Where to Buy Used Lenses/Equipment

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Pigmyracer, May 10, 2010.

  1. Pigmyracer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2010
    #1
    As many of you probably saw, I recently posted a thread on intermediate lenses. Based on everything I've read and heard, professional glass is, more often than not, worth the investment. Unfortunately, I can't necessarily afford pro level glass so the used market seems like the only option. I would wager that anyone willing to spend serious money on new pro level glass is going to treat that equipment well. I've seen how a lot of pro photographers treat their lenses and have concluded that they probably treat them with greater care than their own children.

    That said, my concern with buying used camera equipment is that no matter how careful someone is, it is relatively easy to damage something. Thus, I'm curious as to how safe it is to buy used lenses online. You can't see the lens in person so you can't examine it for damage, which means you are completely reliant on an analysis created by the very people trying to sell you the equipment. Then again, I'm not sure if I'm qualified to make a more accurate analysis in person. So, in summation, my questions are...

    Is it "safe" to buy used lenses online?
    Is it preferable to buy used lenses from a brick and mortar store?
    Which online retailers are reliable and have a good selection of used lenses (I'm a big fan of B and H, but they don't have much used inventory)?
    Which brick and mortar stores in the NYC/Metro area sell reliable used goods?

    I shoot Nikon and am looking to buy a pretty wide range of glass. Any help would be much appreciated.
     
  2. gødspeed macrumors regular

    gødspeed

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #2
    I check a few sites semi-regularly (every couple days) for good deals on used lenses. Those sites are:

    Keh.com
    Adorama.com Used Section
    Amazon.com Marketplace

    Others that I know of but that I don't personally use are:
    Ebay.com
    Fredmiranda.com

    When I started photography / cinematography, I bought lenses new. Big mistake. You can save so much money by researching lenses and then buying them used. Now I buy almost only older used manual focus lenses with high build quality / resale value, and try them out and sell the ones I don't like for as much as I bought them for.

    To answer your other question, it is safe to buy used, though Keh and Adorama seem to be more safe than Amazon, Ebay, and FM. On Amazon MP and Ebay, avoid sellers with bad ratings or with no ratings at all. On Fredmiranda, try to buy from longer-term members that are obviously involved in the community. Sellers care about their credibility at least as much as you care about not getting screwed over.
     
  3. emorydunn macrumors 6502

    emorydunn

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2006
    Location:
    Austin Texas
    #3
    All of the previous websites are good. And even if you don't buy from them they are great places to get reference points on price for gear in a certain condition (KEH is great for this).

    You can also try craigslist.com, that way you can look for gear from the comfort of your computer and actually go and inspect it (and as a bonus, often haggle the price down a bit).
     
  4. pdxflint macrumors 68020

    pdxflint

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2006
    Location:
    Oregon coast
    #4
    Okay, this is a little long, but might help anyone who's afraid of eBay due to horror stories...

    I've had good success with eBay, but I spent a fair amount of time getting to know how it worked before pulling the lever on my first item, which was not too expensive. It gave me the confidence to keep going. As a result, I bought all my used lenses on eBay. It's the wild, wild west, but if you are smart about it, it can be a really good source.

    First, "watch" a bunch of ongoing auctions of the same kind of equipment you're interested in. See what they actually sell for on average, and check out the ratings and previous transactions of the sellers. Look for clean, clear photos and write-ups that appear genuine and show that the seller actually has been the owner of the item, knows what it really is, and has used it personally, unless it's a reseller/store. Ask the sellers questions and see how they respond. Look closely at the terms for returns, and how/when they'll ship. When checking out their ratings you can get a sense for how well they completed their previous transactions and how reliable they have been. Never use regular email to communicate, always message them through the eBay system so there's a record.

    If you want to make a bid, make your upper limit reasonably close to where you'd be actually willing to pay, and you have a better chance of getting what you're bidding on because often the "fishing" bidders will move on if it looks like you're serious, thus keeping your top bid lower. If you get beat, don't worry. Sometimes the bids just get higher than you really want, so don't get too emotionally invested so you get caught in a last minute bidding war and maybe pay too much.

    All this is stuff you can learn by spending time watching similar auctions of items you might be interested in. It's a good way to get familiar with the market prices/values of various lenses whether you use eBay or not. Keep to US domestic sellers (if you're in the US.) Always use Paypal because of the buyer's protection. eBay is actually better at protecting the buyer than the seller.

