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Tuesday, 26 January 2021


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Perhaps it's time I sold my very little used Zuiko 35-70/2.8. I bought it a decade ago in a fire sale. Had to buy an OM 2 body to use it. A nice lens, but I'm not sure the best lens of its type as sometimes claimed (I think my Leica R 35-70/4 better, although the Olympus has that one stop advantage which used to be important in those days of 400 ASA film).

Camera collectors are a nutty bunch - unless they are also camera traders. Collecting, of itself, strikes me as a suspect occupation reminiscent of the habits of certain dark birds with an eye for all that glisters.

For many evenings in a row I ran through the Internet series on Jay Leno's car collection. Apart from understanding that he has tons of disposable income, it was hard to grasp the point of it all. Yes, the fact that I stuck around so long informs that I like some old cars, but it would never occur to me to own more than one or two, at the most, assuming I could afford them and more. As for collections themselves, I think they are better suited to museums where the greater public has access, and can marvel at the interesting designs that used to run along the highways and byways of this world. Compared with the current anodyne styling of all but the supercars, we do appear to have lost something along the way.

Important to note: in no way do I want to limit anyone's ability to collect; I'd just like to come across anyone who can support a collecting fetish with a reasonably convincing argument, not, of course, that he needs to do that, either.

"Why would anyone pay $3,800 for an ordinary lens nobody used to want? "

Because someone else bid $3,750. And perhaps because someone else is in a fever dream of "This is the lens I used for a number of years."

As photographic instruments in today's digital world these old film lenses are worthless junk. I know from experience...and have receipts ... and lenses...to prove it. But nostalgia is very powerful, and sometimes extremely profitable!

You’ve told this story before, although your magazine article reference was to Photo Techniques.


[Ah, you caught me repeating myself...but on reflection I think it was Camera & Darkroom. I never wrote for Photo Techniques before I became Editor of it, and the business with the 40mm was earlier, I think. But I don't really know for sure one way or the other. --Mike]

Ummmm, I have a Pentax 40mm pancake lens. I wonder if it will become the next golden nugget?

I hope you sold that one you bought in Chicagoland before writing this :).

One day many years ago I asked a professional OTC stock trader why the price of a certain stock had gone up that day. "More buyers than sellers."

And so it goes.

I have a theory about venerable wine names, both regions and producers: it's not that the wines are that much better, it's that in a time before people understood where wine flaws came from, they were *consistent*. And in a market with a lot of information asymmetry, people were willing to pay a lot for that consistency.

To me, the market for lenses isn't that opaque: I feel comfortable forming my own opinions on them. But I can easily imagine someone with more money than confidence paying a premium for a lens that's been certified as good by some vague media-industrial consensus.

I owned the Carl Zeiss 45mm f/2.8 for Contax, back in the 80's; you can still get a fine condition one for about $250.00 if you look....BUT, I loved that it was small, and fun to use on the camera, but it was not even near sharp! I don't know if I got a bad copy, or what, but I was never happy with anything I shot with it! I think it was a 4 element Tessar type, which should have been "sharp enough" and 2.8, but...nope...

I think there's so many clean ones on the on-line sales sites, because everyone bought one, shot with it once, and said: "ick, maybe not".

I cannot believe this amount of money for this, even if it was "rare".

Money laundering?

Stop praising lens ;-)

I sold mine for a relative pittance, maybe around $300-$400? That was in the 2000s. People are paying crazy prices for "unusual" film stuff, but we should also not discount the possibility of money laundering ;-)

I‘d offer my Minolta MD Rokkor f2/45 mm from 1979 for only 2,999.00 $ 😬

I have always wanted one of those, but I was too late for the party.What I do know is that Olympus lenses were remarkably good in their day, they didn't need todays software corrections, so as an average Zuiko it would have been way ahead of many others.

I do know that if someone would do it, I would be pleased if someone could make a drop in digital conversion for and OM4 or for a n xPan. Not like that could happen.

