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Buying Used Lenses

With new lenses getting more costly all the time, many photographers choose to buy used gear and save money. Whilst certain lenses can only be purchased new (at least for a while), the used lens market is frequently full of great lens choices, specifically for someone on a tighter budget. In this post I will try to explain the benefits of purchasing used lenses, as well as give you several tips on how to buy used lenses on-location knowing you’ ll get a top quality piece of equipment you will be happy with for years in the future.

The reason why Buy Used Lenses?

The obvious reason is to cut costs, of course. Used lenses (in completely functional condition) can be bought significantly cheaper compared to brand new ones and if you are fortunate, you could get a barely used zoom lens at a fraction of its original store price. This can be especially important whenever switching systems – you can frequently buy lenses for as much as a person sold those of the previous brand, after switching relatively painless. Newer generation utilized lenses and those in excellent problem will obviously be quite a bit more costly compared to the older ones, but still significantly cheaper than what you’ deb get if you bought them completely new. In any case, buying used gear is really a personal choice, as not many people are comfortable with the process. While I have individually had good luck with buying utilized gear, I have heard of all kinds of scary stories, with people getting mugged or even scammed when buying lenses plus cameras. Unfortunately, cameras and lens do attract all kinds of bad individuals due to their high value, so one has to rehearse extreme caution when dealing with potentially dangerous sellers.

And even in case one knows the seller or understands how to be safe when selling and buying gear, another concern is whether utilized lenses can be bought with full confidence. Unless you possess a chance to thoroughly test the zoom lens sample yourself before making the buy, the answer is “ no”, this is why as a smart shopper you should be really open about your intentions with all the seller and let them know that you are going to test the lens sample just before committing to a purchase. Don’ to let statements such as “ zoom lens barely used” or “ within pristine condition” lean you in the direction of buying a lens without first checking out it out. If you find something incorrect with the lens after you buy this, it will be too late and you will most likely not have the ability to return the lens back to the previous owner.

Thankfully, there plenty of ways to make sure that you are certainly not buying a dud and to protect your self from potentially serious financial harm.

If an Used Lens Is For sale, Does That Mean It’ s Faulty?

There aren’ t all that many untrustworthy people as you may think, and most sellers have got good reasons to get rid of their gear. Think about a question: if you were to sell the lens of your own, would that required mean that you are trying to fool somebody into buying broken or not working piece of equipment? There are numerous reasons why people market – some sellers find these people don’ t use that particular zoom lens enough to justify owning this, or they may have found an alternative these people think is more suitable for their type of shooting. People sell zoom lens in favor of primes, and vice-versa, constantly. Some start to get into a specific kind of photography, for example – bird pictures, and thus sell off their abandoned wide-angle lenses. Others want to make the switch to a different system or have the frustration with a particular lens that you might not find all that annoying. In any event, there are many good reasons to sell used equipment and there are plenty of great and sincere people out there willing to part with their equipment, outnumbering tricksters and thieves simply by quite a big margin.

With that in mind, I’ m afraid I have to mention that some people do attempt to fool buyers by selling all of them defective gear. Unfortunately, not every professional photographer out there is going to be honest about problems related to their lenses, which is why this is a good idea to be familiar with simple techniques to rapidly evaluate lenses before making a buying decision.

General Guidelines

Here are simple steps I take whenever buying an used lens:

1) Purchase from a Trustworthy Source

The place where you look for utilized lenses on sale matters. While many choose to buy used gear from areas like eBay , there are many busy forums where photographers spend time and buy / sell used equipment. Some forums even have a position and feedback system, so that the purchasers and sellers can quickly check every other’ s history before investing in a purchase or sale. When you can check a person’ s promoting history, it is often enough to see if they happen to be going to be trustworthy enough delete word. And if you can see their previous advertisements for selling used gear, it is possible to figure out if they are honest about their own gear condition or not. Things such as nicks, chips and cracks should always end up being reported by the seller, along with high res images of the gear on sale, ideally from multiple angles.

Another place where people usually buy used gear is Craigslist ads. Unfortunately, that’ s where you are very likely to come across scammers and thieves, and that means you have to practice extreme caution when coping with sellers there. Make sure that the person who is certainly selling the camera gear will be knowledgeable about what they are selling and they supply all the necessary contact information. Whenever arranging a place to meet, make sure that you get it done in a safe environment for the two of you. A good rendezvous point would be close to a police station. If the vendor refuses to show up, it is best that you prevent that transaction, even if it sounds just like a deal of the century. Remember, when something sounds too good to become true, it probably is…

Make sure you know how to contact the individual you’ re buying a lens through, as well as their full name. Look all of them up on Google, Facebook and other social media marketing sites to see if such individual really exists. In this day and age, a lot of people probably have an online profile someplace.

