It’s an interesting question because cameras and camera accessories are electrical technology so why would you buy old technology? The difference for cameras and accessories is that cameras don’t become redundant nearly as often as other technology and certainly not as quickly as in the past.
The fact that camera companies bring out new models regularly pushes the prices of the second hand ones down. Often the new models are barely different to the existing models.
Over the years I have had various compact cameras and for the last few years I’ve enjoyed using a DSLR camera. They are heavier cameras with the ability to change lenses so are more bulky to carry. But from my perspective, they are well worth the extra effort required.
I have been surprised at how slowly the technology is changing compared to the past. The newer model of the camera I bought 4 years ago is not a hugely different and my model is still selling new in shops. The second hand price for my model camera in good condition is about 30% to 40% lower in price than the same camera new.
Remember that most difference you can make to your photos will result from your photography skills and imagination, not the camera or lens. But an average (non compact) DSLR or mirror-less camera second hand will give you something to start with at a much lower price. It will also reveal things that you don’t have with a phone or compact camera – like better resolution, better pictures when zoomed in, less noise in dark areas of the photo and better control of the depth of field. And you can get an idea from that equipment about what you might like to buy next!
Why buy second hand?
- Lower price
- Or buy more bits
- As products get older you can read more reviews about how good they are and how long they last. Newly released models are not tried and reviewed nearly as much.
Why buy new?
- Warranty – if it’s not working properly, it should be replaced.
- It may be more advanced technology.
- Last longer on average
- The shininess and new smell
- Warranty – this is important so it’s mentioned twice!
Some things to check before buying a camera or lenses
- Know what to expect from the item you are buying. Read multiple reviews to get a broad understanding of what people have experienced with the item.
- Has the item had a hard life in general?
- If possible check that it takes good photos.
- Check the total shutter count on the camera. Although estimates range, an average life rating for a mid range DSLR camera is said to be about 70,000 to 120,000.
- See if buttons and switches get stuck.
- Check the camera and lenses for fungus and mould. You might like to search for the latest commentary on Google for how to do this. If it has mould, or has marks looking like water spots have dried inside walk away and don’t connect a lens/camera like that to your equipment.
- Check connections for lenses and batteries are not corroded.
- Don’t buy if a camera/lens mounting surface has significant marks on it.
- Buy from a place that allows returns if you are not satisfied.
- Look for scratches and wear on the lens glass surface.
- Look for dust inside the lens or camera. If you do a bit of research you may also be able to check the sensor itself.
- Check whether lenses fit into a camera firmly and smoothly.
- Check that there are no rattles or unusual noises.
- Check lens aperture blades move smoothly by fitting the lens to a camera, setting the aperture to the largest number and selecting the ’depth of field preview button’ if available. The aperture blades should click quickly abruptly to the setting. You may also be able to see a fair amount of the aperture blades looking into the end of the lens. Look for wear on the surface.
Comment and let me know what you think and what your experiences have been.