What I find interesting is the ebay ad, "almost unused?" Is that true, or just the usual ebay crap? And if true, what does that say about the 40's in general or this sample specifically?

Good Grief.

I'm not an Oly guy except for m4/3, but I did pay $360 for my Nikkor 45/2.8 AI-P pancake Tessar and thought that was awfully high for that kind of lens. I love using it and it's been nearly the only thing on my camera since I got it.

Funny, I have a small inheritance coming. With careful shopping I hope to get a Leica M (typ 240) to be able to have that experience in digital. Even for it though I could never imagine paying $3000+ for a lens. A little careful shopping and an early Summicron 50/2 rigid is able to be found for $500 - 800. A clean old Summitar for $300 or an excellent Cosina Voightlander 35/2.5 Skopar for $370 are out there not to mention an M mount Elmar 90/4 for $250!

This Oly lens at that price? Bulb madness. But it, too, shall pass. Oh, I am sure it'll stay high enough because that's the normal traffic for it, but silly high? That will pass.

I'm afraid "internet fame" has brought new economics through combinations of new factors...
Start with an already rare item, put them in the hands of influencers through new instantly replicable medias (multicast on instagram, tumblr, twitter,...), combined that with new easy ways to sell to and reach deeper pockets (e.g. ebay) and watch the price explode.
The analog world truly is exploding mike.
Film is getting prohibitively expensive, old cameras of status are doubling prices in 3-4 years...sometimes much faster, like Kendall Jenner's Contax...

And why everybody rejoices that film photography is "back", I can't really see how this extreme speculation is good news...
Almost makes one hope for another collapse, I mean "adjustment" ;).

Not specific to the Olympus brand, but the 40mm focal length is very interesting, especially when the lens cuts such a small profile. I bought the Voightlander 40mm f/2 pancake lens for my Nikons, and it is optically and functionally terrific. It really solves that 35mm or 50mm decision that causes such a quandary. I wish this lens existed during the film years... it is perfect on and FE2 or FM2, but looks ridiculous on the D700, rendering the "pancake" designation moot.

For Fujifilm users, the new 27mm f/2.8 with aperture ring and now with weather resistance comes out very soon. I will put one on my X-E3 and enjoy this effective focal length on an appropriate body to get the advantage of the size profile.

"Because someone else bid $3,750." Actually, it was a "buy it now" listing. Does that make it more suspicious as money laundering? Or artificially inflating the market value, that the seller bought it themself through a different account, and will list it again later for $2,500 and that will seem like a bargain?

I was just about to say "I have one of those!", but it's just the Pentax 40mm 2.8...

Meanwhile a 40mm f1.8 Hexanon goes begging. Have seen a T3 with that lens for less than $100, and that in the last six months.

From what I understand, you still have that lens from Chicagoland for $55, right? You wish you have more so you can can now sell one and take profits. But then, since you don't use it anymore, might as well cash out to buy a new cue and feather duster for the your billiard table. Just sayin'

A couple of years ago, I bought a Rollei 35SE, which I still have and still use. One of the more interesting features of the camera is you can have any focal length you want, as long as it's 40mm.....

With best regards,


I should be thankful no-one noticed, but the Zuiko zoom I mentioned earlier is a 35-80/2.8. Proof that it ain't be used much! So it has two advantages over the Leica 35-70/4. Dang.

[That Zuiko 35-80mm was one of Olympus's best lenses, no kidding. --Mike]

I have three Zuiko 50mm f1.8 lenses, bought for £0.99, £0.99 and £1.99 (but that expensive one included free postage.

I think I can shed some light on the price increases, if you are familiar with the current cinematography sphere, new what we call large format sensors are becoming the norm, sensors that are the equivalent of full frame stills cameras. This leaves a gap as for many years cinematography lenses only covered super 35, similar to an APS-C crop sensor. The desire to use these large format sensors is going up for obvious creative reasons, depth of field etc, but also modern glass suffers from being too sharp so vintage glass has been becoming increasingly popular, companies like zero-optic rehouse these lenses into built to last cine housing, couple that with a relatively high speed 40mm focal length (very popular focal length in cinema) and you have this crazy price increase, along with the 21mm f2.0 going for upwards of £3000.

