Video: Useful Tips for Buying Second-Hand Lenses

When it comes to buying glass, deciding what you want and how much you’re willing to spend can be difficult even in the best of conditions. So, naturally, when buying second-hand glass, an added layer of caution is needed to make sure you’re getting what you’re looking and paying for.

To help with that, photographer Karl Taylor is sharing a few tips he’s found useful in his many years of experience. From the basic rule of looking to ensure that what you’re purchasing is what was advertised, to checking the front and rear lens elements for any scratches, Taylor goes over a nice list of things that will help make sure you don’t get the short end of the stick.

Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 10.45.04 AM

Coming in at just shy of nine minutes, it’s a bit lengthy, but there’s some very useful (and potentially money- and headache-saving) advice in there. So check out the video for a few suggestions from Taylor, and then let us know in the comments if you have any tips you’d like to add.

(via ISO 1200)

  • Kynikos

    Nothing to do with online buying.
    It’s all about looking in with a flashlight, shaking it by your ear, etc.
    Crap link.

  • Jay Scott

    Agreed! All the things you cannot do when buying online. Really, “check to make certain it’s the lens advertised by the markings.” This is common sense, not a useful tip.

    Nice lighting for the video, though.

  • Spawn666949

    Everybody’s a freakin’ know-it-all.

  • Zos Xavius

    Just buy from KEH! They will make you happy or give you your money back. Guaranteed! Their prices are great too! I just bought a refurbished camera and lens from them, which they will also warranty for an extra 3 months past the manufacturer’s warranty (6 months total). The last lens I returned to them they even refunded me for shipping. Their lens ratings are highly conservative. Even their bargain grade lenses are nicer than you would think. KEH rules!

  • Analog Machine

    ….And why that stupid Manual/2Sec technique for checking the aperture blades!!?? Did he ever heard about something called DoF Preview Button??? (And even if it’s totally marginal he could’ve spared some Shutter Cycles with that)
    So much for that “Professional Photographer” :D

  • Kynikos

    KEH is great. I have never had occasion to ask for my money back as I find their grading more than fair.
    I have also had good luck with B&H and popflashphoto.

  • Zos Xavius

    Yeah, I usually never have a problem with them. I’m pretty picky about lenses and this one showed a bit of decentering at 200mm, so back it went. For a lot of people, it would have been a fine lens.

  • Ian

    please also check if there is a serial number. 3 years ago I bought an Ultra wide angle lens with a serial number erased. possibly because it was stolen from someone. I cant do anything about it, so I charged it to experience.

  • pgb0517

    Could be a very useful tip. There are a lot of abbreviations used in model identifiers, and it’s a good reminder to look for, say, the “VC” on a Tamron lens if you think you’re buying one with vibration compensation. It must be nice to never make mistakes, though.

  • Edgar Allan Bro

    Useful ebay tip: if the person takes a dozen photos and covers all angles, categorically stating that the lens is in flawless condition with no marks, scratches or fungus…. feel free to message them asking about the condition and whether there are marks, scratches or fungus.


  • Frodo

    I’ve seen this on a used 5D. The seller actually took a picture of it. I was like WTF.

  • AGK

    Some of us have re-assigned the DoF Preview Button as toggle AF servo mode.
    It’s actually faster to just set the shutter speed to 2 sec like he suggested than going in, change the custom settings and then change it back again…

  • AGK

    Check the serial numbers with Lenstag..

  • Ralph Hightower

    I agree with KEH and B&H. I’ve bought a used Canon F-1N from KEH and a Canon FD 28mm f2.8 from B&H. KEH replaced the F-1N when the AE Finder FN quit working. Great service from both!