I love buying used lenses. Although I don’t have many, every one I’ve bought has been used. There is an overwhelming amount of quality and crappy ones available for purchase. From eBay, to Amazon to Craigslist, it is a beautiful thing. On top of that, my SLR has an internal motor, so that knocks down the price even more, as I don’t have to get a lens that has a built-in motor if I want to auto-focus. Unless you are a pro who demands lens in perfect condition, buying used is the way to go. In fact, I’m sure there are some pros that buy used. More after the break….
Like millions of others, I used eBay for years. Once I got into photography though, it was game time. I was overwhelmed and shocked at the sheer number of photographic gear available. As of this writing there are over 82,00 lens for sale on eBay. That is lens only!!! Not filters, not lens covers. lenses. As you can imagine, I was elated to see this when I decided I needed more than just my kit lens. I essentially wanted 2-3 lenses that I would actually use, not ones that I may use twice a year. I don’t have the type of dough to spend on an infrequently used lens, even if the price is right. Since shoot mostly portraits, here is what I ended up getting:
1. The ol’ nifty fifty. I went with the older 50 mm 1.8 D, because again, I didn’t need the more expensive version with the built-in motor. I got it for 97 bucks, including shipping. Amazon has it for about 137 dollars as of today. This lens is fantastic for low light shooting, and it is super sharp. I honestly think that all photographers should have this bad boy in their bag, or at least a similar prime lens. It is the best bang for your buck you can get from a Nikon lens. I especially love it for candid shots of my 6 month old. I put the D90 in continuous high and snap away.
2. When I sold my D3100 a while back, I needed all the money I could get, so I sold the underrated kit lens with it. I missed that lens as soon as I sold it. It’s nice to have that wide to mid range all-purpose lens. Going wide is cool for landscape shots, and the 70 or so mm is nice for a kind of mini-zoom, especially on cropped cam like the D90. I didn’t have a lot of qualifications for this one. I just wanted your basic 17-50 all-purpose lens. I got the Quantaray 18-50 mm f3.5-5.6. I think Quantaray is a brand made by Tamron or Sigma. Let’s just say it’s at a very affordable price point. I paid 70 bucks for mine. The quality of the lens is cheap, photo quality is decent. Once you get out wide though, it degrades for sure. Still, for the price, it’s a good deal.
3. Last on my list was a telephoto lens. This one took me a bit longer to buy. They can get pretty pricey, even on the lower end. I do like to capture some nature shots once in a while, and I wanted a way to take some candid shots of my son as well as others in my family from a distance. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford a fast lens at 200mm, so I was going to have to settle for something pretty slow. I ended up getting the Nikkor 70 mm – 300 mm F/4.0-5.6 G lens off eBay for 86 dollars, including shipping.
For that price, you can probably guess it’s not the best lens out there. For what I want it for though, it works pretty well. I must have an absolute shit ton of light for it to work well, but I usually use a speedlight if I’m indoors, or I bump up the ISO and try to stabilize on a solid surface if I’m outside. Once you get in the 250 mm range, the image quality starts to get pretty low. But still, 86 dollars! If you are looking for a bang around telephoto, it is a pretty good deal.
So there you have it. I have my eye on a few other lenses on eBay at the moment, including a 100 mm range macro lens, and a mid quality portrait lens, in the 70 mm range. As I said at the top, eBay has an absolutely overwhelming amount of lenses, but they also have a ton of other photographic gear. I have bought a lot of lighting modifiers, filters, umbrellas and light stands, the list goes on. If you are on a tight budget, eBay and other sites that offer used equipment can be a real boost. Remember though, you do get what you pay for. Although I’m happy with the three lenses above, the 50 mm is by far the best buy and lens, the other 2 will do until Powerball comes calling.