Of course it could still be money laundering..

“The OM 21mm ƒ/2 is now being sold sometimes as high as $4K. I think I'll still be keeping mine!“

Holy cow... I’ll be selling mine!

The little darling from Minolta still sells for a few tenners.

Maybe you can unleash a shopping frenzy by calling it "the real king of bokeh", or something similar.

I noticed the same thing the other day on eBay when I did a search for the Olympus 21mm f2: $3999. A couple years ago it was $4-600. I thought it was a lot then and thought I’d wait for prices to come down. Whoops. Same with the Leica M6 which were selling at $1200 for a good copy. The price is now at least double. PS: I still miss Camera & Darkroom.

The Millennial tax is getting out of hand!

The bizarre fantasyland of the internet has influenced the price of all sorts of camera equipment. For example, the old-time 5cm F/3.5 collapsible Elmar lens for Leica ltm bodies: common, made in large numbers, often scratched or fogged. Now they are being listed at $500. (But do they really sell at this price?)

Mike, can you start talking up the 2016 Golf Sportwagen. I'm thinking about changing cars and I'd like top dollar for it when I sell it. I wouldn't normally ask, but if you happen to have a superpower, you should be using it for good.

Mike, the big thing about the Zuiko 40mm f2 was that on the OM body, the camera became pocketable. It was pretty much that way with the 50mm f1.8 but only in winter with bigger, heavier coats with larger pockets. Try doing that with a Nikon F6.

It's also a popular lens with 'street' photographers of which they are now many more about and as not many 40/f2 lenses were produced, more customers + scarcity = high s/h prices.

The other thing that has happened is that 20mm lenses have been produced for the FourThirds/m43 system cameras. It is a useful focal length.

As I have aged, I find that if I'm street shooting that the extra bit of time that the wider field of a 40mm (equivalent) lens is handy compensation for my slower reactions and helps me catch shots I would have missed now - or framed badly - if using a 50mm lens.

As mentioned by Albert Smith, Fuji is pleased with the combination of the new 27(40)mm and the equally new XE4 - as shown today at the X-Summit


How about getting a Konica Hexanon AR 40mm f/1.8 instead?


Now that the Zuiko 40mm f/2 is virtually unobtainable, let's start looking for the next phenomenal pancake. I nominate the Konica Hexanon AR 40mm f/1.8. According to this, it was the best of the lot: https://www.buhla.de/Foto/Konica/Objektive/e40_18.html. My experience has it tied with the Hexanon AR 50mm f/1.7 for superb image quality.

Fujifilm just launched their new 27mm (42mm equiv.) "pancake" lens today, $399... Even comes with the hood... That's what someone should be buying now, maybe if they don't make more than 3,000 of them it will be worth $3,999 in 40 years, assuming there's such a thing as a "camera" to mount it on then, grin...

At that price I'd expect to see a Chinese knock-off pretty soon.

Look,it's out of whack but not THAT weird. Olympus has its fans (I'm one, but I don't have this 40). The 40 is a useful size, everybody knows that, but it was never anywhere near as common as 35, 50...so it gets points there.
People like the idea of one lens to rule them all, even if we have 20 lenses. So it gets points there, too. Scarcity, more points for that. Photographers love to "lens drop," and the Zuiko 40/2 is a good one to do that with--worth a lot of points to some, face it.
Olympus may not score as high in some photography rankings as Nikon and Canon, but the whole Maitami story of independence and pioneering the small SLR with the full system, my god, that's worth supporting and a few more points for the 40/2.
A friend just bought a Ford 150, 1998, with 75K miles for $1,000,and it needs $2K in work and gets 15 miles per gallon. People buy Lexuses and whatevers, for $40K+, and they drain money every day of ownership.
It's NOT NOT NOT 1976 anymore. Your stocks, if you have enough of the good ones--on a good day, will make you $3,800 or more.
Computers that look like cameras can easily cost $15K, and then you add $1,000 scanner, and see how it all goes?
The 40/2 is an excellent lens. If you're any good with it, you'll shoot photos you wouldn't trade (if you couldn't reproduced them) for $1,000. You could do that with a 50/1.8 Zuiko lens, too, but that's not the point. The point is that photography is so much fun, the gear is part of it, and as hobby-gear goes, it's cheaper than lots of other stuff and doesn't require much room to store it. Everything in photography is a bargain if you use it and get a great shot with it. A great shot by your own standards, not by anybody else's.

