Photography is an expensive hobby. A student once said to me, yes Ingrid, there are three variables which will determine your photography – Light, Time and Money. Well, although I admit you can travel down the rabbit hole of ever improving camera gear, it is still possible to nab some camera gear bargains online if you are well informed and buy second hand. So here’s my top 5 tips on buying second hand camera gear.*Photo credit
1. Purchase from a reputable source.
The big players in the second hand camera gear industry are well established and usually even stand over their resale items with a 6 month warranty. This can go a long way in calming the nerves of a newbie photographer. I’ve bought many lenses in this way from KEH who are a huge online supplier of second hand equipment – everything from camera bags to lenses to lighting equipment. You might pay a little bit more buying a lens in this way but in my opinion that warranty is worth that peace of mind. Funny story – I know about them when I lived in Ireland and when I moved to the US I realized their warehouse is right down the street from where I live here in Smyrna!
2. Still lots of bargains to be had…
if you regularly stalk Craigslist and other online auction and sales sites such as Quicksales where private individuals are selling their stuff . If you are on Facebook (I know, who isn’t?), then you can join some of the specific groups for people buying and selling their second hand gear. Just do a search on Facebook and then request to join the groups that interest you. You can always leave the group when your are finished buying or sell some of your own stuff to buy the next piece of gear!
There are several benefits of buying from an individual. For a start, you can sometimes find some REALLY awesome deals. People start photography and then realize they are no longer interested, or they upgrade their cameras or they just need the cash for something new. When you buy like, this you can usually get a bundle deal of lenses, bodies, filters and bags for a great price. Just beware of add-ons that are unnecessary inflating the price your your gear. Most people will never use color filter sets and just because the piece of plastic ring thing looks fancy – you probably don’t need it.
Secondly, you will also have the opportunity to ask questions to see photos taken with the gear and actual photos of the gear. You can usually tell if a person is being honest or not in these sites and of course you can always look at their account feedback. Sites like Craigslist can be a little more sketchy these days, so as always – use your judgement and don’t put yourself in any questionable scenarios when meeting the seller.
3. Do your research.
When you buy second hand its up to you to do your research. You need to know exactly what it is you are looking for and be prepared to ask lots of questions so that you can be sure that the piece is in as good as shape as possible. I personally, honestly would stay away from buying a camera body 2nd hand unless you are very sure of where it was coming from and its history.
This is especially true for entry level DSLR camera bodies. These aren’t usually built to withstand a lot of wear and tear and one drop could knock something vital way off in how the camera operates. when trying to decipher how much use a camera has gotten look for signs of wear and tear on the strap, where the paint has rubbed off on the grip and on the flash hotshoe.
4. PayPal or CreditCard only
Only deal with sellers who will accept PayPal or Credit Cards. All reputable and honest sellers will do this. If you are been asked to send money orders or wire funds directly to someone’s bank account in some far flung place, then this screams SCAM! Always, always buyer beware 🙂
5. If it looks to good to be true, then it probably is.
Use your judgement when you are buying 2nd hand gear online. If you see brand new camera models at knockdown prices then red flags should go up. Also check for fake brand names. If I had a dollar for every Cannon or Nickon lens I saw back in my days of retail…. not to mention the countless variations of plastic imitation lenses. Remember, just because a lens looks awesome – it could be a piece of junk.
So I hope this little guide will help you out! If you have had any experience in buying used equipment online I’d love to hear your thoughts – let me know in the comments below.
Disclosure: Beginners Photography worked together with Quicksales on this article.