Should I buy a new or a used camera?
Should I buy a new or used camera? We get asked this question frequently, and for good reason. The price differences between new and used camera gear can be hundreds of dollars on higher end models. Take a look below to find if new or used is the right choice for you
Why choose a new camera?
- Warranty is generally included if you are buying from an authorized reseller. Authorized resellers or retailers/etailers that buy their stock directly from the manufacturer or distributor. Large companies like Target, WalMart, Bestbuy, and Amazon are generally authorized for everything they sell. This means that the product is authentic and guaranteed.
- Piece of mind When you buy new, you know exactly what you are getting and that it’s never been dropped or mishandled. The cosmetic condition will be perfect, and it will look great and work great right out of the box.
- Longer lasting When you open the box, you know the camera has never been used, and in particular with DSLR cameras or more expensive cameras, you know the shutter count is 0, and you can either track manually by exposures or use software to keep track of how many pictures that you’ve taken. Some manufacturers hide this information or don’t make it clear, so if you were to buy a used camera, in some cases, you wouldn’t now how much use it actually had.
Why choose a used camera?
- Save Money! On the top 10 Amazon bestselling compact Camera list, buying used will save you an average of 22% over buying new. So that $99 camera you’ve had your eye on could actually come in at $78 if you choose used over new. Similar to anything you buy new, once you open the box of a new product, it instantaneously loses value.
- Cameras are durable Digital cameras have gotten increasingly less prone to defects. Better worksmanship and best practices over the last 20 years since the first digital camera came to market have resulted in today’s generation of cameras being quite long lasting. This is in particular true for DSLR cameras. Some brands like Nikon and Canon are rated to around 200,000 exposures, which even for regular photo enthusiasts is a LOT of pictures! To sum it up, even if a camera has a few years under it’s’ belt, there is a good chance it’s got life left.
- You have the choice of how much wear matters to you Typically, the more cosmetic wear a used camera has, the less it’s price. There are no standards for evaluating a camera’s condition, but in generally what you see below is a pretty common scale. Generally, the more specific to cameras that an e-commerce site is, the better and more accurate their grading system is. A good example would be KEH, while a mass merchant like Amazon will have standardized grading across a variety of categories.
- Like new. This condition is basically mint, or has been taken out of the box and only used a couple times. The LCD is completely free of scratches as is the lens glass. If it’s a DSLR or Mirrorless, the sensor is clean. Battery compartment is great, and in general, all originally included accessories will be in tact.
- Excellent/Very Good. This is a camera that has been sparingly used, and cosmetically looks great. It may have a few very light marks or wear on the body/LCD, but lens is excellent and functionally the camera works very well. It may be missing some or all of the originally included accessories/box
- Good. This is a camera that may have some wear. Grip may show wear, LCD could have some scratches, but when camera is turned on, they should not be very noticeable. Functionally camera works well, and there are no issues. It may be missing some or all of the originally included accessories/box
- Acceptable. Generally will show heavy wear to the body and LCD with marks/scratches. May have dents/dings. May have non-critical functions with issues; GPS not functioning, etc. If you are looking at purchasing in this condition, know that this will likely be in “ugly” condition, but the cost savings you get by buying a camera in this condition should be the steepest of any working condition. It may be missing some or all of the originally included accessories/box
- As is/Issues. Stay clear of these unless you only need it for parts or now how to fix the problem. May have lens malfunctions, heavy wear to the point of inoperability/etc.
What about refurbished?
- Refurbished cameras have been re-conditioned/re-surfaced and are generally in excellent cosmetic condition. There are 2 main types of refurbished cameras:
- Manufacturer refurbished. These are customer returns that have been sent back to the manufacturer, and the manufacturer itself performs the refurbishing. If there are issues with the lens or LCD, these parts are generally replaced with genuine manufacturer parts to ensure that the quality and build is basically the same as out of the box. Companies like QVC, HSN, and Groupon often run deals on large quantities of manufacturer refurbished cameras.
- Third Party refurbished. Often, if it doesn’t say “Manufacturer Refurbished”, it’s done by a third party. These are generally less expensive than manufacturer refurbished, and can run from just as high quality as manufacturer refurbished to pretty low quality (poor parts, screen wear, etc.). Unfortunately if you’re buying online and you choose one of these, you won’t really know until you get it out of the box.
