Art and Photography

What to look for in used lenses

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  • Feb 1st, 2020 1:34 pm
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[OP]
Member
May 31, 2017
286 posts
80 upvotes

What to look for in used lenses

Good morning folks. I want to get a used 70-200 lens (because used is what falls into the budget). But I'm pretty weary of buying a used lens from an individual - no warranty makes me nervous basically.

I don't have enough knowledge / experience to know what I should be checking a lens for when buying a used one. Any tips and advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
13 replies
Sr. Member
Nov 12, 2012
713 posts
431 upvotes
Calgary
This is what I do:
Focus on an object close, then far, repeat several times to test the focus motor.
Turn shutter speed down to test stabilisation, and take several handheld shots if the lens has IS.
Bring a flashlight, or check the lens elements, and internals under good lighting.
Deal Addict
Sep 3, 2005
3151 posts
795 upvotes
Vaughan
As mentioned already, test the lens. I would check for front and back focus as well.

Focus on an object, something not black, and easy to obtain focus, and preferably a static object. Check to see if the focus is bang on. If it focuses a bit behind it, it's back focusing, and vice versa for front focusing.

Keep in mind 70-200's have a long minimum focus distance (mfd). So to properly focus on something you need to be at least a few meters away in most cases. Also check to see the zoom ring moves smoothly.

I've owned more used lenses than new ones over the years. I've probably had about 20 used lenses. Only 2 of them had problems. One was covered by warranty, and the other I had to pay out of pocket for. Ymmv on warranty, especially if the seller has a receipt and the lens is in the warranty period. The risk you take for buying using is that it could break the next day.

Imo, if the lens works, it will most likely be good for years, at least that's my experience. I look at all the used lenses I bought over the years. If I bought those lenses at retail, it would cost me more than paying to repair one used lens (so far). I've save thousands over the years.
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Newbie
Dec 20, 2008
26 posts
4 upvotes
Hey breads, your wanted the lens for what mount?
[OP]
Member
May 31, 2017
286 posts
80 upvotes
Thanks advice folks! Feeling far more comfortable with the idea now.
[OP]
Member
May 31, 2017
286 posts
80 upvotes
Diaperman wrote: Hey breads, your wanted the lens for what mount?
Canon .. I'm looking for the 70-200 2.8 IS specifically.
Deal Expert
Jan 15, 2006
15709 posts
13449 upvotes
Richmond Hill
Just take the time to inspect it carefully. A lens that is in mint condition is generally used with care. One with bruises would have been used heavily, nothing wrong with that except I prefer my stuff mint. Check for fungus in within the elements, it’s normal even for all weather lenses to have some specs of dust, just a matter if they show up on smaller apertures or not. AF will be hard to tell right off the body while testing on the spot. My experience has been no lenses came out of the box “perfect” and either front/back focused and required micro adjustments so YMMV.
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Oct 5, 2004
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Toronto
FYI, if lens is front/back focusing, it very well can be your camera so it's not an indicator of a bad lens. Not unless it is severely off or has other focusing issues. Lenses rarely break. The first to break is likely the IS and over the years I've had to do repair IS 3 times on various lenses.
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Newbie
Dec 20, 2008
26 posts
4 upvotes
Don’t get stuck with needing a Canon 70-200 F2.8 either. I had a Tamron 70-200 VC 2.8 and it was great for me, actually I bought it used for about $1000 three years ago. It wasn’t until recently that I replaced it with the current Canon version because I needed to focus faster (going from my kids playing high end sports becoming adults and moving way faster) but my daughter still uses it for everything else.
Sr. Member
Oct 3, 2011
583 posts
376 upvotes
OTTAWA
indeed. check for 3rd party lenses as well since sometimes he flagship brand is more expensive, or the 3rd party provides more value for same function.

For example my macro from sigma is about half the price of the same length lens from nikon but performs the same or better in the same conditions. Happy toy shopping.
[OP]
Member
May 31, 2017
286 posts
80 upvotes
Update - so I purchased a used lens from a retailer in the US, and had it shipped here. Saved a bit this way (would have been more but I didn't factor in the duties and taxes at the border).

Seems to be working fine based on my initial look so far. But I did notice that something seems loose / is moving.
I've indicated on the attached pictures where the movement is, and the two pictures show how much it moves (it's not a lot).

Does anyone have any thoughts on what it could be?

I'm hoping to take it to Henry's on the weekend to get looked at, but if this is a sign that I should return the lens (and take the hit on the duties I paid), I'd rather know sooner than later.

Thank you!
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Deal Addict
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Oct 5, 2004
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Toronto
breads wrote: Update - so I purchased a used lens from a retailer in the US, and had it shipped here. Saved a bit this way (would have been more but I didn't factor in the duties and taxes at the border).

Seems to be working fine based on my initial look so far. But I did notice that something seems loose / is moving.
I've indicated on the attached pictures where the movement is, and the two pictures show how much it moves (it's not a lot).

Does anyone have any thoughts on what it could be?

I'm hoping to take it to Henry's on the weekend to get looked at, but if this is a sign that I should return the lens (and take the hit on the duties I paid), I'd rather know sooner than later.

Thank you!
It should definitely be tight. Probably dropped or my other wild guess it's missing an o-ring seal. There should be no movement there at all.
All my previous used lens purchases were from photographers so I trusted them. I am surprised a retail store sold you a lemon. If it's a photo store, then most likely they knew about it as they inspect lenses thoroughly when they buy them.
Update us on what Henry's said about it.
Dmitri Markine Wedding Photography: My 500pix||My Flickr||My Pinterest||My Instagram
Deal Addict
Jul 30, 2003
1917 posts
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Toronto
There shouldn't be a gap. It probably wont affect image quality but may allow moisture/dust to get in overtime.
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Nov 4, 2016
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Get Henry to ship you a replacement, or get full store credit including duty. Even if you are keeping the lens, get store credits as a discount on a defective product. I also cannot believe Henry would sell you a lemon.
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