Buying new lenses is increasingly becoming an expensive affair and most photographers look for used lenses to save money. And why not when the used lens market offers you some great options and good bargain. But there is always a risk factor involved specially when one thinks of buying used lenses.
But before we get on with tips, we must also find out why even get into buying a used lens? Is it the right option? As I have already shared, price is the biggest factor. Used lenses can be purchased at significantly low cost as compared to their brand new counterparts. Yes, old lenses come with their own risks and most common apprehension is that the lens may be faulty or defective. Well, the apprehension is not unreasonable but if one takes all precautions, then you can not only minimize such risks but almost nullify them.
Let us share some important tips which will help you take an informed decision and will also help you get a great bargain.
- Buy from a Trustworthy Source
This is the first and probably the most important step in ensuring you end up with a quality used lens. If you are opting for online options like eBay etc, then check in depth about the rating of the seller. High Rating but low number of people who rated might be a fake rating. High Rating along with large number of people who rated is probably the right parameter to look at. Another thing to look at is how elaborate is the seller with the description about the condition of lens he is selling. Is he sharing minute details of the dents, chips, scratches etc or is he being silent on these aspects. Also check if the seller is sharing the original purchase bill to back-verify the age of the lens.
In my opinion, the best option is to look within your own circle of photographers and their references. Also a local store could be one of the most trustworthy options.
Insist on a window of atleast 2-3 days where you can test and return if you are not satisfied.
- Examine the Physical Condition
Before you get on with detailed tests, it is important to check fo external condition of the lens.
Look for Scratches and Dents on the lens body. Minor scratches are an indication that the owner used the lens for his photography but if these scratches and dents are major and deep, then it talks about the bad handling of lens by the owner. Take a close look at the mount and screws near the mount. It should ideally be clean without noticeable scratches. If you see scratches on the screws, it is an indication of the lens being tampered or opened for repair. Though scratches may still be acceptable but dents are an indication that lens might have hit some solid surface or may even have fallen down on concrete surface. It is better to avoid such lenses.
Another thing to closely examine is the filter thread. They should be clean and should not show sign of scratches which can occur if the filters got cross threaded.
Checking Focus and Zoom Rings can also give you indication of the condition of lens. If roughly used, these rings can show some play in their movement. They should be firm and not wobble while using them. Also there should not be any screeching sound while moving these rings.
- Examine the Optical Condition
This is the most important test to find out whether the lens is worth buying or not. The biggest enemy of lens is the growth of fungus because of high humidity. And if a lens gets fungus it is almost impossible to completely remove it. Take a torch or aim it against a light bulb and look for hints of fungus. It usually makes the surface cloudy. Also check for scratches inside and large dust particles. If you find them, it is best to avoid such lenses.
We think these tips will help you in making a right purchase. If you are still not certain, then you should take the lens for inspection at the nearby service center.