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Second-Hand Photography Gear: Where to Make a Good Bargain

Second-Hand Photography Gear: Where to Make a Good Bargain

Not all that doesn’t glitter isn’t gold. For non-professionals and professionals alike, a second-hand camera or lens is often a cheap way to upgrade one’s own photographic toolbox. Here, you find some tips for making a good bargain.

Second-Hand Gear in Photography

Let’s face the truth: Photography is one of the most expensive hobbies in the world. Especially, when you constantly long for the latest gear, the best software, and the most suitable accessories. As you'll find in this article, you’re probably one of us! Welcome to the GAS-club. GAS stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome and is a photographer’s justification to buy new gear (mostly needed in family discussions about current spending, as far as I got it).

Reducing the expenses of gear isn’t easy, because most photographers aim at gear which is better than their current camera body, tripod, or lens. When your beloved but unstabilized 70-200mm tele lens doesn’t allow you to improve your wildlife pictures, the 600mm f/4 lens might burst your budget – it’s ten times the price.

While you can’t help yourself but save a lot of money in some cases, there are occasions when you can make a good deal. A lot of second-hand camera gear can be found online and in photography shops. One good characteristic of photography gear is that most of it is quite enduring. There are only a few parts which can break in a camera. Of course, the surface might look a little worn, but in photography, the qualities inside matter most.

Besides all the ongoing updates and brand new camera models, you’re still able to shoot great photographs with 10-year-old gear. Especially old glass is great if you want to try a new focal length or want to experiment with a certain look.

Where to Buy Second Hand Photography Gear

If you’re looking for a certain lens or a camera body of a specific type, sometimes it means waiting and watching. Many local camera stores offer pre-owned gear and it’s always worth casting an eye on your local dealer’s shop window. Too often, your thirst for new toys will be stronger than your patience. Time to use the web!

Professional Shops Online

If you like to be on the safe side and don’t mind spending a little more on your gear for guaranteed quality, you can find a lot of second-hand gear in photography online stores. The advantage is that most professional stores check your gear and offer you a certain warranty on the products. Read the policies carefully, though. The big players usually offer a trustworthy service. Of course, in most cases the service of checking and updating gear will cost a few dollars extra.

KEH offers second-hand photography gear in different qualities and prices.

Depending on your location, there are different options for buying gear. Some shops already offer photography-related products in different countries all around the globe. Here are some shops which help you buy used camera gear without risk:

  • KEH has a huge stock of photography gear, from large format film cameras to the latest mirrorless bodies. KEH offers used gear in different categories: From Excellent Plus to Ugly. They also offer a 180 day warranty.
  • MPB U.S. also offers photography gear of all kinds and has a huge portfolio in stock. They offer a 6months warranty on their gear.
  • Don’t forget about B&H if you’re located in the States. B&H is not only a great shop for new gear, but they also offer good bargains on used gear. You can filter your search as you’re used to with regular online shopping trips and find suitable deals. B&H offers a 30-day-return policy along with a 90-day parts and labor warranty.

More than just cameras: Everything you need for your photography is also available in the "used" department of B&H.

Second-Hand Marketplaces

No risk, no fun? Are you in search of the best deal and love to bargain in person? Then you should visit a marketplace, where private persons can offer their used products. In Germany, the biggest marketplace is currently run as a sub-brand of eBay, an enterprise which is probably known worldwide. In other countries, you might find your second-hand gear on websites like Kijiji.com (also belongs to eBay) or your local Craiglist.

The advantages of these marketplaces are generally lower prices. Private sellers can’t promise you a warranty and don’t offer the services which professional stores do. Fewer services translate into lower costs. Why would you choose a private offer when you can get the same gear for the same price from B&H including warranty and return?

On the other hand, there are some insecurities left: Does the camera work as promised? Is the lens sharp? Does it suffer from back focus?

Can I Trust a Private Seller Online?

Let me summarize it in a little story: I often sold some of my gear online. Most of the lenses ended up in a package that was send to the buyer without prior personal inspection. Yet, there was never a complaint, because everything was in a good condition and I believe it’s the case for most deals. Why? Because most people feel bad when they betray someone.

A success story: My first self-financed camera was a Nikon D5300. I bought it pre-owend... in Pakistan. The camera still works and I never regretted the investment.

But most people doesn’t include everyone. I once bought a 70-200mm lens on eBay, which turned out to be broken. The focus engine didn’t work. I needed to get it repaired, which almost made the lens as costly as a new one. Where was my mistake? I blindly trusted the seller. I didn’t check the lens in person and couldn’t get my money back. While I sent a bunch of complaint messages, it turned out that the person was totally aware of the condition of the lens. His arguments were defensive and nonsense. He definitely was a crook with his back against the wall.

In the end, he even reported me to the police as a fraud. Luckily, the police just had a good laugh about the long email correspondence, because it inevitably conveyed what happened and who was right. Yet, it’s senseless to sue someone for $400 in Germany. And yes, it was only $400! I should have been more than skeptical about such a great deal. Lesson learned.

Although I believe in the good side of people and have not been let down in 99% of the cases, this 1% cost me a little money, happiness, and a lot of time. Today, I always check a lens on location. If it’s too far away, I neglect even the best offers. Better: I neglect the best offers in particular.

Can I Negotiate on Price With Second-Hand Photography Gear?

The question about how much bargaining is acceptable is culturally dependent. But, yes, you should! Bargaining about a lens or camera body is one of the best ways to get a good deal. It can be fun, too. Even in Germany, where bargaining isn’t really a thing in everyday life, the second-hand market is full of it. Whenever you sell your pieces, you better not put the price too close to the bone. People will negotiate. Often, even before they saw a product in person.

Most of my gear looks a little worn out for two reasons: I buy used stuff - and I use stuff.

Whenever I find gear, which is a little worn out, my heart starts to jump a little. I love lenses that look worse than they are. In your sales conversation, it gives you a better position. A little scratch on the surface of the front lens? No problem for me, but it might be worth $100 if I mention it. Only watch out for serious faults which affect the quality of your photographs. As long as my gear works, I don’t care how it looks.

But what about you? Do you have any tips, websites, or experience with second-hand gear? If so, feel free to let me know, my GAS is currently pushing me into buying a fresh lens. Most probably a pre-owned one.

Nils Heininger's picture

Nils Heininger is a photographer on the road. He loves long rides on motorbikes, camels and old trains. While discovering the world, he uses his camera to share stories from people across the globe. With a Micro-four thirds in his pocket and a full-frame in his bag, he's always ready for new adventures.

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One good place if you can find one is local camera repair shops they are slowly disappearing along with local camera shops. Here in Fairbanks our local camera shop had to call it quits due to the COVI issue along with the online shopping trend
I cant' agree with you more on the value of used gear working as a full time shooter in Fairbanks working outside in extreme cold conditions which is hard on gear I buy most of my gear used. Buying new gear with a warranty is nice in the real world speaking from expirence the warranty wont cover broken gear used outside the realm of the designed parameters

The craziest repair shops i know were in Lahore, Pakistan. A bunch of small garages where people repair broken lenses of any kind. It was like 90% of a room were lenses, 5% price tags, and 1% shop owner. The left 4% was room to breath :D. But hell, they were talented artisans.

Thats my kind or shop sounds like my repair guru here in Fairbanks

I can't agree with you about photography being one of the most expensive hobbies in the world. Several friends of mine are "photography buddies", but photography is much cheaper than their other hobbies.

One friend that I photograph wildlifewith is also a big game hunter. He hunts various big game animals across North America each autumn. He spends $3,000 to $5,0000 each year on lottery drawings for licenses, and$10,000 to 12,000 for each week of guided hunting. One Alaskan hunt that he did in 2017 was over$25,000 for 7 days of hunting.

Another friend's hobby is collecting sports cars. Each of his special edition Dodge Vipers cost over $85,000.

Another friend likes to water ski. His Criss Craft motorboat was over $50,000 - used! Then there is over $15,000 a year spent on marina fees, dry storage in the off-season, fuel, cabin rental at the lake, etc, etc, etc.

A friend from church likes to golf, and every year he travels all over the world to play on the world's finest courses.

Another friend is a huge NFL football fan, and travels around to several different U.S. cities each year to see games. He has attends the Super Bowl most years ... that game alone costs over 10 grand a season, for he and his wife.

Spending 3 to 10 thousand dollars a year for cameras and lenses is really chump change, compared to how much people spend on other hobbies.

Okay, Agreed. Photography is cheap, then. But for average people, you might enter on low budget and end up spending more than you'd have thought.

Very true.

It seems an odd corollary that after photographing the wonderful wildlife, your friend likes to kill it.

Tom, he said "one of the most expensive". If you take in to account their are literally thousands of hobbies it IS among the most expensive. If comparing it to cars, boats, exotic trips it's fairly cheap, but crocheting, kite flying or cooking it's very expensive. All a matter of perspective and pocket depth.

BTW, Adorama is also a good site for used gear.

This is definitely a great bargain. https://www.mattagarr.com/