Pawn shops are hit and miss for photographers, but when they’re a hit, they can be a freaking HIT.
During one of my bi-monthly visits to all the local pawn shops in my town, I came across the sight above. It was a popular Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens that had an “As Is” label and a $99.99 price tag. A hundred bucks? Even for a broken copy of this lens that’s a great deal — you can sell just the parts on eBay for between $200 and $500…
I ask to see the lens, and then I discover that it looks like only the lens filter is shattered, not the front element! “It’s been popular,” the employee tells me. “A few people have looked at it so far today.”
I ask her if they had any Canon cameras in the shop that I could test the lens with. There weren’t.
“It’s completely broken,” she tells me. “It doesn’t work at all.”
Since I couldn’t test the lens and since it was listed “As Is,” I ask if I can buy it for $50 cash. She agrees.
After arriving home, I test the lens out. After removing the broken lens filter — a nice B&W brand filter — I found that the front element glass was in fantastic condition. There were some scuffs on the filter ring, but aside from that, cosmetically the lens was great.
Next, the moment of truth: confirming that the lens is “completely broken.”
“Oh hey! The MF/AF switch is set to Manual Focus,” I discovered. “I’ll put it on Auto and see what happens…”
Zip, whirr, beep. The lens’ autofocus works like a champ.
And that’s how I found and purchased a fully functional Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens for just fifty bucks. Finds like is are why I visit pawn shops so often. Usually I don’t find any good deals — next to this lens was a Nikon D3000 for the “low low” price of “just” $549.99, and I found a Canon 20D with an 18-55mm kit lens for “just” $1,199. But when I do find a deal, sometimes I strike gold.
If you have any pawn shops near you, you should check them out every so often. I have 4 on my daily commute home, and if I change my drive just a little, I can visit 5 more on other days. Visiting doesn’t take me much time, and on a good day (like the day above), I can easily find myself a new piece of camera gear (or hundreds of dollars in profit).
About the author: Jay Leavitt is a hobbyist photographer who tries to push himself as far as he can go. With many budget constraints around him at times, he does what he can to not let them hold him back at all. Leavitt blogs at Shooting on a Budget.