My Favorite Secondhand Marketplace

My Favorite Secondhand Marketplace

If you haven’t wrapped up your holiday shopping yet, consider buying secondhand in exchange for a great deal.

Lens Rentals, together with their sister site Lens Pro to Go, sell some of their less-used equipment on a site called Lens Authority. You might ask yourself: “why would I want to buy secondhand goods from a rental house? Won’t the items be heavily used?”

In my opinion, Lens Authority, the selling branch of their business, is one of the most reputable in the business. Often the secondhand market is filled with murky details and ambiguous claims. This service, however, tells it like it is.

What Makes Lens Authority Special

There’s a stark difference between buying from a stranger and buying from professionals. Here’s a small list of reasons why I have bought from Lens Authority.

Optional Warranty

A one-year warranty can be bought with each item, which is hugely reassuring. Over the Black Friday sales, these warranties were going for just one cent. It stands to reason that Lens Authority has faith in the quality of the gear being sold. There’s also a three-day inspection period to make sure the customer is happy. Their FAQ mentions that “if one day you start using the lens, and randomly, the autofocus stops working or the zoom jams, we will fix it for you.”

A Tokina lens during an MTF test. [Image by LensRentals]

MTF Testing

While each individual lens isn’t MTF tested, Lens Rentals is at the top of its game in understanding how sharp a lens should be. I’d trust them to know when a particular lens is looking soft, and it’s nice to know that they’re able to repair issues in advance too.

Recent Products

Most of the equipment on sale is less than two years old. This is because Lens Rentals and Lens Pro to Go want to keep their rental inventory looking sharp and will cut any fat from their operations.

The rating system separates cosmetics from performance, which comes in very handy.

Honest Ratings

Products are rated by cosmetics and functionality separately, and often, there’s more than one copy of a product available to choose from. If a defect doesn’t concern your work, then you could be in to save a nice chunk of change. Conversely, it’s not difficult to find items in great condition. Cameras are also listed with rounded actuation numbers, while video-centric cameras will be listed with an estimate of how many hours are logged.

Keeper Program

Lens Authority ties nicely into Lens Pro to Go and Lens Rentals. Let's say you rent a lens for a week and don’t want to return it. The “Keeper Program” lets you buy the lens (or otherwise), while giving the customer credit towards the product with their rental fee. This can be a very good way to try before you buy.

Some Notable Items

I’ve picked up plenty of nice goodies from Lens Authority, like a GH5 and a Metabones adaptor. There are also a few items that might be of interest to our readers:

Often, the best deals on new gear gets snapped up quickly. The entire site can be sorted by most recent. Alternatively, you could set up Twitter notifications if you wanted to fanatically wait for good deals to come through. For items that are currently out of stock, an email alert can be set up.

Sometimes, the price offered by LensAuthority isn’t much of a deal. I’d make sure to price-check accordingly. Items that are almost new won’t usually have a large discount, for example.

Other Markets

Feel free to suggest your favorite secondhand market in the comments. I feel that I couldn’t write an article about this without mentioning Share Grid’s new second hand marketplace. They pitch it as an eBay for camera equipment. As a result, there are better suggestions, better descriptions, and a more open marketplace. While I haven’t needed anything from there, I’ve seen some great deals.

Then, of course, there’s the classic, B&H. Their secondhand market covers a wide selection, a wider variety than most I’ve seen. They have a decently healthy film photography section, where you can find your classic AE-1 and up.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

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Right after this article went live, Canon's new RF 50mm f/1.2 went on sale for $1,580. That's a $700 saving if you were to buy the lens new and without any deals. With current holiday deals, it's still around a $500 discount.

You might check out Gear Offer. Different model than Lens Authority.

Just bought a Panasonic G9 and a lens from them this weekend after getting a really good deal from them on my Leica M240 earlier this year. 100% highly recommended. is another great alternative. Many of the items come with a 6 month warranty at no charge and their customer service is great! I have used KEH many times, their rating is very good, they have been around long time too.

I assume this is for US customers only?

Unfortunately, LensAuth only ships within the US.

I go through Photos of the actual gear, great prices, best trade in offers that I have found, really good selection.

I need a heavy, stable tripod for and found a Gitzo G1340 with the center column and a PL5 head for $150 on Facebook market place from a local seller. For some reason prices tend to be very low on there.