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10-16-2013, 01:49 PM   #1
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Why have lenses gone up in price so much in the past few years?

At the local library I got an old copy of Popular Photography from 2009 and there was an article about 50mm 1.4's. It said that the Pentax FA 50mm 1.4 was $200. In the same magazine was a B&H ad for that price. Now, 4 years later, it sells for $450 new. Why such steep inflation. Have all lenses gone up like this or is it because the FA is getting phased out?

10-16-2013, 01:52 PM   #2
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Pentax USA recently rolled out a MAP pricing policy, which effectively prevents authorized dealers from discounting lenses except during special (pre-authorized) sales.

While lens prices haven't actually been increased, their selling prices have: most Pentax lenses went up by 15-90% last year.
Brutal Pentax Lens Price Increase: 15-90% - Pentax News - PentaxForums.com

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10-16-2013, 02:31 PM   #3
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So it looks like I got interested in digital photography and specifically Pentax at just the wrong time. Bummer

However, at the time of that post the FA 50 mm was still up to $359 from $200 after ~2.5 years, and didn't change according to that chart, although it has obviously climbed since. I was mostly surprised because I assumed that photography would be like all other technology and the prices would plummet as the equipment got older and newer, 'better' models came out.
10-16-2013, 02:33 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by millsware Quote
So it looks like I got interested in digital photography and specifically Pentax at just the wrong time. Bummer

However, at the time of that post the FA 50 mm was still up to $359 from $200 after ~2.5 years, and didn't change according to that chart, although it has obviously climbed since. I was mostly surprised because I assumed that photography would be like all other technology and the prices would plummet as the equipment got older and newer, 'better' models came out.
While that logic applies to cameras, it certainly does not apply to lenses as they will never be obsolete.

Now is still a great time to get started, however. This Pentax K-50 kit includes $315 in freebies, including a $200 gift card and 4% rewards that will pay for over half of a 50mm F1.4

Pentax K-50 Bonus Kits : Buy or Learn at Adorama


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10-16-2013, 02:41 PM   #5
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My spin on the topic goes like this
- there has been accelerating advances in camera technology including manufacturing
- there has been a progressive improvement in lens design but the manufacturing including the glass still requires the same amount or similar amount of resources and manufacturing.
- I suspect camera manufacturers don't mind making a pittance on a camera if they can get a reasonable return on lenses.

We need to remember that back in the film days most people didn't appreciate how bad their photos were. With digital any dud lenses are immediately obvious.
10-16-2013, 03:03 PM   #6
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If you go back to the early 2000s you will find that we were paying far more than the US price for new Pentax lenses here in Australia. Depending on the lens it could have been anything from 50% more to almost double (and that was allowing for the exchange rate). I bought a couple of new lenses from the US for that reason.
10-16-2013, 04:41 PM   #7
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In Canadian dollars an SMC 50mm f1.4 cost $142.00 or $787.00 in today's dollars. An SMC 55mm f1.8? A mere $510.00 today (still have mine). If you wanted a nice Spotmatic II c/w the f1.4 (I bought one) a mere a mere $359.50 would let you take it home, or $1,993.44 in today's dollars. And there was no GST/VAT in those days so a real steal.

Credit Yvon Bourque and his blogspot for digging this out.
PENTAX DSLRs: How expensive were the Pentax SLR cameras and lenses in 1972?
10-16-2013, 06:40 PM   #8
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If you want the lens for ~$250, it still goes for that in the forum's marketplace. A lot of the marketplace prices are still tied to the old prices, before MAP-ageddon. Some of the price hikes were very infuriating. The FA50/1.4, in particular, is an old design. They've made their money back in R&D. They shouldn't be able to sell the lens for that much. Nikon, at least, released a new 50mm lens. Pentax did release a cheaper 50mm/1.8, but it is also overpriced compared to the competition. Pentax makes feature rich cameras that are a joy to use, but they are no longer a bargain system. I don't know if there really is a bargain system anymore, however. You just have to wait for the rebates and hope they include your desired lens, or buy used.

10-16-2013, 07:50 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by millsware Quote
So it looks like I got interested in digital photography and specifically Pentax at just the wrong time. Bummer.
It's never the perfect time, but you can't go back. Look instead at what you can get today. My two older DSLRs think high ISO is 800 or 1600. It's really easy to get an inexpensive WR camera with WR lenses from 18 to 200mm (soon 300mm), two control dials, SR, pentaprism, and usable up to ISO 6400 - everything you need really in a camera. There's an affordable normal prime and lots of decent zooms for reasonable prices. When I started out, they didn't even have DA Limiteds, now they have 4. Some really awesome lenses out there today from Samyang and Sigma.
10-17-2013, 06:29 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by millsware Quote
So it looks like I got interested in digital photography and specifically Pentax at just the wrong time. Bummer...
For you, perhaps...

But WOW... Imagine the social value that can be created by a talented and energetic photographer using an ol' FA 50mm lens.

Makes it kinda a bargain... (at almost any price)...eh?

Cheers... M

Last edited by Michaelina2; 10-17-2013 at 09:42 AM.
10-17-2013, 06:41 AM   #11
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At least Pentax doesn't market lenses as "Professional". The DA* 55/1.4 seems downright affordable compared to the new Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 ($3,990) or even the new Nikon 58/1.4 ($1,695.99).
10-17-2013, 07:17 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
At least Pentax doesn't market lenses as "Professional". The DA* 55/1.4 seems downright affordable compared to the new Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 ($3,990) or even the new Nikon 58/1.4 ($1,695.99).
To be fair, the sample shots I've seen of that Zeiss Otus look amazing.

7 times more amazing than the DA*55? Well no
10-17-2013, 12:43 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
For you, perhaps...

But WOW... Imagine the social value that can be created by a talented and energetic photographer using an ol' FA 50mm lens.

Makes it kinda a bargain... (at almost any price)...eh?

Cheers... M
This sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I really understand what you mean.
10-17-2013, 01:39 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
For you, perhaps...

But WOW... Imagine the social value that can be created by a talented and energetic photographer using an ol' FA 50mm lens.

Makes it kinda a bargain... (at almost any price)...eh?

Cheers... M
QuoteOriginally posted by millsware Quote
This sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I really understand what you mean.
My interpretation: once you take a few decent shots with this lens, the cost is secondary to the photos.

I have a Pentax-A 50mm f1.4, the same optical formula as the FA. I used it last December for a challenge here and took several great shots that I'm very proud of, some of the best I took all year. If I calculated correctly, one of them was a handheld portrait at Ev 2.5, which is pretty dark (f1.4, 1/20, ISO 800). The whole purpose of photography is to take shots like that. Yes, the gear costs money but it's about the photos.

I'm not sure what the Pentax-A 50mm f1.4 sells for today but it's not $450. Everyone will tell you to upgrade the focus screen for better manual focus. It's good advice but I used the stock screen for three years.
10-17-2013, 02:13 PM   #15
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Of the first lenses I bought, an FA 50 1.8 was one of the first 4, and it's the only one I'm still using. Once you buy a good lens, you never have to buy it again.
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