Buying a new lens is often expensive business. Due to the precision engineering that goes into the optics, the cost for anything but the most basic lens can soon become far too much. Buying a used Canon lens can be more affordable for those on a budget. If it’s been well maintained, a lens can often retain a great deal of its value too. This guide will outline some of our favourite used Canon lenses and what to look out for when you’re buying one.
Best Used Canon Lenses 2017
Why it’s great:
- Excellent replacement for a standard kit lens.
- Maximum f/2.8 aperture, constant across zoom range.
- Features fantastic image stabilization and autofocus.
The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is a versatile lens that has all of the hallmarks of a good Canon lens. The focal length range makes this lens ideal for a walk around lens, giving the freedom to take a variety of different shots. It has USM (Ultrasonic Motor) autofocusing and image stabilization which enable the user to take handheld shots, even when the lighting is low. The glass has Super Spectra coating, which reduces lens flare and also makes it robust. If you’re buying used, this is an excellent lens that can be picked up for relatively cheap.
- There’s some loss of image quality when the aperture is wide open at f/2.8.
- The build quality isn’t the sturdiest, so be sure it’s been well-treated if buying used.
Why it’s great:
- Excellent, budget wide angle lens for crop-frames.
- STM (Stepper Motor) autofocusing is quick and very quiet.
- Super spectra lens coating reduces chromatic aberration and protects the glass.
As far as affordable wide angle lenses come, there aren’t many that are better than the Canon EF-S 10-18mm. If you’re looking to get into landscape or interior photography, try to pick one of these up second-hand. It’s an inexpensive way of trying wide angle photography, and has some really neat features. It doesn’t have the biggest focal length range, but the lens coating and STM motor are definite plusses.
- The casing is mostly plastic, so be sure to thoroughly check a used model for any signs of damage or misuse.
Why it’s great:
- Inexpensive and high-performing prime lens.
- Small and lightweight with a reasonably wide angle and maximum f/2.8 aperture.
- STM motor for quick and quiet autofocusing.
Prime lenses are great for taking out and about; they’re versatile and lightweight. The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is a good all-purpose lens that has a pretty wide angle and maximum aperture of f/2.8. As far as prime lenses go it’s not that expensive either, and can likely be purchased for a very reasonable price used. Image quality is good across the aperture range, and overall it’s a great travelling companion for photography.
- The build quality isn’t particularly sturdy. Be sure to ensure the previous user has treated it well if purchasing used.
- At wider apertures there are some noticeable image defects, such as barrel distortion and chromatic aberration.
Canon Lens Terminology Explained
Technical terms are often thrown around when discussing Canon lenses. The many acronyms and abbreviations can be confusing, so we’ve explained some of the main ones below for your reference:
Lens Mount: There are three types of lens mounts available on Canon cameras. They are: EF, EF-S and EF-M. When purchasing a new lens, you need to make sure it’s compatible with the mount on your camera.
EF lens: The Canon EF mount is one of the earlier types of mounts, dating back to the late 80s. The good thing about them is that they’re compatible with every subsequent EOS camera produced. This includes the new EOS M series, provided you use a mount adaptor. A useful thing to know is that when you mount an EF lens on a crop-frame sensor camera, the focal length of the lens should be multiplied by 1.6 in order to calculate the equivalent on a 35mm sensor.
EF-S lens: Canon’s EF-S lenses are made for Canon EOS DSLRs with smaller sensors. Some examples include the EOS 200D, 800D and 80D. There are a broad range of lenses available for EF-S mounts, with a range that varies from 16-400mm in equivalent terms.
EF-M lens: Canon’s mirrorless range uses the EF-M mount and is a relatively new introduction. These lenses compliment mirrorless bodies by being compact and lightweight, but they can only be used with cameras that have the EOS M mount.
Prime lens: A prime lens is one that has a fixed focal length. This means that they don’t zoom through a range of lengths but is fixed to just one. A good example is a 50mm prime lens.
USM: USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor and is a technology that drives the autofocus in Canon lenses. It’s fairly quiet and fast, and better than something you’d find on a cheaper lens.
STM: STM stands for Stepper Motor, and is another technology that drives autofocus. This is perhaps the quietest method for focusing and is found in more expensive lenses. It’s particularly useful for those that shoot video, as it nearly eliminates the noise of the motor driving the focus.
IS: IS refers to Image Stabilization. This is the technology that tries to reduce camera shake, meaning you can shoot from the hand in lower light, using longer shutter speeds, without getting too much image blur.
L-series: Canon’s prestige range of lens is the L-series. There are the top of the range lenses aimed at professionals. They usually have the price tag to match.
I, II, III: The numerals refer to the generation of the lens. Whilst there are often various lenses that have the same specs in terms of focal length range, maximum aperture, and autofocus motor, updated versions will have a I, II, or III to denote which iteration it is.
Checking Used Canon Lens Quality: What to Look For
The last thing you need to know before you make a purchase is what to look for and where to buy your used lens. We’ve given details below:
Physical Checks – What to Look For
There are some notable features you need to look for when buying a used lens. You need to make sure the previous owner has properly maintained it. Start by giving the outer casing a look over. Scratches and signs of wear are to be expected, but any sever dents or cracks show that it’s likely been dropped or misused. This could mean that the glass inside is faulty. Check that the lens cap fits securely and the clasps are secure and intact, as well as the filter threads. Also check the lens ring on the back of the lens is undamaged and that it fits with your camera. You should pay close attention to the contacts to ensure they have no signs of wear aren’t bent out of shape. Make sure that if it’s a zoom lens it smoothly transitions between focal lengths, and that any buttons or rings operate as expected.
Moving onto the glass itself, check the front element for any obvious signs of damage. Dust or blemishes can be cleaned, but scratches will be detrimental to your pictures. Use a bright light shine into the lens at various angles, checking for damage to the lens as well as the aperture ring. Try the lens with your camera, take some test shots of various things and in various lights to make sure there are no optical defects and that the lens isn’t damaged. Ensure the autofocus motor works well and isn’t overly noisy or inaccurate. Test through a range of apertures and also make sure there are no obvious signs of damage. If you’re not happy with its condition, don’t be afraid to pass up the opportunity or try and negotiate a better price.
Where to Purchase
Finding a good deal on a used Canon lens isn’t too hard. There are a few good places you can look, so make sure you compare prices to find the right deal for you. The first place to start is online. The internet has a wealth of sites that sell used camera gear. You’ll be able to get a good description of the lens and its condition, as well as images and user reviews. Make sure that you use a website you can trust if and when you make a purchase. If a deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Here are some sites that sell used Canon cameras you might want to check out:
- Canon Store
- B&H Photo
- Cameta Camera
- Midwest Photo Exchange
The other main place to search is local classified ads. Camera enthusiasts will often buy and sell equipment through these, as it takes out the commission that some websites charge. The benefit is that you can go and physically examine the equipment before you make a purchase, and hopefully it will be from someone as interested in photography as you. If you’re uncomfortable visiting someone’s house, try and arrange to meet somewhere public and convenient for you both. Negotiate if you feel the price isn’t reflective of quality, and politely decline if the lens isn’t what you’d hoped for. Some personal seller sites include: