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6 Step Checklist to Buying High Quality Used Lenses


6 Step Checklist to Buying High Quality Used Lenses

October 05, 2022  |  by Samy's Camera

Purchasing and selling used camera gear is common in the photography industry. However, some people shy away from buying used products, especially expensive cameras and lenses. Nonetheless, there are reputable camera and photography retailers like Samy’s Camera that sell high quality, used lenses with warranties and trial periods. With prices sometimes discounted up to 40% compared to brand new gear, it is often worthwhile to purchase a used lens. 

Buying a used lens is similar to buying a used camera, just with different inspection points. This article explains how to buy used lenses and what to consider before you do.  

Reasons to Buy Used

Many photographers have invested heavily in a DSLR camera system and are now considering the move to mirrorless.  Some camera systems will work with a lens converter, but one of the reasons to switch over to mirrorless is how much lighter the lenses are.  Other photographers are being wooed by a new camera manufacturer entirely.  In order to switch from Nikon to Sony, for example, photographers need to consider the cost of all that new Sony glass they need buy.  Buying lenses at almost half the retail price will make the transition a lot easier on the wallet!

Camera equipment has a long-life cycle; therefore, when purchasing a pre-owned lens, you’re not sacrificing image quality but rather you are supporting sustainability and usability at a fraction of the cost of a new lens. Moreover, adding pre-owned gear to your equipment inventory gives you the freedom to expand your creative range and explore image-making at the next level.

Used v. Open Box Purchase — Is it New?

In addition to pre-owned, you may find Open Box equipment sales. This is a unique way to buy near new camera gear, with a full factory warranty, at deeply discounted prices. 

Open Box gear is equipment that someone bought but then returned quickly for various reasons:

  • It’s the wrong model
  • Buyer changed their mind
  • Lightly used but comes back to the retailer with the box and all the accessories.
  • A store counter-demo lens and then put back into the box
  • It’s an item accidentally opened for inspection

Whatever the reason, the lens cannot be sold as new, so retailers discount and sell these Open Box items with a full factory warranty. 

The upside to these purchases is that you can save money and still get all the benefits of a new product. Most online and brick and mortar retailers also provide a 30-day return policy, which is essential if you are buying online and have not seen the used equipment yet.

6 Step Checklist to Follow When Inspecting Used Lens

1. Shop from a Reliable Source

There’s no shortage of retailers selling second-hand lenses which is why you should be extra cautious and only buy from a reputable store that inspects and certifies their camera equipment.  The seller should have put the equipment through a rigorous inspection to ensure the item you are buying is in good working order.  The lens should also come with a warranty that covers parts and labor.  Buying pre-owned lenses from ebay, craigslist or private seller can result in buying a subpar product.

2. Perform a Visual Check

Do a complete visual check of the lens and pay attention to scratches on the glass, dents on the lens body and anything that would indicate that the lens may have lived a hard life. If the lens has been dropped or abused, then it is quite possible that there are damage issues internally, and it will not work as designed.

3. Look Through the Lens

If things went well with the visual check, remove the front and rear caps and look through the lens. Check carefully for dust or dirt particles between the optical elements, shining a light through the lens can help you find any large dirt buildup that requires extensive cleaning. You’ll need to factor that cost against the asking price.  

Also, look for scratches on the front element and rear elements of the lens. Small faint scratches are not a deal killer, but anything that has left a scar or crevices in the glass is a deal killer.

4. Inspect the Camera Lens Rings and Mount

You want to inspect both grips on the zoom and focus rings to make sure they are intact. Next, you’ll want to confirm the rings themselves move smoothly without grinding.  However, do make sure the rings are not too loose either.  If the rings are too loose, this may indicate that the lens has been dropped or that there is a lot of dust and debris in the internals of the lens. To check this, move the focusing and zoom rings around, and you can tell if there is an issue rather quickly. 

5. Test the Manual Focus and Auto Focus

After checking the lens mount and attaching the lens onto your camera body, test the manual focus and snap a few photos before switching over to auto focus. Check the motors on all lenses with auto focus and Image Stabilization. Simply attach the lens to your camera body and shoot photos at different focal lengths and focal distances. As you do this, you will want to listen carefully to the focusing/stabilization motor as it works. If it sounds like old bones creaking or cracking, that is a good indicator of imminent failure. A loud motor is standard on some lenses, but a Rice Krispies “snap, crackle and pop’ sound is not.

6. Check the Aperture Blades

While you are checking lens motors, watch the open and close action of the aperture. It would be best if you did this while it is connected to the camera, and it should turn smoothly with no hesitation. Hiccups or snags are telling you that this lens has issues. 

Where to Buy Used Lenses

Pre-owned and open box lenses are a great way to add value to your camera bag without dinging your bank account unnecessarily.  At Samy’s Camera, you can buy used lenses in excellent condition and save up to 40% off as compared to buying that lens new.  All of the used photography gear at Samy’s Camera comes with a free one-year parts and labor warranty and a no questions asked 30-day return policy. Shop Samy’s Camera’s pre-owned and Samy’s Camera Open Box collections today!

October 05, 2022


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