4 Things to Look for When Buying a Used Camera Lens
- Why Buy Used Camera Lenses?
- How to Buy a Used Camera Lens
- Private Party vs Online Platform
- 4 Things About Shopping for a Used Camera Lens
- Camera Mount Compatibility
- Condition Ratings for Used Camera Lenses
- Used Camera Lens Buyer Protection
- Dust In the Lens
- MPB Really Satisfies
- Camera mount compatibility
- Condition ratings
- Buyer protection
- Dust and wear
- How To Save Money When Buying Photography Gear
- How To Sell Used Photography Gear
- What To Do with Old Cameras and Lenses
Photo by bojanstory via iStock
Buying a used camera lens is a prospect that causes tons of anxiety for some people…
Yet, other photographers actually prefer this method for procuring “new” camera gear. So, what gives?
While the anxieties of buying used gear are well-founded, some photographers have found a tried-and-true way to get the best used camera lenses while minimizing risk. For me, that means shopping from a trusted online platform like MPB.
I’ll let you in on my MPB secret momentarily, but first, let’s explore why used gear is such a great option!
Table of Contents:
Why Buy Used Camera Lenses?
Buying used camera lenses is a great idea for many photographers for several reasons. The primary reason concerns the price of a used camera lens versus a brand-new retail version. Most of the time, you can save a considerable amount of money buying used.
An often hidden benefit of buying a used camera lens, especially from a seller you can trust, is that there is a good chance that if a lens is a dud, it’s been weeded out of the market or fixed already.
One other reason for buying a used camera lens is to get that lens you really wanted when it first came out, but never had the chance get. The only way to find some versions of lenses is on the used market.
A great example of this is the compact, relatively fast, alternative normal focal length Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2.0 D lens, which has been long discontinued. It’s still a fantastic lens, and if you search the used market, you can find excellent pre-owned examples of it for your kit.
How to Buy a Used Camera Lens
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The first step in how to buy a used camera lens is to find a way around the anxiety of possibly wasting money by buying a bad lens. I like to have some way to make sure I won’t get taken.
So, I do my research. I think about the used camera lenses I want and what they tend to fetch on the open market. MPB is a great source for learning more about used camera lenses and other gear.
Look for any user reviews of the lens or lenses you’re hoping to find, especially reviews from sources frequented by professional and other advanced users. A timely article from when the lens was introduced or some online sellers with review sections can provide a lot of useful information.
Private Party vs Online Platform
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To be honest, I much prefer purchasing anything with a large-ish price tag from an online platform than from any private seller. I also prefer an online platform over a local camera store.
I don’t want to disparage either of those groups of sellers, but a private party may not even be aware of any problems with their gear and a local camera store simply doesn’t have the volume of turn over that an online platform for selling used camera lenses and bodies typically has.
Not that these reasons have stopped me from ever buying something from a local brick-and-mortar store or private person…It’s just that I prefer an online platform such as MPB. You’ll understand why by the time you finish reading!
4 Things About Shopping for a Used Camera Lens
The 4 top things I consider when buying a used camera lens are:
Camera Mount Compatibility
When I’m out traveling on a photo trek or on a job, I sometimes run across garage sales, yard sales, and estate sales. You would be surprised how many people sell older camera gear this way.
Many times, I kid you not, I will open a bag or look in a box labeled as for sale and see a Minolta SRT or X-series camera body paired with a Pentax K-mount lens. Or a Konica TC with an Olympus OM-mount lens (or some other permutation of non-compatible cameras and lenses).
If I’m shopping for a lens to mount on a Canon EOS digital camera, I don’t want to end up with an FD-mount Canon lens. Even within the same mount, there may be significant differences affecting how that used camera lens fits or works on my camera body. Just look at all of the Nikon F-mount versions through the years!
If a lens (like the Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-TL) is being sold as fitting a Leica L-series camera, I want it to fit on my current digital Leica, Sigma, or Panasonic L-series mirrorless Full Frame format camera, and not end up being a lens for a 60s to 80s vintage Leica film SLR. You should be wary of the same.
Condition Ratings for Used Camera Lenses
Since I’m leaning towards online platforms such as MPB for my new-to-me used cameras and lenses, that means I’m not holding the gear in my hands before I click on the purchase button. Therefore, I rely on an accurate condition rating from sellers who know what they're talking about.
MPB is owned, operated, and manned by serious photographers, many of them top-level pros in their fields. They know what to look for when examining a lens and how to describe that condition accurately.
Every single camera and lens on MPB has been inspected in excruciating detail. If the lens condition says “Like New”, it’s indistinguishable from a brand-new lens. If it isn’t, for any small reason, it will be labeled “Excellent”. Specific details on “Good” or “Well Used” are highlighted in the listing as well.
For my money, this is actually better at times than my own physical inspection. I can easily miss something, but the crew at MPB has checks and balances, so few things are ever missed. And if they do miss something, well, see the next point below…
Used Camera Lens Buyer Protection
Buyer protection for an expensive item, used or new, is a big thing for me. The last thing you want from a major used camera lens purchase is to find out something is wrong with it and the seller is long gone. This can happen when buying from private sellers either in person or online.
An online platform specializing in used photo gear usually has a blanket policy of return or exchange periods, and some, like MPB, actually have store warranties. Imagine buying a relatively expensive lens such as the Fujifilm XF 50mm f/1.0 R WR lens and it comes to you not working properly. At MPB, if an item doesn’t qualify for either an exchange or warranty service, it will be clearly stated in the product description.
Dust In the Lens
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Some people take a small flashlight and shine it into the lens from the front and the back as a thorough inspection. What you can find out this way is if the lens has fungus, any mechanical issues such as an element out of alignment or faulty aperture blades, and how much dust is in the lens.
If a lens has fungus or mechanical issues, I put it back and won’t even consider buying it. In my experience it simply isn’t worth the trouble. Dust, on the other hand, isn’t a deal breaker. Here’s why - dust in a lens is as common as dust in the wind.
Most lenses have a certain amount of dust in them. This is true for a like-new condition lens like the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II or a 40 year old lens.
The catch is, if it’s a little bit of “normal” dust, it won’t affect your images. A large amount of dust affects contrast first and maybe overall sharpness if it’s a lot. Excessive dust may also be an indicator of a non obvious mechanical disorder.
MPB Really Satisfies
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For all four of these tips about how to buy a used camera lens, the online platform MPB satisfies in a big way. This is why I tend to look at their website first when thinking about cameras, lenses, and photo accessories.
Any major item they have for sale has been inspected by camera and lens experts and the results are clearly described in each listing. So the camera mount issues, lots of dust in the lens, fungus, mechanical issues, and other things are already seen and taken care of. They even take care to note the cosmetics of the used camera lenses.
Beyond that, virtually every major photo item sold by MPB has a 7-day return/exchange window and a 6-month warranty. Warranty service is provided by the expert repair techs from MPB. They know more about cameras and lenses than I can even list in an article.
If an item is so well used that it doesn’t qualify for these buyer protections, they tell you that right up front in the listing. The condition ratings are easy to understand and they list anything that might be a concern for some.
I use MPB a lot, not just for buying a used camera lens or camera body, but also for trading in or selling outright some of the gear I no longer need. MPB is completely fair and upfront about this process as well, and they make it an easy process from beginning to end.
Try out the online platform MPB for your next purchase. I’m sure you’ll be as pleased as I have been!