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How to Buy Used Cameras and Lenses

How to Buy Used Cameras and Lenses

Who the hell wanna be buying a used camera gear from strangers on the internet while this whole global pandemic is going on right now? Well, I'll tell you apparently a lot of people because they've been buying from me like aren't you afraid of not only receiving the item but with some Corona along with it overplay joke. I know. I'm just kidding. I tested negative. I hope I did it right. In this article, we're going to talk about why buy used gear, how to do it, where to do it, how to properly inspect used gear, and how to stay safe and avoid getting scammed. Where and How to Sell Camera Gear!

Why buy used gear?

Listen I get it. It's not everybody's Cup of tea. I have friends who shudder at the fact of owning something that's been used before but it's actually a great way to save a ton of money than to buy something that is brand new. Like me for example I'm a chief skate. I'm a bargain hunter at heart and I don't know if you noticed this but I'm Asian and Asians are always looking for a great deal and if you're lucky you could potentially end up with something that is barely use practically brand new at a really great price. But mainly it's the easiest and the fastest way to accumulate a collection especially if you're new or you're switching to brand new camera systems.

If you're getting started with your career in filmmaking or freelance videography then you know you need much more than just a camera and a lens. you need a tripod, you need mics, you need lights. And buying all of these brand new would definitely rack up the bill. Fortunately, camera gear have multiple iterations of the same product and you might be able to pick up a discontinued model that is just as good as the current model but at a much better price. 

What are some of the cons to buying used gear now?

Obviously, when you buy used gear there's not going to be any sort of manufacturer's warranties. Those only come when you buy brand new from an authorized retailer in your region. But that's said truth be told there are only a handful of times I ever have to enact on my warrantied and for the most part I don't remember a lot of them. The last recent memory that I have I to send something to get fixed while under warranty is my MacBook Pro. The screen was flickering but that's about it. And even then things tend to break down after the warranty period. so

How to Buy Used Cameras and Lenses

The worst that can happen is just you have to pay a little bit more for your repair bill.

The second Con is just more work on your end to make sure the item that you're buying is up to snuff which means there's going to be a bit more research on your end and some proper inspection to do in person. Don't worry. I'll show you how to do all that in this article. Just think of all the money that you'll be saving by buying used gear.
With that said the number one rule when it comes to buying used gear is that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. So Let's talk about where I can buy used camera gear.

What are the best places to buy?

1. Buy from reputable stores because chances are you can return it. Stores like Best Buy, B&h, Adorama, and Amazon warehouse. Not only do they sell new camera gear but they also have a useful section as well. I personally myself had great customer service with these stories in the past. I never had to really return anything that I bought used from them and your local camera store too. Just make sure you know their return policy.

2. eBay- Everybody knows eBay. It's a peer-to-peer transaction platform with eBay being the middle person or entity. What's cool about eBay is that the buyers and sellers have a feedback system. So the more positive feedback that you have the more trustworthy you seem. But the main thing is that eBay has a buyers protection program. So in the event that you receive a gear that is a dud or it's broken or damaged in any way you're likely going to get your money back. I do want to know that eBay is better as a buying platform. That a selling platform. And I'll go over more in detail in my I sellers guide. 

Another thing about eBay you can actually get Gray market items. These are not used. They're actually brand new products for a much lower price. The only caveat is that there is no warranty whatsoever. Usually, these products are bought internationally because international pricing is a little bit different. I myself have bought the Zeiss 55 f 1.8 off of Gray market and have never had any issue with it. Never had to send it in to get fixed. But Yeah treat it as if there's no warranty. I don't care if the store says there's one year warranty with them. Just treat it as no warranty.

3. Buying from Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up

The third way of buying used gear is actually very common. You buy it locally from another person. You'll be using sites like Craigslist Facebook Marketplace or apps like Offer Up. These are also Peer-To-Peer transactions like eBay. But unlike eBay, these are uncharted territories. It's unmonitored, unsupervised, no buyers protection. You're literally meeting up with another human being doing the exchange. Again I personally have had a lot of positive experiences.

Not 100% positive but for the most part positive experience. So long as you practice the safety precautions you will be fine. So how these sites work is that you punch in the product that you want to buy and likely listing will show up. In this listing. There should be a description of the product and a Photo of the product and if it's looking good and the price is somewhat what you want to pay for you would message to Seller.

