Buying Secondhand

With a booming secondhand market, there’s never been a better time to grab yourself a bargain

With the exception of a couple of budget gems, investing in a brand new lens can be a serious investment, especially if you want to get yourself a nice quality optic. But that’s only one option when looking for a new piece of glass as there’s a whole world of bargains to be had in the secondhand market, with masses of choice for most DSLR systems, as well as a growing catalogue of CSC lenses.



If you do spot anything, the optics may be compromised, resulting in excessive flare and other optical faults.

Another thing to look for depending on how older lenses may have been stored, is that they may also be affected by fungus or mould, and might need to be professionally cleaned. It can end up costing more than the lens itself.


If you’re looking at an autofocus lens, it’s worth trying it out on your own camera before you part with your cash.

It’s a good idea to check the focusing through a range of distances, from close-up to infinity to ensure the lens is performing smoothly and the AF motor is running correctly.

If you’re looking at buying a zoom lens, then it’s also a good idea to try the autofocus out through the zoom range as well.


Hold the lens up to the light and while looking through it, click through the aperture range of the Lens. Some lenses won’t feature an aperture ring, but you’ll normally be able to find a small Lever on the rear of the lens to stop it down and check the aperture blades. Sticking blades or blades opening unevenly can affect the exposure.


If you’re looking at a zoom lens, twist through the entire zoom range — if it feels gritty or not as smooth as you’d expect, there may have been some dirt that’s crept into the mechanism. Another problem is zoom creep — the zoom will extend unaided when attached to your camera in transit. Neither of these issues will affect image quality, but may become an annoyance over time.


Finally, gently shake the lens — if it rattles, then one of the elements may be loose, which could cause focusing problems.

Where to buy?

If you’re looking at buying an older lens, it’s worth remembering they were designed for matt film emulsions rather than the shiny surfaces of a digital camera sensor, so may be more susceptible to reflections and other aberrations than more modern optics. This shouldn’t discourage you from considering older lenses, but a thorough check and a bit of research is advised to ensure that a seemingly bargain piece of glass doesn’t turn out to be a huge disappointment.

When looking to buy a used lens, you’ve got a couple of options. The most obvious option is a local camera shop — you can go down there and check the lens out for yourself, trying it on your own gear, while there are many mail order dealers in the UK that have extensive ranges of used gear.

While you won’t be able to try the lens yourself, most will have a clear grading system for used equipment, so you know what kind of condition to expect it to be in — if you’re not happy with it, you’ll be able to return the item unless otherwise stated.

Finally, there’s eBay. There are some great bargains to be had on there, but approach with caution if you haven’t used the site before -you can end up paying inflated prices if you don’t do your research.

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