The Complete Guide to Buying a Used Canon Lens

Michael Sand
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If you’re looking to buy a used Canon lens, this guide should help. To avoid getting burned on the deal, it’s important to know all the details on buying used Canon lenses.

I’ll teach you exactly what you need to know about choosing used Canon lenses that will last.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

What Do You Mean by “Used?”

After a lens has been used by a photographer, it is generally referred to as a used camera lens. It’s important to know that a used lens is not the same as a refurbished lens. Both terms can be confusing to the average buyer, so it’s important to learn the difference.

Refurbished lenses are exactly that, lenses that were repaired and brought back to factory specifications so they can be sold. Typically, refurbished Canon lenses are just as good as a new lens at a discounted price.

NameCategoryProduct
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM LensBest OverallCanon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM LensBudget PickCanon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM LensUpgrade PickCanon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

1. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens

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Pros:

  • Outstanding quality
  • Extremely versatile in its focal range
  • Outstanding sharpness and clarity
  • Solid build quality
  • Excellent weather sealing
  • Consistent performance wide open
  • Competitive price
  • Very good built-in image stabilization

Cons:

  • Maximum aperture of only f/2.8
  • Fixed focal length
  • Typical barrel distortion at the wide end

If you go through the Canon lens reviews you will notice that this lens is an absolute favorite by everybody! That is because this lens really does stand out in the crowd when it comes to versatility. This means that if you are looking for one lens that will give you the flexibility to shoot in any and every environment with consistency then this lens will do just that at an affordable price.

The EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM offers a large range of focal lengths so that it can replace your kit lens and your mid-range zoom lens in one go. This is great news when you have a limited budget to work with.

2. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens

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Pros:

  • Great for low light
  • Inexpensive
  • Super compact

Cons:

  • Relatively narrow field of view
  • Plastic build

This lens is perfect for Canon users who shoot in low light. It is also great for indoor sports as the lens has a very quiet auto-focusing system.

This lens comes with a zoom ring for adjusting the focal length. Once you have the right focal length, simply turn the focusing ring to get the focused.

It should be noted that the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM lens kit comes with a soft carrying bag which doesn’t offer much protection. I would recommend buying an additional padded bag or just a simple microfiber cloth to put your money on.

3. Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

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Pros:

  • Great focal length range
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Ideal for shooting on the move
  • Image stabilization
  • Tom.ph has price estimates of this product

Cons:

  • Not the best build quality
  • No weatherproofing even though it’s a Canon L Series lens
  • Requires a DSLR with an APS-C-sized sensor

The EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM from Canon is one of the cheapest ultra-wide prime lenses on the market right now that comes with image stabilization. It also serves as an ideal lens for shooting on the move. Some stabilizers bungle with videos, but this lens is nearly silent when zooming, and it’s fast, too. The lens is compact and lightweight, which makes it a good lens to have with you when you’re going out to shoot.

The EF-S 10-18mm is also relatively sharp. The lens does struggle, though, with chromatic aberration on edges, especially at 10mm. CA usually occurs when a camera over-exposes the image as it tries to pull more information out of a scene. This image acquisition can then oversaturate some of the colors and produce a purple or green tint on darker colors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it OK to buy a used camera lens?

I'm all in favor of buying used gear in general, but this isn't necessarily true for vintage items. There are many vintage lenses available on the market and you should handle them with care and conduct due diligence before making an investment; otherwise, you might be paying a high price for something that's not working properly.

The best way to thoroughly inspect a lens is to use the lens for a week or so. You'll want to make sure the focusing and aperture control rings are smooth and that the lens as a whole works as should. If you've found a good bargain, you'll also want to make sure that the aperture blades on the lens are clean and free of debris. Damaged aperture blades can be fixed, but it's not ideal. If you're using your equipment for professional work, you'll want to be sure that all parts are in good condition, or you can get a damaged lens fixed by a professional.

What to check before buying a used lens?

Before buying a used lens from Craigslist, eBay, or forums, it’s a good idea to thoroughly research it first. This guide will show you (with photos) what to check for when buying a Canon lens.

What is the best all around Canon lens?

There are many lenses to choose from; each is used for a different purpose. It’s fitting, then, that Canon has such a diverse selection. Lenses are grouped into different “series” that offer a range of options.

The best Canon lens for most people is the Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM IS. This lens is great for travel, walk-around, family, and general photography. It’s versatile, great in low light, and handles most shooting situations very well. If you are on a budget, the Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 is also a great option. These two lenses find a home on the kit of almost every professional photographer.

Is buying a used DSLR a good idea?

Most of us don’t need the identical tool for our photography hobby, as long as the pictures turn out good. There’s nothing wrong with buying a used Canon Speedlite, or in this case, a used Canon lens, to achieve the same goals.

On the other hand, if you plan to do it as a business then it makes sense to buy something more professional. Generally speaking, the difference in image quality between a low and a high-end lens is not very noticeable unless you are printing your images very large.

When shopping for lower-cost secondhand options, it’s important to be VERY specific about the camera body you have and the model of lens that you want to buy. With Canon, there’s only a small difference between models, with the most prevalent difference being between versions is the speed of autofocus.

Conclusion

Buying the best canon lens is not an easy task.

It can be so confusing and expensive these days that it can send any aspiring photographer running for cover!

It started with prime lenses and zooms with non-removable optics.

Then started the professional and cheap consumer zooms with a built-in motor and other bells and whistles.

Then came the first generation semi-professional and professional zooms that had a removable optics.

Next came a second generation of semi-professional and professional zooms that had even better features and performance.

That was quickly followed by third generation professional-rated zooms with new and improved features from the previous generations.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM LensBest OverallCanon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM LensBudget PickCanon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM LensUpgrade PickCanon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens