Whether you’re doing photography in a professional way or as a passion, it’s an expensive discipline. And we are not just talking about cameras and lenses, but about almost any other accessory that’s necessary for our photos to turn out the way we want them to be.
Nowadays, with digital, we save a lot in terms of the cost per shot thanks to the replacement of film with digital. We get our first true glance of the potential costs of DSLR photography when we move from a kit-lens to any other lens. The world becomes new, everything has a new point of view, and then we become lens-maniacs. The problem is that high quality glass comes with a fat price tag on it.
Lenses are built to last a seriously long time, but when you find their prices too steep, you start to look into buying high quality lenses for a fraction of their original retail price without losing much in its design and manufacture quality – a world of possibilities becomes wider and more colorful when you start to think of these second-hand options, and even more when you find out that you can mix lens brands with different camera bodies thanks to adapters and other innovative toys.
Even though a lot of care is taken by companies around lens design and manufacture, there are certain things that you have to keep in mind when buying older lenses.
You have to achieve communication between the lens mechanisms and the camera body (some are electronic, and some are mechanical). If this is not possible, the lens just won’t work. The easiest way of achieving this, is by mixing lenses and cameras with compatible mounts (or bayonets). But there are situations in which you may want a specific lens to work with a brand new camera body. If the mounts are not compatible, adapters are the way to go. A simple good search using the lens model and camera body model will usually throw up a result that you can use.
If you are considering buying second hand lenses, there are two options. The first is via traditional friend-of-a-friend face to face deal. In this case, you should do some questioning about the selling availability, this means “why are you selling it?” and if the answer suits you, you can make the call.
The other way to go is via Stores, we can surf through endless catalogs online for mint or in-good-shape lenses:
These websites have trusted sources; even eBay has a reviewing system in which sellers get recognition, so you can trust them to a certain extent.
Nothing beats a live preview of the lens. When you have the chance to really touch the lens before buying it, enjoy your little inner Sherlock, and look through it over and over again. Look for any sort of damage and above all, test it on your camera. When doing this you should look for:
There isn’t much to say about this, only trust deals in which the seller clearly states “perfect condition” “like new” or “mint”. Skip the “Slight Damage” or “Cheap adjustments” deals – the cost savings are rarely worth it.
Not all lenses are built like tanks. Do some research on the lens’ historical legacy to be sure that they have come through the years without any bumps on the ride (recalls, manufacture upgrades due to problems etc). This is very important, and a lot of photographers don’t take it into consideration when doing their research in terms of comparing lenses and reading reviews. The most significant evidence, that something is built with high quality standards, is by looking at their performance through the years.