Buying used camera equipment

Buying used camera equipment what to look for……

When buying used camera equipment it is buyer beware!

In today’s economy there are a lot of people that are selling off items to make some money. Photography equipment seems to be one of these items that a lot of people have decided to sell.  It could be that they have changed Hobbies, or careers, or they are just looking to get rid of extra stuff around the house. If you’re looking for photography equipment this can be a great way to get some quality equipment at affordable prices. 

But when you’re buying there’s a few things that you need to take into account. The first thing is that some of this equipment maybe stolen, the other thing that you have to consider is that this equipment may not be in as good a shape as it looks or as you’re being told.

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Buying used camera equipment – buyer beware

So here are a few things to look for when purchasing used photography equipment.

1 –  Check the equipment thoroughly before buying. It may look in good condition but is it really? Take test pictures with it. Try all the different settings, and yes this can take a while.  Check into the product online.  See if it’s a good product or if it has a history of problems. If possible take the equipment to somebody that knows the equipment and have them inspect it. This won’t guarantee that it works or hasn’t been damaged but a second pair of eyes can never hurt.  Take your time to consider the purchase NEVER rush in to a purchase.

Buying used camera equipment – Could it be stolen?

2 –  Consider if the equipment is stolen. This can be hard to do but there are a few things to watch out for in the ads and when talking to the person that is selling.

  • Does the description of the product match what it is. Many times when people have no idea what they are selling they will mess up the description. They will have a product such as a camera body. They will read the information off the body and then add their own little flair to the description. Does the information seem right? Are they selling a 800 mm lens but are calling it a wide-angle lens. Are they selling a wide-angle lens but say it’s a perfect Wildlife lens. Do they tell you that they’ve used it for years and it’s a perfect lens for something but you know that it would never work for that purpose? Just because the information is incorrect doesn’t mean it’s stolen but it probably does mean that the person selling it doesn’t have a clue of what it is.


OR ELSE!!!!!!

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  • Is the price crazy low?  Are they selling a $8,000 camera body they’ve only had for a month for $500?  Are they selling you a complete camera package that’s worth 25 or $30,000 for $500?  Again it doesn’t mean that it’s stolen but I would be very cautious. It could also mean that it’s been damaged and they’re trying to unload it.
  • Are they in a huge rush to sell it? Do they have a reason for being in a rush? Sometimes there is a reason someone wants to get rid of a product fast. Such as a divorce, estate settlement or they’re moving. But if they seem like they’re nervous I would be concerned if they’re trying to get your money without you having a chance to think about it.
  • Are they difficult to get a hold of? Are they being vague with giving you contact information? Again some people may just be nervous when selling something but if you’re having a problem getting a hold of a person or if they’re only giving you one way to get in touch I would be concerned.


  • If it is high value equipment that you’re purchasing or a large quantity of equipment I strongly recommend calling the local police department and ask if they have any reports of stolen equipment that resembles what you’re looking to purchase. Also if you’re on any Facebook groups, blogs or photography groups that are local to your area put out a request to see if there’s any reports of similar items being stolen.  Again it’s not a perfect way to check, but it may turn up something.
  • Finally does it feel right??? I have many people come into my office offering to sell me products. Sometimes it’s someone who just decided to leave the hobby or the business and they give me all the right answers while we’re talking. Other times somebody comes in to sell me some stuff that they have no clue about and they are very nervous. Those people give me the feeling that something’s not quite right and many times that feeling turns out to be true.
A few more thoughts

3 –  Consider the price very carefully. Is the person selling it for a ridiculously low price? Or is it being sold for the same price, or close to the same price, as new. If the price is ridiculously low I would consider that there is a problem with it (either damaged or stolen). If the price is close to the same as new myself I would just go buy it new.

4 – Try to get to know the seller when buying used camera equipment. How they’ve used it and why they’re selling it. By doing this I found some insane deals on other products that I didn’t even know they were selling. Other times the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when they tell me an obviously made up story about the equipment. See if you have any friends or even family in common. Sometimes someone selling photography equipment may have belonged to the local photography club. You may have a friend or even yourself that belongs to the same photography club now and you can do some inquiries to make sure this person is being honest.  Ask a few leading questions and see if the answers sound right to you.


5 –  Like the old saying goes “If it seems too good to be true it probably is”.  If you’re being offered something for next to nothing. Or you’re being offered a ton of stuff to close the deal there’s probably something wrong. Not all the time will there be something wrong, but if it seems too good to be true it probably is. I’ve got some great deals by getting to know people and asking questions then checking into the equipment. But I’ve also run away from many deals when it just didn’t feel right. Felt like I had won the lottery with the deal but unfortunately I never bought a ticket.

6 –  Be safe when making the deal. Make the deal where there are other people around, where it’s bright, where you feel safe. If somebody is asking you to come to their house at 2 in the morning to buy something and it’s down a dark back alley I would back out of the deal. Likewise if they want to come over to your place to sell you the product I would be a little concerned. Many police stations, and even some fire stations offer areas where you can have safe exchanges. They are lit high traffic areas where you can buy and sell stuff.

Buying used camera equipment can still be a GREAT deal!

I don’t want to put you off from buying used camera equipment because you can get some great deals. I just want you to be sure that what you’re getting is what you expect to get and that you’re not being taken advantage of. Myself I would walk away from any deal that did not feel 100% right. It is better to keep your money in the bank until you get a deal that you’re sure is right for you. 

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