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07-04-2011, 06:09 AM   #1
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What to look for in buying used lenses?

Hey guys,

I'm gonna be buying a used lens (a manual fast 50) sometime soon from a local used camera dealer. What things should I be looking for in buying a used lens? Personally I'd like to try the lens out mounted on my camera but I don't really know the store's policy with that so what else can I try?


07-04-2011, 06:40 AM   #2
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If I recall correctly there is a post about bargain shopping for lenses and tips are in there. However, for myself I attach the lens to my body last. Nothing like those old zoom push pull design contaminating the camera body with dust.

Because getting serious with the lens I usually check for aperture blades make sure they aren't oily or sticking. The aperture ring making sure it functions properly and not warn out. The stiffness or lack there of in the focusing ring. It should be a good balance not overly tight which can signify lubrication issues that can lead to sticky aperture blade. Finally the elements for any signs of fungi growing and/or dust spots. The mount itself should be visually check for damage and if it is serious you should be able to see it before mounting.
07-04-2011, 06:43 AM   #3
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I love the Takumars with the auto / manual switch at the back. You can leave camera in Av mode and you will always get (more or less) a properly exposed pic. Per info. l learned in this forum I keep the switch on manual and frame/focus my pic wide open at f1.4 light is poor then simply turn the ap. ring for desired depth of field or sharpness. My first fast 50 was a K mount 55 1.8, with this I have to shoot in M for anything other than wide open which means having to push the green button to get proper metering for every shot. For me it is easy to get wrapped up in the moment (or when shooting something moving about) and forget to do this resulting in way over or under exposed shots. Read the entire Takumar lens sub will learn a lot. Oh, avoid anything with fungus. A little dust is ok. Minimal wear on the body is usually a good indicator of little use and good care. If you are patient on fleebay you can hit some really sweet deals! Hope this helps.
07-04-2011, 08:03 AM   #4

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Check this out, too:

Last edited by .a.t.; 07-04-2011 at 08:08 AM.
07-04-2011, 08:33 AM - 1 Like   #5
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The price...

I will leave the technical checkup to the previous posters as they seem to be quite on the ball. The problem I run into is the outlandish prices most sellers post for their items. Older stuff is harder to gauge as it really depends on how much you want a particular item. It is the newer stuff that still can be purchased new that always wigs me out.
I often see items for sale for 80% to 90% of original cost. For example, a D FA 100 macro WR will sell for $565 plus shipping and PayPal fees when it can be bought for $620 brand new with no tax or shipping. Yet people do it. It just boggles my mind. To my mind, $400 to $450 depending how close to pristine it is would be is my limit and that would be shipping and PayPal included. This is after all somebodies used lens. You have no idea if it had a unmarking but heavy duty drop. Or if the DA* is starting to seize.
I still do not know if the guy selling the FA 85mm ever got his $1500 so he could go to New Zealand. At some point you lower the price till it hits the it's real value yet someday somebody may just fork over $1500 for that lens. Granted NZ may have returned to the ocean by then but he got his price.
Now on the other side, since I sell a lot of gear, I am quite happy to get top dollar for my stuff but often wonder at the buyers sanity. I once sold a three year old Oly 50-200 for $50 less than the new cost minus rebate. The lady was thrilled at her slickness in using an Ebay bot to make sure she won. I gladly sold it to her and endorsed her good fortune. Myself, 2/3 of original price for very new in good condition. Guess that's why I almost never get to buy things. People get insulted thinking I am low balling them but it just does not make economic sense to pay near new price for a questionable item. Happy hunting.

07-04-2011, 09:06 AM   #6
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I usually find used shops that have no idea about cameras usually just find the highest number on ebay and list that as sale price. Even though sometimes it is unjustified. Shops that I have been to that know cameras usually list them slightly above used prices. Atleast when comparing to prices I find on the forums and reviews.
07-04-2011, 02:46 PM   #7
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The Pawn Shop thread is an excellent one. Making sure the aperture opens and closes with precision is important. To do so you will need a flashlight. A small penlight is sufficient in my experience. ANY hints of fungus and you should walk. There are some good threads on what to look for when examining for fungus too. Good luck.
07-04-2011, 04:19 PM   #8
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Sometimes used lenses are at the dealer on consignment. I always ask about price. It's sometimes negotiable, especially if you can point to some of the problems others have mentioned.

07-04-2011, 04:53 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by djc737 Quote
Granted NZ may have returned to the ocean by then but he got his price.
We are still here and the beach is still visible from our deck.
07-05-2011, 02:17 AM   #10
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Thanks for the replies everyone! I'm saving up a little more cash before going. The place is near my workplace but my normal bag doesn't fit an extra DSLR =( Gonna wait til my day off.
09-08-2011, 10:11 AM   #11
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I think DJC737 nailed it, When I go shopping for used anything I have to approach it from if I were selling it what would I want out of it and what can be had new, It is very frustrating when you find something that Yes they paid 1K for it new a couple of years ago but want close to that for it when the current version new is better for just a little more money. Big difference is what it is worth and what will be paid because of the market. I went through this just recently on an Item I passed on because yes I thought it was worth the asking price but I felt I couldnt justify the cost because of what I could still get new.