Having an option to come back the lens is certainly useful, therefore check and see if the seller is ready to take the lens back if some thing goes wrong.

2) Examine External and Interior Condition

Before conducting any comprehensive tests with a camera, always make sure to look at the exterior and the interior condition from the lens.

  • Scratches and Dents: the way a lens looks will be able to tell a lot about how it was previously used. Proper drainage . any serious scratches on it? In the event that it’ s nothing major, a person shouldn’ t worry, but the cost should reflect this. Things might get a little more serious once you examine anchoring screws and rubber pieces holding the particular lens together (if they are visible) – if you see visible represents, it might be an indication of disassembly and reassembly and potential mechanical or even electronic problems in the past. Unless the vendor indicates that the lens was fixed by a professional service technician (in which case they should be willing to give a receipt / invoice), you might want to keep away from such lenses. Also, some expert lenses like 24-70mm f/2. eight and 70-200mm f/2. 8 may have substantial wear and tear marks – experts usually use their gear without having to worry too much about cosmetic damage, due to the fact lenses are just their everyday equipment (many photographers forget that). When the damage is reflected on the cost, don’ t worry about those excessive, since pro-grade gear is designed to endure abuse. Some loss of paint or even rubber can happen, as long as you’ lso are fine with it, and it shouldn’ big t affect the optical properties of the zoom lens in question.

    Dents, however , really are a bit more serious, as they are often a sign of physical damage in the past (due to being dropped). No matter what the vendor says, you will need to inspect lenses along with dents thoroughly, since optical quality could be severely affected.

  • Cross-threaded Filters: each plastic and metal filter strings can be easily cross-threaded, and it’ s not that simple to live along with such a lens, especially if you rely on filter systems a lot. Examine filter threads carefully before making a purchase. Ideally, discover what the filter thread size is beforehand, and bring your own filter to try with (a cheap filter is perfect for this). If the filter thread is definitely busted and you still want to buy the particular lens, make sure that the price reflects this particular. Repairing a filter thread is just not easy, as it often requires changing the lens barrel.
  • Buttons and Switches: if they lens you are purchasing has buttons and switches, be sure to examine them and test when they actually work. Switches should not be trapped and buttons should be fully functional.
  • Check Aperture Cutting blades: before you mount the particular lens on your camera, inspect the particular aperture blades from the front as well as the back of the lens – perform they appear normal? If there is a good aperture lever on the back from the lens (as in the case of older Nikon lenses), move the lever together with your hand and see if the aperture opens plus closes properly:

    Any kind of oil marks on the blades? Perform they move smoothly and openly? If the lens has an electronic diaphragm, you will need to test it on your camera, because instructed below.
  • Focus and Zoom Rings: depending on how long the zoom lens has been used, the zoom band should offer some resistance, yet can never be wobbly and totally loose. If it’ s super easy to turn, that may indicate the zoom lens has been used quite a lot and some from the bearings might have worn off on the inside. Look for zoom creep – if the zoom lens is not supposed to have it and it really does, it might be time to get it serviced. Preferably, both focus and zoom bands should be smooth and offer some opposition. You should not hear any grinding noises as you rotate either ring, considering that might be an indication of dust or even sand inside the lens, which is definitely not a good thing. The lens should certainly be able to run through the whole scale associated with both focus and zoom bands. If a focus or zoom band has a dent on it, it may influence precision and smoothness of procedure.
  • Lens Rattling: while some lenses (especially those with image stabilization in them) will naturally rattle, it is still a smart idea to give a slight shake and ensure that you don’ t hear any insane rattling sounds coming from the inside of the zoom lens. You do not want any lens components to be loose.

3) Look at Optical Condition

Once you physically inspect the zoom lens, it is a good idea to examine its optic condition.

Check the zoom lens for fungus, scratches and dirt. The best way to do that is to shine several light through the lens (with an easy flashlight – even the LED gentle from your smartphone should suffice) – any imperfections should then end up being clearly visible. Small scratches plus dust specs are nothing to become worried about – they happen plus rarely have any kind of noticeable impact on image quality.

However , watch for the following:

  • Damage to front and rear components (damage to rear element is particularly serious)
  • Damage to zoom lens coating
  • Large dirt or other particles inside the zoom lens
  • “ Cloudy” look of the lens elements
  • Fungus / mold

If you find anything wrong with all the lens, the price should obviously reveal this. Dust particles and some scrapes are OK (see our content on how to proceed with dust inside lenses ), but if you see damage to back lens element, damage to coating or even anything to do with fungus or mold, stay away from that lens.

4) Quick Tests With Your Camera

Always make sure to bring your personal camera when buying used lens. Ask the seller if they are going to end up being comfortable with you mounting their zoom lens on your camera before the purchase plus thoroughly testing it. If they decline, it is probably best to avoid that will seller, as they might be trying to conceal something.

