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Photo Tip Thursday: Buying Used Lenses

This week’s photo tip Thursday has all to due with purchasing used lenses.  Many of the same criteria mentioned in last week’s post about buying used cameras need to be met when buying a used lens as well, however there’s a few more that are worth mentioning.
1. Make sure there’s no structural damage.  Check the lens over to make sure there’s no big dents or cracks in the body of the lens.  Seeing anything like that should be a huge red flag.  Used lenses usually show some minor scuffs and cosmetic wear, especially on the rubber focus rings.  This shouldn’t worry you, it just means it’s seen a lot of use.
2. Make sure the glass on the lenses is not scratched or cracked.  Large scratches and cracks in the glass of the lens can show up in the image, plus if you ever want to resell the lens, this will severely reduce the price you can list it for.  Some minor scratches will probably be present on used lenses, but like I said, they should only be minor and not readily noticeable when just glancing at the lens.  You should really have to search Minuscule scratches like this won’t affect image quality.
3. Make sure the lens mount {the part that attaches to the camera} and its contact points are undamaged.  This is a huge one.  If the metal mounting ring is dented or warped, the lens won’t properly attach.  If the contact points are damaged, the lens might not be able to receive power and therefore it won’t properly autofocus.
4. When connected to the camera and powered on, make sure the lens properly autofocuses and that the aperture is able to be changed.  Autofocus accuracy is the name of the game when using large apertures to get blurry backgrounds for outfit photos.  Make sure that the lens is able to cycle through its entire aperture range and accurately focus with all the focus points.  If the lens seems to be stuck on one aperture, this probably means that it’s been dropped and the aperture ring has been broken.
5. When connected to the camera and powered on, switch the lens to manual focus and ensure that the focus ring turns smoothly while adjusting focus.  I say while the camera is on because some lenses use an electronic manual focus, meaning that the manual focus ring only changes focus when the camera is turned on and sending power to the lens.  I bought a used Canon 85mm f/1.2 II USM lens and I almost sent it back because I thought the focus ring was broken, rather the camera just needed to be on for it to work.  Check that the focus ring turns smoothly as well.  If it’s tough to turn, or won’t turn at all, this us usually a sign that the lens has been dropped quite badly and the focus ring is bent, plus who know’s what else might be broken.
6.  Make sure all of the switches on the lens work.  A lot of lenses come with features like image stabilization {the camera has to be powered on so that this can work too}.  Ensure that all of these features work.

Thanks for reading!  Make sure to check back next week, I’ll be doing a post about low light photography/indoor photography.

  1. What size (?) lens should I look into to get those lower aperatures for outfit pictures? I have a 50mm and 55-80mm I think.

  2. Great tips on used lenses and cameras from last week! When trying to figure out which lenses work best for you – it's definitely easier to drop the money on a used one, than buying a new one and not liking the results.

    Josh – The Kentucky Gent

  3. Great tips! Thanks!!

    15 ways+tips to combine CULOTTES on
    lb-lc | IT fashion blog

  4. Andrew Adams says:

    I'd recommend a 50mm prime lens {one without a zoom}. It's a really good focal length for outfit photos. Prime lenses usually have really large apertures which are really good for blurry backgrounds. Canon and Nikon both make 50mm f/1.4 as well as f/1.8 lenses that would work well.

  5. Great tips! This is something that not many people think of, but it's such a good trick!

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