Canon Lenses and Cameras as Investments

Canon Lenses are better investments than, well, real investments...

The above graph shows the 3 year performance of the benchmark Canon EF Lens Price Index, which tracks the retail price of a basket of 78 Canon Lenses. Prices are normalized, so each lens has an equal weight in the basket. Over the past three years the index has grown an astounding 20.2% and 8.1% YTD, outperforming the NASDAQ (4.5% and 5.8%) over the same period. If only we could resell a Canon lens at the new purchase price after a few years! Lenses have appreciated in value at a faster rate than most stock portfolios.

Although the "L" in Canon's red-ringed lenses stands for "Luxury", most of the increase has been in the line-up of consumer grade products. Non-L lenses have seen a steeper increase of 22.4% over the three year period, compared to 17.8% for "L" lenses. The largest hit is in standard focal length primes at 50mm and 85mm, which has a seen an increase of 45.8% over three years, with a staggering 23.3% increase just in in the first three months of 2011 alone.

The Top Three

Over the last three years the top three performing Canon lens are:

  1. EF 135mm f/2.8 with Softfocus has increased an astounding 89.8% from $269 to $525 over the period studied, rivaling such stocks as Apple Inc. (AAPL) over the same period.
  2. EF 50mm f/1.8, the nifty-fifty, has made a very nifty 81.4% return as its price has risen from $75 to $133. Canon's best selling prime lens continues on this upward tear.
  3. EF 50mm f/1.4, not wanting to be outdone, has made a sharp rise of 55.2% from $290 to $450, but with good bokeh still.

EOS Bodies continue to make poor investments

Camera bodies, on the other hand, continue to be poor investments. The above graph shows the 3 year performance of the benchmark Canon EOS Body Price Index, which tracks the retail price of Canon digital SLR bodies. Prices are normalized, so each body has an equal weight in the basket. In 2008 and 2009, bodies rapidly decreased in price as the technology improved and older bodies became obsolete. The last few years have seen an interesting trend with high-end bodies not decreasing in price after introduction (or in some recent cases, like the EOS 7D, actually increasing).

The average Rebel series camera drops in price 11.3% per year after introduction. The prices of higher-end bodies such as the 1D-series and 5D-series only drop an average of 2.6% per year, on average.

The Final Word

So there you have it. From a value point of view, Canon lenses beat the stock market. Used Canon lenses are excellent at keeping value, and it's not unheard of for photographers to sell lenses used for more than their new purchase price after a few years. So next time you're trying to convince a spouse to let you buy a new lens, don't forget to point them to this page and remind them: it's an investment., April 2011