Thrift shopping photographer finds a Canon lens worth $1400 for $7

Originally published at: Thrift shopping photographer finds a Canon lens worth $1400 for $7 | Boing Boing

I know that Goodwill, it was a good place to look for lenses. Until now (lol).


Same here. These are super common for some reason. I guess one of those gimmicks to sneak your own booze into a ball park.


I’m always a bit conflicted when I see this kind of story. Obviously it’s great news for the photographer, and any time that useable stuff doesn’t end up in a landfill we all win. But when the price is accidentally marked this much below the actual value it means that the nonprofit charity selling it missed out on money that could have been used for their charity work. These kind of mistakes are inevitable given that no store employee can be an expert in setting prices for all possible types of products, especially when they’re probably making around minimum wage.

Hopefully the store at least gets some good publicity from this that brings in more treasure-hunting customers.


My wife found an All-Clad Master Chef 10" skillet for $3 at our local Salvation Army. I love a good deal!


So what makes this one worth $1400? IIRC, isn’t the 50mm the default one that most cameras come with? It’s an all metal professional model that is worth more?

I know the white barrel ones are the $$$$$ ones.

I still have my Canon A-1 with all the goodies. It was worth THOUSANDS in the 70s when it was made, but worth hundreds when I bought it in the mid-late 90s. I have two cameras, actually, a beater one, and one that looks brand new. I had 3 really good Canon Japanese lenses, a variable one that was my work horse, I want to say it was 35-125 or something like that. It was super flexible and what I did most of my paintball photography with. I had a similar beater Tamrac that might use if I felt like I might get lit up.

Also had a 20mm wide angle and 100-300mm zoom, as well as the auto winder and flash

Haven’t used it in decades. I opened it up awhile ago and dumped all the batteries and sold the left over film. They are in the aforementioned paintball stickered Pelican case (the one they ALWAYS swabbed at the air ports - eye roll). I will probably never use it again, but its just such a neat piece of kit I can’t find a reason to part with it. I don’t think it is super valuable, especially since they are manual focus. If they were auto focus, I know those lenses are still being used today. But I was on a super tight budget an I could still get action shots if I planned it well.


Same here. I feel like the “good fortune” of finding something drastically undervalued at a CHARITY shop is a little… complicated?


F1.8 is what comes with camera bodies by default.

F1.2 is awesome because it can let in so much light.


Most likely something like this:

Lenses with wider max apertures get expensive fast and the linked one is f 1.2 which is borderline exotic.


AH! I vaguely remember that 1.8 was the default.

Fun fact, I learned to take pics on an old ass German (?) camera with a hand held light meter, no flash. I tried and failed waaayy too many times to take indoor pics :confused: Took good outdoor pics!


Thrift store pricing can be interesting, especially for niche hobby items.

Some thrift stores have very savvy people doing the pricing. They are aware of the vintage and collectable markets and take the time to check the internet and know market prices and what is popular. Other places are knowledgeable about popular clothing brands, but not much else.

For specialty products, sometimes the pricing is because there isn’t a huge potential buyer pool. Many people shop for clothes or kitchen goods, very few people are shopping for photography gear.

The actual sold-for price for this used lens on ebay is $600-800. So half of the retail price. Not bad for a niche item, but a bit of hyperbole for the headline.


Also, we really have no idea about condition, esp with an AF lens. $7 might be right price.

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These days cameras do not come with 50mm lenses by default. If not ‘body only’, the kit lens these days tends to be something like an 18-55mm.

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Referring to Goodwill Industries as a “charity” organization is being… overly charitable.


According to independent charity rating groups they’re not too bad. Certainly there are a lot of worse ones out there. Do you have a specific problem with them?


I scored an older Canon 50mm f1.8 lens at the hospice thrift shop for $9, but obviously it would have been nicer if it had been the f1.2 or f1.4 one instead. Still, it’s a made-in-Japan metal body lens not the current model that, while it takes nice pictures, feels like it was made by Fisher Price. It was actually attached to a broken Canon 35mm film SLR and the whole thing was 9 bucks. I gave the body back and told them they could put it back on the shelf and sell it to somebody else since I just wanted the lens and they were glad to take it.

That’s mostly because these are the really big telephoto lenses that sports and wildlife photographers use, which are very expensive to begin with. They’re usually (off-)white not as a fashion statement but because if they were black they’d heat up more in the sun and that would decrease their optical quality and cause problems with the precision mechanics that make the autofocus work. (Other manufacturers seem to do fine with black lenses but that’s probably because they use different materials for the lens barrels.)


Maybe I can set your mind at ease.

The amount of stuff Goodwill gets in donations (in certain cities anyway) means they often just bundle up pallets of it before it even goes out on their sales floors, and sell it in bulk to other stores, some of whom are charities, some not.

Plus if they mark it up to what it reasonably goes for on ebay, it won’t sell, since a lot of their retail sales are from home resellers who run their own ebay or amazon marketplace stores. Store managers know this and are OK with it-- better to make money off it quickly than have it sit and clog up the aisles.

Larger Goodwill stores are labor intensive, and they simply don’t have the manpower or time to look up everything online, let alone sort it all. Near me one store sometimes sells jewelry in large jumbled sealed bags, it’s like buying a lottery ticket except you can inspect it and see if it looks promising-- for $10 there might be a real diamond ring in there.