Last edited by jerryleejr; 09-08-2011 at 10:17 AM.
09-08-2011, 01:46 PM   #12
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Look for a lens alternative thats brand new instead. Preferably Pentax brand.
True warranty, well defined return rules, in known condition.

Support the development, research and system. Even the latest SDM lenses still use mechanical lever for aperture actuation, just to retain legacy support. I just got a lens back from a 60$ repair. The repairman told me that Pentax lenses are ones of the most complex to repair, because of all the mechanics that they use and precision required for correct operation (e.g. fast, precise stop down). With others you just open the case, remove two integrated motors and can easily access simple mechanical structure. Used lenses get fewer in numbers and more worn each year, how long do new lenses must suffer to support them?

There are too many dishonest people for whom the used market is a place where to exploit trust, naivety and unawareness of others. They use it to get rid of problematic items or earn easy money on items they've acquired much cheaper.
09-11-2011, 10:48 AM   #13
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In terms of pricing, I go to ebay and using their advanced capability (up next to the search button), look at the completed sales. This provides a list of what the lens actually sold for rather than what the seller priced it at (especially the buy it now stuff).

I have bought a couple of items off of ebay, mainly older Pentax lenses that are fairly low in price - $20 and under, so if they are broken, I am not out too much. You can also try craigslist. The folks on craigslist I believe overprice out of ignorance - as in - back in 1960 I paid $325 for this K1000 and M 50 f2 so they want to sell it for say $200, when its worth more like $30, maybe $50. Then there are items that just because it came off a film camera and are old they are asking $20 but is a A *300 that should go for a bit more (or a lot more).

For the older lenses on craigslist, do not just search for lenses, just search for Pentax, since the sellers post the information on the camera body, and just say that it comes with 2 lenses.

I have used the Forum's Marketplace for several items and have been very happy. The folks here tend to take very good care of their equipment and realistically / accurately describe it.

09-11-2011, 11:52 AM   #14
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"Money changes everything" --C.Lauper

Yes, check COMPLETED LISTINGS on eBay to see current, actual, free-market prices.
Also compare prices at KEH (used stuff) and Buy.Com and major retailers (new stuff).
For any lens (or whatever), decide on your comfort zone, and don't exceed it much.

For many used lenses, my comfort limit is very, very low. I've mentioned my acquisition rules: If it costs less than a hamburger, buy it; if it cost more than a supreme pizza, think real hard about it. And my auction rules: Bid low; bid often; lose 99% of bids; don't fret, another will come along soon. And my self-financing rule: Gotta sell enough stuff to make enough money to buy more stuff.

New stuff demands a different strategy. I question myself: How badly do I *need* it? Do I need it *now*? How far can I stretch my comfort level? And, most vital: Can I return it for a refund with no hassle? (Don't abuse that as a free-rent tactic.) The 'need' question breaks down to: Where do I want to go and what will get me there? And: What do I want to do that I can't do with what I have?

Because new stuff usually isn't cheap, and because I'm a cheap bastard, I usually stick to rather cheap used lenses. Some are extraordinarily good; some were extraordinary bargains. With research and determination and luck, great cheap used lenses can still be found.
09-11-2011, 05:58 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by KeithM2 Quote
Hey guys,

I'm gonna be buying a used lens (a manual fast 50) sometime soon from a local used camera dealer. What things should I be looking for in buying a used lens? Personally I'd like to try the lens out mounted on my camera but I don't really know the store's policy with that so what else can I try?

if you're buying the lens from a "local used camera dealer", I would absolutely think without a doubt he will let you mount the lens and try it out in the store. If his answer is NO to this request, I would politely say thank you and turn towards the nearest exit.

I have purchased a pretty fair amount of lenses for a beginner... my "worst" purchases were through EBAY; I "won" 2 lenses, each works properly but each also have slight issues which I would need to list if I were to sell them. My best bargain purchases were through Craigslist, I once snagged a Pentax F 50/1.7 and an A 50/2.0 with bodies for $20. The great thing about Craigslist and other local outlets is the ability to see, touch and try out the lens. With that said, I have, however, purchased items at the Pentax Forums Market Place with success.

What to look for? Personally, I need to make sure the lens can focus sharply/properly (focusing ring is smooth and snug v too loose) and if it's a k-mount v. screw mount, the blades must be able to stop down and be, how do they say it on Ebay, "snappy". Some minor scratches on the front element is usually OK but on the rear element NOT. Look carefully at lens in good light and if you see some spidering/web on the glass, I would not buy it...

And before you buy it, standing in line with cash in hand, you got to ask yourself, Do I really need it? My answer has always been yes... have a good time

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