One of the best ways to save money when buying photography equipment is buying used. Sure, there may be one or two risks involved, the benefits far outweigh them. Today, I want to deconstruct buying used cameras. Let’s look at how, where, and why look for one.
One of the first questions you should ask is something like what camera should I buy? Sure enough, buying a camera is a very important choice, there are a lot of things to pay attention to. At the same time, nearly always buying an albeit chapter but still, the amateur camera is the option most beginners go to. Fair enough, perhaps you can get a decent camera-lens combo for under $1,000 new. However, that leaves a void only a “better” camera can fill. Anything from ergonomics to focus peaking in the video, there’s always something missing. Besides, the build quality is all that not impressive with entry-level cameras.
Professional cameras vs Amateur cameras
On the other hand, professional cameras have significantly better build quality, as well as more specs that enable creative possibilities and options. As photographers, the last thing we want to limit is our creative possibilities; be it knowledge, or technical ability. One of the tools to do that is of course looking towards more professional gear. It looks great on store shelves, in-camera marketing videos, and in pros hands. While the camera you have is technically just a tool, it is an important tool indeed. Professional cameras are almost perfect. The only thing stopping them from becoming the holy grail of perfection is the price tag. I’d struggle to find a professional camera brand-new for under $2,700. Most are closer to a $3,500 tag.
Buying new gear is burning cash
I believe that when you’re buying new gear and opening the box you’re burning thousands in cash. As my grandma would once say “the moment you walk out of the store It’s lost half its value”. This is nearly exactly true. While some buy gear and burn cash, others wait for a year or two and buy the same gear without burning cash. How? By buying used.
Places to buy
Before going any further, I need to dedicate a paragraph to searching for the right match. It’s almost like Tinder only you get a camera and not just for one night.
One of the best things about buying from big stores is not worrying about discrepancies between the description and the product. Big stores test (unless otherwise stated) and aim to sell their gear at the end of the day. This would be the go-to place for anyone who wants to save cash without worrying about testing.
A benefit MPB has over Adorama or b&h is that they specialize in selling used gear. This would mean a greater choice, as well as potentially more expertise. One benefit of buying used gear from MPB is being able to trade in your current stuff for a discount. There is rarely a shortage of things at MPB.
If you’re looking to haggle on the price, and get an unbelievably good deal this is for you. Sure it’s riskier, as you might not see an issue, but at the same time, most things sold are in good condition. So far, I haven’t walked off a Facebook marketplace purchase because an item was not as listed. I have, however, walked off with thousands in cash saved.
Craigslist (ebay-kleinanzeigen gumtree etc)
Although this is similar to Facebook Marketplace on the surface, there are some core differences. The main one being that there is usually more choice on these sites as some people choose to not use social media that tracks every step. Living in Europe, I made myself a list of sites like this for every EU country. This helps me get a $2500 light for $900 from Finnland and a $3500 camera also for $900, this time from Austria.
I must mention eBay, as it is a go-to for many. Personally, I stayed off eBay for quite some time now, and for good reason: the market is overinflated and it takes forever to ship. If a lens is selling for $700 on Facebook, it will be $1000 on eBay for no good reason. Finding a good deal on eBay is an art of which I am no master. If you are, let me know in the comments, I’d love to find out!
Buying a Camera Body
One of the most common things to buy used is of course a camera body. Here is a real listing I found and took images+description from. I will break down my thought process when examining such a listing.
This one was going for $450 with an unknown shutter count.
Just by looking at the picture I notice a few dings in the camera, however, those are just signs of use. When a camera is worn on the neck or just placed on the table it gets those scratches. On the good side, there are two batteries and three memory cards that should be replaced but can be used as semi-reliable backups.
The description is fairly standard, with no unusual odd-sounding phrases or incohesive sentences. the only piece of information lacking, which can also be a negotiation point is the shutter count. For any professional camera, if it’s above 50,000-70,000 I would advise against buying it. That said if a camera has 100,000 but a ridiculously good price I would go for it if I’m confident. That’s what my 5Ds purchasing experience has been.
If I’m in the market for a bargain, I would ask the shutter count, and see to negotiate the price down to $400. This one is a buy.
Saving $2000 on gear is just one single case of how used gear can help you end up owning more for less. There is also an environmental side to this, as buying second-hand is very eco-friendly. With environmental concerns ever-growing, it’s just one more benefit of getting second-hand equipment.
What do you think about buying second-hand? How was your experience with it? Let me know in the comments! I always read them.
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