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Buying a used DSLR doesn’t need to take hours out of your schedule. In fact, if you use a reputable online used camera dealer, it can be as easy as a few minutes.
The last used camera purchase I made took me less than a half hour and it was shipped right to my door.
However, in order to make this purchase the easiest one of your career, you need to know a few tips for buying a used DSLR.
Check the Shutter Count
If you don’t understand how to check the shutter count on a DSLR, this video by SuperUser TechMods is very helpful.
The shutter count should be the first thing you check when buying a used camera. It literally tells you how many photos the camera has taken throughout its life, but it essentially tells you how beat up the camera is.
The best part about this tip is that nobody can lie about it, because used DSLRs track their shutter count. It’s basically like the mileage on your car.
Photo by Paul Postema on Unsplash
Typical DSLRs should last for at least 100,000 shots, while mid and professional grade DSLRs can last up to 300,000.
You can Google the exact DSLR you are planning to purchase to get the lifetime actuation rating, that way you get a better idea of how much life might be left in the camera before you buy.
Buy Used Cameras That Are at Least 2 Years Old
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If you’re in the market for a used DSLR, then you surely want to get the best deal on your purchase. You can’t do this if your used DSLR was released less than two years ago.
Obviously, camera prices drop as they become older. But, again, much like a car, camera prices drop drastically after the first and second years of owning them.
Plus, when you buy a new DSLR you get a warranty on it. But, if you’re buying a used DSLR that is under two years old, you’re probably buying it right after the warranty ended, which could make the purchase even more expensive than if you had gone with a new camera in the first place.
Photo by Pavel Anoshin on Unsplash
Additionally, when buying a used DSLR, buy it in January, April or December which is statistically when prices on used DSLRs are lowest, according to Tom’s Guide.
Who knew that a little calendar-checking could result in you saving money?!
Test Shoot (or Buy From a Reputable Source)
Photo by Luke Lung on Unsplash
No matter what you find on your inspection of a used camera, you need to take it for a test shoot.
Even if you’ve asked all of the typical “questions to ask about used cameras,” a test shoot can reveal a broken LCD, a faulty sensor, or recording problem.
Steer clear of anyone not willing to let you test shoot.
Another option, if you’re looking for the fastest way to buy a used DSLR, is to use a reputable online camera resale site, like Gear Focus.
While you can’t test shoot cameras you buy online, you can rest assured that your new camera will be exactly how it was described, unlike places like Craigslist, because you can return it if it isn’t.
Gear Focus features a 7-day return policy for most of their used cameras.
Additionally, some sellers offer their own warranties through second parties on Gear Focus, which gives you double protection.
Besides, sites like Gear Focus have fraud protections built in, so the community - which was built by photographers, for photographers - already has a leg up on other resale sites.
Get more details about Gear Focus in the video above.
Check Out the Sensor
Although Theoria Apophasis’ video is an overall take on how to inspect a used camera before buying it, he includes great information about inspecting the camera’s sensor.
Inspecting the sensor is probably the most important part of buying a used DSLR because it’s harder to do than inspecting the body or lens, and a scratch on the sensor completely ruins your shots.
Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash
In order to inspect the sensor, shine a light on it (like from your phone) to ensure there are no visible scratches.
And understand that sensor problems do happen with older DSLRs. You need to go into the sale understanding what problems you are willing to put up with and which you aren’t.
Buy From Hobby Photographers
Photo by Korie Cull on Unsplash
As a professional photographer, I understand this may not make sense and also paints us in a bad light.
But, while professional photographers understand how to store their camera and carry it around more effectively and safely, hobbyists simply don’t shoot as much.
This is especially true of professional photographers who work with other photographers. There may be multiple hands on that camera in any given day, and it goes everywhere with them.
Oftentimes, you can find used DSLRs from amateurs that are barely used at all, and that’s a good thing from a shutter count perspective and from a wear and tear perspective, too.