Despite the prices of digital cameras and lenses dropping gradually as more manufacturers enter the scene, many of the best camera gear are still beyond a hobbyist’s budget.
The good news: there are plenty of affordable used camera gear around.
The bad news: there are also plenty of sellers who are passing off damaged goods as quality secondhand gear.
So what do you do when you want to buy cameras and lenses but don’t have the money to splurge on brand new ones?
There are definitely risks involved in buying used camera gear, but oftentimes, those risks are easily diminished when you do some checks before buying. To help you get the best value for your money, here are a few tips for buying used camera gear.
Camera Bodies: What to check
- Shutter count – Learn how to determine the shutter count on the camera you want to buy, and compare them to the acceptable shutter counts published by the manufacturer for that particular device.
- Dead pixels – If possible, bring a laptop with you to clearly assess if there are any dead pixels in your test photos. Take a dark image and zoom on it using your computer. A couple of dead pixels is fine, but if you find more than 5 dead pixels, you’re better off looking for better gear.
- Dust in the sensor – Dust in the sensor is again alright, but make sure there’s not too much of it. Otherwise, it will have to be cleaned by a professional and you’ll end up paying for that as well.
- All buttons and dials – Make sure that all buttons and dials are working properly. To do this, you have to learn about the particular camera first. Try to find if there’s a copy of its manual online and familiarize yourself with its various parts and functions so that you can properly test them.
- Batteries, chargers, and slots – Make sure that the charger is working and that the slots for the battery, memory cards, and other ports are working properly.
Camera Lenses: What to check
- Drop marks – Huge dents and uneven edges are common indicators that the lens has been dropped; avoid lenses with these markers.
- Loose parts – Move the barrel for zoom and focusing to ensure that there are no loose parts in the lens. If something wiggles around, don’t buy it.
- Scratches – Scratches on the outside of the lens is fine, but make sure that there are no scratches on the glass themselves. These will show up in your photos.
Buying used digital cameras and lenses online poses a different set of challenges. While it’s easier to look for the lens or camera you need online, it’s also much riskier to buy something without having a chance to physically check it out first. If possible, try setting a meetup with the seller so that you can personally examine the gear.
If a meetup is not possible, then you have to rely on online reviews and seller reputation. First, check the full description of the item you’re buying. The more detailed the description is, the more likely it is that the seller is being completely honest about their merchandise. It helps if they’ve uploaded actual photos of the item as well in various angles.
Next, see if they’ve sold similar items in the past and look at what previous buyers have to say about those items. If a seller is known to provide good quality lenses, then it’s highly likely that the lens you’re getting from them is of a high quality as well. Check their overall reputation score as well. The more positive reviews they have, the better.
When it comes to buying used camera gear, there will always be a risk of getting less than what you’ve bargained for. Physical dents and scratches are perfectly acceptable when buying used gear, but you have to make sure that the camera or the lens’ internal functions are still optimal before buying them. The key thing to remember is to do as many checks as possible to ensure that you get what you paid for.