One of the biggest savings you can get when trying to do “photography on a budget” is when buying a lens or two. Whilst it is always to be the one un-boxing a product and being the first to touch it, smell that ‘new smell’ and actually use it, you do have to pay for the privilege. Used and second hand products are much cheaper than new, and if you are happy to buy used/second hand you can save yourself a packet.
Lenses are expensive and are usually the second most expensive pieces of photography kit photographers own, with the camera body generally being the most expensive. That said, I like many other photographers, have a lens or two that cost more than the camera. Thinking about it…….. lenses are probably the most expensive items photographers own, and when you get a nice collection of them the cost quickly mounts up.
I am the sort of person who seldom gets rid of anything and will research and reviews before I make any purchase (to make sure I am buying the right thing) and because of this I rarely get rid of any of my photography equipment, let alone lenses. Consequently, I have to admit that I was sceptical before I bought my first used lens and I totally get anyone who has doubts over buying used lenses.
Buying used lenses is a gamble, and unless you have the equipment to test them (check the internal glass, look for dust etc.) before parting with your money you can never be too sure what you are getting. A lens can look totally mint on the outside yet may contain so much dust inside it is worthless. On the flipside a lens can look a state on the outside (being battered, scuffed, dinked etc.) yet be immaculate on the inside.
It wasn’t until I joined a local camera club I really considered buying used lenses. I got speaking to a few photographers there who had purchased used lenses, and I have to say they were in mint condition, everything (auto focus, distance scale, image stabilisation etc.) worked as it should, there was nothing wrong with the image quality and they saved loads of money to boot. This first-hand experience (or at least as first hand as it could be without me buying a used lens) was enough to convince me that my next lens purchase was going to be used one.
Buying used lenses from eBay
I have bought most of my used lenses from my local camera shop, however I have bought a few from eBay too. I find that eBay can be a bit hit or miss and, due to an experience a few years back where I got massively ripped off, I avoid private sellers like the plague and will only deal with camera shop eBay stores.
If you’re careful, think before pressing the “Bid now” or “buy now” button and only buy from reputable eBay sellers you shouldn’t have too many problems buying used lenses off the site. A few of my camera club buddies have bought used lenses from private eBay sellers, and have ended up with some cracking lenses however there is no way I would drop a few hundred bucks on a used lens from a private eBay seller and the only way I would ever think about doing so would be if the lens was very, very cheap.
Very cheap lenses presents another issue though and you have to ask yourself “why is it so cheap?” If the price of a used lens is too good to be true, it generally is and you’re likely to end up wasting your money. Think about it this way, if you had a lens you were looking to sell would you accept a few hundred bucks less than what it’s worth? Even if you needed the money you’d take it to a camera shop and sell it to them at a lower price than you would a private person right?
It is possible to get royally ripped off buying used lenses from eBay, however if you use the right seller you won’t have too many problems, and if you participate in an auction (as opposed to a “buy it now”) you could end up getting an absolute bargain. Over the years I have managed to get some great deals on used lenses from eBay, however I have to admit I haven’t spent the big bucks on eBay like I have done on used lenses from my local camera shop.