- When the seller bought the camera and whether they have any paperwork to prove it (insurance or receipts)
- The environments in which the camera was used
- If the camera was rented out to other photographers
- If the camera was damaged or serviced
- If it was serviced, how much it cost
- If the specific camera model is known for having any particular issues
photo by dusanpetkovic via iStock
Buying used camera equipment is one of the best tips I have for photographers, no matter where you’re at in your career.
If at all possible, I buy used cameras online all the time. There’s just no better way to save money than with used gear!
But, I have also been ripped off a fair number of times because early on, I didn’t know what to check when buying a used camera.
Now that I have a few years of practice under my belt, I have some used camera tips to offer to the rest of you.
Let’s get to it!
Ask for the Shutter Count on Used Cameras
photo by ArisSu via iStock
A shutter count tells you a lot more than how many times a used camera has taken a photo. It tells you whether the used camera was used personally or professionally.
Like miles on a car, there’s a good approximation of how many photos a used camera should
take per year. You can also estimate how many shutter actuations a specific type of used camera can be expected to make it to.
A used camera can be expected to have about 10,000 shutter actuations per year for normal use. Again going back to the car analogy, if your used camera has a shutter count of more than 100,000, you should probably pass on that camera.
On a life-time scale, an entry-level camera should only be expected to reach a shutter count of around 50,000, while a mid-level camera can reach 150,000, and a professional camera should be able to reach 300,000 or more.
Of course, as with cars, there are no guarantees with these numbers, but they nonetheless provide a good general idea of what to expect.
Learn how to find the shutter count on a Canon camera in the video above by TipsNNTricks.
Look for External Damage
photo by edfuentesg via iStock
A used camera can look to be in poor shape when it really isn’t because of the low quality of most rubber grips.
Rubber grips aren’t meant to last the lifetime of a camera, or if they are, nobody has told me. But, rubber grips are cheap and easy to replace.
What you’re really searching for when you’re examining your used camera for external damage are any signs that it has been dropped.
If a corner of the camera is dented, if there are deep scratches on the body, or a significant number of scuff marks, you may want to avoid that used camera.
Use These Used Camera Inspection Techniques
photo by Brett Taylor via iStock
This is the easiest way to check a used camera, if you know what you’re looking for.
First, you’ll want to remove the body cap to inspect the camera’s most important parts, the mirror, the focusing screen and the lens contacts.
If you see any oil or dirt, that’s a bad sign.
In fact, oil on any part of the used camera is a bad sign. It means the camera may have been dropped.
If you don’t want the owner to get mad at you while you’re doing your inspection, make sure you keep the camera facing down to prevent any dust getting into it.
Finally, it’s important that you take a test shot. You’ll want to find a white wall, or a bright patch of blue sky, and take the shot.
When you zoom back in on the image you’re looking for any scratches on the image. While dust spots are common and easy to clean, a long line probably means you have a sensor scratch and you can either avoid the camera or bring the price down.
Get more details about what to check when buying a used camera in the video above by RealWorld.
Ask About Its History
photo by Youngoldman via iStock
Buying a used camera is an ordeal, just like buying a used car. You have to ask about its history.
Now, people can lie, which is why I’m walking you through all of these inspection techniques. But, an honest photographer will let you know if they are a professional photographer selling equipment because their old used camera isn’t working like it once did, or if they are just buying a newer model they are excited to use.
You also need to know:
You can watch the rest of Armando Ferreira’s video above for extra tips and tricks.
Buy Your Used Camera From a Trusted Seller
If you don’t want to deal with all of this, though, you can always just turn to a trusted used camera seller. After all, there are many out there!
I use MPB because it takes all of the guesswork out of the equation, because their representatives do all of the leg work for you.
Not only do they rate each used camera on a concrete scale, but most importantly they also offer a 6-month warranty on their cameras which is something you’re never going to receive when buying from an individual seller.
They have a tremendous selection of used cameras, too, from compacts to full frame DSLRs and everything in between. Any brand you might want as well!
Shipping is fast, the customer experience is great, and you can sell or trade in your current camera to help offset the cost of the new-to-you one. When it comes to where to buy a used camera, MPB is at the top of my list, and it should be at the top of your list too!