As lovers of photography, we have all been faced with this dilemma: we want better equipment, but our budgets don’t always allow us to purchase a brand new camera body or lens. Today, Jenn Fletcher from KEH Camera writes why you should consider buying used and gives her tips for buying smart when it comes to used gear.
Good Reasons to Buy Used
- To save money – get gear for cheaper prices.
- To find items that are no longer made – older film or digital models, collectibles, and discontinued items or brands.
- It’s a great way to experiment with new formats (ex. 35mm film, medium format), as well as for experimental techniques and shooting in harsh conditions when it could be risky to your gear. This way, you have less invested.
- It’s also great to have as your backup gear for those who shoot weddings and events.
- Buying older equipment not only has a place in photographic history, but each piece has its own story.
- It’s an affordable way to occasionally find one-of-a-kind items that have had custom modifications already made that will save you time and money
Things to Consider
- Once an item has been purchased for the first time, it is always considered “used” even if it has stayed in a box and never actually been used before. Likewise, the value drops immediately after purchasing a new item (similar to the way cars work), and simply being “used” says nothing about its condition.
- If you are purchasing a camera for use (instead of display-only purposes), you will want to make sure that it works, or that it can be repaired. While most cameras can be repaired, there are some makes and models that no longer have parts available.
- Buying used gear from a reputable dealer will save you the time and hassle of having to check every detail of the item to ensure that all parts are fully functioning. For every item, there is quite a long list of things to check. A few examples are proper shutter speeds, accurate meter readings, foam or light seals, and aperture coupling.
- When looking at the condition of an item, take into consideration its age. What might look like poor condition for a newer digital camera might be excellent condition for an antique camera. Also, most dealers have their own grading scales. Take into consideration the grade (or condition) of items vs. the price what is the most important factor to you? Do you want to save more money on an item with more cosmetic wear or spend a little extra to have less wear? The dealer’s grading condition should be separate from the functionality aspect of the equipment.
- Since a previously used camera may have had custom settings set and not cleared, it’s best to reset and clear all menus on a newly acquired camera before use. Custom settings can often be confusing to a user who didn’t set them, and may make it seem like there is something wrong with the camera when there actually is not. Again, if purchased from a reputable dealer, this should have been completed before you even get it.
- Whether you’re buying used or new, it’s always best to purchase a user manual if one is available. There are often “tricks” to using different cameras that you may not know about unless you read the instruction book.
- Will I get a warranty with used equipment? Most reputable dealers offer a warranty on their used equipment. While it’s not as long as the manufacturer’s warranty on new equipment, you can purchase an additional Mack Extended Warranty in most cases, if purchasing through one of these dealers. And you will still save money.
- Will the defective rate be greater than on new equipment? Not necessarily. If you are purchasing from an individual or store that doesn’t fully test the equipment (and repair if needed), then probably, yes. But if you are purchasing from a reputable dealer, the percentage of defects is very close to the rate of gear that comes directly from the manufacturer, which is about 2%.
Know Your Seller
These are the things you should look for in a good seller (or dealer) before purchasing used gear:
- A good reputation
- Knowledge of the equipment they are selling
- Fully inspects and tests the equipment before putting it up for sale
- Clearly-posted policies, and will include a return policy and warranty with your used equipment
It might be stating the obvious, but buying from a stranger is risky. However, you can find good used gear by seeking out a seller or dealer with a good reputation. Ask questions about the item’s condition and have them go over the features. Ask whether it has been inspected and tested. An answer such as “It worked before I put it into storage” should cause you to look deeper if not somewhere else. And lastly, be sure you understand the return policy and warranty agreement if one is offered.
With all these great tips, you can give in to that desire for better equipment and still stay within your budget. Just buy smart–buy used.