On Lens Condition Ratings

I think the very best used-equipment condition rating system is actually an accurate, specific description for each piece of gear... This avoids absurdities, like "SB (Shutterbug) Excellent Plus" (or "SB EX+"), which is defined as "90 to 99% original finish" - which means, I suppose, that up to 10% of the finish could be completely missing (if the rest were "Mint"...;-), and still rate an EX+ rating... And terms like "Mint+" and "Like New +" are totally meaningless - "M" means as new (absolutely NO marks!), but the box and/or instructions may be missing; "LN" means same as new (unused, with all original factory packing and papers). Also, anything labeled "M" or "LN" which is anything other than sparkling clean is mislabeled, since one cannot tell the finish and glass condition unless it is perfectly clean. For conditions other than "M" or "LN" (or "10"), which have very specific (though often misused...) meanings, the rating system breaks down. EX means what? To me it may mean absolutely perfect glass and mechanics, with some evidence of handling/use wear on the exterior - but to someone else it may mean that the glass is serviceable, though not mint, the mechanics show wear, and the finish is a mess, but who cares about that...? If someone tells me that the glass is perfect except for a few dust specks inside and one spot in "X" location of "Y" size and "Z" nature; that the mechanics are fine, except for a slight looseness in "A"; and that the finish no longer has that fresh, new look, but is without scratches or mars except for three edge rubs at locations "B", "C", and "D", and one scratch of "E" dimensions at "F" location, I have enough useful information about the item's condition to make a judgment about purchase. Also, it may often be better to rate the item conservatively and have the purchaser pleasantly surprised, than the other way around... (And I have received items purchased through SB classifieds [this has been less of a problem on rec.photo.marketplace] that were described as near mint or better, only to find them in poor condition - which prompts me sometimes to want to ask the person on the other end of the 'phone line [while trying to get a description of an item], "When you say that you see 'no marks', are your eyes open? Lights on? Glasses, if needed, on? Does 'EX' condition mean that the lens was dropped onto the road, and that it rolled down the hill, but it was not actually run over by the truck?" ;-) In other words, the condition ratings of "M", "LN", and "10" have specific meanings that *should* be universally recognized, but other ratings really don't have a lot of value...

"Hope This Helps"
David Ruether (

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