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Buying used lenses...

Discussion in 'Lens Matters' started by A.B-C, Mar 20, 2021.

  1. A.B-C

    A.B-C Member

    What do people here think about buying second-hand lenses? Is it a smart way of saving money or too much of a gamble?
  2. beatnik69

    beatnik69 Well-Known Member

    I've only ever bought one used lens and that was because it came with the camera. I've had no problems with either (apart from the strong cigarette smoke smell which took a while to go). I know that quite a few people on here buy used lenses with few issues.
    A.B-C likes this.
  3. neilt3

    neilt3 Well-Known Member

    Almost all my lenses were bought used .
    Check the description , check the photos , ask questions .
    i.e , is it free of fungi , excessive dust , haze etc .
    Does the zoom and focus move freely , does the aperture work correctly .
    Any faults , don't buy , any B/S from the seller , don't buy .
    If it arrives in a condition other than described , send it back .
    Don't take any old flannel from the seller if it has faults that they didn't state .

    Between film and digital I've probably got between 150 to 200 lenses , maybe more (!) .
    Most of the lenses I use every day on my Sony a900 are Minolta a mount lenses made in the late 1980's , some of which would have cost several thousand £££'s when new , still work great today , but at a fraction of the price .

    Decide what you need and do your research .
    Third party lenses can be hit and miss on functionality as there electronics were backward engineered , especially Sigma .
    So old lenses might not even work on newer bodies .
    So if your buying for your new Nikon camera , stick with Nikon lenses .
    One word of warning though , some Nikon lenses are focussed by a motor in the camera body , some lenses have a motor built into them .
    Not all camera bodies have a motor in the body .
    IIRC your camera doesn't have a motor in it , do make sure you get the right lens

    So something like a 50mm AF/D lens on your camera might be manual focus only , you need a 50mm AF/S G lens ( I think the correct term is ) .

    If you want to buy used , with a guarantee buy from somewhere like Fforddes in Scotland .
    Good service , fair price , and they'll look after you .
    I've bought a lot off them over the years , even before tinternet turned up and you looked at the advert in Amatuer Photographer magazine and phoned them up !
    A.B-C likes this.
  4. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    When I was younger, and with a growing family, s/h was the only option. Buying from a shop, with warranty, is the best thing. I personally wouldn’t buy sight unseen and without trying the lens on my camera. Companies like MBP and FFordes specialise in s/h equipment by mail-order but most camera shops deal. I buy through LCE, we have a good local store. There are potential compatibility problems with older lenses and newer cameras, now that there is so much electronic interdependence between camera and lens, so try before you buy is advised.
    A.B-C likes this.
  5. A.B-C

    A.B-C Member

    Thank you for such an indepth response!
  6. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I've bought at least a couple of hundred second hand lenses over the last 50 years. I've had two bad ones out of the lot, so in my experience, it's unusual to get caught out. That said, only buy from someone you can get your money back from if you're unlucky.
    A.B-C likes this.
  7. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    I mainly buy used kit, including lenses. I have had to return three, all from Ebay, in one case the seller refunded quickly with an apology, in the other two I ended up opening cases, which I won. All had fungus, one also had other faults, including a cracked focus distance window, the seller had carefully concealed that fault in the pictures.
    A.B-C likes this.
  8. John Farrell

    John Farrell Well-Known Member

    Of late, most lenses I buy - manual focus lenses for film cameras - have been from an auction house. I don't pay a lot for them, and I have the tools and knowledge to clean most of them. I avoid, though, having to clean more complex zoom lenses.
    A.B-C likes this.
  9. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    In much smaller quantities than some I have used ffordes for selling and WEX for buying. In both cases I was impressed by the rigour of their descriptions and the quality of their service. I Will use them again.
    A.B-C likes this.
  10. swanseadave

    swanseadave Well-Known Member

    I`ve had only one issue with second hand lenses,sluggish aperture blades on a
    Minolta 35-70 f4 which happened many months after buying it on Ebay.
    Nothing lost really since I have a good copy too.
    I had thought to sell it spares or repair but didn`t want the hassle.
    It just sits on a shelf.
    A.B-C likes this.
  11. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    Out of my 24 Alpha-fit lenses in regulars use (in a normal year), 9 were purchased new, 2 were new/old-stock, 1 was ex demo, and the rest - half my collection - were all eBay second hand. I also have a couple of tele-zooms that were eBay purchases that were marginal, due to minor decentering but kept unused as a spare, one eBay purchase that would have gone back had I tested it more thoroughly before acceptance (very bad decentering and sitting prominently in my study as a memento caveat emptor) and one badly fogged lens from a reputable seller that told me to chuck it and gave me all my money back.

