebate 2 years ago for $369 new. I had seen them selling for a wee bit less used but went ahead and spent more for the warranty. However, on my DA70 I bought used because I saved nearly $200. It really comes down to personal values and your own analysis.
02-06-2013, 07:08 AM   #8
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There is also the matter of how often you plan to buy lenses. If you buy, try and sell frequently or if you are building an extensive kit of lenses your risk of one lens requiring an out-of-pocket repair goes up, but that risk and cost is spread over the entire kit. The likelihood that all your second hand lenses will fail is tiny. There is some breakeven number of failures across a large kit in terms of aggravation, but that would never approach the cost of a large kit purchased 100% new.

If you are speaking of just one lens it is a dice roll. The only correct answer lies in your comfort level and willingness to happily pay to have a broken lens repaired.

FWIW, I purchase in-production lenses new and supplement my collection with out-of-production lenses at significantly (50% is my target) less cost than a comparable new, in-production lens.

For instance, I have a kit of 2 Q's, 01 / 02, all bought second-hand here and the Q>K Converter.. I'm in the cameras and lenses for $310 and I paid up for the converter. I would have paid around $135 more if I had done the recent NewEgg and GroupOn deals and I'd have the warranties but at the time I couldn't know if the deals would continue as they have.

In fact, I have the warranty cards on the Q/01 Kit, so I'm actually in really great shape.


Last edited by monochrome; 02-06-2013 at 07:39 AM.
02-06-2013, 07:11 AM   #9
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I've purchased more than 40 photography items on auction sites, mostly lenses and the "rules" were only buy at less than about 30% of equivalent new value and be prepared for a total loss.
It worked; in only 2 cases the lenses were not as good as described and one was only $10 as a donor anyway
I would not buy a used AF zoom lens at 70% of new value, that's too much risk in my opinion.

Other strategies: Buy used from the big camera houses, their prices are usually competitive.
Buy superseded new when the price falls to about 50%, especially for camera bodies.
02-06-2013, 07:25 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
Mechanics of non-SDM lenses are pretty simple and fairly robust. Drops and misuse can mess them up, but buying here has been a very good experience for me. I got the Tamron 10-24 with a rebate 2 years ago for $369 new. I had seen them selling for a wee bit less used but went ahead and spent more for the warranty. However, on my DA70 I bought used because I saved nearly $200. It really comes down to personal values and your own analysis.
right, I want to do my own analysis, but I didn't know how lenses are made or what repairs might be in the realm of possibility. that's why I posted the question. I'm getting a sense of how others with more experience make the decision

I don't mind used lenses, but where the cost is minimal. $350 is a lot to risk the possibility of total failure or a huge repair bill.

thanks everyone, I think in this case, where I am planning to have 3 primary use lenses, I will buy the 10-20 new, as the used discount is <$100. if that samyang 10mm were to come out soon, it would make my life so easy! bah.
02-06-2013, 07:46 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by wombat2go Quote
I've purchased more than 40 photography items on auction sites, mostly lenses and the "rules" were only buy at less than about 30% of equivalent new value and be prepared for a total loss.
It worked; in only 2 cases the lenses were not as good as described and one was only $10 as a donor anyway
I would not buy a used AF zoom lens at 70% of new value, that's too much risk in my opinion.

Other strategies: Buy used from the big camera houses, their prices are usually competitive.
Buy superseded new when the price falls to about 50%, especially for camera bodies.
I like buying new from Keh as they have generous return policy.
02-06-2013, 07:50 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by PBandJ Quote
right, I want to do my own analysis, but I didn't know how lenses are made or what repairs might be in the realm of possibility. that's why I posted the question. I'm getting a sense of how others with more experience make the decision

I don't mind used lenses, but where the cost is minimal. $350 is a lot to risk the possibility of total failure or a huge repair bill.

thanks everyone, I think in this case, where I am planning to have 3 primary use lenses, I will buy the 10-20 new, as the used discount is <$100. if that samyang 10mm were to come out soon, it would make my life so easy! bah.
Used from Adorama, B&H, and KEH carries minimal risk. They tend to rate lenses a little lower than they actually are (KEH has a very good reputation for under selling their lenses).
02-06-2013, 09:27 AM   #13
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No store has them used. Anyway, I want it for my vacation next week, so I ordered from Adorama, using the forum linky-loo.

I think having a few rules as people suggested above is good, and I'm going to keep them in mind, as I evaluate future purchase. Thanks everyone for the help.
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