Lenses are expensive. A good way to save some money is to get them used; you can generally expect to save between 20 to 35% (without including taxes) from the retail price. I have personally bought a lot of lenses lenses this way and never had any issues, making me a big believer in this system for the following reasons:

  • Resale value is often the same as the bought price which results in low cost of ownership
  • Can warranty a good copy of the lens since original owner would have returned it right after purchase if it was not
  • Save money (!)

The people who are against generally use these arguments:

  • What happen if the lens has any issues in the future?
  • Fearful of fraud
  • What if the lens is damaged; you don’t know how the previous owner handled his gear

To these questions, I answer:

It is possible for any lens to have issues in the future, no matter if it is new or not. Most lens issues show up during its first year of usage. A very popular example of this was the bad batch of Canon 50f1.4 from a few years ago that broke around the one year anniversary mark. As a general rule, if it performs well during this first year you can be confident it will perform equality well for the next few years.

Fraud is possible; this is why I mostly do my transactions in person or with people of good reputation. And when I meet the seller, I do inspect the lens and take a few shots with it. Paying special attention to any weird noise or loose parts. I never had any issue. Then again, as always, caveat emptor!

I frequent a lot of internet forums and I think I only saw once someone complaining about getting a lens that was not in the state described by the seller. 99% of photographers are paranoid about their gear and care as much about it as you do.

Conclusion

While it is more profitable for pros to buy new lenses because of taxes saving, for the hobbyist or serious amateur, the used market is the place to look for great savings.

P.S.

My friend Barry Andersson (author of “The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook“) suggests that if you’re in the market for used gear, buy it from photographers as he says they baby their gear where as filmmakers ‘use’ their gear and therefore it often appears more used.

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planetMitch

chief astronomer at planet5D LLC
Mitch "planetMitch" Aunger is the creator and mastermind behind planet5D.com — which covers every aspect of HDSLR cameras (and a whole lot of other cameras as well). A lover of photography since his early days, he graduated to selling stock photos to make a little bit of spare cash. It wasn’t much, but it allowed him to upgrade to better cameras as well as computers, and it wasn’t taking money away from feeding his family.
He loves the stories that the still image can tell. In the summer of 2008, he read a story written by Arnold Kim called “I Quit My Job” — Arn is the owner of macrumors.com. He started macrumors in 2000 as a hobby, and by 2008 he was making more money with the site than he was on his day job, so he quit. The surprise to the story is that he was a doctor making more than six figures! Right then and there, planetMitch dreamed about doing the same thing.
September 2008 rolled around, and Canon announced this new version of the incredible 5D — the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It was the first Canon DSLR to shoot full HD video and the earth moved! (It really was a huge deal in the photography world.) planetMitch knew if there was ever a chance to ride a wave of something he was really passionate about, this was it — and the blog at planet5D.com was born. It is now one of the most popular HDSLR blogs on the planet, and he is making a full-time living from blogging. He couldn’t be happier!
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