How do I buy safe second hand lenses

How do I buy safe second hand lenses? This is a question I regularly encounter. Not only with my students, but also on the various photo forums I read often that people are still very reluctant to buying second hand lenses, as they are afraid the to buy the renowned ‘ pig in a poke ‘. Actually, that fear is not needed, as long as you know what to look for. Therefore, I think it’s time to write a clear article about this topic.

Second Hand Lenses

First of all you have to figure out what lens you want. Once you know, you can search for a used lens. It is of course possible to buy a used lens at a photo shop. However, this is not something that I would advise! Often you cannot even do extensive testing as in a private house and even when that is possible, it will always be more expensive. That makes sense, because the private individual wants to retrieve a certain amount for his lens, and it doesn’t matter to him whether he receives that from a store or from you.

The shop, however, is not a charity and would also like to make a profit. That profit is the amount that you paid more when you buy at a store compared with directly buying at the private seller. For this reason I advise so search on the various internet sites. Examples of internet sites where cheap second hand lenses for sale are: Amazon, photo equipment and Investigators.

The reason why I wrote down the Amazon online store, is that they come very close and are often cheaper than the private seller. With the extra security, that they give full warranty, and that you can test the purchased lens in your own surroundings.

Of course, there are still a lot of other options, but I do not mention everything, hence only these as an example.

In this article I will talk as if you are purchasing from a private seller, but as said before, I prefer the online amazon store. You can of course use the same procedure when buying at an online store or any other kind.

Second Hand Lenses Online – First contact

When you’ve found a lens, you can make an offer or contact the seller. From such a first contact, you can usually get an impression. For instance, if the seller very terse and there is little space to ask questions (without giving a good reason), that will usually give a low level of trustworthiness. Listen to your gut feeling! Usually, your first impression is the right and when you don’t have a good feeling from a seller, you can better go and search further.

Second Hand Lenses

Cheap Second Hand Lenses – Personal pickup

However, when everything sounds positive and you want to go buy the lens. Always pick up the lens yourself and check/try the lens as comprehensive as possible. When the seller, does not allow you to do that, you should not buy the lens, because then there is most likely a reason why he doesn’t want you to. You don’t want to find out after you buy, what that reason was!

Second Hand Lenses For Sale – External control

You should start the lens visually first, so before you put it on the camera. You look if there is damage on the outside, like scratches or dents. Do you see that, then the lens is probably not handled very gently. Of course it doesn’t have to mean that the lens no longer works well, but you need to be cautious, and also you use it to negotiate about the price.

You then need to check the glass very well for scratches. When the glass on the side of the camera is damaged, then you simply don’t buy it. If the glass at the other end is damaged, then this does not necessarily need to be a problem.

This front side of the lens is less important, since a scratch on this side is not always visible in your photo. So be aware and keep a close eye if you see the scratch on the photos. When you do not see the scratch on the picture, you can use the scratch only as an extra negotiating point to lower the price.

Second Hand Lenses For Canon – Contact points

The contact points on the side of the camera (the metal dots around the glass) must absolutely be undamaged and clean. Are they damaged, then you have a chance that the lens no longer ‘ communicates ‘ with your camera. The automatic features, such as light metering and autofocus could  no longer work. Then obviously you should not buy the lens.




I would not buy the lens, when these contacts are clearly dirty. You could, of course, clean this, but it’s a component that simply does not suppose to be, so I ask myself in that case how the lens is handled.

Second Hand Lenses Canon – Flexibility mechanism

Then you go to turn everything where you can turn and slide where you can slide. You do this to feel or it all goes smooth (but not too smooth) and especially to make sure there is no sand and such inside. Should there be problems, then you should not buy the lens.

Where To Buy Second Hand Lenses – Smell

The following point is something which most people laugh at me, and that it is quite incredulous to go check it out. But believe me, you have to smell the lens! That sounds crazy, I know, but when you have a stale air smell, then you know that the lens has been wet. In that case, it is again simple: you should not buy the lens.

Sell Second Hand Lenses – Sound

After all these visual and physical controls, it is important that you put the lens on your own camera. Then you know how that combination works together. First, check to see how the lens sounds when you focus in autofocus mode.

When it makes a lot of noise or sounds it is simply not good, then it could be that the engine is no longer in order. This is of course also a reason not to buy the lens. Important is that you have an idea how this lens normal is supposed to sound like.

You can test this in advance in a photo store. One lens makes default more sound than the other depending on which kind of engine is in it.

Buying Second Hand Lenses Online- Test pictures

Does the focus sound good and without weird noises, then you should make at least four photos. Two at the minimum zoom position (focal length) and two at the maximum zoom position. The first of those two is with the smallest aperture number (for example, f/2.8) and the second with the widest aperture number (for example, f/22).

When the seller gives you more time, you should certainly make use of it to make more photographs in intermediate positions. Don’t check the captured pictures on the camera itself. Your screen is simply too small and too inaccurate. Much better is it when the seller is so kind to offer the use of his computer so you can view it on a large monitor (I would ask in this in advance!).

Second Hand Lenses
Do you find this annoying to ask and you did not bring your own laptop or tablet with you, then try to borrow a laptop or tablet from someone else, because to check the photos on a large screen is really important! If the pictures don’t look good, then you should not buy the lens.

Tip: There is a nice article on this website about how to find the best camera for vlog   .

Do the photos look good, then you can certainly proceed with the sale, you have tested what you can test and the end result (the picture quality) is also to your liking, so why not buying second hand lenses online.  It saves you a lot of money!!

Cheap Second Hand Lenses For Sale – New price

One last tip: always check the new price, as there are still sellers who ask more for their second hand lenses than the current new price and then you will have a real hangover when you get home after the sale..

Cheap Second Hand Lenses For Canon – To sum up

The summary of when you should NOT buy the lens:

1. When you have a bad feeling about the seller.

2. When the seller is not allowing you to test.

3. When the glass on the side of the camera is damaged.

4. When the contact points are damaged.

5. When turning and sliding is causing problems (sand, etc.).

6. When the lens smells musty.

7. When focus makes strange noises or is not going well.

8. When the photos don’t look good after checking on a monitor.

Buying second hand lenses for canon are a good choice, if done correctly.

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