by brian lobdell
Pssst... Hey, have I got a deal for you! I have this Nikkon kit lens, only used for two shots of a little old lady and her cat in a rocking chair. (Kept the cat in a plastic bag so there would be no hair on the lens) The lens is kept hermetically sealed in a moisture proof container, and is stored in a temperature controlled vault, along with my original Honus Wagner baseball card. I really cherish this lens - it really means the world to me, but as painful as it may be, I'm willing to part with it just for you....
Ah, the world of new and used photography equipment for sale!
So you’ve decided to upgrade your camera, or perhaps you’re buying first-time digital equipment for yourself, your spouse, or son/daughter. Now you’re faced with the decision to either buy new, at premium price, or buy used and possibly get more camera and lens for your buck. You can get tons of advice from knowledgeable (and some not so knowledgeable) sources, but in the end it’s ultimately your decision to live or die with.
Buying new is generally a much safer albeit more expensive bet. Even with new there are still many scams & padded prices out there from not-so-reputable stores that will push gray market products to unsuspecting buyers, or sell a bundle of over-priced accessories that make the total price skyrocket. For a real eye-opener, here's a must- read article, "Camera Confidential" from the PC World archives! Best advice – do your homework, look for store reviews, and independent product reviews. Be wary of an unfamiliar online store that is a couple hundred bucks cheaper than well-known reputable vendors such as B&H Photo in New York, which has a good track record among pros and amateurs around the country.
The second option, used equipment, is a little riskier, but a smart buyer can find good products at reasonable price. Being smart includes having patience, as the equipment you want isn’t always on the market when you’re ready. Being smart also means doing more homework, and careful consideration of every aspect of your prospective purchase. You can either consider purchasing from one of the major photography dealers who handle used and refurbished gear (sometimes with a limited warranty), or going it on your own with an individual - on eBay or Craigslist for example. Here is where you must be extra careful.
A few warnings to consider:
Used equipment from individual sellers most often has no warranty! Even if a supposedly transferable warranty is included, might your seller vanish in the night? - unlike an established store the can stand behind their sale. So it’s up to you to examine and try out the equipment, which means trying to find it listed locally is your best option.
Could it be stolen property? There is often no way to ascertain the seller’s reputation and integrity. Is there any original bill of sale or other documentation? If the seller can demonstrate knowledge of the equipment features and operation, you have at least some idea of authenticity.
Why is the equipment being sold? Sellers can tell you anything they think you’ll want to hear – so you need to look for any damage or clues for more usage than advertised. For some really great tips on what to look for with used equipment, check out "A Guide to Buying Used DSLR Gear" by Michael Zhang at PetaPixel.com – written last year but very pertinent. (And great advice here even for non-DSLR equipment)
This is a tough factor. There is no formula for age/usage vs. new cost. But considering the "buyer beware" risk factors, one should expect a decent discount – even if the equipment is “mint”. The seller may be convinced that his equipment works perfectly, but how certain can you the buyer be?
Personal note here – I don’t expect to get good used equipment at a give-away price, but I’m amazed at the gear I see out there that is offered for just under the price for new - especially for camera bodies, which depreciate much faster than quality lenses, as technology and competition are producing newer, more versatile models every year. (Although I agree that the camera doesn’t make the photographer, and quality older cameras can be as capable as the skill applied to them.) If the seller expects to make all his investment back, I'd just as soon buy new where I know its backed up and warrantied.
Throwing up all these warning flags shouldn’t take away from the many honest individuals who sincerely try to give a fair evaluation and price on the gear they wish to sell. For example, in January last year, I found an AF-S DX VR Zoom Nikkor 18-200 f3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens listed locally on Craigslist. The seller turned out to be a local pro I had never met, and he bent over backwards to be sure I was happy with the lens, letting me try out the lens for 3 days before cashing my check (which he graciously accepted, as the bank had closed by the time we got together.) He also gave me copies of the warranty and his original bill of sale, along with the original box etc., and a written invoice listing the serial number and his money back/ 3-day offer. I was able to observe that he took great care with his equipment, and I have been delighted with this lens. His price at $499 was reasonable as the lens new was selling in the $700+ range at that time, and he included a filter adapter ring as well.
So as mentioned, study not only what you are buying, but also where/who you are buying from. Members here at BetterPhoto.com have a great resource for getting their equipment and purchasing questions answered, on the BetterPhoto Forum. Many of our wonderful members are happy to share their experiences and knowledge about equipment choices and options. Check out the BetterPhoto Forum to see some samples of top questions and tips that BetterPhoto members enjoy.
There are probably a couple dozen more things to consider with purchasing used equipment, but hopefully these thoughts here will reside in the back of your mind and be an aid when you stumble on that really great deal out there!
Oh yeah, if you're interested in that Nikon kit lens, amazingly I still have it.available. Just send me your bank account number, and I'll take care of everything and get it sent right out.....