Do You Follow These Best Practices When Buying a Secondhand Camera?


Whilst the price of digital cameras has fallen dramatically over the last ten years, in the current economic climate, even some base models may be out of financial range fro some people. The good news is that the relentless march of technological improvements that the manufacturers are bringing to us, is creating a large, diverse market for secondhand cameras. These cameras, whilst not at the top of the technological tree, they are however capable of producing stunning images for all but the most critical of photographers. In this article we are going to look at some simple things to consider when buying a used camera.

Firstly, you need to decide whether you wish to buy online or in person. Whilst being able to look at a product before purchase is highly advantageous, it is not alway possible for some people and, in fact, reduce the choice of models available. So lets start by looking at buying a camera online.

Of course the grand daddy of online used camera sales is eBay. Using eBay can be a minefield but with a few precautions you should remain safe.

When you find a camera that you are interested in, the first thing to do is check out the sellers feedback and what he has been selling. You are looking for a seller that has a 95-100% positive feedback and products that are photographic or consumer electronic based. Look at any comments, very often excellent eBay sellers will have a few negative comments but see how they have responded to them. Ask questions, how many shutter actuations? Why are you selling? Is there any sensor dust? Research potential problems with that particular model and ask about them.

A good seller will reply promptly and understand the questions being asked. Also look at their returns policy, another good sign is that the seller will accept returns within a certain timeframe. As with any transaction in life if it seems too good to be true, it is. If you come across the perfect camera at a crazy low price, walk away.
Ebay by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Of course the likes of eBay and Craigslist are not the only options online. Many photographic stores now put their entire used stock online, often graded in terms of condition and with good return’s policies. The prices may be slightly higher than an auction site but there is a good chance you may get a three month warranty with the camera. Look for the larger online dealers with large inventories for the best peace of mind.

So how about buying a camera in person? Well a lot of the rules for online sales apply here too. Make sure your seller is legit, if buying from an individual, don’t arrange to meet in an anonymous car park, whilst carrying large sums of cash. Whether the seller is an individual or a store, make sure you check the camera over.

Things to look out for are, an uncharged battery, this could suggest the seller is hiding something, a lack of manual, charger and other peripherals, this could mean the camera has been stolen. Take your lenses and your own memory card, and thoroughly look the camera over. Take pictures, preferably outside with your lens and card and also take a shot or two of a blank white wall to check for sensor dust. Check that you lens both fits snugly on the bayonet mount and that it is connecting properly. Fire off shots at a range of shutter speeds to make sure that the shutter is behaving as it should. If possible take a laptop with you, especially if you have travelled far. This will enable you to check out images over a cup of coffee before deciding on a purchase. Look for tell tale signs of misuse in the camera.

One give away on some DSLR’s is wear and tear around the tripod mounting. This can suggest that the camera has been tripod mounted many times, which in turn suggests professional use. Minor dents and abrasions are also a sign of misuse as is a frayed or dirty camera strap.

The used camera market is now vast and there are some great bargains to be had, not only for someone who is financially strapped, to buy a decent entry level DSLR but also for enthusiasts who want to take their photography to the next level by buying a last generation professional DSLR at one quarter the price of the current models. With a little care and research, you can find some absolute gems on the used market allowing you to progress your hobby or career without a huge outlay.

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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