Buying Used Camera Equipment

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Photography is a very expensive hobby. The cost of cameras, lenses, and other accessories, can add up quickly. One way to save money is to buy your equipment used. You can find used cameras and lenses in photo stores, adds in photo magazines, or Ebay auctions. There are many good cameras that have full features and been barely used that can be purchased at low prices. Camera companies replace their line frequently and many photographers trade their cameras for the newer models. Most of the discontinued film cameras from the past ten years or so include many features that are still very much up to date (digital cameras are an exception,  as of 2008, a five year old digital camera is an old camera). When buying a used camera check the camera carefully.

Buying a Used Camera

What you should look for when choosing a used camera:
  • Inspect the body for dents. A few scratches or small dents on the camera are normal. Larger dents or marks on the camera is a sign of misuse.

  • Inspect the shutter. It is impossible to check the shutter for accuracy at high shutter speeds. Set the camera on longer shutter speeds such as 15 or 30 sec and time the exposure for accuracy.

  • Inspect the exposure compensation dial. Set the dial to zero and take a reading of any subject. Change the dial to different settings and see if the exposure is adjusted according to your settings.

  • Inspect metering. Do this in bright sun and by metering a middle tone subject such as an 18% gray card. Set the camera to manual or aperture priority mode. Set the aperture to f-16 and the ISO number to 100. The meter should indicate a shutter speed of 1/125 sec. If it does not, the meter needs to be recalibrate. This does not necessarily mean that the meter is damaged. All meters may need to be re-calibrated from time to time. If the meter is off, change ISO setting until you get 1/125 sec. You must use this new ISO setting whenever you choose ISO 100 speed films. Do the same test for other types of film you use.

  • Inspect the bottom of the camera or inside the camera back for repair stickers. Some camera repair shops attach their stickers after they have done a repair. Ask the seller the reasons for the repair.

  • Inspect battery holder. Make sure it is clean. Camera power will not turn on if the battery holder is dirty.

  • Inspect aperture settings. Attach a lens to the camera and set the lens to the smallest aperture and the camera on B. Press and hold the shutter release. Look into the front of the lens. The lens aperture should be closed all the way. Run the same test at different f-stops.

  • Inspect the shutter for dirt. Open the camera back. Set the shutter on B. Press and hold the shutter release. Shutter curtain will open. Look to make sure there are no hair or dirt blocking the shutter. Do not touch the shutter curtain. If it needs cleaning, carefully brush off dirt taking caution not to damage the shutter.

Buying a used lens

This is much easier than buying a used camera.
  • Inspect the front and the rear of the lens for any scratches. Very small scratches on the lens surface will not show in the final photograph specially with telephoto lenses, but avoid buying lenses that show big scratches or dents on the glass.

  • Inspect the lens barrel for any dents. do not buy the lens if it has a large dent.

  • Make sure the focusing ring and the zooming turn smoothly. If they stick or show resistance, do not Best Prices for the lens. The lens was probably dropped and bent.

  • On auto focus lenses, check the AF contacts on the back of the lens for signs of damage. Do not touch the contacts. Attach the lens and check auto focus speed and make sure it works correctly
How much should you pay? Check the current price of the camera or the lens. Normally 50% of the new price is a good deal although you might want to go as high as 75% if the equipment is in mint condition. However, I would not pay more than 50% if the price for a new model is less than $500. Your savings wont be much so better buy a new one or pay no more than 50% of the value.

Buying a camera or lens over the internet is very risky, equipment may not be in the condition the seller says it is. It many not function correctly and the seller may not even know it. The camera may have been owned by a professional photographer with lots of shutter clicks on it.

The best place to buy used equipment is and factory refurbished camera gear.


Shop for used camera products here from these stores
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