The reason why it is very important test a lens on a digital camera, is because you will be able to quickly find out if there is any potential problem with the particular lens. A lens might show up perfectly normal on the outside, but it may have mechanical, electronic and other problems that can simply be identified when it is mounted on an adequately functioning camera. It is also beneficial to provide your own camera, because some lens might do well on some digital camera bodies and not so well upon others. We have explained this in depth in our Zoom lens Calibration guide, therefore make sure to give that article the read to understand why lens AF calibration issues can be painful to cope with.

Once you mount the particular lens on your camera, turn the particular camera on, set it in order to Aperture Concern mode and have a picture. The first test is to ensure that the lens works, so a fast picture should reveal any severe problems. If the lens has an autofocus motor, make sure to test its autofocus by focusing on a close object, after that an object in the distance. If you are assessment a zoom lens, do this for all central lengths to make sure that autofocus does not secure at any focal length. Don’ to worry about inspecting each image in 100% zoom at this point – you might be simply testing how well the particular AF motor works.

If the lens has an electronic diaphragm or a mechanical diaphragm that is managed through the camera, make sure to test the particular lens at different apertures. I favor to shoot at least two pictures – one at wide open aperture and one fully stopped down. Examine the images and make sure that these people look properly exposed. If the pictures come out very bright or extremely dark, the diaphragm / aperture could be malfunctioning.

If the zoom lens you are interested in buying has image stablizing / vibration reduction, make sure to provide a thorough test. Turn image stablizing on (usually a switch on the medial side of the lens) and try taking photos while hand-holding the lens. Ensure that stabilization works and there is no insane jumping around of framing within the viewfinder.

5) Detailed Optical Lab tests

This is the component that will most likely get the seller quite a lot anxious, since it is rare to find anyone who would perform detailed zoom lens tests. However , given how much difference there can be in lenses, I always suggest to properly test them, no matter if the zoom lens is brand new or used. When the used lens you are buying went through all the previous tests and yes it looks good, this is one region where it might fail miserably. Let’ s go through the steps I would recommend before committing to purchasing an used zoom lens:

  • Check for Lens Decentering: ever heard of a lens with a decentered lens element? Those could be unpleasant lenses to deal with, since you will never be capable of getting the whole frame sharp when taking photos. While most lenses suffer from decentering (and yes, it is normal), you should make sure that this lens sample you are looking at does not have any kind of serious decentering problems. Decentering is usually something you can test for very quickly – photograph a distant subject from the hill or a tall building, prevent down the lens to f/5. 6-f/8 and analyze the corners. In the event that all the corners look relatively exactly the same, you have a good sample. If 1 corner looks very sharp, as the other looks very soft, you most likely have a decentered lens element. If you fail to be on top of a hill or perhaps a tall building, you can try to picture a flat wall (such as a packet wall), but you will need to be very careful – if the wall is not perfectly seite an seite to your camera, your results will never be accurate. Slight differences in the sides are fine, but if you see substantial blur on one side of the framework, stay away from such lenses.
  • Autofocus Accuracy: this one is also very important to check. Once more, see my article on how to calibrate lens to understand the process much more detail. The idea is to focus on a topic with AF Fine Tune settings switched off and see how accurately the zoom lens focuses when compared to a shot focused within live view. If the lens concentrates accurately and the subject appears razor-sharp, you have a good sample. If the concentrate is way out of whack, you might like to stay away from the lens, unless this is a lens that you connect to a gaming console and fine tune later yourself (such as the Sigma Art series or maybe the new generation Tamron lenses which are compatible with the Tap-in console). Usually, if a lens requires dialing a lot more than? 0 in AF Fine Tuning, it requires to be sent to the manufacturer for modification.
  • Test Clarity: before you buy the zoom lens, make sure to check out its reviews initial, to see at which apertures and central lengths the lens performs the very best and the worst. For example , if you know that the 70-200mm f/2. 8 lens must be very sharp at f/5. six at all focal lengths, stop the particular lens down to f/5. 6 plus take some pictures at various focal lengths and see if it is effective at yielding sharp images (this is particularly an important test for landscape professional photographers, who need edge-to-edge sharpness on this kind of lenses). Make sure to focus precisely through live view, so that you avoid any kind of potential focusing errors from the phase detection autofocus system. You should pay attention to any significant differences in sharpness from different focal lengths.

Be as thorough as possible when buying used lenses – you will save yourself a lot of nerves, money in the process. Given how much camera equipment is out there, buying used lenses is a good option today – just make sure towards your routine right, and you’ lmost all feel as confident as you are along with camera retailers.

Delighted shopping!

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