Buy a used lens, or not?

Jim asks:

Hi Michael just wondering about your advice on a used camera lense….. I am looking at on Facebook market place …. it’s a canon wide angle zoom 10-22 for my canon 70D …. I am a little leery about buying a used lense and also buying and having it shipped sight unseen …

I understand the hesitation. The world is full of cheats and thieves.

But there are also at least as many honest people. Here’s my thoughts on buying a used lens.

  • Lenses tend to work practically forever, so I am generally in favour. You get a great lens for less than the new cost: why not? DO not expect a really really big discount though: lenses keep their value for decades.
  • Always ask the seller to promise that the lens is undamaged and in fully working order. Communicate via email or some other way that keeps a record.
  • Make sure you agree some course of action if that should not be the case.I am not talking about a full warranty, but what if after three hours the lens dies?
  • Ask for history: why are you selling, what did you use it for, do you have the box, etc. A good reason to sell would be “I am upgrading to full frame and this is a crop sensor lens”, for example.
  • Always ask for full contact details. I check them, and if it’s an expensive lens I have been known to take a copy of the seller’s driver’s license. After all, the lens could be stolen: it’s no more than a sensible precaution.
  • I am weary of Kijiji, so this caution doubly applies there.
  • As does this caution: “meet in a public place”.
  • eBay has warranties, so that is a little safer.
  • I like Facebook marketplace too: much fewer ‘flakes’ than on Kijiji. Check how long the Facebook user has had an account. If that’s “one week”, then you know there are alarm bells ringing.
  • When looking at a lens, take some photos at the extremes: fully zoomed in and out; lowest and highest f-number.
  • Check the prices on eBay – only look for “sold listings”!

Of course always keep in mind the old adage that “if it seems to be too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true”. But there are many good lenses to be had. So if the above all checks out, you should be fine. And there’s nothing like a new lens – fun!

2 thoughts on “Buy a used lens, or not?

  1. I buy almost all my gear used. My advice is use ratings. Fredmiranda is a great place to get used gear and has a good rating system. Ebay/Paypal has guarantees so you can test the heck out of your gear. I have never found any used gear to be lacking. If something bad does happen, the cost to you will certainly be less than the amount you save over time. (e.g. I got a lightly used D500 for 1K cheaper than new). When using Paypal, use the Paypal goods for buyer protection, instead of Paypal gift.

    The nice thing about used gear is that when you want to upgrade, you can sell it for almost the same price as the new gear (well, if it is lenses. Bodies depreciate faster.) I recently sold 3 lenses for about the same price as I bought them and the new owners were also quite happy.

    Another great place to get used gear is B&H. The used prices there are actually very reasonable these days, and their return policy is outstanding. I have seen prices there almost as good as private sales.

  2. Jason,
    ” If something bad does happen, the cost to you will certainly be less than the amount you save over time” – that is a very interesting, and entirely valid, perspective. And yes, agreed with the rest also.

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