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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