Where can I find the best used camera deals?
If you have decided that a used camera is the right option for you, We have several recommendations of websites and specific ways to make sure you have the best chance of getting exactly what you want.
The world leader in e-commerce may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are thing about used products, but their offering from so called “third party” sellers has increased to a point that you can often find really great used camera deals, and purchase using your Amazon account.
The above screenshot is an example of an Amazon product page when you click the button “USED”. Starting from the left, you will see current price, and whether the offer is PRIME eligible or not (if you have a PRIME account, then you can often get free 2 day delivery). Then you will see item condition and description. This is very important to pay close attention to, as it will often show what is or is not included from the seller. Then moving along to the right you see seller name and below that their feedback and amount of reviews. This is critical when you are evaluating third party sellers on Amazon. The general rule we like to follow is to find a seller with at least 10 feedback, and a rating of 90% or above. The general ratio of orders/feedback is around 5%, so a seller with 10 feedback, would have actually had on average 200 sales, which would indicate they are a proficient seller. Feel free to click through the feedback link and you will get candid feedback about the buyer’s experience. Another advantage to ordering on Amazon is they have excellent customer care, and in general products offered on Amazon will come with a 30 day no hassle return period.
If you want some tips as to some of the more popular used cameras available on Amazon see our compilation here
Long considered the holy grail of used products, eBay continues to have some outstanding options for used cameras, and offers either traditional auction formats or “buy now” fixed price listings. Unlike Amazon, which has a standardized return process, eBay allows it’s sellers to dictate the return policy. Make sure that you are familiar with the eBay seller’s return policy prior to buying. We like eBay particularly for hard to find or long discontinued cameras that aren’t available anywhere else. Did your favorite camera break and you can’t live without it? eBay is the first place to check.
eBay sellers are often just individuals looking to upgrade or get rid of a camera that they haven’t used in a while. As such, it’s important to take a look at the pictures posted to gleam as much as possible about camera condition. A big benefit for buying on eBay is that the seller should be posting actual pictures of the actual camera. If you see pictures that look like they were taken directly from Amazon or the manufacturer’s website, they probably were, and we recommend to tread carefuly. Item description is also critical, as this will stated was is or is not included, and any “invisible” issues there may be with the camera. If you still have questions after looking at the listing- you can always contact the seller. Just click “contact seller” under the seller’s name, and send a message. Most serious eBay sellers will respond within 24 hours. If they don’t respond, they’re not serious, so you shouldn’t be serious about buying from them. It’s also important to pay close attention to the sellers reviews and feedback.
What eBay seller should you buy from? I always recommend trying to find the camera you want first, and then looking at the sellers credentials to make sure that they will provide what they say they will. We at TheProCamera.com recommend that you stick with eBay sellers that have shown that they can provide good service, ship what they promise, and get it to you quickly. To ensure that- stick with eBay sellers that have a minimum of 50 feedback, and have customer feedback of 98% or more. Feedback is even more critical on eBay than Amazon, which is why this number is higher. Here’s an example of a seller that we’d recommend (National Camera Exchange) that has excellent feedback and a lot of it:
The eBay links below will direct you to specifically used cameras available currently, and you can search within their site for specific brands or models.
We have personally bought from usedphotopro.com and found the experience to be quite good. They specialize in used camera gear of all types, but emphasis is on DSLR cameras and lenses. They generally carry a wide variety of options from top manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Zeiss, and many more. Their “ratings” of used cameras range from “fair” to “mint” condition. Anything in good or better comes with a 6 month warranty at no extra cost, which is pretty fantastic. We like Usedphotopro if you are looking for a DSLR or lens and have a good idea of the model that you want already.
Keh calls itself the “worlds largest camera store”, and at the time of this post, they have close to 10,000 products available in wide ranging camera categories like film, digital, DSLR, and accessories. Their website is easy to use and navigate. While their DSLR camera selection is sometimes limited, they do often have a very good lens selection, film camera selections, and accessory (tripods, light meters, flashes, etc). We have purchased from KEH and found the experience to be good. Excellent packaging too, to ensure no damage occured.