When looking to get a used lens, I was told by a fellow (amateur) photographer to avoid buying lenses involved into video shooting. He didn't gave any explanation and left before I could ask him.

When this remark arose, we were talking about a used Canon 50mm f/1.2 L USM : the seller wrote that the lens was used for making short video clip in low-light condition on a DSLR. So the remark seemed to be targeted toward lenses "designed" for still photography (no mention of T-stop).

What could happened to a lens used for video versus one used exclusively for still photography?

I get that the lenses might get exposed to light for a long period, but it doesn't seem very different from my use on vacation, when my front caps can stay off for a while... It seems to me that the sensor will be damaged long before the lens.

Regarding autofocus system, shooting movies is often on manual focus, but the focus motor can indeed be continuously working for a few minutes repetitively.

Am I missing something or can I disregard his advice?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know why it would matter, and used item listings rarely say whether lenses were used for video or still photography. I'd think it would be more important that the previous owner takes care of their equipment and wasn't a smoker. Perhaps videographers are particularly rough with their equipment? \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Sep 5, 2018 at 8:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could it be that the person who advised you was thinking of lenses produced specifically for videography/cinematography, where the aperture is measured in T-stops instead of F-stops? The lens you were interested in clearly uses F-stops, but is it possible there could have been a misunderstanding? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kat
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kat we were talking explicitly about lenses with f-stop, not about specific video lenses. I edited my question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Sep 5, 2018 at 17:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xiota Maybe I should ask the video SE what they do with their lenses :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Sep 5, 2018 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


Am I missing something?

No. I don't think there's any good reason not to buy a lens which has been used for videography. My best guess would be that the person who told you this has misinterpreted something they've been told.


To answer directly, as asked, a lens that has a focus motor when used for video has a motor that is in operation frequently during video shooting while when used for taking stills the motor is used far less often.

You write, they said:

"I was told by a fellow (amateur) photographer to avoid buying lenses involved into video shooting." and that "... we were talking about a used Canon 50mm f/1.2 L USM.", also "He didn't gave any explanation and left before I could ask him.".

Alternatively, if there was something not clarified during your conversation, an STM lens is a far better choice for consumer video because it's virtually silent and has a slower motor which is less visually jarring. There's a big difference in price for the quicker and noisier motor.

If they said: "Avoid buying a Canon 50mm f/1.2 L USM lens for video shooting." I would agree. At StackExchange we try to answer as asked but I couldn't help doing a bit of guessing of what the best advice would be, and what was meant.

That said someone using a USM lens for video might use the lens only a few times, deciding it was too noisy. They might want to sell their infrequently used lens and buy the quieter version.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting answer, but I still don't now if shooting movie is really bad for AF system. It may be possible that all lenses are designed for regular video shooting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Sep 21, 2018 at 17:34

There could be a reason specific to a given lens model or series of models.

Some video shooting situations could keep focus/zoom/aperture motors and the mechanics downstream of these constantly busy for tens of minutes.

If these components are underengineered regarding, for example, mechanical wear life (lubricant displacement/contamination, abrasion) and/or heat sinking capacity (for heat from electrical operation or friction) due to the expectation that they only need to be good for the duty cycles typical in still photography, there could be extraordinary wear on them and thus a heightened probability of failure or glitches.

For example, one aftermarket lens maker is occasionally criticized for some of their aperture mechanisms not being very durable if operated a lot.

On the other hand, with some other models they might be even more reliable bought secondhand with such history: A durable piece of equipment can be well into the flat part of the so called bathtub curve, meaning that any possible early failure from manufacturing defects would likely already have happened and have led to the equipment being serviced or discarded.


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