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12-27-2018, 08:02 PM   #1
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Buying second hand - hints and tips?

Over the last week or so I've been looking at new lenses at budget prices, and to be honest there aren't a lot around. I did find a nice offer but stock for Pentax is limited so I'm not holding out much hope it will be arriving soon.

Whilst trawling through the local dealer websites (none of whom tend to stock much Pentax) I came across a listing in the "pre-owned" bin which seemed to be of interest at a sub-$100 price. I've covered the story of that on a different thread (ended up the mount would not fit my K100D body) but it got me into looking at other dealers pre-owned lists and other sources of camera paraphenalia (pawn shops and the like).

Anyway I ended up purchasing a decent little Sigma 28-90 macro lens this morning, but I wanted to ask the great and the good what hints and tips they would give for purchasing used equipment in general. To start the ball rolling, my bullet points were:
  • Take a camera body with you to check the lens mounts ok, I had two that wouldn't fit at all:
  • Check the aperture moves freely:
  • Check the zoom or focus moves freely (manual and auto):
  • Check for scratches or mould: and
  • Never spend more than you can afford to lose if it falls apart in six months time
Anyone else got anything to add?

12-27-2018, 08:19 PM - 3 Likes   #2
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Here's a useful Forum article and accompanying thread: PAWNSHOP LENSES (and other used lenses) - A Buyers' Guide -
12-28-2018, 01:18 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I buy (have bought) most of my lenses second-hand and the very few "duds" I've encountered have been refunded by the seller(s) with little or no fuss and many apologies.

My "best" buys were probably a pair of Pentax zooms, 18-55mm DA and 50-200mm DA, for 3 each at a local "car-boot" sale. Having a camera with me so I could check the functionality was a bonus, but at those prices I'd have probably bought them anyway

eBay seems to be getting expensive, or are the sellers getting optimistic, either way, prices there seem to be going up with a lot more "Buy it Now" listings than there used to be.

Long-established photographic retailers, with a reputation to preserve, can be a good source of s/h equipment, especially if they don't normally carry Pentax and have some trade-in equipment they want to clear. My Sigma 150-500mm at 350 was such a bargain, but beware shipping costs, import duties etc. if buying overseas

Good luck
12-28-2018, 03:41 AM - 1 Like   #4
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my thoughts,

most the " experienced " equipment I have bought has been from members via the forum.

I realize that depending on where you live, the opportunity to get stuff from the forum's market place may not be equal.

I ask plenty of questions via pm with the seller and have to trust a little

I also have bought " experienced " equipment from which offers a return policy without questions for 14 days. Again, prior to purchase, I contact them to gather info

for an in person experience, you might haul a lap top or another device where you could use the equipment with your own memory card and then review the image immediately obtained with the lens/camera

awkward I realize

12-28-2018, 04:04 AM - 1 Like   #5
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In general it is safe to buy used. My only problem with used items is a lens with a filter permanently stuck. I did not notice it until 6 months later whem trying to remove it...


1. Go for cheap MF prime lenses if you want to be safe. Electronic problems are increasing with age (dirt, oxidation and wear). All my F-series lenses bought used did work however.
2. Do not buy rare lenses if you plan to actually use them. They are overpriced.
3. Lenses are generally not a good investment.
4. 3rd partly lenses are (in general) less desired than Pentax lenses and hence more affordable.

12-28-2018, 12:44 PM   #6
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Two rules to live by buying used:
1) Make sure there is a return policy.

2) Buy from KEH (or B&H used) and know that you are getting an honest, if not overly conservative, evaluation of the equipment.

In almost 25 years of buying used lenses (almost 30 lenses) I have only ever once ended up with a less than honest assessment of a lens. It was an ebay seller and I SHOULD have read his reviews more carefully. Even that lens I was able to get repaired.
12-28-2018, 02:32 PM - 1 Like   #7
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What part of Australia are you in Andy? In Melbourne, Camera Lane and Michael's have some used Pentax stock. It's worth looking there, although don't expect any great bargains.

Personally, I've had very good acquisitions through Gumtree or Ebay - even sight unseen - without a problem, just using reasonable prudence. I even bought my FA*300 f4.5 through Gumtree, although I did sweat on that one a bit. I haven't seen the bargains that were around from these sources 2 or 3 years ago, although there still seem to be good purchases to be had.

I've also bought through the PF marketplace, which is a good source, but shipping costs on low-value items often make international purchases unviable.

To be honest, I wouldn't just take any lens that turned up at a good price. I'd suggest thinking about what lens or lenses you want and waiting for one to come up. You can be a bit flexible - e.g. if you want an ultrawide zoom, look for either a DA 12-24 or a Sigma 10-20. But decide first what type of lens would round your kit. I know many people get fun out of trying a lot of different low-cost lenses, and good luck to them. But personally I'd rather have a smaller number of better lenses than a lot of mediocre cheap ones.

Last edited by Des; 12-28-2018 at 02:44 PM.
12-28-2018, 07:57 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
Personally, I've had very good acquisitions through Gumtree or Ebay - even sight unseen - without a problem, just using reasonable prudence. I even bought my FA*300 f4.5 through Gumtree, although I did sweat on that one a bit. I haven't seen the bargains that were around from these sources 2 or 3 years ago, although there still seem to be good purchases to be had.

I'm in Adelaide, plenty of churches but camera shops are scarce and Pentax dealers are like rocking horse droppings. To buy new gear I generally have to order it and collect it from the shop when it arrives.

I found my latest lens in Cash Conveters, and there are a couple of others on their website that I would look at. As with shops of that ilk stuff tends to be not exactly pristine condition hence the desire to inspect and test before purchase.

