I have bought a few used lenses. In my experience, it was mostly positive. Most people babied their lenses and as a result, used lenses are usually look and handle just like new lenses.
Having said that there are a few down sides to purchasing used:
1. no warranty whatsoever
2. you can be cheated out of your money in several ways
3. lenses might be defective and damaged
My only bad experience buying a used lens was through ebay. It was a high value item (a 600mm f/4L) and out of greed the seller cheated - took my money and never sent the lens. It took a while to get my money back. Ebay was pretty good about refunding the money but the hassle was definitely there.
I bought and sold a few lenses via Craiglist but that was highly risky. I lucked out as everything went smoothly.
The best way to buy a used lens is through the buy and sell section of the Fred Miranda photography forum. You never have to worry about #2 and 3. The people there are very honest and fierely protect their buy/sell ratings and therefore will rate their items below their actual conditions. I have zero complaints dealing there. If you never used the service there, you might have some trouble however...because if you have low or no rating, some sellers may be reluctant to sell it to you. I started buying low value items and obtained a "great" rating and then I can buy higher value items there without hassles.
I picked up a used 300mm F2.8 lens via ebay and it was a good experience. Ebay offers pretty good buyer protection but you still need to be careful and know how to evaluate what you are buying and how to assess the seller (i.e. not just feedback but experience selling other similar items, etc.). In this case the lens was in near pristine condition at a very good price but if it had been anywhere close to the price of a new lens at B&H I wouldn't be at all interested because the risk/return tradeoff wouldn't be in balance from my point of view.
I also recently picked up a lightly used (under 30K shutter count) 1DX as a second body to use with the 1DX 2 I purchased new back in February. It was again in pristine condition with all original packing materials from a highly rated seller who has sold numerous high dollar photo items and had perfect feedback. But while I was looking for a good deal on this camera I saw MANY ebay listings that were somewhere in between sketch and questionable so shop carefully.
Paypal provides some additional buyer protection but if anyone asks you to pay for it via the Paypal friends and family approach run away quickly because at that point you just gave up the protections offered by this service.
" Most people babied their lenses and as a result, used lenses are usually look and handle just like new lenses."
This is so true! Most people are afraid to use their gear. For a few years I bought many, many lenses. I played with them. I tested them and I later sold them off. They were all in like new condition because I wanted to be able to sell them on with little difficulty. However, the lenses and gear I keep for one reason or another gets used. Most people wouldn't likely want it unless it is discounted enough. My camera gear does what I want it to. People spend thousands of dollars on great camera gear and then treat it like egg shells.
If you bought one of my play thing lenses you got a good deal. Just like it came from the manufacturer. The incentive for me was more and more lenses. The money loss on my part was just the cost of fun. I never sold on ebay so I have no comment. Just use common sense and you will be fine.
What is your experience purchasing used Canon lens? Any insights on what to look for and best vendors/sites? Am looking at lens on sale for $1,799, but see used models (100-400mm L series) for $900 from some sellers
There are two ways to buy used gear, online or in person. I would prefer the latter, in person, so that i can see it, hold it, and hopefully test it. You cannot do any of that with an online purchase, so who you buy it from is crucial.
I have bought online used gear only from B&H and KEH. The best place for “used” Canon gear is the Canon Online Refurbished Store, IMHO. I have bought several items there, and have had no issues with any of it. If I did, then there is the one year warranty that they give, which is the best part of the deal.
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