Tips on How to Buy a Second Hand Lens

On this video, professional photographer Karl Taylor takes a look at a subject that interest a lot of photographers – buying second hand lenses – and more importantly, what to look for when you are looking to get one.

Our first advice (and Taylor seems to agree here) is to know what you are buying and try and do your homework. Start by checking out the exact model and brand you are getting – lots of lenses have several models with small (and sometimes large) differences (for example and old version of a 70-200mm lens might not have image stabilization, and even older version might not have AF – so be sure and triple check the exact model).

Next look at the lens – does it have lots of scratches or dents? if it does it’s possible that the lens also suffered some internal damage which may or may not be expensive to repair (so keep that in mind when negotiating the price if you decide to buy it). Another good advice from Taylor is to shake the lens a bit and listen if there are any loose parts inside (some lens have some stuff which shake and it might be normal but if you hear something that sound suspicious – that can be wearisome).

So far most of the stuff was kind of straightforward – here we are getting into the more interesting stuff. Taylor suggest to use a flashlight to look for internal dust, scratches and mold (so bring a flashlight with you). Finally inspect the lens in action – see that the focus and zoom ring (if there is any) turn smoothly, put it on the camera see that the AF works, if you can take a picture and have time look at it on the computer (wide open with good lighting conditions) – check the uniformity and the sharpness in the center and the edges on your computer (this isn’t always possible of course). One last thing that we will add and is true for any second hand equipment – try and ask the seller for the history of the lens and why is he selling it – this might help you learn more about it (or at least tell you something about the seller).

As for pricing Tylor suggest a general guideline (although this really depends on the lens, its condition, the seller etc.) of about 50% of the price of a new lens (with some older lenses this might be a little more tricky to determine).

You can find many more helpful photography tips on our Photography tips section here on LensVid.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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