Photographer Finds $1,400 Lens for $7 at Thrift Store

One extremely lucky photographer recently experienced the find of a lifetime at his local Goodwill thrift store. While looking through the home entertainment section, he was shocked to find a $1,399 professional camera lens priced at just $6.99.

Luke of the Portland-based analog film camera shop Film Supply PDX often visits thrift stores to hunt for vintage equipment to resell through his business. While he regularly finds products to sell, he has never come across anything so valuable due to the way thrift stores usually handle such items.

“Here in Portland, Oregon, they send most of their camera donations to this one superstore on the east side, but they save all the high-value items for their online auction site,” Luke tells PetaPixel. “I’ve been shopping there consistently since 2014, mostly for film cameras to sell on my side business @filmsupplypdx, and I never really have seen any good digital cameras or lenses before that day.”

It was at the tail end of one visit that the photographer just happened to be in the right place at the right time to spot the unusual item coming out from the employee-only area.

“I had already checked the shelves and was about to head out when I noticed an employee pushing a new cart out of the back, loaded up with all sorts of things,” Luke says. “So I went over and looked before he had a chance to stock anything from the cart, and saw a lens that looked like a Canon L series.”

Canon’s L series of lenses — L stands for Luxury — are the highest-end photography lenses produced by the Japanese camera manufacturer, and the distinctive red ring at the front of the barrels is a visual indicator that the lenses are designed for professional photographers.

However, spotting a Canon L lens at a thrift store can often be deceiving since coffee mugs designed to look like the lenses became a hit in the photography community about a decade ago until even Canon began producing its own lens-inspired drinkware.

“I didn’t immediately get my hopes up, since I’ve seen dozens of those fake Canon lens mugs, but I grabbed it from under the pile of donations and realized it was actually a 50mm f/1.2 L series lens!” Luke says.

The lens weighed 1.3 pounds — clearly too heavy to be a mug — and had the solid feel of a professional camera lens. The bottom cap of the lens had a Goodwill price tag that read “Home Entertainment $6.99.” And taking off the lens cap revealed high-quality glass rather than an empty space for drinks.

Luke rushed to check out and found his hand quivering as he tried to capture some video clips documenting his once-in-a-lifetime find.

“I was shaking as I ran up to the register and had them check me out, then biked home as fast as I could to try it on a Canon EF film camera.”

The lens Luke found was a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM that retails for $1,399.

After getting home, taking a closer look, and trying the lens out on a camera, Luke was delighted to find that it was fully functional and in immaculate condition.

“Sure enough, the thing is spotless,” he says. “Can’t believe I found it there. Don’t know how they messed that one up and I hope they don’t read this article and crack down on it too hard, haha.”

It remains to be seen whether there are other valuable pieces of Canon camera equipment to be found at Goodwill stores in Portland, perhaps donated by one very generous former Canon photographer.

Image credits: Photso and videos courtesy Luke of Film Supply PDX