As for choice, I have a niche to fill in my collection and a goal in mind. How I fill that goal will depend on what is on offer but I'm willing to wait until the right thing comes along.

What I really want is a set of PK bellows, any ideas?

12-29-2018, 02:12 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Liney Quote
What I really want is a set of PK bellows, any ideas?
A "wanted to buy" ad on PF would be your best chance. Pretty safe buy over the internet I would think.

You could give Michael's (must visit destination for anyone interested in photography & video) or Camera Lane (Camera Lane Online Store: Cameras, Lenses, Demo & Used Equipment, Flash Guns, Accessories) a call. They don't necessarily have all their secondhand stock listed on their web sites. If they have something you are particularly interested in, maybe one of the Melbourne members might even check it out for you.
12-29-2018, 03:54 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Liney Quote
Anyone else got anything to add?
Take a torch with you so you can inspect the lens elements for fungus; balsam separation; dead insects.
12-30-2018, 01:54 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I guess I'm experienced enough to have a few advices to give.
The great majority of my lenses were bought second-hand, some long ago, most of them quite recently.
While most of my best Pentax lenses were purchased in the late seventies and in the eighties, a huge number of not-so-expensive PK and M42 objectives were acquired in the last five years.
About six years ago I went fully digital, stopped shooting with large format film cameras, and also stopped collecting large format vintage lenses.
The number of PK, M42 and adapted lenses, Pentax and third party, that I have bought over time is not small. Some are mainly collector's items, so I guess I have an excuse I don't know the exact number, for sure is more than 350. Kind of manic, I know, but on the positive side I can say I have accumulated some experience
On this huge number of purchases I had far more nice surprises than bad surprises. I guess I could have returned a handful of them, let's say about 1 on 50, but I kept all of them, to be repaired or as a source for spares.
Most of the "problematic" ones were cheap, so paying for the shipment would have made little sense.
On top of that, I think that I'm taking risks with my buying habit, so I accept the occasional bummer the same way I welcome the (far more common) great finds.
Sometimes I buy lenses knowing in advance that there is fungus and haze.
Now I have two beautiful SMC Pentax lenses (3.5/24mm and 3.5/28mm) that were bought for very cheap from Japanese vendors that correctly described the lenses as hazy and with fungus. I cleaned them myself, but sometimes the price can be so convenient that the saving largely outweights the cost of a professional cleaning (around 70 bucks).
Diaphragm problems and stuck focusing rings can be far more costly to repair, or they might even be unrepairable (spare parts might be impossible to find).
According to my personal experience, modern plastic zooms are far more prone to fungus, and easier to get out of whack because of minor knocks, than all metal vintage objectives. Stored in the same place, two highly expensive AF zooms were covered by mold, while a number of metal vintage objectives were still perfectly fine.
Regarding prices, better buy cheap lenses from auctions. The more expensive ones can sometimes be found cheaper from Buy It Now sales.
Always consider shipping charges and taxes. On low/medium cost items it makes a huge difference. A more expensive item sold closer to home can actually be cheaper after you do the math!
Thoroughly check modern AF zooms for decentering, especially the fast ones with hefty glasses. Check in general for problems due to bent zoom/focusing sleeves.
Even expensive, high performance optics have a very fragile build. An "accident" that left no visible trace could have substantially damaged the lens.
If I didn't already love vintage primes, this would be a a good reason to consider them. Some old optics are as good today as they were 30, 40, 50, even 60 (!) years ago.
One last recommendation :
I have in my wanted list a few lenses that routinely pop out in my searches, sold for ridicolous high prices.
I'm sorry, I won't pay a Voigtlander in PKA mount double the price of a Nikon Ais mount! No one gets sold, the vendors wait for the impatient buyer who wants that lens at any cost. Please try your best to avoid being that silly buyer they're waiting for.
I understand that an old Meyer Trioplan (or Primoplan) have something special (I own both, and for a good reason), but there is a limit. Some prices I see are simply Martian, not of this planet! Some vintage optics became very fashionable in the last years, but some prices are simply unacceptable. Please be patient, soon you'll find the same lens, in the same state of conservation, for half the price. Do your homework, check recent finalised sales.
A little common sense and some restraint would help to save some money, and at the same time would help to correct some distorsions of the market.

The ideal situation is when you have the chance to try, or at least see, the lens before buying. Unfortunately brick and mortar stores are disappearing, and most of the times prices are not competitive with what you can find on the Internet.
Checking in person is the ideal situation, though pictures can be very self-explanatory, and when details are not shown I suggest to ask for more pics.
At times I made last minute purchases, or just followed my gut feeling (and my educated guess). Taking some risk paid off most of the times. I even paid with bank money transfer, especially for goods from Germany, with no right to get refunds or to return the lenses... In the end I have almost no regrets. It seems that most people are actually decent fellows.
If I could change something, I'd be more patient with some of my early, over enthusiastic purchases. I would avoid a couple of errors and save some money, that's all.
In hindsight, if I had been over cautious I would have lost my best deals.
Vendors are generally honest, and the eBay feedback system allows to weed out the bad ones.
I would pay a little premium to buy from a dedicated pentaxian on the marketplace of this forum. Unfortunately the few great deals disappear almost instantly
The remaining offers are generally overpriced. I repeat, a little premium for a lens that has been CLA'ed or checked and tested by an experienced forum user, is perfectly acceptable. In particular if the buyer lacks experience. Though I often see inflated prices, well over the average market offers. I see the forum as a community, not as a place where to make some quick money.
I had a big favor from a forum member, and on my side I gave away two lenses for free. I would never sell a defective lens here, not even one of so-and-so performance. Maybe I'm naive...

Last edited by cyberjunkie; 12-30-2018 at 03:56 PM.

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