    Finally, in any transaction where you win the item, pay promptly and communicate with the seller just to let them know the payment has been made and you're looking forward to receiving the item (the system will tell them anyway.) The idea is to be friendly, and if anything comes up, or any problems with item not being as stated, give the seller a chance to make it good. I've received a couple of items that didn't work quite as stated (video converter didn't work and a 8mm digital camcorder wouldn't output via firewire)--both cases my sellers took the items back, and one refunded my money and the other replaced the item with a virtually identical camcorder, with a working firewire port that he personally tested. I noticed when he relisted the one I returned that he mentioned the non-working firewire port, so he was an honest seller, and we were able to work together to solve a problem. That's all you can ask for. All communication was on the record in case a dispute needed to be filed, but I gave him top marks and vice versa.

    If you have to return something, always get receipts and tracking numbers and signature return receipts. It's all about covering your rear, which is good for both parties. Most people are honest and just want the transaction to go through smoothly, so that's the way I deal with it. Just keep your eyes open and know how it all works.

    It sounds complicated, but it's all really common sense. There are a lot more sellers out there on eBay than anywhere else, so the selection is usually decent. If it's not there today, it will likely be there tomorrow. And there are always those folks who just seem to always find the most interesting vintage gear to resell.
     
  5. toxic macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    #5
    - Fred Miranda Buy & Sell Forums
    - Photography-on-the-net Sell Forums (mostly Canon, but other stuff and sometimes Nikon too)
    - KEH - they clean and calibrate lenses before putting them on sale
    - craigslist
    - ebay

    some things have to be found on Ebay, like rare or discontinued lenses, or manual focus glass. they pop up every once in awhile elsewhere, but Ebay has them the most. I go to ebay last, usually.
     
  6. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #6
    I have sold and bought many a things at Fred Miranda over the years. I have also bought and sold on CL. I avoid eBay when possible. I did buy my 40D on eBay a month or two ago. I did buy a lens on eBay, but he guy STILL hasn't contacted me, so i don't count that.

    Best experience for me is FM by far. Most of the people on the site are pro's or serious hobbyists.
     
  7. Pigmyracer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2010
    #7
    Thanks for the suggestions. I'd heard of Keh, but not Fred Miranda so thank you all for the reference. Are there any lenses or types of lenses that fair better or are more easily found on these sites? Also, I go between NYC and Boston so does anyone know of a shop with a good selection of used equipment (other than B and H, I've been shopping there my whole life)? As an aside, does anyone know of any student discounts at major (or local) shops? Strictly speaking, I am a student (just not studying photography, I'm a grad student).
     
  8. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #8
    Check out KEH and the shop I work for IHMO (penncamera.com)....
     
  9. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #9
    I don't think there is a specific lens that is sold more than another one, other than maybe a "kit" lens. The reason for that is due to peoples' shooting styles/habits. Some people do a lot of weddings/studio work, and thus they would be selling most likely a prime (85 1.2) or a fast zoom (24-70L or 70-200 2.8).

    Just look at the B&S forum at FM. It is one of the most active B&S forums that i know of! I have listed stuff there that sold within minutes!
     
  10. seedster2 macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 16, 2007
    Location:
    NYC
  11. Presha macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2008
    Location:
    Double Down
    #11
    I buy all of my used lens from lensrentals.com. never had any problems. I recently bought a used canon 16-35 MKII from them. Great condition and worked perfectly. From here on out, I'll most likely go used on the "L" glass to save some duckies! They have a fair warranty and return policy as well....awesome people!
     
  12. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    Where am I???
    #12
    fredmiranda.com

    I avoid buying camera gear from Craiglist; no way to hold the seller accountable. That said, I have sold camera gear on Craigslist.
     
  13. HelenOster macrumors newbie

    HelenOster

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2008
    Location:
    New York
    #13
  14. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #14
    That can happen with any online type of transaction between private parties. If you want peace of mind only buy through respected camera dealers. Most have to report serial numbers to the police, and may be more likely to refund the purchase price if it did turn up stolen and had to be returned to the rightful owner.
     
  15. someoldguy macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2009
    Location:
    usa
    #15
    Try Bergen County Camera in NJ , got my 100-400L from them as well as some Leica M stuff some years back . Been around a long time , totally reliable.
     
  16. henryp macrumors member

    henryp

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    New York, NY
    #16
    If the retailer is reliable and generally trustworthy I think it's reasonable to presume the retailer will be reliable and trustworthy about the quality of used merchandise they buy to resell to you. Here, the people who inspect lenses before we buy them know what they're doing and know they're responsible if later on a customer buys a lens and is legitimately dissatisfied.

    Your first question is used vs new, of course. Once you've accepted the benefit (mostly price) of used, your next issue is, do you trust your retailer?

    Good luck with your purchase.
     
  17. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    Where am I???
    #17
    True, but the risk is FAR less using sites like fm.com, where the buyer has the opportunity to evaluate the seller's history and get feedback from other users. Of course, this can be faked, but with Craigslist and the like, you have absolutely no security at all.
     

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