Proper Communication with Sellers

We're in the messaging stage whether it's emails, text messages, or the in-app messaging system. Make sure you get all your questions answered about the product because when you meet up in person all you want to be doing is just inspecting the product and making sure that everything checks out from the exchanges that you've had via the messages. And if you want the seller to be flexible on the pricing make sure you do it before you meet up. Don't put anyone in an awkward position in terms of the meeting area. Always always always meet in an open area with people.

Some have told me that their local police stations actually encourage these types of Craigslist transactions to happen near the station goes without saying but try to meet during the day. The light is not only for safety but you can actually see what you're buying. If you do have to meet a night just meet in a well-lit area and try to bring a friend along. Not only can they be a witness but someone that you can trust the whole stuff or be your money handler.

When it comes to buying a used gear make sure you bring all the tests that you need to properly test gear like a laptop, calibration tool, dust blower, etc. We're gonna get into how to do all of these tests in just a bit.

Pay with cash, not Venmo or Paypal

When you do test the gear out make sure you test it thoroughly. Now in terms of payment cash is always going to be the best for the seller. But as a buyer, you can kind of go both ways so you can pay with cash or do it through a cash app like Venmo Pay Power Quick Pay. As a buyer, there's less risk for you to pay with a cash app. It's riskier for the seller to accept payment with a cash app but as long as they're cool with it then it should be fine. Sellers, I'll have more detail about that as to why you should always be accepting cash in the seller's article.

Avoid Paypal Scam by doing this

Okay, if you're buying from someone outside of eBay Let's say from a photography forum or Reddit or something like that and it's getting shipped to you. Always always always always use PayPal and do a proper transaction. None of that. Friends and family be crap. Pay the extra transaction fee if you must and have the seller attached a tracking number to your invoice. The friends and family transaction means you're willingly giving up that money to an individual that you trust it's in its name. So if anything goes wrong PayPal is not going to help you.

But by doing a proper business transaction the seller must follow through. Screencap all the conversations that you have with this person. Screen Cate descriptions and the photos that they send you. And likely PayPal will have more of a reason to decide with you. Should the deal end up going sound.

How to properly inspect the camera?

Now treat buying a used camera much like buying a used car. You want to thoroughly inspect it before you drive out of the lot.

Physical condition

So the first thing that we're gonna do is really check out the physical condition. And I just wanna say normal wear and tear on the camera is well normal. If you use something there's gonna be some minor scuffs and minor marks. These are completely normal so long as it doesn't affect the performance of the camera. What you're really looking for are obvious drop damage or potential water damage.

Ask yourself does the physical condition of the camera matches the price?
Obviously, you don't want to be paying a like-new price for a beat-up camera.

Check the LCD screen

The next thing to do is to just check the LCD screen for any sort of scratches that pixels look through the viewfinder making sure everything is fine.

Lens mount

The next thing you want to look at is the lens mount. Is there any sort of damage to it you actually properly Mount a lens to it? Is the connection pin actually working? Is it reading the aperture value of your lens?

Dead pixels

The next thing you want to check for or dead pixels. So don't be afraid to bring a laptop with you just met at a coffee shop or Starbucks with WiFi. And what you want to be doing is take these sample photos and blow it up on your computer to see to check for any sort of defects. When it comes to dead pixels you want to shoot at iso 1 to 200 and what you're really looking for is just a pitch-black image. If you see any sort of dots that's likely a dead Pixel. Of course, if you're shooting at a higher ISO like 3200 or something like that you're gonna see multiple dots. Those are not dead pixels.

Check the sensor

The next thing you want to do is to check the sensor. Is it damage in any way? Is it scratch? After that Mount your lens back on Jack up the aperture value to F-16 and shoot into the bright blue Sky. What you're looking for is dust. Now minor dust is okay. It's again normal. But if it's looking like there's bugs crawling through across your screen then honestly that's something that the seller should have taken care of before selling that lens. In any event, try to blow dust it out with a blow Duster, not your mouth.

How to properly Inspect Lenses?

Shutter Count

This is where the WiFi will come in handy because there are a lot of sites out there that able to check the shutter account of the camera by uploading a sample image to it. A shutter account is much like finding out the mileage of a car it's just how many counts can your camera go up to before you have to replace it? The best thing you can do is to do research ahead of time. Find out what the shutter account expectancy of a camera is. I think for the a73 it's like 250000. So you ask for the shutter account they tell you 10000 it's is actually pretty low but Yeah just remember you ask that in the beginning.

