How to Buy Used and Refurbished Cameras and Lenses

Sometimes buying renewed or refurbished cameras and lenses is better than buying them new.

“But it’s so expensive,” is what everyone says when a new camera or lens goes on sale. And so I’d like to welcome you to the world of photography that Leica users have known for years. There is a massive benefit to the used and refurbished market for this reason. Don’t want to pay $3,000 for that new Sony lens? Do you think the Canon R5 is way too much money? Well, focusing on the original price point, I think, is sometimes excessive. It gets in the way of having that new camera or lens. The truth is that people are switching systems all the time, so you can always get a camera or lens at a lower price on the second-hand market. And in the case of refurbished cameras and lenses, sometimes they’re in fantastic condition.

Why You Should Always Buy Refurbished or Renewed

I want to talk about my favorite option first: refurbished. In my eyes, one should always buy refurbished. The problem is the same it’s always been–people don’t know what refurbished means. Think of it this way – what does it mean when you refurbish a house? Now apply that to lenses and cameras, sort of. Basically, refurbished cameras (like this one) and lenses spent time on a trade show floor, on the road with the marketing team, or on a display of some sort. That unit comes back to the manufacturer and gets completely reconditioned. Then it goes through extra layers of quality control checks before being sold. Sometimes refurbished gear is better than brand new gear. And it costs less. Cool, right?

I don’t see why I wouldn’t buy a refurbished product. Apple users have experienced the same thing for a while. Want a new MacBook Pro? You can get it brand new or go for a refurbished one. There’s a very low risk that you’ll get a bad product or one you don’t like. To me, it’s a win-win situation.

“Basically, refurbished units spent time on a trade show floor, on the road with the marketing team, or on a display of some sort. That unit comes back to the manufacturer and gets completely reconditioned. Then it goes through extra layers of quality control checks before being sold.”

Used Cameras and Lenses

If you don’t want to risk refurbished, then we recommend trying to score a used camera or lens. Some options are better than others here. For example, Craigslist, eBay, Etsy, and in-person purchases are usually your best bets. These platforms require the sellers to upload images of the actual products that they’re selling. So you can inspect the condition of the camera or lens most of the time.

Used products are cheaper than brand new ones, but depending on a couple of factors, don’t expect too much of a price drop. If the product is hot and brand new, a seller will try to get as much money for it as possible. If it’s unopened and still in the box, it’s fair of them to ask for most of the price they paid. Beyond this, some products and brands hold their value much better than others. For example, Pentax gear is usually pretty cheap on the second-hand market. Canon, Nikon, and Leica gear hold their value. And Sony gear has also started to hold its value.

There are times where you can interact and work with other brands too. MPB and KEH are trustworthy when it comes to working with brand new camera gear. Further, retailers selling used equipment on Amazon are pretty honest if they’re highly rated. Otherwise, there’s a chance that they’ll lose their ability to sell to consumers. Amazon is usually better priced than B&H and Adorama. As much as you can, though, I recommend shopping local and making a purchase in-person. Always be safe. Meet in a public place or a store. And have a list of questions and things to inspect before you buy it. That way, you won’t run into anything you later regret.

Used cameras are cheaper than refurbished cameras and lenses. But you’re guaranteed to get a better quality product when purchasing refurbished.

Chris Gampat

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