I just bought a used Canon 28-105mm and when I got it in the mail there was some weird shiny substance, possibly like oil, coming out of the focus barrel. Without thinking I wiped it off because at first I thought it was just fingerprints, but then afterwards I realized it was something weird.

I waited a day or so and noticed some more has appeared, it's not around the entire lens like it was before but it's the same shiny substance.

Any ideas what this is? Should I return this lens?

The odd thing is that I had also bought a Canon 50mm f/1.8 and opened it at the same time and it had the same shiny substance on the focus ring, but it hasn't returned. I do live in Arizona and it's currently around 90-100 degrees, the packages were shipped USPS.

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Added some photos to show that it could be on the lens elements. When I look inside the lens the side of the lens which I assume are normally black have a red/amber hue to them. Does this change things? I bought the lens on ebay but it was listed as 'excellent' condition.

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  • The "objects" circled in the first two examples are called ghosting. It is caused by internal lens reflections of very bright lights in a mostly dark scene. See photo.stackexchange.com/questions/35052/…
    – Michael C
    Jun 17 '13 at 6:17
  • Notice in the first one the reflections in the upper right are a mirror image of the bright lights in the lower left. In the second the reflections in the upper left are mirror images of the lights in the lower right. Each reflection is the same distance from the center of the image in the opposite quadrant from the bright light: The upper left will be an upside down and flipped version of the lower right.
    – Michael C
    Jun 17 '13 at 6:26
  • I concluded in much less awesome way that they were lens flares, but I'm still a little iffy on what the terribly ugly vignetting is from. You might need the raw to really see how bad it was but maybe it's from the low light/high iso combination I was shooting with. Jul 16 '13 at 20:07
  • If the 28-105 is anything like the 24-105 that replaced it, it just vignettes fairly heavily. That's part of the price you pay for a 4X zoom ratio with a lens that starts out in moderate wide angle territory. Unfortunately, getting peripheral illumination data for the 28-105 to load into your camera or use in your RAW convertor appears to be a little more difficult than for the 24-105. It does appear there may be a tad more than vignetting going on in the upper left corner, though.
    – Michael C
    Jul 16 '13 at 20:32
  • When you say "peripheral illumination data" for the 28-105, is that what's inside a lens profile? I couldn't find a raw profile for the 28-105 unfortunately. What do you think could also be going on in the corner? Jul 19 '13 at 19:57

It very much looks like someone sprayed the lens(es) with silicone oil to make it look shiny and new. Just the thing you would do to the dashboard of an old car you are about to sell. This time the previous owner has 'overdone' it big time, resulting in some of the oil seeping inside the lens. This oil is very thin and goes thru real tight gaps. But it is hard to say for sure without getting to rub the substance between fingers and smelling/tasting it. Can't be water though, not in that climate, I think. My bet is on silicone oil.


Plastic focus rings can often be a bit tight/rough to turn, its likely someone had put a small amount of light oil into the ring to help this.

It doesnt look like it would be a problem as long as its not on any of the elements I w wouldnt worry. Did you buy it from a shop? it might be worth taking it back for some re-assurance, they will most likely say its fine.

  • Hi, I just added some photos to show that it could be on the lens elements, when I look inside the lens the side of the lens which I assume are normally black have a red/amber hue to them. Does this change things? I bought the lens on ebay but it was listed as 'excellent' condition. May 28 '13 at 18:41
  • Its very hard to tell from those photos, that could be normal lens flare from the light sources in the building. Can you actually SEE anything when you look through the lens - open the aperture by hand and look through. May 29 '13 at 7:16
  • With Canon lenses the aperture is controlled electronically, but the default position is wide open when removed from the camera. To manually select the aperture you must attach it to the camera, power on the camera, select the aperture you want, press the DoF preview button, and remove the lens while holding down the DoF preview button. There is no mechanical linkage or springs like primitive Nikon lenses. :-)
    – Michael C
    Jun 17 '13 at 6:32
  • Oh ok, i didnt know that, on Nikon's the default position is fully closed when off the camera, and there is a mechanical lever that actuates it. Too much electronic trickery on these canons ;-) Jun 18 '13 at 19:34

Obviously you strongly suspect the lens is damaged (I would too if I were you) - now you basically have 3 options:

  1. Forget about it - decide the lens is in good enough condition and just let it go.

  2. Contact the seller and complain - at this point you have to give him the benefit of the doubt because you don't have any evidence.

  3. Get the lens to be checked at a Canon service center immediately and then:

    • If the lens was ok after all you pay for the service
    • If they fix the lens you can demand the seller pay for the service (maybe)
    • If the lens can't be fixed you ask for your money back

I think you should start with option 2 and go to 3 id things become unfriendly.

  • 1
    Option three, point two: not likely if the seller did not approve for the service check beforehand. Seller has to be the one to decide if he will pay for the service job or if he wants the lens back, returning the money. May 28 '13 at 20:40
  • I have a 14 day return window from the buyer on ebay, could I not show him the pictures that have the problem because the lens was listed as in 'excellent' condition. I would think that if there's oil in the lens distorting the image then the description of the ebay listing wasn't accurate and I could return for a refund? May 28 '13 at 20:43
  • 1
    @EsaPaulasto - eBay will make a decision themselves if the buyer and seller disagree - and if you show eBay proof the lens was damaged and you payed for it they may take the money from the seller - or not
    – Nir
    May 28 '13 at 20:47
  • 1
    @trying_hal9000 - I think you should contact the seller and try to resolve this in a friendly way (preferably either by returning the lens for a full refund or getting him to pay for it to be fixed) - if this doesn't work you can always get eBay involved
    – Nir
    May 28 '13 at 20:51

The upper right corner shows the same defect in two of the three photos. The lower corners are also darker. I'm far from being a "pro", but I'd say this is vignetting. What you see in the corners is the black plastic itself ---unfocused, of course---. It probably happens only with the shortest focal lengths. Are you sure that this lens is compatible with your camera? Though. I don't know why is this effect more severe in the upper left corner.

The UFO-like flares in the sky are unwanted reflections of the bright lights in the image. Every lens produces some amount of flare in adverse conditions ---very bright spots in an otherwise dark scene---. Again, I don't know if this amount of flare is unusual. Maybe it's normal, or maybe the lens is dirty or damaged due to some aggresive cleaning.

I hope it helps ;-)

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