At least the Zuiko 40mm lens has utility. Why do people pay over a million dollars for a baseball card? . . . I collected them in my teens/twenties and made thousands of dollars from buying/selling baseball cards. But really, a million dollars or more? They're not art. Maybe they're kitsch. Some of them look very cool, but . . .

Back when the first Sigma foveon cameras came out, I got myself a DP1. It was horrible to use, no high ISO capability, dismal battery life, clanky, slow to use, terrible screen...but the files, when done right, were just wonderful. I sold it in frustration, but every time I go back and look at the photos I managed to get with it during that time, I miss that damn thing.

Recently I was toying with the idea of getting a one to compliment the camera I usually use, thinking that they must be dirt cheap now.

Au contraire! I looked up the DP series cameras online, only to find that the prices have actually been going up for several years! Since Sigma stopped production, people have been snatching up all of these cameras. Who'd have thought this could happen with a quite old (8-12 years depending on the generation) _digital_ camera? I'm not sure even Leica could pull that off.

It makes me wonder if Sigma has been paying attention; perhaps a new DP series with the latest tech would make them stand out from the crowd once again.

In short there are a couple of think at play here and if anything the price of this lens and the 21mm f2 will only increase.

1: Rarity, this alone will continue to see the price rise

2: Creativity, this one's more interesting and logically understandable. In the creative world of cinematography and of course photography there is always a desire to find something a little unique, an edge in the overall production and something different, for example these lenses have seen a resurging interest in the use of film production, 21mm f2 and 40mm f2 lenses are typically bought, the elements removed and rehoused into new chassis's that improve further the close focusing distance and a couple of other functions.

Did you know that the series 'House' was filmed with a Zuiko 21mm f2 on a Canon body, the 21mm f2 being very desirable due to it unique flare and colour cast.

The irony here is that the more of these two lenses that are taken away an dismantled means that this that survive become even rarer and harder to obtain.

My view is that unless you need the cash I'd probably hold on to them, they will probably have a better return than most savings accounts at the moment!

But that's only 10 Gamestop shares.

The 40mm prices are a conundrum, but the 21mm f2 is surely not a surprise. I have a feeling that it is still the fastest 21mm lens for 35mm cameras, although I may be hallucinating

Ah... this one escaped me


Hi Richard,

I believe this is the only 21mmm in the same league as the Zuiko, it will of course cost at least double that of the Olympus ☹️.

[Don't tell anyone, but the Contax Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 is also an extraordinary wide angle. Shhh, don't pass it around. --Mike]

I owned both the 40mm f2 and the 21mm f2. The 40 was stolen before I ever made any meaningful pictures with it. Yes, the aperture ring arrangement was goofy. But it was small. (So was the 200mm f5 that i owned.)
The 21mm f2 lens was useful and I used it a lot. In the era of Kodachrome 200 it was fast enough to allow me to photograph Hoover Dam at night from a helicopter. But, the coma out in the corners at f2 was something to behold. Coma wings so big and graceful they looked like they could fly.

I have a saved eBay search for the Zuiko 40, with email alerts. I’d never buy one at current prices, of course, even though I’d love to have one for my OMs; 40mm is my preferred normal. But I keep the search active so that I can sigh and mutter “What Mike wrought.” With apologies to Samuel F. B. Morse.

[Hey, it's not my fault! I only take part of the blame up to $450. I certainly didn't do anything to get it to $3,000+. If I could do that, I'd be speculating in cameras and lenses right now.... --Mike]

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