What are top three second-hand camera gear picks for you to purchase? And why is that? We discuss this and more.
I’ll start with the big one first: Cameras. When camera manufacturers release new models, their older models invariably drop in price. However, this doesn’t mean older models are suddenly obsolete, or that suddenly, their image quality is bad. After all, National Geographic photographers were producing jaw-dropping images with digital cameras ten or fifteen years ago. So yes, a gently used camera, digital or film, will do quite well.
Some people get hung up on shutter counts. I have purchased numerous cameras second-hand, and never come close to approaching the 100,000 to 200,000 shutter actuations that camera shutters are rated for. Also, they frequently last far longer than that. And if you are purchasing a camera that doesn’t have a flapping mirror, well, that doesn’t even matter.
Currently, I use a Pentax K-1 and a Nikon D750. Both were purchased used. Both are DSLRs. Both are many years old, have survived countless dusty desert encounters and night photography trips. And they still produce stellar images.
Want to save a lot of money on an important piece of photography gear? Look no further than tripods. Purchase a high-end tripod second-hand, and it will hold up your camera and lens for many years.
If you purchase a great tripod, it will outlast your cameras. Most people will go through numerous cameras during the course of their photographic journey. But they will often have the same tripod, if it’s a good one. And really, if you are going to perch hundreds or thousands of dollars of gear on a tripod, shouldn’t it be a good one?
I personally don’t care if a tripod has a few dings or scratches. Who cares? If you purchase a new one, it’ll have wear marks soon enough anyway. What I do care about is whether it deploys easily and quickly, is rock solid, and is reliable.
Great camera bags are comfortable, keep your gear dry and safe, and offer strong organization so you can find everything quickly. Unfortunately, great camera bags often cost hundreds of dollars.
Unless you purchase them used.
You can often purchase used camera bags for a fraction of what they initially cost. I regularly see camera bags for 75% of their original price. They typically arrive quite clean, from my experience, but if they’re not, either clean them yourself or take them to your local laundry cleaners. I’ll happily clean a bag if I save two hundred dollars or more.
Where to purchase used items
Networking is great. I’ve purchased or traded camera gear with my friends. That’s a fun, organic way of doing it which is mutually beneficial.
Obviously, you can take your chance with eBay or Mercari. If you do this, try to go with a seller who has been doing it for a while and has a near 100% rating. You’ll see comments about whether they provide good communication. I’ve had excellent luck with this.
Scary times purchasing used
I did have one scare, however. I purchased my Nikon D750 DSLR camera used from Amazon. It came with a Pluto trigger and several batteries as well, all for a great price. However, when I received the box, I was surprised to hear clunking from within. Opening the unpadded box, I was shocked to see that the camera had a thin layer of bubble wrap around it but otherwise loose in a box more than double its size. No other bubble wrap, newspaper, “peanuts” or anything.
Even worse, none of the batteries or the Pluto trigger were wrapped. All were bouncing around loose in the box. My heart sank. I thought for sure something was damaged. I inspected everything. Incredibly, everything worked despite bouncing around freely in the box. I am still using all this gear years later. But caveat emptor.
A safer way to purchase
Another way to purchase used is to purchase at reputable places such as MPB. Large places such as this inspect the equipment carefully. Some of them, such as MPB or KEH, also have repair facilities. And most places have warranties on their used items, such as MPB’s six-month warranty.
And of course, you can never overlook B&H for used photography gear. They are a large second-hand tech seller that is headquartered in New York City. Visiting there is almost a rite of passage for photographers on the East Coast.
One sure thing is that when you purchase from these retailers, you can be really sure that you will not receive your camera and batteries bouncing around inside an unpadded box.
Selling your gear for other gear, servicing, and warranties
Even better is to sell some gear to one of these places for credit. This is convenient and takes the sting off the price even more. I’ve sold my Nikon lenses to MPB in the past. The whole process could not have been easier.
I’ll discuss MPB since I’ve done business with them recently. For each product, they provide an assessment of the condition, what’s in the box, and a warranty. If you want, you can lower the cost by trading in some of your old gear. They are very thorough in evaluating used equipment. However, that’s one aspect that makes them a good place to purchase used gear.
They go through all the gear, clean it up and then sell it. And you get to see a photo of the actual piece of gear you are purchasing. They also service their warranties in-house. They have a five-star review on Trustpilot with over 29,000 reviews. Chances are, they’re doing something right.
Convenience and safety
If you want convenience and want to maximize your chances of purchasing used gear that works like new, purchasing from places such as these is the way to go.
I’ve purchased cameras, tripods, camera bags, cases, lights, flashes, lenses, photography books, and more – all used. Over time, I’ve saved thousands of dollars. And that’s a beautiful thing.
More thoughts on purchasing second-hand
If you want to read more on purchasing cameras used, you may want to read Getting great cameras for cheap: Buying used. And of course, if you want to read about the Best places for purchasing used camera equipment, you’ll want to click on that.
What photography gear have you purchased used? And where is your favorite places to purchase them? Leave your thoughts in the comments!