The story of usedlens.co.uk

I’m Dan, and usedlens.co.uk is a product of the the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the UK went into lock-down, in March 2020, all my professional photography bookings were cancelled and I was…

I’m Dan, and usedlens.co.uk is a product of the the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the UK went into lock-down, in March 2020, all my professional photography bookings were cancelled and I was left without purpose. I had a 15 year long career in web development, I applied for jobs but heard nothing. I filled my time with baking, photography of my dogs and exploring the local nature reserves, but still I felt unproductive.

I spent time window shopping for camera lenses that I was in no position to buy, looking at site after site to see what bargains could be had. Searching all these website was time consuming. I’d have ten tabs open, and leave them open overnight so I could refresh the following morning without having to try and remember where to look again. If only I could just check one place to get all this information, right?

Usedlens.co.uk became a great opportunity to refresh my web development skills and develop a tool I knew could be useful to many. It all started with Leica. I imported product data from the usual suspects Red Dot Cameras, Leica Manchester, Richard Caplan etc. I shared the website with my wife, she just asked “Can you make it look pretty?” I made it pretty. I then shared the site with other Leica enthusiasts where it was well received, but the question was raised, “What about other brands?”

It would be a lot of work. But I had time.

I received huge support from the members at https://www.talkphotography.co.uk/ who gave feedback and cheered me along the way. Categorisation was and still is a huge headache. At first I tried to sort lenses by mount, but retailer information wasn’t consistent enough. Now categorisation is by brand with an option to filter between camera or lens, though this is not as straightforward as one would hope.

Fast forward to today, there are over 60 retailers on the site and more are still being added. These months of hard-work have given me a great sense of achievement and productivity in a time that could otherwise have easily been wasted.

I made usedlens.co.uk for all UK photographers and it brings me joy to know that people find it useful.

I hope in time you find this site and wonder how you did without it.

Comments ( 14 )

  1. Good luck with the site Dan, it’s a great idea.

  2. Dougie Lindsay
    says:

    Been amazing watching the progress on the site Dan.

    I started programming on a ZX81 when 13 (39 years ago lol).

    Been working in professionally in I.T. since I left school at 16 and really impressed by the site response times and search speed.

    Amazing work for a lockdown project !.

    Dougie.

    • Thanks Dougie, it certainly has been life consuming! Just burned through the weekend working on a master dataset for browsing lenses by mount, so much work but the results are just not good enough to release as a feature. Promised myself I’d go out for a walk today and take some photos!

  3. This is an excellent resource, I hope it works out well for you.
    Categorising things can’t be easy but I’ve found the site to be easy to use and FAST.
    Great work

    • Thanks Matt, I’m working on an idea at the moment. You’d be able to select a database of known mounts, known lenses (or cameras) and then it’d trigger a search intended to bring up the best matches for that lens. I wanted to be able to automate it, but I think I’m going to have do a lot of manual work. Hopefully it comes to fruition!

  4. Graham Relf
    says:

    I have added a link to your site from our photo club’s site, https://tynemouthps.org – Tynemouth Photographic Society.
    Good luck with your venture.

  5. This is absolutely brilliant – saves me so much time. This is what I wish I could do – if only I have your skills! There are other websites out there that do similar things but the user experience of your website stands out: In particular, the clean user interface and the speed of the search results updating. You are onto something!

    • Thanks! I’m glad you’re finding it useful and that the work I put into presentation is appreciated. There’s so much more to do, but I am just one person – one tired person.

  6. Garry Edwards
    says:

    What a great idea!
    I came across this by accident, having seen a post on Talk Photography. I doubt whether I’ll use your site, I don’t need more lenses and I hate spending money, but it’s still a great idea.

    Everyone has experienced problems because of the pandemic, which is far from over. Some of us have allowed ouselves to become depressed and lethargic, others have just sat around feeling sorry for themselves because of the financial implications but others, such as you, have actually done something positive and moved forward.

    Hopefully, you’ll be able to monetise it.

    • Thanks Garry,

      I’ve have my small share of all the above! It’s difficult to lose your income, watch people get furloughed or get self-employment grants and not be eligible for any support yourself. But my wife and I support each other and now she’s the one paying the bills. I’m finally getting a couple of bookings in September, six months on. Hoping it’ll pick up as my wife would like a break now to work on her book!

      Cheers, Dan

  7. Having heard about your website through my camera club, I thought I would give it a try.
    The site was so easy to use and I have just bought a great lens at a great price and even more pleased that it was through a small independant shop. We need to support our shops!
    I wish you lots of luck with the site Dan and hope that your professional career picks up soon. I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel!

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