buying and selling used camera gear on eBay

Do you buy used photo and camera gear on eBay?

With talk of starting a new photo project in August (some great suggestions in Friday’s comments) I’ve been thinking about what equipment to use for the project. For myself, I’m thinking film…35mm, 120 or 4″x5″? Hmmm, is there some new (used) camera that would totally spark my imagination? Camera hunting is a great excuse to start searching eBay.

Most of my camera equipment gets used on a fairly regular basis, I’m not that much of a collector. Yes, there are some odds ‘n’ ends: the Russian Iskra, the Seagull twin-lens 120 camera, a handful of manual Pentax lenses (where did those come from?) and some plastic toy cameras that don’t receive any use. Otherwise, for my personal use, I run a pretty lean ship. But from time to time the camera bug bites, about every other year, and I end up on eBay looking for something or other.

It really is a great place to locate and view vintage camera equipment. If you want a 70’s camera body or screw mount Pentax lens then it’s a cool place to start the journey. I’ve made a few purchases from Eastern Europe that have gone well, obtaining cameras that otherwise wouldn’t be available. But, overall, my experiences have been mixed.

I’ve yet to land that magical “steal”, purchasing a perfect piece at low, low cost. Yes, I’ve found a decent deal here and there but those have been offset by a sale or two that was maybe less than ideal. Those that can claim an amazing purchase on eBay might not be mentioning a few duds along the way. It seems to be a calculated risk. I like to check the seller’s rating and send them an email about the item, seeing how attentive they are. If they respond to questions then it seems more likely they’ll be there in case of any problems. I’d also insist on a reasonable return policy.

If you do buy used vintage equipment from eBay then factor in a good cleaning for whatever you purchase, lens or camera, despite what the listing says. It seems to me like the 70’s were just yesterday and I fondly remember my first Nikon FE. If that camera and lens are still somewhere in use I’m pretty sure the foam seals have deteriorated and the lens aperture blades are oily, despite my perfect memories.

So how about newer equipment? One area where I haven’t considered buying used is when it comes to digital SLRs, even those claiming to be lightly used. With prices steadily dropping (and features climbing) on new cameras I’d personally prefer to buy new. It’s worth it to start out with a clean sensor and a warranty in my book, even if it‘s a lesser camera model. Let me know if you think otherwise.

Newer, used lenses for digital cameras could be a potentially good deal but be sure to get a return policy if you test them and something’s not quite right. I’ve heard quite a few stories of lens quality inconsistencies from the same production run.

While I‘m pretty neutral on making purchases from eBay, there is one area where I find eBay to be a great asset: selling old equipment. No matter what you have gathering dust in the basement, there’s someone, somewhere, that wants it. You’ll be able to research the going rates for such equipment by looking at other eBay listings.

boat anchor

One of my eBay purchases included this free boat anchor

As a matter of fact, it’s probably time I gathered up some old enlargers and lenses and listed them. While local schools declined my free offer, there have to be a few bucks in sales value through eBay. I just have to be sure to pull the collected money out of PayPal before I spend it on another used camera with leaky foam seals.

If you haven’t ever sold through eBay you might want to give it a try. Start clearing out the closet and make a few bucks toward that next photo equipment purchase. If you’re looking to buy used camera gear from a dealer I’ve had good experiences with KEH Camera Brokers in Atlanta, B & H Photo in NYC and you’ll find used gear at all 29 locations when you Shop Calumet Photographic – It’s Where the Pros Go.