A Quick Way to Figure Out Which Gear You Should Sell

A Quick Way to Figure Out Which Gear You Should Sell

Your eye is on a new piece of kit, but your partner, accountant, or guilt won't let you make another acquisition before you sell off some deadwood. Well, here's a (very) quick way to help with that decision.

My relationship with lenses is a bit odd. My most beloved are seldom my most used, and the ones I don't think to sell are often the least used. Over the past few years, I've looked to combat that with a more utilitarian approach to my lenses. As they are investments, particularly to somebody working in the industry like I am, I need to assess their return. There are lots of ways I can do that, but I find only two to be helpful: how many shots I've taken with that lens and how many of my flagship images were taken with it. (By "flagship," I simply mean either the best images in any delivered gallery to a client or images that are featured in my portfolio.) If I only went by how many images I'd taken with a lens, it could justify a lens that could be replaced with something different and better. If I only kept lenses that take portfolio shots, I might lose a workhorse that I lean on for the less shiny shots. This applies to camera bodies as well as lenses.

So, how do you see the sort of metrics I'm after? There's a couple of ways, but the easiest for me is Lightroom. So, open it up and select your master folder for your image library. If your body of work is split across multiple drives and locations (as mine is, so the below image is only a selection of my work), you may need to repeat this step on each drive and do some math.

With that selected, select the Library module, and then click "Metadata."

You'll then be presented with a number of columns with all the data you need to wheedle out that piece of kit that's freeloading.

The two middle columns are what we care about: how many times each camera and lens was used in the select library's images.

This is a reading of a very messy backup drive where I've dumped shoots freely without much order before they get slotted into my proper filing system neatly, so don't read too much into what's used here. However, what we can see is which lenses and camera bodies are doing the bulk of my work and which aren't being used. By narrowing down the folder selected from the master to specific years, you can then work out if in recent years certain gear has fallen away or risen. For me, my trusty old Canon 6D has been deadweight for about four years and is up for the chopping block, for instance.

Surprisingly to me, my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS has seen just a couple of days out in the last two years, and I realized just how expendable it is in my arsenal. I had always seen it as fundamental and indispensable, but apparently not. That's a lot of money to be collecting dust, and the magic of this method is it calls you out in your biases. That said, it can be a little prone to oddities.

As much as I'd be curious to give it a go, I do not in fact have a 1-65,535mm lens. I did, but it was just too heavy to use as a walkabout lens.

It's important here to remember the second half of this advice: evaluate the least used lenses on what they deliver. There have been years, for example, where my Canon 135mm f/2 L was one of my least used lenses, but it still helped me to create shots I was proud of and either used in my portfolio or were selected by a client in an important job. Therefore, it dodges the scythe, for now.

How do you decide what equipment to sell? Do you have advice on how to make a good decision when culling? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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David Love's picture

Bigger question is where can you sell that won't try and give you chump change for good used gear?

jim hughes's picture

For me the problem isn't deciding - it's the selling, which has become a royal pain. I recently wrote a blog post about this:

David Love's picture

Good post and true. I may look into the R5 when it comes out which means new lens, etc. This leaves my mark 3 and 4 just sitting there collecting dust. I have a GH5 with metabones adapter already just sitting there hardly used and online sites offer me $500 for it and the adapter (which is around $600 now.) So the question is do I really need an R5 when the mark 4 is still a damn good camera? Probably not. Hell even the 5D Mark 3 is still an awesome camera if you don't care about video. Maybe the manufactures should start a buy back program which basically turns into an in store credit type thing on new equipment if you're upgrading with the same company.

jim hughes's picture

And now, the virus... no one is buying anything. Especially not camera stores.

I do that for a few years, excellent way to study our work and improve also!

Great job, congrats


Morris Erickson's picture

I have had good luck with mpb.com. At least they will give you an up-front price quote BEFORE you send it off. The “big guys” want you send it in and then they will give you a quote after they look at it a week of two later. You may be getting "low blue book" but you don't have to deal with tire kickers.

jim hughes's picture

How does MPB.COM work?

Morris Erickson's picture

Pretty simple. You go to the sell section of the site and tell them what you are selling and the condition (be honest or have a friend be honest for you). Most items are already on a list so you'll see the price right away. If you like the deal, they give you a prepaid shipping label. They take about a week to inspect and verify the item and then they transfer the funds to your bank account. I've sold a lens and a body without an issue.

jim hughes's picture

Sounds reasonable, thanks.

I do have a hard time assessing condition. We could all say "good" as a starting point. But if they decide it's better than that when they inspect it, obviously they're not going to tell you.

Or conversely, if they downgrade your assessment you have little choice but to agree.

It's an honor system, and that's probably inevitable.

Morris Erickson's picture

They are fair and reasonable. I had a body that I listed as "like new" - not a nick on it - but they downgraded to "excellent" due to a high shutter count. It was like a 5% difference. No big deal. They list the parameters for assessment.

You could do better on ebay or craigslist but the stress has a price.

Momchil Yordanov's picture

The photographer I sold my older camera to told me that he sold his previous one to MPB and was happy with the service. He told me something funny, I wouldn't think about - they downgraded his camera from "Like New" to "Excellent", because he had a protector on the back screen. Apparently, when these are removed, some marks are left on the screen so they want no protectors (which are supposed to be a good thing). But he told me that evaluation of his gear was fair and the downgrade in status was not significant in terms of price.

Darren Loveland's picture

135mm f/2 for lyfe

Momchil Yordanov's picture

I'm lucky to have a welcoming local photo store. Basically, if the gear I sell is in good condition, they calculate it as money in a new purchase from them, as long as the new purchase is for as much as the gear I trade in. It's useful if I wanna make an upgrade. Obviously, if I just want to sell, it does not work. Then I use the most popular internet site for second hand stuff in my country. Not perfect, but I think selling photo gear is a bit of a pain worldwide nowadays....