Buying used gear can be a very scary experience, especially if you're not well-versed on the equipment that your purchasing. Buying from reputable dealers such as B&H or Adorama takes a little bit of the fear out of the equation but you still don't know exactly what you're getting until it comes in the mail. The used market doesn't have to be scary though; when armed with enough knowledge about the product, you can feel more confident about where you're spending your money. To help, here are a few tips that will help you purchase used photography equipment and not get screwed:
#1 Be Knowledgeable
The easiest way to know when something is bad with the product is to know that product inside and out. When researching a camera, use Facebook groups and camera forums to find out every problem you can about this certain camera. Knowing the weakness of a product helps you find out if what you're buying is worth the money that the seller is asking. For example: if someone were to be selling a Nikon D600, A common question that would be asked is if they have had any problems with sensor dust and if the camera has been sent into Nikon for repair. The reason this would be a popular question to ask is because the Nikon D600 has been under fire because of a widespread problem with it sensor dust. Nikon did put out of recall So it was free to send but knowing the history of the problem is very helpful in projecting what could or could not happen in the future. If you like to read more on the D600 click here. Knowing your stuff on the product can make or break a sale, especially if you're looking to get a deal. Know all the accessories that come with the product, where the product was made, how much they were new and more importantly how much they go for used. Many lenses nowadays has had numerous versions produced over the years, so make sure that you know which version that you're attempting to purchase.
#2 Check for Body Damage
Body damage is always The first thought you should have when it comes to a piece of gear. The where the actual body tells you how much it has been used or abused. Body damage can indicate whether a camera has been dropped banged up against something. Beware of signs of blunt force such as a hard drop as those types of injuries can lead to shutter damage as well as dislodging parts from inside the camera. I am always less worried about scratches on the bottom of the camera; these are normally caused by placing the camera on a table numerous times or it just rattling around in a camera bag with other equipment. What scratches do me though is that you have some room for negotiation on price. If someone says that the equipment is in near mint condition, be sure to point out the body scratches as it can and will affect resale value.
#3 Test Test Test
With any piece of gear that you buy in person, always test its functionality. If it is a camera body, take sure to bring an assortment of lenses to test it with and also a memory card, go through the menu try out the exposure compensation, make sure that the meter is working correctly and that the camera doesn't stumble through any actions that it shouldn't. Just this year, I was aiming to purchase an ultra-wide-angle zoom for my crop body camera system and I found a gentleman on craigslist selling a tokina 11-16mm 2.8. The ad said that it was one of the newer versions with focus motor so I decided to go check it out. The things were perfect and he had everything in complete original condition but when I tested the lens on my D3200, The autofocus would not work because it was a D series lens which was amazing body cameras with the focus motor, and without a built-in focus motor the camera would only be able to manually focus which was no good for me. Always test The gear in question with the care that you're planning to use it with.
#4 Shop Around
Shopping is very important when it comes to used gear. With the new in the box equipment, there is pretty much industry-standard when he comes to retail price. All of the big name stores are going to carry equipment for the same price unless there's some type of discount sale that involves combos such as a lens and camera body together. With used gear, you can find amazing deals on places such as eBay that knock the socks off of big store prices. Another good place that I have found to look is a Facebook group specializing in sales of nothing but camera equipment. It's a great way to haggle and to create and unbeatable deal for yourself. Because people have never been able to truly get their money back out of a piece of gear, They normal list what they would like to get, not necessarily the bottom line they will take. I recently made a deal with another photographer for 2 pieces of gear that he happened to be selling, A ring Flash and a lens, and the fact that I wanted both was a great time to haggle by combining The prices with a discount. I was able to pick up both items for over $100 less than he was asking for.
#5 Be Smart
This one could probably go without saying but I want everyone out there to be careful when dealing with people through Facebook groups or craigslist. When binders a little less chance that you're running into a scam but you still need to be careful. Make sure to get contact numbers that way you can prove this person at least lives within your area code. Always meet in a very public place such as a grocery store or a mall food court. Food courts are my favorite because you have so many people around and usually at least one or two mall security walking to make sure everything is okay. This gives you a few layers of security to make sure that you'll be safe in this transaction. I would not suggest at all meeting in parking lots; trust me, you don't want to have a gun pulled on you when trying to buy or sell an item. This actually happened to a friend of mine where his life was threatened because of the phone he was selling. When you demand to meet a very public place, it will scare off those that are looking to harm you. I'm not trying to scare you I just want you to see all the facts Craigslist can be a scary place if you're not sure about how to protect yourself.
Remember that gear is something that you will probably always be buying and selling (like almost every other photographer out there) and there's nothing wrong with that. Just take these 5 tips to heart and you'll be just fine!
Jarrett Hucks is primarily a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina who's work takes him all over the country and is available for booking your commercial and personal photography needs. Please call 843-446-4929 or email firstname.lastname@example.org