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3 ways and a checklist to keep in mind, while buying second hand camera gear

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[ This post contains two checklists for buying camera gear. Both of those lists are available in print ready form as a free download by clicking here and here. If you are having trouble viewing/ downloading the file contact- editor.wtl@gmail.com]

 

People buy second hand cameras for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they are a bit short on their budget, or they are looking to buy  a camera for their children or a family member who is just starting out or perhaps they want to hand over a camera to an assistant/ second shooter at a big shoot. Sometimes buying a used camera for a risky shoot (action/ sports/ using on drones) or for modification ( converting to Infrared or for black and white) is also a good idea. Whatever the reason, buying a camera, that is not hot off the shelves is a great way to get your hands on some good gear.

Buying a second hand camera from a good source isn’t always that easy, there is always the risk of being fooled into paying for faulty or damaged goods or simply not getting what you paid for (if you do the transaction online).

There are 3 trusted ways of getting good second hand gear-

a) From a professional/amateur selling his gear- This is perhaps the best way as you can interact with the seller directly and can inspect the gear upfront. Moreover, they are usually okay with somebody testing out their gear in an indepth manner before buying.

b) Buying refurbished/ demo unites from a camera store- This is also a good way to get your hands on gear for less. Refurbished goods are goods that have been returned/ bought back by a store for various reasons. (Sometimes stores buy back equipment from photographers and then give them a discount on new gear for various marketing reasons. For example, Brand A may buy gear from a photographer who uses Brand B to tempt them to buy their gear, or sometimes it is done to tempt users to upgrade their gear.These are not the only reasons, as mentioned, there can be many other reasons also.) This gear is then cleaned and checked and then resold in the market as “Refurbished Goods”. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, stores/ manufacturers also offer a limited warranty on these goods. Buying a demo unit is also a very solid option. A demo unit is simply a unit that has been used on the shop floor for giving demos to customers.

c) Buying Online- Web portals such as OLX and Quikr are good options. Good deals do turn up once in a while. You have to do a detailed search though. There are some obvious fakes though, which are easy to detect. Look out for signs such as bad or no photos in the ad, incomplete or inadequate details about the product, and most importantly, contact details. There are many scammers out there that post ads with fake names and locations and provide cellphone contact details of outside India.

There are some scams that are run via Facebook too. Thankfully these are very obvious to spot, such as this-

tips 2nd hand camera

In overall public interest, it is best to not overlook these and report these as fakes/ scams to Facebook whenever you come across them.

Whatever your source of buying the camera gear may be, here are some quick checklists that you can have by your side to ensure that you make a good purchase and get your money’s worth.

For DSLRs

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Bring your own laptop when finalising the deal and proceed with the following-

  • Insert your own memory card to check if it works.
  • Check all the terminals of the card compartment for dust, bent pins or broken parts.
  • Check the lens mount for any scratches or bent contact pins. Be sure to check the mirror box for dust and spots.
  • Bring your own lens along and test if the camera focuses properly.
  • Check if the shutter works alright and sounds okay.
  • But the camera in burst mode to test it. If the shutter is bad or needs cleaning/ repair, sometimes you can actually hear the frames get slower and the camera will not give proper exposure.
  • Check if changing the aperture and shutter speed actually changes the exposure
  • Check the camera by putting it in all the modes. Also, don’t forget the check the focus and exposure in Live view.
  • Check the LCD for any scratches or marks. A few small ones are okay.
  • Check that all the dials work freely and in the proper direction. Check to see that no rubber is coming off the dials that can make it slip.
  • Test the hotshoe on top by attaching a flash if you have one. If the camera has a built in flash, check that as well.
  • Check to see if the viewfinder looks clean and displays correct info
  • Click one completely black (underexposed) and one completely white (overexposed) image, open the files in your laptop and zoom in to check for any dead pixels. They will show up as white dots in a completely black frame. A few (3-5) dead pixels are normal, any more and it is a problem.
  • Test the autofocus by selecting an autofocus point and quickly switching focus between a near object and an object farther away. Do this with a lens you trust.
  • If the seller mentions accessories, check those too. The best and most reliable deals are the ones that offer everything, even the original bills, manuals and invoices.
  • Check to see if the battery charger works and that it charges the battery. Some cameras let you check the recharge performance of the battery in the camera menu. Be sure to check that out too. An old battery with a bad recharge performance is not really a problem as buying new batteries is easy, however you should know what you are buying.
  • Most importantly, check the shutter count of the camera. The best way to do this is by clicking a picture and then uploadind it to a website such as http://www.myshuttercount.com/ or http://www.camerashuttercount.com/ . This is the most accurate method that I have found.
  • Lastly, check that the camera that you are buying was meant for the Indian market. This is easy to check as there are many hologram stickers, labels and printed materials on boxes of the camera that declare the name and identity of the importer and the market that they are meant for. If the camera is not meant for the Indian market, then, the camera manufacturer will not provide servicing facilities on it.

[ Download a print ready version of this checklist by clicking here. ]

For Lenses

  • Check the front and back lens elements for any marks of scratches.
  • Check the lens coating by angling the lens towards the light
  • Hold the lens against the light to check for dust and fungus inside the inner elements. A little bit of dust is normal. Fungus is not normal. Fungus can never be fully cleaned without having the lens recoated. Another good way of checking fungus is by blowing hot vapour from your mouth onto the lens. As condensation settles and evaporates, you will see fungus like patterns if the lens has had and fungal growth removed.
  • Check the lens mount for scratches or marks. Make sure none of the contact pins are bent. While a few scratches are not a problem, bent pins surely are so make sure that all the contact pins are proper.
  • Mount the lens on the camera, hold it by the mount and gently shake it around to see that the mount is not loose.
  • Check the autofocus of the lens by focusing on an object nearby and then quickly shifting focus to an object farther away.
  • Check the smoothness of the FOCUS ring by testing it in manual mode. Check for any roughness or noises.
  • Check the smoothness of the ZOOM ring by testing it in manual mode. Check for any roughness or noises Check that the filter threads have no flat spots and that a filter will screw into them
  • Check the internals of the lens for any parts that might be lose. Hole the lens tight and give it a little shake. If you hear of feel anything rattling inside, its not a good sign.
  • If the lens has Image stabilization, be sure to check that. Stabilization is one of the first things that gets spoilt if a lens has become old/has been dropped. Just switch on the IS, hold it upto your ear and half press the shutter button on the camera, you should be able to hear a slight hum, this is a sign that the IS motor is working. Check the IS in the appropriate lighting conditions with appropriate exposure to see if it is okay.
  • Check the overall condition of the lens. Check the lettering of the printed material on the body. Is it wearing off? Check the rubber grips to see their condition. Are they still firm? Most importantly, check the screws of the lens, especially on the mount. If the screws have any scratches or bends or twists it surely indicates a bad attempt at repairing it.

[ Download a print ready version of this checklist by clicking here.

 

It is best to know what you are buying, before you actually go through with it. Even when buying online, prefer to meet the buyer in person or have it checked out by a friend or a relative if you are in another city.

It is best to go through these steps one by one. If the seller seems reluctant towards you testing the equipment in such an indepth manner, that is perhaps the first sign of something being wrong with what he/ she is selling.

Be an informed buyer and make in informed choice and it might save you some trouble and money in the long run.

If you are having trouble viewing/ downloading the file contact- editor.wtl@gmail.com


 

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