    On the basis of those data, I would say careful buying of second-hand lenses is worth the savings that can be made, and enables the purchase of lenses for special purposes that might be out of reach otherwise.
    A.B-C likes this.
  12. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Of course even a brand new lens can suffer from decentering, I wonder what the manufacturer does with those that are returned as such, my suspicion is they become the "refurbished" items. I have my own view of what the refurbishment consists of and I suspect it is not a visit to the workshop and the collimator.
    A.B-C likes this.
  13. pixelpuffin

    pixelpuffin Well-Known Member

    I currently have between 30-40 canon EF lense. All but one was purchased used. Knowing I can resell and recoup most if not more than what I paid is a great justification for buying used.
    A.B-C likes this.
  14. Bazarchie

    Bazarchie Well-Known Member

    I have no problem buying used lenses but I avoid ebay and similar. I need the comfort of a warranty from a retailer of used goods even it costs more.
    A.B-C likes this.
  15. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    All of the 6 lenses I have purchased in the last 10 years have been second hand, in person from an LCE branch or from the websites of other reputable UK retailers who advertise in AP and offer guarantees on their stock because they have checked it. The only 'problem' was once when a the description of a lens was for a newer version of the one pictured on the website, but an email exchange clarified everything (the old model lens was pictured, but description and price was for the newer model). The price was adjusted and I purchased it.

    I have an APS-C DSLR, and this is the list of my second hand lenses. All are autofocus and have always worked perfectly, although I did need to adjust the camera body's autofocus settings for the 30 mm (which only needs to be done once and was clearly explained in the camera body's user manual).

    Sigma 10-20 (old model)
    Sigma 17-70 (old model - the lens referred to above)
    Sigma 30 F 1.4
    Sigma 50 F 2.8 macro
    Tamron 90 F 2.8 macro (now over 20 years old)
    Tokina 80-400 (now over 20 years old)

    If you don't need (rather than want) all the latest 'must have' features, or don't want to pay for them, or can't afford them, then buying second hand from reputable dealers is highly recommended. If there is any doubt about the condition of a lens, or its compatibility with your camera body, ask the retailer (not advice I would offer if you are risking buying on eBay). AP still has some old reviews on the website, and I have found the Pentax Forums website very helpful for details about older lenses - not just Pentax ones, as this link will show. If you want to experiment with old manual focus lenses, there are some fantastic bargains to find.


    Finally, you don't say what make or type of camera body you have. You will find much more choice of second hand lenses in Canon and Nikon DSLR fittings than you will (for example) Fuji 'mirrorless' camera bodies. So if you plan to buy second hand lenses, and have not yet got a camera body, you can consider the camera body purchase first so that you have the best choice (and best prices)
    of second hand lenses.
    A.B-C likes this.
  16. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    Only twenty years old? Three of my favourite tele-zooms date back to the mid-eighties. I suspect my Tamron 500mm catadioptric predates even that. :p

    They don't make 'em like they used to! :D
    A.B-C likes this.
  17. neilt3

    neilt3 Well-Known Member

    Some people like to have the newest gear ! ;)
    A.B-C likes this.
  18. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    If you buy some of the cheapest used lenses you will end up with some that have real problems, but of the hundreds I've brought that claimed to be good quality there have been very few issues.
    I have brought job lots in the past which where listed as untested, most of these were in poor condition but in reality there was only one of the lenses that really interested me and the job lot was cheap enough I could get that lens serviced & still get it at a bargain price.
    FWIW only about 3% of my lenses have been brought new. Unlike @Chester AP I'm very happy buying from e-bay (where I get my money back if it's not as described) as well as local charity shops (where I can inspect the lens first).
    I'm pretty sure the average age of my lenses is over 20 years, most would be from between 1960 & 1990, and I have several from the 1930's. A couple of the brass ones are probably over 100 years old, but they don't have features that allow definite dating (not even a manufacturers name).
    A.B-C likes this.
  19. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    My concerns about eBay come from looking at used audio equipment and camera lenses offered for sale there, and noting that many of the descriptions had clearly been written by somebody who knew nothing about the item. Perhaps I just managed to find the worst examples.
    A.B-C likes this.
  20. neilt3

    neilt3 Well-Known Member

    There are plenty of idiots out there trying to sell stuff and they think by listing it as "used" means they can sell any old crap and get away with it .
    eBay's definition is that it has to be in good condition and full working order .
    I always ask the questions if they haven't made it clear that it's in good condition .
    Is it free of fungus .
    Are the optics free of dust .
    Is it in full working order .

    If they don't confirm this , I don't buy .
    If they do confirm this , and it turns up not as described , I don't bother contacting them anymore .
    I just open a case as " not as described " or "faulty" .
    A returns shipping label is provided by eBay , that is tracked , and they have just a few days to issue the full refund before eBay steps in .

    So apart from a bit of inconvenience , there's no risk involved in buying .
    If you do raise a claim , make sure to include photos to clearly show the faults .
    Petrochemist and A.B-C like this.

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