As I build out my camera kit, I find myself wanting to expand my options. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using used lenses. With a few caveats…

  • Buy them from a reputable vendor or someone you know.
  • Inspect the lens for wear and mold.
  • Make sure the lens is compatible with your camera.

I bought many of the lenses in my kit from photography friends who were upgrading. Others are older prime lenses bought from reputable camera stores. It is perfectly acceptable to build your kit anyway you see fit. Ignore the pressure to buy the newest, hottest, or most popular lens and buy what you can afford (remembering of course its better to buy one good lens than two cheaper lenses).


Many old lenses are very solid and work well on modern cameras. If you are unsure about a used lens, you can take the lens to a camera shop to have it evaluated. You can even adapt lenses to work on different manufacturers’ cameras. Many companies make adapters that allow you to mount a lens from one manufacturer on a body from another.Adapters from companies like Fotodiox and Novoflex are good quality, well-built, and fairly inexpensive.

Although adapting a lens between mounting systems may sound like a perfect solution, you should be aware of two potential drawbacks:

  • You likely won’t get any autofocusing capabilities. If shooting video, this is not the biggest deal as  you’ll focus manually in most cases.
  • The camera will need manual control rings for aperture and focus, which is fairly standard on older lenses.

Head down to your local camera store, camera in-hand and start testing out some used lenses.  If nothing else it will get you thinking about the impact of glass on your shot.

Disclaimer: Make sure you evaluate closely any purchase decisions and check return policies before purchasing any gear.


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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. A friend and l recently tried an old M42 50mm f2.8 tessar as supplied with Prakticas from the 1970’s and a Canon EF 50mm f1.8 MkI on our M4/3 bodies with suitable adaptors, of the two the tessar was the easier one to use with aperture set to manual.

  2. I use old M42 Takumar lenses left over from my Spotmatic days on my Canon 5Dii, as well as a Nikkor wide angle from the late 60’s and just a few modern Canon lenses. The old manual lenses are especially useful if you are shooting time lapse as you can use them to easily eliminate aperture flicker. I use adaptors with chips in them that give focus confirm signals when in focus, though these are a bit tricky to set up if the focal point needs adjusting. I have also adapted an old Canon FD belows unit with FD macro lens on it for up to 5X macro.
    The most I have spent on a used lens is $79 (a Nikkor 24/f2.8) which I had to cut a flange off that sticks into the camera body in order to get it to work. I also had to file a bit off the inside housing of one of the Takumars to get it out of the way of the Canon mirror. So, you need to research carefully if the lens will work on the camera (there are lots of lists out there) and buy within your ability to modify the lens if necessary.


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Cinematography, Gear, Gear, Opinion, Photography


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