It's a little bit harder when it comes to reputable stores to find out ahead of time. That's where the test will come in. If it's way too high you can always return it. But if you're buying it from another person this is the information that they should have before parting with their camera.

Check autofocus

And Lastly just kind of do an autofocus check bring a lens that you're familiar with and just try to autofocus out and see how responsive it is moving on to lenses. It's very similar to inspecting a used camera. You're gonna be looking at the physical condition of it. You're going to be looking for obvious signs of scratches and dents. Again cosmetic scuffs are given. They're perfectly normal. What you're looking for is major scratches and major dents any obvious fall damage. It's kind of subjective but as long as the price to you matches the look of the lens you should be okay.

Check out the class

Next up check out the class on both ends and check for cracks. Take some sample photos and blow it up on your laptop. Same thing. What you want to do is shoot at F-16 into the bright blue sky and look for dust and spots. A little of them is okay. Just probably needs to be clean. But if it's Super dusty again that's something that the seller should have taken care of before selling.

Check the autofocus

Next up is to check the autofocus making sure it's responsive but also listen for the autofocus motor noise. Now sometimes some lenses it's normal to have a bit of noise when it's focusing but if it's sounding like a lawn mower trying to start well I probably want to avoid that and bring a comparison lens if possible because sometimes you never know that does you could be seeing is actually coming from your camera. Having that comparison lens will be Super helpful. It doesn't have to be the same focal length as the one that you're buying but enough for you to gauge how the lens that you're buying is performing.

Making sure it comes with important accessories

Now when you're buying cameras lenses, sound equipment, lighting equipment, or whatever it's important for you to ask right in the beginning if the product comes with any of the original accessories. Now the box is not necessarily that important but stuff like the battery and the charger those are really important. Now of course certain cameras don't get shipped with a charger is going to be up to you to do that research on your own. Watch some unboxing videos and note that any of the core functioning pieces that you might need like a USB cable, the lens hood, or the bag.

How to avoid getting scammed?

I'm gonna be completely honest with you. It doesn't happen all that often. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. It does happen but it's very very rare. People aren't as untrustworthy as you think they are most often to not the sellers who are selling the items. It's because it doesn't fit their need or they're switching over to a different system or given up on the hobby entirely. It doesn't hurt to ask them why they are selling the product and if you're worried about them fooling you into buying a defective product. This is why we run all those tests. The seller should always oblige just always err on the side of caution.

The best thing you can do is to try to vet your sellers ask them things pertaining to the items that someone knowledgeable enough should know. Hey, does this lens of work on my camera? Even though that's an answer you should know what did you use this lens for? How come it didn't work out for you? Why are you selling this? The point is it's just to gauge their responses and see if they're legitimate or not if they're giving you some funky answers. Don't buy.

And if you're buying from a professional I don't think it's weird or awkward to ask for their website or their portfolio or at the very least sample images.

How do you make sure the item that you're buying isn't stolen?

Honestly, it's really tough. I mean you can search the serial number on the website to see if it's reported stolen but that's honestly after the fact that you bought the camera and chances are the original owner might not have locked down to serial number anyways it's a very tricky very scary territory. The best thing that you can honestly do is to again meet your sellers ask them those questions and you start getting some funky answers. Probably shouldn't be buying it.

Gut feelings

If your gut tells you not to risk it then don't risk it. Now there's a difference between being overly cautious and being safe. If you're constantly worried about getting scammed or being tricked or getting beat up then you're probably not cut out to buy gear. But if you see signs of red flags from your email exchanges or this person that you're meeting up with then probably don't risk it. And this goes without saying don't ever feel pressure into buying a used gear even if it sounds like the deal of the century.

Even if you drove 50 miles out to meet up with this person if something doesn't check out and you're not 100% confident just politely say no. Just politely say Hey I'm sorry. This actually isn't for me. These are the reasons why. And if they get mad at you that's on them. I've actually met up with someone who spent 30 minutes testing out a counter that I was trying to sell in 110-degree weather. He did all his thorough testing just for him to stay at the end. I'm not gonna buy it.

And Hey no hard feelings because during his whole thorough testing he actually found a few defects that I personally have missed. I mean they didn't affect the performance in any way but enough for him to say Yeah I'm not gonna buy it and I'm totally cool with it. I think he ended up finding something else. The point is don't feel pressured into buying something.

Hope this article helps. And if you've had experience buying use gear whether it's positive or negative let me know in the comments down below. I think it's good for the community to sort of reading both sides to then make a judgment call as to whether or not they should buy use gear or not.

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