It may be overwhelming if you’re getting your first preloved lens, what exactly do you have to look out for and how can you ensure it’s in working condition? Don’t worry! This article is written to relief you of any anxiety you might have! There is a Part 1 on this: Photography Equipment Buying Guide Part 1 – Making a Decision
Remember this acronym: STONE
S: Search and Ask
T: Test it with your camera
O: Overall look
E: Extra items
Search and Ask
If you have the time and really want to grab the best deal around town, then search high and low on secondhand markets.
When searching for a particular camera make or brand, search with various keywords. For example, a seller may list his camera ‘Fuji XXX body’ instead of Fujifilm XXX body’. For lenses, searches such as ’Nikon 50 f1.8’, ‘Nikon 50mm f1.8’, ‘Nikon 50/1.8’ may yield different results and the more variation you try the more results you will yield.
Also, source for other secondhand markets like a photography forum which expands your search circle.
The most important question is ‘is it free of scratches, dust and fungus in the lens?’. You can also enquire on the year of purchase, how heavily the lens is used, etc but take it with a pinch of salt. It is still a set of preloved lens.
Test it with your camera
During the meet up, it is common that the buyer does not have his camera with him. Having a camera there on the spot is of paramount importance to do a test on the lens. The next time you’re buying a lens, please remember to take the camera body with you! Of course, remember the batteries and the memory cards! The things to look out for are explained in the points below.
When you first get hold of the lens, check the exterior first! Find a properly lit place and check the body of the lens, the focusing/zoom ring, if there are scratches on the body. Next check the optics of the lens, the glass! Using your phone’s flash light, point it into the lens and check for fungus, cracks or dust spots. (If there is a lens protector intact, remove it first) Fungus in lenses look like this:
Fungus grow in lenses due to moisture being present for a period of time. This means that preloved lens has not been stored in an ideal place. Lenses should be placed in dry cabinets or anywhere where it’s cool with humidity level around 40-50%. Although small area of fungus growth in lenses may not affect image quality to a significant extent, it can hurt the resell price, if that’s something you care about. You can also pay to have the fungus removed but most of the time it’s just not worth the time and money.
Dusts getting into lenses are normal and should be expected. For zoom lenses especially, when the zoom ring is rotated, air gets sucked into the lenses. Be realistic in your expectations when buying second-hand lenses especially with regards to dust issues. As long as the glass is relatively clean it shouldn’t be a problem. It will be your judgement as to how much dust is too much.
This is probably the most important step! Nitty-gritty details! test out the functionality of the lenses! There are a few things to look out for!
• Zoom ring: Test out the zoom ring and make sure it’s smooth when zooming in/out.
• Focus ring: Test out the focus ring and make sure it’s smooth and manual focusing (remember to switch autofocus mode to manual first) is working.
• Switches: Most lenses have toggle switches by their side, try them out to make sure they are not stuck.
• Autofocus: Test the autofocus to make sure the lens is working correctly, for example, focus on an object near the camera and then on an object far from the camera.
• Autofocus motor sound: Put the lens near to the ear and listen for any squeaky sound coming from the autofocus motor in the lens. If the autofocus motor sounds squeaky, it could be a case of lubricants drying up inside the lens. (Take note that some lenses produce more noise than others when focusing.)
Some preloved lens come with warranties, filters, lens hood, lens pouch or cleaning wipes. The more important ones would be warranties (if there is) and lens hood. Filters would be good to have especially with filter brands like HOYA and B+W. Check for these items before making the deal.
Like buying anything else, make sure to do your research and compare prices and goods from sellers before committing to it! Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to take your time testing the lens before buying it because it’s your rights as the buyer. Don’t be pressured into buying things and only hand over the money if everything goes well! With that, have fun with your purchase!
Here’s an info-graphic to sum it all up…