How to buy second hand lenses

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Edwin Petree, Jan 20, 2004.

  1. Edwin Petree

    Edwin Petree Guest

    I'm only a hobbyist, and I have low standards for lenses.

    How do I avoid getting ripped off when I buy a second hand lens? Ican do a
    web search to see what kind of price I should be paying. And I can look to
    see if there is any dirt, scratches, dings, etc. I can give it a bit of a
    wobble to see if it's lose or not.

    What else should I be doing?

    Once I've bought it, how would I check it to see just how knackered it
    actually is?

    Many thanks for any advice.
    Edwin Petree, Jan 20, 2004
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  2. Edwin Petree

    Nick Zentena Guest

    Try all the controls. Does the focus ring move easily? Does the aperture
    change? How does it feel?

    Only real way to test a lens is to use it. Put it on a camera load some
    film and take some photos. Use the various apertures. If it's a zoom then
    use the focal lengths.

    Nick Zentena, Jan 20, 2004
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  3. I generally just have a look through the lens at full aperture into a bulb
    light from both sides, looking for dirt and, more importantly, fungus. Try
    focus on each the elements within the lens one by one. If there's any fungus
    then leave it unless you're getting a *really good* bargain - offer to take
    it off their hands for some incredibly low figure and then see how bad a few
    shots develop. I have a habit of taking lenses apart if there is something
    wrong with them - fungus is especially difficult to get rid of (most of the
    time impossible), but you can stop it spreading so if the fungus is only at
    the edges or its relatively light, then I'd be prepared to pay a few quid
    for a lens if it would be worth a lot more without the fungus.
    Wear marks on the barrel are a good bartering point, also check that the
    focusing ring turns all the way without stiffening up - the same goes for
    zoom if it has that function. Of course, as you stated, you should also look
    for play in the front element - although a little bit isn't anything to
    worry about. Again, stiff focusing rings or play in the front element can be
    cured by taking the lens apart and it can be relatively easy to sort out
    with a bit of common sense and a lot of care.
    Give the lens a shake as well. Might be full of grit or sand - try shaking
    it about and then turning the focusing ring again. I had a lens with sand
    floating about in it - occasionally it would get in part of the one-touch
    focus/zoom mechanism and start making horrible grating noises. Another shake
    and it would all come loose, but you can imagine the wear it might cause.
    Finally, just have a really good idea of what it is you're buying.
    Manufacturers have often produced different lens designs with the same focal
    lenses - some are bad and some are good. There can be also some subtle and
    not-so-subtle differences between buying a brilliant quality, expensive old
    lens and just an OK one. Eg, if you have your eye on a Carl Zeiss, is it a
    Sonnar or Jena (or whatever)? So, do your research!!! If you get ripped off,
    it'll only be your fault ;)

    Chris Barnard, Jan 20, 2004
  4. Edwin Petree

    Jeremy Guest

    I would add to that the following:

    1: Lenses that have dings on the filter ring may have been dropped, and the
    internal alignment of the elements may have been adversely affected. I
    decline purchasing such lenses.

    2: Shine a flashlight through the lens while looking through the other end.
    Dust particles are not a problem but you will better see any fungus, cracked
    elements etc.

    3: I decline purchasing lenses with tight focusing rings, slow apertures or
    oil on the aperture blades. These lenses are only going to get worse, and I
    don't know how to disassemble them and repair them. The cost of cleaning
    and lubing them, added to the price to purchase the lens, will probably
    exceed the price of a lens that does not require repairs.

    4: Some lenses, especially those purchased from amateurs, have seen very
    little use and are as good as new. Check the barrel for excessive wear or
    brassing as an indicator of how much use the lens has seen. I have
    purchased used lenses--20 years old--that looked as though they just came
    out of the box.

    5: Have the right attitude. Used gear sometimes is junk, or almost junk.
    No one gets perfect equipment every time. Sooner or later you will get
    stuck. That's why the price is so much less than for unused equipment, with
    a manufacturer's guarantee.
    Jeremy, Jan 20, 2004
  5. All I can tell you is what I do. I buy (usually) off the internet, so I
    don't get to see the lens until I have paid for it, and it comes in the
    mail. I buy mostly from outfits that I know from my own experience to be
    honest in their evaluations, or who have good track records. One of my
    favorite places is KEH. ( Their, "bargain" lenses are good buys,
    and I have several of them. Also, If I buy from eBay, I only bid on the
    items being sold by people with good sellers records. These are usually
    stores that have sold hundreds of items with a good feedback rating of 98%
    or better. And these people usually advertise a money-back guarantee. - If
    you are not satisfied with the item, they will refund your money upon its
    return, and all you'll be out is the postage.
    As far as evaluating the lens is concerned, I am not an expert. The
    suggestions of the others posted above are very good. If the lens works, and
    makes me happy, and I like the pictures I get with it, then that's all that
    matters to me. Someone else might have sold it because it has some hidden
    problem that I will never know about, or be able to understand, but why
    would I care? - My ignorance is my own bliss......
    William Graham, Jan 21, 2004
  6. Edwin Petree

    Bob Monaghan Guest

    Bob Monaghan, Jan 21, 2004
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