Good quality camera lenses are expensive. Therefore it is well worth considering saving money by buying a second hand lens. Most photographers take very good care of their equipment, so many used lenses show very little signs of wear and tear.
The main reason why there is an active second hand lens market is because photographers often like to "trade up" the lenses they currently own for better quality lenses as money permits and they become more committed to photography.
It is difficult to give a saving figure when buying second hand, but I would personally look for a minimum saving of 25%. Obviously the age and condition of any equipment needs to be taken into account when assessing whether or not an item is being sold for a fair price.
The used market is booming. Camera shops have found that the margins they can make on used camera equipment are much higher than margins on new gear. So there can be a fair amount of stock to choose from.
There are five main methods to buy a second hand camera lens. The first is via online stores specialising in second hand camera equipment. Next up is Ebay. You can also try visiting your local camera shop or use the classified adverts you find in the back of a typical photography magazine. Finally there are various web site message boards.
The big advantage of buying from a reputable online store is that you should feel a degree of confidence that you are going to get a lens as described in any advertisements. The best online stores grade their equipment so you have a good idea of the condition of the lens you are buying. Accurate grading is important for the store as their reputation can be damaged if the lens you receive bears little relation to the way it was described by the store.
In terms of price I would expect this to be one of the more expensive ways to buy a used lens, but you may consider it worth paying a little extra for a bit more security.
This is still a good way to buy second hand as you can check out the lens you are buying and see exactly what condition it is in when you buy. Historically small camera shops have always been a great place to buy. In the last few years many have closed and they are now much harder to find.
In most cases this is the most expensive way to buy used camera equipment. Be prepared to haggle!
A considerable amount of photography equipment is sold via Ebay. Although Ebay takes a commission on all sales it should still work out cheaper than buying at either online stores or your local camera shop. I would only consider buying a lens if there was a picture accompanying the advert so that you can assess the condition of the lens. Buying from someone with a good Ebay sales history can give you further peace of mind.
When bidding it is always worth working out your price limit beforehand, so that you do not get caught up in a bidding frenzy and pay more than what the lens is worth.
As Ebay has matured I think it has become harder to find real bargains, but you can still find good deals there.
It is always worth following Ebay's buying guidelines. For example paying via PayPal can give you a degree of protection if you are let down by the buyer.
Camera Lens Introduction
Buying Your First Lens
Camera Lens Types
Camera Lens Brands
Buying Second Hand Lenses
Digital SLR Crop Factor
Caring For Your Camera Lens
Common Lens Faults
Camera Lens FAQs
As with buying from your local camera shop buying through the classified adverts in photography magazines has always been a popular way of buying used equipment. Because you are buying direct from a seller and cutting out any commission this should be the cheapest way to buy. It also holds a higher risk than most other methods as you are reliant on the person selling to be honest with the description of the goods they are selling and to deliver to an agreed timeframe.
Websites such as Gumtree carry classified adverts. I would always be very wary of buying anything expensive from this type of website, but you may be able to find some sort of bargain there. I am also aware that plenty of equipment is bought and sold through the Photographers.co.uk Used Cameras section.
If you do decide to buy after seeing an advert on an Internet Message Board or in a Classified Advert be aware that there are a number of scam merchants out there. If you can, buy locally. Insist on meeting someone and seeing the equipment before handing over your money. If you are visiting undesirable or unknown areas take someone with you.
Other options include paying by PayPal. This should give you a degree of security, although it is not failsafe. It is a much better bet than putting a cheque in the post to someone you have never met, who lives hundreds of miles away.
Likewise if you use these methods to sell unwanted equipment take extra care too.
As well as being able to pick up more recently released stock in the second hand market you can also find a selection of lenses that are twenty to thirty years older or even more. This goes to prove that a well made lens goes on working long after a camera body has become obsolete. If you know a bit about what you are looking for many bargains can be had.
Often the build quality of older lenses surpasses that of lenses made more recently. You might also find items such as manual focus lenses that will do just the job you want them to for a fraction of the price of a new lens.
When you are buying older stock it becomes even more important to check out the condition of the lens before you buy.
If something sounds too good to be true it probably is!