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How To Buy Used Camera Lenses: What You Need to Look for

Buying a used lens for your camera is an excellent way to save money and get a high quality lens. There are many benefits to buying used, but there are also some drawbacks as well – you should know what those are before you make the purchase! In this article, we will go over what things to look out for when purchasing lenses from other people.

Should You Buy A Used Camera Lens?

The first question you are probably asking yourself is “should I buy a used lens?” While there are many benefits to buying used, this decision should not be taken lightly.

Used lenses are much cheaper than brand new ones, which can sometimes save buyers hundreds of dollars – but is it worth the risk? The answer will vary depending on who you are buying from and what lens you are looking at.

For example, if a seller is selling the new version of an old lens (for instance, an older Nikon 80-200mm f/20 zoom) it may be worth considering whether or not this person even has the correct lens to sell in the first place! Some people will try to sell the older version of a lens as the new one, which is something you are going to want to avoid. This kind of seller will also try and convince buyers that their used lens is in “mint condition” since it was never actually taken out into the field.

Some people are trying to make money off lenses by selling them at much higher prices than they are actually worth. These people are essentially trying to make a profit from you, and are not your best choice for buying lenses.

In most cases, the price is going to be lower if it is an older model lens – but do not assume this will always be true! This is something that should definitely taken into consideration when buying used lenses.

If you are buying from a trusted source, such as an online photography community, then this is definitely the safest way to purchase your lens – just do not get caught up in paying too much money for it! You should always keep price comparisons on other websites and stores running so that if somebody tries to sell their used lens at a price that is much higher than its actual value you are going to be able to recognize this.

In general though, you can get a great deal buying a used camera lens if you’re purchasing through a reliable source.

Steps For Checking A Used Camera Lens

Below are some steps you should take when inspecting a used camera lens for quality to ensure you aren’t getting ripped off or purchasing a lemon.

Check Your Source

As mentioned above, this is the most important step you are going to want to take. Make sure that your lens was not purchased from a questionable source or one who has history of selling lenses at higher prices than they are actually worth.

If possible, try and purchase used camera lenses through an online photography community with other photographers – these are the most reliable sources for used lenses.

There are also online stores that specialize in the sale of used and refurbished lenses, such as, that are worth considering.

Inspection For Physical Damage

Once you are sure that the lens is coming from a trustworthy source, it’s time to check for physical damage.

This may sound like an obvious step but many people are unaware of some of the issues they are going to be able to find when checking out used camera lenses so we will go over them here!

There are three main types of physical damage that are going to be most common with used lenses: scratches, mold/fungus and dust.

When checking for scratch you are simply going to want to look over the lens carefully – if they are deep then this is something you are not going to want! If it’s light then there shouldn’t be any problem, but make sure you are getting a good deal for the scratches.

Mold and fungus are going to be more of an issue with older lenses, which can sometimes have water damage or simply not been stored properly before being sold. You are able to check for mold/fungus through careful inspection – if it looks like somebody has left dirty fingerprints on your lens then chances are it is mold.

The only way to combat this problem is by cleaning the lens, which can be done with a special type of alcohol or other disinfectant.

For dust that has accumulated over time you are going to want to use a soft lint free cloth and gently wipe away any excess particles – you are not going to want to use any water! Make sure you are gently wiping the lens and are not putting too much pressure on it.

Make Sure There Is No Loose Particles

It’s also important that there are no loose particles or pieces of dust within the body of your used camera lenses, which can be difficult but is definitely possible.

You are going to want to use the same process as before, but this time you are also checking for any hairs or fibers that may have accumulated over time and are loose – these are definitely not something you are going to want!

Damage To Aperture Blades

When inspecting your lens for physical damage, it’s also important to check the aperture blades are free of any debris or particles that may have accumulated due to dust.

You are going to want to look over both sides and also in between each blade – if you are able then try out all three different modes while your are at it! If you are able to see any particles or dirt, then this is something you are going to want to bring up with the seller.

Mounting Filter Threads

One of the most important steps you are going to want to take when inspecting a used camera lens is checking that all mounting filter threads are still intact and in working order.

This can be difficult as it is not always possible, but if there are any missing then this could cause issues with your images so we recommend looking into purchasing another one for replacement.

Mounting Rigs and Contact Point Inspection

One of the most important parts you are going to want to check when purchasing used camera lenses are mounting rigs and contact points – these are easily damaged but also can be expensive fix!

On the back of most modern lenses are contact points that transmit electrical information from the body to the lens for auto focus and aperture control. They’re usually gold, and if the previous owner didn’t keep the lens on a body or a rear lens cap on when not mounted to one, dirt, dust, and grime can accumulate. Examine the mounting ring closely while you’re back there to ensure it’s intact.

Zoom Quality

Another part of the lens you are going to want to check before purchasing is how well it zooms – lenses are definitely not something that are cheap, so if there are any issues with this then we recommend looking into another option!

If your zoom ring doesn’t snap back securely or feels like it has grit in it’s gearing then chances are there could be some damage.

Focus Quality

Another important part are the focus capabilities of your lens – are they smooth, are there any issues with them? This is not something you are going to want because if it’s difficult or has trouble focusing then this can cause problems!

One way you are able to check for damage is by looking at how well it focuses when in manual mode – if there seems like too much resistance and doesn’t go into place then chances are that’s an issue.

If anything looks even remotely suspect, don’t buy it unless you’re getting a deal so good that the risk isn’t worth worrying about.

Image Testing and Optical Tests

Once you have the camera lens in hand, you should check for image and optical quality. This may include shooting dozens of photos at different ranges and increments to ensure there aren’t spots or issues that arise when shot at different ranges, F-stops or ISO settings. Three main things to look for are:


In a decentered lens, the optical axis is not exactly in line with one of the side-to-side axes. In other words, it’s out of alignment. If you are able to tell if there are any issues or problems occurring when shooting images then this may be an issue and we recommend looking into another option!


With AF Fine Tune options turned off, look at a subject with careful focus to see how well the lens focuses when compared to one focused in live view. You have a strong sample if the lens focuses correctly and the subject appears sharp. If the attention is completely incorrect, you should avoid using the lens unless it’s a lens that you can fine tune later on (such as Sigma Art series or new generation Tamron lenses compatible with Tap-in console). If your lens needs to be adjusted more than 10 percent in AF Fine Tuning, it will need to go back to the manufacturer.

Test Sharpness

Before buying your lens, check to see which apertures and focal ranges perform the best or worst, based on camera lens reviews available. For example, if you know that a camera lens shoots sharp images at F/ 2.8, stop it down and see if it’s still able to shoot sharp images and note any significant differences when shot at those different lengths or F-stops.


When purchasing used lenses, be as thorough as possible – you’ll save yourself a lot of anxiety, money and time in the process. Buying used lenses is a fantastic alternative today, just make sure to get your technique down and you’ll feel just as comfortable with it. Buying a used camera lens can be a great investment when purchased through the right channels.