Dealing with old camera lenses
September 27, 2016 6:15 PM   Subscribe

A neighbor showed me her deceased father's extensive collection of old camera lenses and doesn't have time to catalog, research, value and dispose of them. Apparently they number in the dozens (maybe more?). Would like to help guide her. Any thoughts welcome.
posted by VeniceGlass to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
KEH will take care of you. My understanding is old non-name-brand lenses (not Canon or Nikon) are generally worth under $20 each, but even very old name brand lenses are pretty valuable.
posted by miyabo at 6:21 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Everything But The House will do this for you and put it all on an online auction. They take a percentage but I'm not sure what it is.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:34 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

She or you need to find a camera savvy friend to advise you whether it is all dross or there are some gems in there,or she is going to be ripped off.
posted by GeeEmm at 7:46 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would just sit down with a laptop and do a quick search for each lens on ebay. You'll quickly discover if the collection is valuable or not.

KEH is a really good recommendation too.

If they're old they're probably not super valuable, but there might be some weird very desirable/valuable lenses.

I buy camera stuff on Ebay all the time. If you want, MeMail me some pictures of the lenses and I can give you an idea of value
posted by gregr at 8:10 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thirding KEH.
posted by komara at 9:14 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cataloging and getting rough estimates might be a great task for a high school student, especially one that's interested in photography and might be interested in being paid in lenses. Most are probably not worth very much - even old Nikons and Canons can be had for dozens of dollars in many cases. But it's possible he has some sought after rare ones or ones that have become hipster magnets and have spiked in cost as a result.

Even then, keep in mind that there's many things that will cause problems with old lenses (fungus and mechanical failures are biggies) that an amateur isn't equipped to evaluate or deal with, so they'll either need to be sold as-is (which will greatly reduce what they go for) or through someone that can do evaluation, repair, and cleaning (who will likely charge a substantial portion of the sales for doing so).
posted by Candleman at 9:28 PM on September 27, 2016

What others have already said is true, generally with older camera lenses and equipment anything that isn't Nikon or Canon is usually worthless third-party junk (Kipon, Spiratone, Chinon, Sears, etc). There are exceptions of course, and maybe your neighbor's father was interested in photography enough to spend good money on decent equipment. On the other hand, even a lot of the older Canon and Nikon stuff isn't fetching as much money these days. It also all comes down to condition of course, and even though it might look clean from the outside, any or all of those lenses could be full of fungus or haze on the internal glass elements. When looking on eBay be sure to judge value based on what things have actually sold for, not what people are asking for them, and pay close attention to every number listed on the lens - there's a big difference between a 50mm 1:2 and 50mm 1.2

I work in the used equipment department at one of the big NYC photo retailers and generally most people who send us their dad's collection of old photo gear are disappointed when we send it right back because it isn't worth anything at all
posted by Venadium at 4:34 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

VeniceGlass, as usual, it depends. In this case, on what kind of photographer your neighbor's father was and what kind of lenses he bought, at what price.

If there are Leica lenses in the mix, definitely set them aside for potential sale. (The same for Leica camera bodies.) Even if they look ancient.

Two other brand names with potential resale value are Canon and Nikon. Most will have a small value, but a few are sought after by enthusiasts.

Unusual lenses may have no resale value, or might be cult items.

Digital lenses probably lose value faster than film lenses because they follow the same upgrade cycle as other digital hardware.

KEH is an Atlanta business that buys and sells used photo equipment. Any knowledgeable enthusiast is likely to look there for purchases of specific lenses they're chasing. It works like this: You send items to them for potential purchase. KEH assesses them, then sends you a quote. If you take the quote, they send you a check. If not, they send the stuff back to you.

I've dealt with KEH a few times and found them trustworthy and responsive. The usual drill is to complete on online form listing each item you're sending and it's condition. Since neither you or your neighbors are photographers, you might phone KEH and ask if you can avoid that and just send the lenses. They cover shipping so nothing to lose by sending them everything.

When I've sold to KEH, they've bought everything I shipped to them, including some pretty banged up stuff.

Last thing: Lenses covered in dust can be cleaned. What counts much more is the condition of the glass in the lens body. Mildew, fungus, serious scratching, etc., damage resale potential.
posted by justcorbly at 5:09 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

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