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Looking for the best second-hand lenses to expand your camera collection? The second-hand market is particularly buoyant with price and supply issues affecting the camera and technology sectors. Purchasing a top-quality lens is perhaps one of the best ways to improve your setup, and there are significant savings to be found if you opt for a second-hand option on the used market.
Adding variety to your photography is one of the key features new lenses can provide. Whether you’re a landscape photographer, astrophotography enthusiast, or a portrait person, different lenses can alter your perception, image taking, and most importantly, challenge you to find new perspectives, angles and framings. Although these lenses are at the higher end of the market, it’s one of the reasons buying used can be an intelligent choice.
As ever, when buying anything second-hand, do your research first. If buying from a trusted used seller such as Adorama (opens in new tab), B&H Photo (opens in new tab), MPB (opens in new tab) and Wex (opens in new tab) (other stores are available) you can be sure that each lens will be checked, inspected, and cleaned. If buying privately, do a simple test before you commit. Look for abrasions or marks on the glass, check the focal rings and zoom functionality and look for any resistance when moving between focal lengths. If you can, take some images with the lens before you buy, but if purchasing online, try to shop from sellers who use only photos of the actual product you’re purchasing rather than staged generic publicity shots of new items.
If there’s one piece of advice most photographers would give a newcomer, it’s that the best bet, if you want to improve, is to ditch the kit lens and purchase the next level up. This is where the 50mm 1.4 USM lens for Canon cameras comes in. It works with both full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras and provides sharp images with excellent low-light performance. This lens is a great recommendation for a good all-rounder lens that will suit a range of different circumstances and put up with years of use. There are some excellent and affordable used examples out there.
In addition to purchasing a good prime lens, we’d also recommend looking at a replacement for the kit lenses that come with most DSLRs. With a nice range of 17-70mm, this is also a fast lens, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8-4 at either end of the focal range allowing for some nifty nighttime and astrophotography captures.
It’s versatile, too, available in all mounts options. ‘HSM’ stands for Hyper Sonic Motor, ensuring quiet, smooth and reliable autofocusing while the in-built stabilization minimizes shake if you’re shooting handheld. We’ve found in our experience the lens offers excellent sharpness and color rendition, too.
If you’ve got a good camera body and you’re serious about wildlife or sports photography, this versatile option from Nikon is a great option if your budget is higher. It produces excellent results on full-frame systems, with the ‘Silent Wave Motor’ offering exemplary autofocus speed and accuracy and an incredibly quiet operation.
In the lens, there are four extra-low dispersion glass elements and a super ED dispersion element, helping to correct chromatic aberration, sharpness and color defects. This is important in a lens that offers long focal lengths and helps ensure the results are accurate, pin sharp, and impressive when capturing various wildlife’s intricate features.
The 35mm focal length on this Sigma prime is pleasing to use on many camera setups, providing a slightly wider aspect than a 50mm lens but still offering the same portraiture opportunities due to the warm image delivery and impressive detail.
This is one of our favorite used lenses available at the moment, and you can find some significant savings on the used market. It’s a fast lens that’s fantastic in low-light conditions, but we’d recommend trying out the autofocus and the lens’s hypersonic motor to ensure it’s in good working order before you buy. If you’re looking for an addition to your arsenal and you’re shooting in spaces you need flexibility, like weddings, we’d recommend this fast prime.
The 24-105mm focal length could be seen as one of the most versatile zoom lenses on the market and the Canon EF 24-105 f/4 L IS USM is one of the best. Delivering outstanding quality and excellent, sharp image results across various disciplines, from wide-angle landscapes to close-up portraits or product shots.
For some photographers, it’s the ‘go-to’ lens, and if you only have money for one lens and demand variety from your picture taking, this is worth a look. The focal range has a few downsides, there is a slight softness at the edges on full frame camera setups, but this improves as it’s stopped down, and there is also some distortion and barrelling at wide angles. That being said, it still offers excellent quality, and we like that it also feels well-built and sturdy — a worthwhile addition to any photographer’s camera bag.
It has an almost unparalleled focal range which is perfect for big picture and detail-oriented photographers alike and well suited to the needs of outdoor, wildlife and bird image-makers and sports photographers. There are, however, a couple of words of warning as with many lenses of this size. Firstly, it’s big and heavy, earning the nickname ‘Bigma’ over the years. Secondly, there’s no inbuilt stabilization, and because there’s so much glass, it’s already quite a slow lens. If you’re stopping down with this lens, your subject needs to be very well lit, and you need to have steely calm hands to ensure everything remains in focus!