If your interest in photography is growing, at some stage you may want to invest in a good quality camera. But they can be very expensive, so it could make sense to start by buying a second hand camera. In this article we look at the pros and cons of doing this, how to go about it, and what to look for before you part with your money.
Read on for Print Your Memory’s Guide on how to buy a second hand camera.
What are the pros and cons of buying a second hand camera?
The main reason for buying a second hand camera is that it is much cheaper than buying one from new. So, particularly if you are fairly new to photography and want to test the water with a decent camera without the eye-watering price tag, it could be the way to go.
Buying a camera second hand is also more environmentally-friendly than buying a brand new product. An older camera in great condition can get just as good results as a new one, and you could save that camera from going to landfill unnecessarily. You also have the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting either a private seller or small business.
The main potential disadvantage of buying second hand is that you don’t know the full history of the camera so there may be things wrong with it that are not immediately obvious. Also, depending where you buy from, you may not be able to return the camera if it does turn out to be faulty.
So it’s important to check a second hand camera very thoroughly before buying, and also make sure that there is a returns and refund policy in place should you need it.
What to do before buying a second hand camera
One of the best tips on how to buy a second hand camera is to get well informed beforehand so that you know exactly what kind of camera you are looking for and the kind of price you can expect to pay for it. So before you even think about paying for a camera, do these three things first:
Decide what you want to use your camera for
As well as using your camera for general photography, is there a specific area that you may want to specialise in? If so, you need to think about the features you will need to help you do so. For example, if you are going to be using your camera out and about a lot, you need to consider how portable it is, and what other equipment – such as tripod, lenses, filters etc – that you will need to carry around. But if you are planning to use your camera primarily for studio work, the portability issue is not so important.
Also think about how you will store and edit the photos that you take. Do you need your camera to connect to the cloud for instant back up, or are you happy to operate with memory cards and organise this yourself.
Research products and reviews
Once you have a clear idea of the kind of camera and kit you are looking for, check out a variety of websites – for example camera manufacturers and retailers – to find out as much product information as you can about makes and models of cameras that may fit your requirements.
As you narrow down your choices, also look for reviews from camera users and professional bodies to find out the pros and cons of each model.
Compare prices – new and used
To help you narrow things down further, check out the prices of buying your chosen cameras new, and then search for the range of prices you are likely to pay for good quality second hand models. This will help you to develop benchmark prices so you can judge whether or not you are getting a bargain.
Should you buy a used or refurbished second hand camera?
Another factor to consider when buying a second hand camera is whether to go for used or refurbished. Let’s take a quick look at the difference:
A used camera is the cheapest way to buy a second hand camera, and you may be able to find a good quality used camera for a fraction of the price of a new one – especially if it is a private seller who may not appreciate the value of the camera.
However, if you buy a used camera from a private seller, there may not be an option to return it or get a refund, and if you don’t check it carefully you may end up having to spend more money on fixing anything that is wrong with it.
Refurbished cameras can be bought from many camera manufacturers and other camera retailers. The camera will have been previously owned, but professionally cleaned, tested and repaired to get it back to as-new condition.
So a refurbished camera is likely to be more expensive than a used one, but you will have the peace of mind of it being in good condition, and there should also be some kind of warranty as well as a returns policy. The downside is that the selection of refurbished cameras available at any given time may be more limited than the used camera market, so you may not be able to find exactly the model you are looking for.
Where to find a good second hand camera
One of the big issues when working out on how to buy a second hand camera is that there are so many different places to buy from. We will list a few options here, but the overriding factor should be to buy from a trustworthy source, so that you are not taking any risks.
Wherever possible, make sure you have some kind of option to return the camera should you find it’s faulty or not suitable for your needs in other ways. This means that if you are buying from a private seller, it could be better to do that through a robust selling platform such as eBay rather than just one to one. A good camera is a significant investment, even at second hand prices, and you don’t want anything to go wrong.
Here’s a quick list of places worth looking for a second hand camera:
- Online selling sites such as eBay or Gumtree;
- Online auctions;
- Online general retailers such as Amazon;
- Camera manufacturers websites, such as Nikon;
- Online camera retailers such as Jessops, Camera World and London Camera Exchange;
- Local camera shops;
- Local auctions.
Ten things to check before buying a second hand camera
When you are at the point of having identified the camera you want to buy, there are a few checks that you should do before parting with money. If at all possible, see if there is an opportunity to see the camera before you buy it. But if not, do the following ten checks as soon as you receive it.
- What condition is the bodywork in? Look for scratches, dents, cracks or any rubber peeling away.
- Does the camera have a battery and is it functioning properly?
- Is a charger supplied for the battery, and does it work?
- Does the camera recognise the memory card and/or is it backing up as you would expect?
- Take a photograph in RAW to see if there are any dead pixels in the image.
- If there is a separate lens is this undamaged and does it fit properly?
- Is the sensor free from dust?
- Does the autofocus work as it should so that the camera is producing the sharpest photos it can? If not, does it have any inbuilt autofocus calibration tools to correct this?
- If the camera comes with an inbuilt flash take some photos using flash to make sure that it is working as it should.
- What is the shutter count? Cameras have an expected shutter life which varies between models but is usually between 100,000-200,000. So ideally you want it less than 50,000. You can use the free online tool Camera Shutter Count to upload a photo from your camera and check the shutter count.
We hope that this guide has given you some useful information on how to buy a second hand camera.
Good luck in your search, and remember to check back here soon for more helpful photography guides from Print Your Memory.