I think the wonderful, wild world of photography is sooooo hard to break into! I remember when I was shopping for my first camera, and it felt like knowledge for what, where, and how to get the look I was looking for was impossible to find. This post is all about how you can shop secondhand for photo gear and still get everything that you’re looking for.
When people ask me questions about what kind of camera they should get, they almost all want to know 1. what to buy to be able to get a blurred background and 2. how much that costs. (I have a whole post on defining your camera wishlist here).
The next step is people usually have sticker shock at how much the body and lens to achieve the look they’re wanting is going to cost. (Psst, this is why photography is so pricy 😉 It can very quickly become an expensive hobby for sure!) Read on to learn more about how you can break into photography on a budget.
Why Shop Secondhand For Photo Gear
- One of my favorite reasons is that this is an environmentally friendly and conscious choice. As with all tech, camera production isn’t the kindest to our earth. By buying used, you’re giving a camera / lens / accessory a chance at another life. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
- THE SAVINGS. If you dip your toes into this world, you will learn how expensive it is to play. Hence hashtags like # stay broke, shoot film. You can get amazing deals if you shop secondhand for photo gear.
- If you’re unsure of what you’re doing or really wanting, it’s a much less high stakes option than buying all new gear that might not be what you’re looking for. If it doesn’t work out, you can always re-sell. Another option is to rent if you’re unsure and want to take something out for a test ride before you buy.
Where To Buy Secondhand
Here’s my list, starting my personal most favorable preference for the best deals.
Craigslist / FB Marketplace / Garage Sales: This is my favorite way to score some amazing gear. If the seller isn’t willing to answer questions and provide pictures of the actual items before, they don’t need your business! I have definitely seen some sketchy options, however I’ve purchased three professional camera bodies on Craigslist, and they are AMAZING deals and purchases that have been so good to me, and the sellers were great people. Win – Win. If you decide to go this route, keep reading for some additional tips.
Ebay: You can get as good of deals here, however, there’s a lot more risk here because they’re usually from individual sellers that aren’t providing a product warranty. Also, you can’t test it out for yourself before buying. Proceed with caution.
A third-party-reseller. There are TONS of websites that sell used camera gear. It’s basically like a used car dealership. You’re going to pay more than you are going to if you find it for yourself, however, you get the benefit of usually having the products tested, verified and vouched for, usually with a decent return policy unlike a Craigslist transaction.
What To Look For
If you are going the do it yourself route, which I’ve personally had wonderful successes with, this is what you’re going to want to keep a very researched and watchful eye for:
If you’re shopping for yourself via Craigslist, etc., this is what you’re going to want to look out for. Any camera resale website should disclose all of this for you, and if they don’t, that’s a MAJOR red flag!
Actuations. Think of this like miles on a car. Actuations are the number of times a shutter has opened and closed from you taking a photo. A camera has a limited number of actuations in its lifetime before it needs parts replaced. Simply google how many actuations the average lifespan of the model of camera you’re trying to buy, and compare it to how many actuations it has. Eg. Canon Rebel t2i average actuations. The rule that I shop by is that I’ll only consider the sale if it’s half the original price with at least less than half the total actuations of it’s lifespan.
Make sure you bring a lens to test the camera body. What you’re looking for is a quick, sharp focus. If you’re buying a lens, bring a camera body that you know and trust. For me, since I only shoot prime auto-focus capable lenses, I know that I’m looking for a sharp, fast focus. If it can’t do that, I’m not interested.
I also want to push the ISO and see how it can do in low light, for both a body and a lens.
Yo… this is so subjective & is going to vary case by case, body by body. Take it or leave it, but I do feel like it’s worth mentioning.
Camera bodies are often framed with metal or hard plastic to protect the inner mechanics, therefore, *purely out of personal preference*, I may consider a more dinged up camera body if its actuations are in a range that I’m comfortable with and the price is right. As I said, still definitely test it out, but professional quality gear is made to withstand some wear and tear, and I wouldn’t let some cosmetic scratches interfere with me getting a great deal.
Lenses on the other hand, if not immaculate and brand new looking, I won’t even consider. All it takes is a little dust or a grain of sand or a slight lens scratch to hinder the performance of a camera lens. Full disclosure, I’ve actually never bought a used lens for this reason. Almost all my bodies are bought second hand, but I get my lenses new because then I can baby them and know that they’re not going to fail me. I know people who have bought and use second hand lenses. Just make sure you really check that baby out and test it and inspect it before making a deal that you can’t undo.
Where To Meet
I’m not sure how banks or police stations feel about this, if it’s a concern for you, do your own research. Lol. But I will only meet the seller at a bank or a police station. If they’re trying to scam me, they’re going to pass, because both of these places have surveillance and oftentimes on site security. This helps me feel safe with the transaction of money, as well as taking a haul of new expensive gear back to my car.
To Sum It Up: Shop Secondhand For Photo Gear
Shopping gear secondhand can be an amazing way to get started with photography, upgrade your gear, or try out new systems or accessories. As I mentioned, it’s not without risk, but there’s also a chance for a great reward. Let me know if you try any of these tips to shop secondhand for photo gear for a budget friendlier entry into the photography world!
Good luck & warm hugs!
Check out some of our other photography related posts here.