Buying a new lens is like buying a new car. There’s the excitement of having something that’s never been someone else’s before. It’s fun to get to know your new purchase, checking out all its bells and whistles. And, of course, putting your new purchase to the test is the height of fun.
But, again, just like buying a new car, buying a new lens can be financially draining. If you’ve ever looked at a high-quality new lens, you know that they cost a pretty penny. In fact, a lot of lenses cost every bit as much as a camera body, and often, quite a bit more.
So, although having that “new car smell” moment when you pull a brand new lens out of its perfectly new box is exhilarating, in many cases, you can find a used lens that has been well taken care of, performs perfectly, and is a fraction of the cost. Sure, you don’t get to be the one to use it for the very first time, but is that feeling really worth the extra money you’ll pay for a brand new piece of glass?
As you might have guessed, this second installment of our Lens Mastery Series focuses on the benefits of buying used lenses. Let’s explore a few of these advantages in more detail.
It’s Less Expensive
As we spoke of in the introduction, the biggest benefit of buying a used lens is the cost savings. Now, high-end lenses - even used ones - will still be a big investment, but certainly not as big of an investment as a brand new piece of glass. For example, the Sony 135mm F/2.8 STF Alpha Mount Autofocus Lens pictured above typically runs around $1,400 brand new, but you can find it used for under $1,000 and in excellent condition. That means that with the money you save on a used lens, you can afford to buy other pieces of gear for your kit - a filter, a new travel tripod, a lens hood, or perhaps even another used lens! In short, a used lens is like having extra money in your pocket that can help build your kit even further.
Good Used Glass is Easy to Find
Buying a used lens is advantageous from the standpoint that there are a ton of great, used lenses out there for consumers to snatch up. Thousands and thousands of photographers like you, who take great care of their gear, put their lenses up for sale in the hopes that their beloved lens finds a quality home. Searching for good used lenses, then, is a pretty straightforward and productive process, assuming you use the right channels (more on that later!).
You Can Still Get a Warranty
Getting a warranty on a used product isn’t always possible, but, again, if you go through the right channels, you can not only find a great used lens, but you can also get one with a warranty. This gives you the peace of mind that the used lens you buy is of a high enough quality that it deserves a warranty in the first place.
What’s more, it gives you a chance to test out your new-to-you lens and trust that your used purchase will indeed offer you the sharp, clear, beautiful images that you want your lens to create. Better still, some sellers even offer return policies, so if after a few days you just don’t think your used lens is up to par, you can return it.
The question is, where can you easily find well-priced, well cared for lenses with a warranty?
Use the Right Retailer
Unfortunately, many of our photography colleagues try to find the “deal of the century” on used lenses by going to websites like Craigslist, only to find that the lens that’s been advertised is not descriptive of the lens they get. The problem with Craigslist is that there is no guarantee that you’ll get what you pay for. In other words, you assume all the risk of the transaction - you trust that the person on the other end of the deal is honest and that the great deal you’ve found is legit.
Sure, sometimes there are great deals on Craigslist, but a lot of times, they’re just smoke and mirrors.
Our partner for this Lens Mastery Series is KEH, and hands down, they are the best outfit to find quality used lenses. As noted above, it’s important to be able to find the gear you want quickly and easily, and KEH provides that. Their website has a catalog of hundreds of lenses for dozens of camera systems and manufacturers. All you have to do is type in what you want in the search bar, and KEH will present you with lenses that match. Or, if you want to get really specific, you can search for a lens based on its type, its mount, its price, and a number of other crucial criteria.
And what about a warranty?
KEH gives you a six-month warranty on your lens purchase, so you can rest easy knowing that you’re covered as you get to know your used lens. Better still, you have 14 days to take your lens for a test run. If you decide it’s not the lens for you, just send it back to KEH, no questions asked. But, as you’ll find, the return policy won’t be a factor because every used lens KEH sells is put through a rigorous inspection. Before the lens is ever listed on their site, KEH technicians go over it with a fine-toothed comb, using a 10-point grading system to grade the quality of the lens. That means you know whether the lens is in like-new, excellent, or ugly condition before you ever hand over any money. In short, their grading system is the industry standard, so you can have the peace of mind that you know exactly what you’re getting.
All of these benefits offered to consumers is why KEH has been in the business for decades. In fact, they are the largest used camera dealer on earth, so you know that they know exactly what they’re doing. Heck, you can even trade in your current lens and upgrade to a new or used lens using the money you get for your current gear. Save money, save time, and get a great used lens that will serve you well. There isn’t a better way to buy a used lens than that!
Next in our Lens Mastery series, we explore the best lenses for beginner photographers with Nikon, Canon, and Sony camera systems.