How to Buy Used Photography and Camera Gear

Chris GampatThe Phoblographer Sigma 50mm f1.4 lenses (1 of 3)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 5.0

There are loads and loads of benefits to purchasing used gear. For starters, you know that it’s working fine in most cases because someone has already given it a test run. On the other hand, you also end up saving a couple of bucks vs purchasing it brand new. Additionally, it lets you read reviews and find out more about the camera, lens or light before you make the purchase–which helps you in your decision to figure out whether the item is right for you or not.

Generally, the staff of the Phoblographer has always purchased used gear and we’ve rarely ever had problems. Here’s our guide to purchasing used camera gear.

Go Refurbished

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 15mm f1.7 review product photos (2 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 3.5

Always, always purchase refurbished gear. While many folks think that purchasing refurbished isn’t so great, it’s actually your absolute best bet. Refurbished gear often goes to tradeshows or is used for demos. That gear then comes back to the manufacturer and basically gets built into a brand new unit. After this, the piece of gear goes through even tougher quality control tests than newer pieces of gear do.

In essence, refurbished gear is not only cheaper than brand new gear but is also sometimes in better quality than the newer units.

If you’re purchasing at a trusted retailer of some sort, try to score some refurbished gear to save you a couple of extra dollars.

Do It In Person

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic GH4 product images for review (7 of 8)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 2.8

While eBay is a very tempting choice, there is still a chance that the unit that you get can be destroyed by shipping companies. Even though there are buyer/seller ratings, we still think that getting this done in person gives you the best experience so that you know that you’re getting the product that you want.

Local dealers, Fred Miranda’s forums or even Craigslist are great alternatives. In the case that you’re not in a store, be sure to go meet the person in a public place like a cafe. When you get the product in front of you, both of you can talk about it and ensure that it’s working properly. Additionally, any questions that you have about the product can be answered right then and there.


Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 42.5mm f1.2 review product images (3 of 7)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 1.7

Though this may sound crazy, it’s not a bad idea to bring a magnifying glass with you. If you’re purchasing an interchangeable lens camera you can use it to check the sensor and you can also use it to closely inspect the inside of a lens. If a lens has problems with the elements inside, it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get the elements cleaned and realigned. In a situation like that, you should get much more money off of the purchase.

Dirty camera sensor? We’ve paid for $60 professional cleanings, sometimes even more. If your product has been refurbished and is coming from a trusted dealer, you typically don’t need to worry about this.

Checking the Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer SLR Magic 23mm f1.7 lens fujifilm x pro product photos (7 of 7)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 5.0

In addition to the cleanliness, you should really give the product a trial run right then and there to ensure that it’s working perfectly. If you’re testing a lens, make sure that it will work with your camera first and then attach it and give it a couple of test photos. Closely inspect each photo at different exposures and apertures to make sure that it’s working totally fine. Of course, we recommend doing a close inspection before doing this.

Someone who is totally trustworthy won’t mind doing this and letting you test it. The same goes for retailers that can be trusted.

Getting a Warranty Transfer

Nikon D3300 gservo-1412140329

When the person talks about selling the camera, lens or anything else to you you should always ask about a warranty transfer. Typically, the person that sells you the unit should be able to take care of this for you and you should get it in writing–preferably via email or in a receipt. With certain companies it’s very easy to go about doing that yourself. For example, Canon allows you to sign up on their site with a username and register items in your possession. You can then state whether they are new or used as well as add in the serial number.

Retailers have special refurbished product warranty plans that also work quite well. Make the best purchase for you based on when you think you may purchase another unit or sell it.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.