Let’s face it - photography equipment isn’t cheap. Whether you’re looking for your first DSLR or you’re a seasoned pro looking for a great deal on a 200mm telephoto lens, buying used equipment can be a great way to get the gear you want without spending a ton of money.
But, just like buying anything used, problems can arise when making a purchase of used equipment. So, before you dive in and click the purchase button, consider these tips for making the most of your purchase.
What to Look for When Shopping for a Used Camera
There are all sorts of things to look at when you’re considering a used camera. Here’s a few of the most important considerations to make:
What is the physical condition of the camera?
Ask about everything from the battery terminals to the buttons. What works? What, if anything does not? Be sure to address the sensor as well. Ask the seller to take a few shots with the camera and send them to you. Inspect the images at maximum zoom, looking for any imperfections like spots, lines, or spider webbing, which are indicative of dirt, hair, or worse, fungus, on the sensor.
What is the shutter count?
The shutter count for a DSLR is a lot like the mileage counter in a car: The higher the count, the more likely the camera is to malfunction. Most entry-level cameras have a shutter count in the 50,000 range while mid-range and professional models have shutter counts around 100,000 and 200,000 respectively.
Where are the extras?
Something else to consider is whether or not the peripherals - the charger, cables, lens cap, and the like, are included in the sale. If a seller is just offering the camera with no battery, no manual, and no box, that should cause you concern. If the seller is in a hurry to unload the gear or if it’s price is too good to be true, the red flags should be going off as well.
What to Look for When Shopping for a Used Lens
Just like with camera bodies, used lenses can be a great value to you. But, of course, you need to inspect every inch of the lens (or, at the very least, as pertinent questions if buying online) before you make the purchase. Inquire about the following:
Is there any physical damage?
There might be some wear and tear on the lens body from use, but dings, dents, and scratches are indicative of a lens that’s been through the ringer. You’ll need to inquire about the condition of the glass (on both ends) as well. If there are pits, scratches, or other blemishes, it’s not the lens for you.
Does everything work as it should?
Ask about the functionality of the lens before you buy. Is the zoom action (if equipped) smooth? Is the autofocus sharp and crisp? Are the contact points and mount rings in good working condition? Also ask about the aperture blades and make sure they move correctly, smoothly, and do not have any substances on them, like oil.
How are the filter threads?
All the use of filters over the years can wreak havoc on a lens’ filter threads. Ask about their condition, and if the answer is less than great, don’t buy the lens.
The Safest Option When Buying Used Gear
A lot of people buy gear from places like Craigslist and eBay, but there are some risks to consider when doing so. There isn’t always a guarantee that what you’re buying will actually work as it should. While eBay does have some protections built in to prevent customers from getting hoodwinked, there isn’t really anything to prevent someone on Craigslist from taking you for a ride. That gorgeous “barely used” Nikon camera body pictured in the ad may end up being a pile of junk once your money clears the bank.
Basically, when you buy used camera gear from places like Craigslist, you assume all the risk. Why would you want to do that when there are far more reputable establishments with which to do business? Frankly, we at PhotographyTalk like safe options when it comes to such important purchases, and that’s why we highly recommend KEH as your place to buy used gear.
KEH has been in business for 35 years and is the largest used camera dealer in the world. You get a 6-month warranty on your purchases to give you peace of mind. There’s even a 14-day return policy, so if what you buy doesn’t work out, simply send it back, no questions asked. But that guarantee is seldom used because every piece of equipment KEH sells goes through a rigorous inspection. Using a 10-point grading system, KEH’s technicians grade and certify every camera and lens so you know exactly what its quality and condition really is.
KEH also has a trade-in and upgrade program so you can get money for your current gear and put it towards a new or used piece of equipment. So not only do you have a quick and easy way to sell your old gear, but you also have a painless process for getting your hands on some quality new or new-to-you equipment.
So, the short of it is that with Craigslist and eBay, you assume a lot of the risk of your investment. But when you buy from KEH, all of that risk is taken care of for you, so all you have to worry about is planning your first shoot with your new gear!
“Here’s a fun fact for you: A year before I laid the foundation for PhotographyTalk.com I was in the final months of selling my last company and learning photography at the same time. I had a serious case of gear acquisition syndrome. I was talking to master photographer and friend Bryan Peterson who told me about this great site called KEH where you could buy quality used gear at a nice savings from new. The idea of this instantly clicked with me, so I decided I would give KEH a shot. I started off with a Sigma 10-20mm that was listed as LN (Like New). When it came in, it was IMO new. It looked it, and performed like new. It even came in original box. At that moment, I felt like I just found a secret insiders club for photographers! I then picked up a Nikon 70-200mm and shortly after that a Nikon 24mm (BTW… ended up becoming my favorite lens, this thing is amazingly sharp!). All in all, I saved money without compromising quality of gear. Since then, I’ve become a huge “go buy used” from KEH fan. If you haven’t worked with them, do what I did, start off with a simple lens, when you get the lens and you see how much you saved and the condition… you’ll appreciate my enthusiasm for the brand.” – Alex Schult President/Founder of PhotographyTalk