How to Buy Used Lenses

Because of the consistently high cost of brand-new lenses, many photographers opt to acquire used equipment rather than new ones to cut costs. Even though many lenses may only be purchased brand new (at least for the time being), the market for used lenses typically has a wide variety of excellent lens options, particularly for those with more limited financial resources.

In this post, I will attempt to explain the benefits of purchasing used lenses, as well as offer you some ideas on how to buy used lenses on-location, knowing that you’ll get a high-quality piece of equipment that you’ll be satisfied with for years to come. I will also try to describe the benefits of purchasing used lenses on location.


Why Buy Used Lenses?

Saving money is the most apparent justification for doing this, of course. Used lenses that are in perfect working order may be purchased for a substantial amount less than brand-new lenses, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to buy a hardly used lens for a price that’s a fraction of what the lens initially sold for. When moving systems, this point can be essential because you can frequently acquire lenses for the same amount of money that you sold those of the prior brand for, making the transition a lot less complicated. Used lenses from a more recent generation and those that are in pristine condition will, of course, cost far more than those from an earlier generation that are still on the market, but you will still save a significant amount of money compared to what you would pay for brand-new lenses.

In any event, purchasing secondhand equipment is a decision that is left up to the individual, given that not everyone is at ease with the procedure. While I have personally been successful when purchasing secondhand equipment, I have heard countless accounts of individuals being robbed or taken advantage of while purchasing lenses and cameras. While I have been fortunate in this regard, others have not been so fortunate. Due to the high value of cameras and lenses, however, they tend to attract a wide variety of unscrupulous individuals; as a result, one must exercise extra caution while conducting business with potentially risky dealers.

And even if the buyer is familiar with the seller and is aware of how to avoid potential dangers when purchasing and selling equipment, there is still the question of whether or not one may purchase used lenses with complete peace of mind. The answer is “no” unless you have the opportunity to personally test the lens sample before making the purchase, so if you want to be a savvy shopper, you should be very open about your intentions with the seller and let them know that you intend to test the lens sample before making a purchase commitment.

Do not allow claims such as “lens barely used” or “in pristine condition” to sway you into purchasing a lens without first putting it through its paces to see whether or not it meets your needs. If you discover a problem with the lens after you have purchased it, it will be too late, and it is quite unlikely that you will be able to return the lens to the person who originally had it.

You are in luck since there is a multitude of techniques to safeguard yourself against the possibility of suffering severe monetary loss and to ensure that the item you intend to purchase is not a dud.

If a Used Lens Is On Sale, Does That Mean It’s Defective?

You might be surprised to find out that there aren’t as many dishonest people as you might imagine, and the majority of sellers have valid reasons for wanting to get rid of their items. Put this question to yourself: if you were to sell a lens that you had, would it necessarily indicate that you were attempting to trick someone into buying a piece of equipment that was defective or wasn’t working properly? People sell for a variety of reasons, including the realization that they don’t use a specific lens frequently enough to warrant keeping it in their collection or the discovery of an alternative that the seller believes is more suited to the way they work behind the camera.

It is common practice for individuals to trade in their zoom lenses for primes and vice versa. Some photographers begin to specialize in a subset of photography, such as bird photography, and as a result, they get rid of the wide-angle lenses that they no longer use. Some people are dissatisfied with a particular lens or would like to transfer to a different system, while you might not find either of those things to be all that bothersome. In any case, there are a vast variety of valid reasons to sell old equipment, and the number of good and trustworthy individuals who are prepared to part with their equipment far outnumbers the number of dishonest individuals and criminals by a significant margin.

Keeping this in mind, I am afraid it is necessary for me to point you that there are certain people who attempt to deceive consumers by selling them faulty equipment. Before making a choice to buy a lens, it is a good idea to familiarize oneself with some straightforward methods that can be used for a speedy evaluation of lenses. Unfortunately, not every photographer out there is going, to be honest about problems that are associated with their lenses.

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General Guidelines

When I want to acquire a used lens, I go through these straightforward steps:

1. Buy From a Trustworthy Source

It is important to check in the right places for used lenses that are currently for sale. Although many people choose to purchase used equipment from websites such as eBay, there are lots of active forums where photographers congregate to socialize and buy and sell old equipment. Some forums even feature a ranking and feedback system, which allows buyers and sellers to examine the histories of each other before committing to making a purchase or transaction.

If you have the ability to look into a person’s past sales, it is usually enough information to determine whether or not you can put your trust in them. If you are able to look through their prior classified advertising for selling old gear, you will be able to determine whether or not they are being truthful about the state of their gear. Dents, chips, and cracks should always be recorded by the seller, and high-resolution photographs of the item being sold should be provided, ideally from numerous perspectives.

2. Examine the Optical Condition

After you have determined that the lens is in good physical shape, the next step is to evaluate its optical state.

Make sure there is no fungus, dust, or scratches on the lens. The most effective method for doing so is to shine some light through the lens (using a basic flashlight or even the LED light from your smartphone should serve), at which point any flaws or faults should be readily apparent. Scratches and dust specks of a minor kind are very normal and should not be any cause for alarm because they seldom have any apparent influence on the image quality.


However, make sure not to miss any of the following:

  • Both the front and the back elements have sustained damage, with the damage to the rear element being particularly severe.
  • Deterioration of the lens coating
  • Large particles of dust or other debris contained within the lens
  • The lens elements appear to have a “cloudy” look.
  • Fungus/mold

Should you discover anything incorrect with the lens, the pricing ought to, of course, reflect this fact. If you observe damage to the back lens element, damage to the coating, or anything to do with fungus or mold, you should avoid using that lens. Dust particles and small scratches are OK; for more information, check our article on what to do with dust that is already within lenses.

3. Quick Tests With Your Camera

When shopping for secondhand lenses, you should never forget to carry your own camera with you. Before you make the purchase, you should question the vendor about whether or not they will be okay with you placing their lens on your camera and putting it through its paces. If they deny it, it is advised to avoid purchasing from that vendor since it is possible that they are trying to conceal anything.

When testing a lens on a camera, it is crucial to do so since doing so will allow you to immediately determine whether or not the lens has any possible issues that might affect its performance. It is possible for a lens to give off the impression that everything is OK with it from the outside, but once it is installed on a camera that is operating normally, any mechanical, electrical, or other issues that it may have will become immediately apparent.

It is also to your advantage to bring your own camera since some lenses may work very well on particular camera bodies but less so on others, and vice versa. Make sure to give that article a read in order to gain an understanding of why lens AF calibration difficulties may be so challenging to resolve. We have provided an in-depth explanation of this topic in our guide on lens calibration.

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