Purchasing a Second Hand Lens


What are some things I should look out for before purchasing a second hand lens?
Seema Biswas, Pune

This story was originally published in December 2014.

While purchasing a brand new lens can be heavy on the pocket, buying a second hand lens can also be a dicey proposition. After all, what if you invest all your money and the lens turns out to be of poor quality? With that scary thought in mind, let us go through a few things you must keep in mind.

Where are You buying it From?
There are three sources from where you can buy a second hand lens—the internet, the local camera market or a photographer who wants to dispose off his old kit. In each case, the most important thing you need to do is check up on the reliability of the seller. Ask people which shops are reliable and if you are buying from an individual, see if you know his shooting habits and how carefully he treats his gear.

Are you Getting Fleeced?
If the lens is still available in the market, find our its actual price, both in terms of the MRP as well as the grey market price. Then, consider how long the lens has been used and whether it is still under warranty. If it is, you may need to pay as much as 70–80% of the price. If it is not, then the price may go down to 50% or even 30–40% of the price. Vintage lenses, of course, are usually much cheaper.

Is it Damaged?
There are certain problems typical to old lenses. Fungus is a common problem, so hold the lens against the light and look through it to check for any traces. See that the diaphragm blade is not broken. Also, see how well the lens works with your camera—whether the focusing is smooth or whether the ring gets stuck, for instance. Finally, shoot at different aperture settings and then zoom in to the LCD screen to see how sharp the image is. Also, check whether the focusing is accurate because some lenses tend to backfocus or frontfocus. Ideally, you should carry along a laptop and transfer the images to inspect them.

The second hand market can be a gold mine. You may find some rare vintage lenses that have incredible optics at throwaway prices. As long as you keep these simple things in mind, you can rest assured that your investment is sound.

Tags: ask the expert, buying lenses, Lenses, second-hand lens