How to Switch Camera Brands Without Losing Money


I have switched camera brands multiple times over the last 10 years, and have always had the latest-and-greatest gear.  I shot a Canon camera system first, switched to Nikon, then went to Nikon full frame, then I shot Fuji for two years, and this week I bought a Sony a7rii to play with for a while.  Yet, I've spent next to nothing on camera gear.  I often earn money by switching camera brands.

This post shows my process for getting the best gear for next to nothing after your initial camera investment.

A Real-Life Example

My sister-in-law is a real estate photographer.  Last week she told me she felt that her current camera system was holding her back, but that she didn't want to spend thousands of dollars on new gear.

I worked with her for one night and we found that we could switch her from a crop sensor to a full-frame camera, buy top-of-the-line real estate photography gear, and she would pocket $226.  I found that if she sold all of her gear on Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon (each one has a different specialty for different gear items, which I'll cover later), she would have enough to make the switch if she was smart about it.

Her current gear and how much she could earn by selling it:

  • Fuji XT1 – $975
  • Fuji 10-24 – $825
  • Nikon D3200 – $315
  • Tokina 11-16 – $370
  • Nikon 55-200 – $100
  • Fuji 50-140 – $1,450 (She used to shoot weddings but doesn't anymore, so this just sits on a shelf losing value every day)
  • Nikon flash – $105

Grand total = $4,139

The real estate photography gear she's buying after her current gear sells:

  • Used Canon 6D full frame camera – $866 (She now gets a full frame camera)
  • Used Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens – $1,700 (The ultimate real estate lens)
  • Used Sigma 24-105mm f/4 ART lens – $700 (A lighter weight and more versatile family photography lens)
  • New NiceFoto portable studio flash and trigger – $350 (Awesome setup for doing flash for real estate)

Grand total = $3,616

She will have some taxes and fees from selling her current gear (I'll discuss later how to mitigate these), but even after figuring out the taxes and fees, she still pockets some money AND massively upgrades her gear.

Step 1: Take a Detailed Inventory of Your Current Gear

I keep a Google Sheet with all of my gear detailed on it.  That way, I can quickly see what is in my inventory, how much it's worth, and what gear I may not need anymore.

Most photographers underestimate how much their older gear is worth, and forget about gear you don't regularly use anymore.  Remember that cheapo Canon camera bag from your first Canon Rebel? Another $15!  Remember that horrible superzoom you bought and is currently rotting on a shelf in your garage?  $200 closer to your new camera.

Just take half an hour and create a Google sheet that covers every single piece of photography gear you own–no matter how small.  Take the time to think through everything:

  • Cameras
  • Extra batteries for cameras
  • Lenses
  • Ballheads
  • Tripods (even the old cruddy one you bought with your first camera)
  • Camera bags (All of them.  It's time to come clean about the ones you've been hiding from the wife.)
  • Flashes and triggers
  • Accessories (gels, cable release, CamRanger, filters, memory cards, etc)

Now ADD to that list any old tech that you also have in your house that isn't necessarily photography related.  This may include the following (just to get you thinking)

  • Old laptops
  • Old cell phones
  • Unused external hard drives
  • etc

Not every photographer has ten thousand dollars of gear just sitting unused, but most photographers who have been shooting for more than 5 years will have more unused gear than you'd think.  Take the time to actually list everything out and you may be surprised what you've acquired.

Best Websites for Selling Used Photography Gear

Amazon – Many people don't realize that any Amazon user can also sell on the site.

Go to the listing for the piece of gear you want to sell to see how much it is worth.  Look on the right-hand side in the middle of the page.  There is a little box showing used items also available.  Under that box is a tiny link that says “Have one to sell?”  This is where you click to create your listing.

I generally price items $1 cheaper than the cheapest item in similar condition.  Since Amazon has such high volumes, most items I list sell within 2-3 days, but if it's an unpopular item, it could take more time.

Keep in mind that fees can be high on Amazon for selling used gear.  If you sell a lens for $1,000, your fees will be about $82.  It's the fees that make Amazon a tough place to sell used gear.  However, for selling less common items like a specific tripod, a camera bag, etc, it's the best way to get it sold fast.

Another thing to factor in is that when you sell an item through Amazon, you can buy shipping through Amazon at a deep discount.  If the item is very large and heavy (like selling a desktop computer), then this may be factor.

eBay – The real advantage of eBay is that the fees are lower than selling on Amazon.  The fees are generally equal to 2.9% (to cover credit card processing), plus any insertion fees if you promote the listing or have a reserve.

My strategy for selling on eBay is to only sell items at a Buy it Now price and to not list things for auctions.  Auction items, in my experience, rarely earn as much as listing it as “Buy it Now”.  I usually list the item for “Buy it Now” for the same price as the cheapest listing on Amazon for similar condition.

Most people selling on eBay do an auction with a really high buy it now price, so by listing a reasonable buy it now price, your listing often shows up well in search results and sells quickly.

Craigslist/Facebook Marketplace – Craigslist is a good way to sell inexpensive used consumer photography gear.  For example, a Nikon D3200 or a Canon Rebel.  If the item is under $400, then Craigslist is probably a good bet.

However, for specialized gear or expensive lenses, Craigslist can be tough to find buyers unless you live in a very large city with a big market.

The biggest advantage to Craigslist is that you have no fees at all for selling the gear.  Also, check Facebook Marketplace or buy/sell groups on Facebook, as well as local photographer groups where you could list the item.

How to Get Top Dollar for Your Used Gear

  • Always Keep the Packaging
    • Designate a spot in your crawl space or garage or closet to store the boxes for photography gear.  I often find that listings of used gear with the original packaging sell for $100 to $150 more.  It's crazy, but buyers usually feel like the gear is newer if it includes the original packaging.
  • Tape Receipts to the Box
    • Each time you purchase gear–used or new–tape the receipt to the box.  This way you can track your investment in that gear.  When you sell the gear, you'll know much much money you lost so you can see how to avoid it next time.  Also, if I bought the gear high and am selling low, then I like to include that in my sales listing so the buyer feels like he's getting a good deal.
  • Include As Many Photos as Possible
    • Buyers of used gear are apprehensive.  Include as many photos as possible, including detail shots of the front element to show there are no scratches, etc.
  • Make Your Listing Believable and Thorough
    • Don't be overly optimistic about the quality of your used gear.  If there is any tiny scratch or anything the buyer should know, tell them!  It buys credibility and ensures the buyer won't return the item.
  • Check the Shutter Count
    • Unless you've been shooting timelapses, sports, or events, chances are that you take fewer than 20,000 shots a year–even if you're an active photographer.  Most cameras are rated to 200,000 or more shutter actuations.  While replacing a shutter is not as expensive as most people think (often $250 or less), camera buyers are always worried about the shutter count.  So take a few extra minutes to check your shutter count to include in your listing.
  • Put a Screen Protector on Your LCD Screen
    • Whenever you buy a camera, immediately buy a screen protector for the LCD.  They scratch easily (especially Sony LCDs), so protect it so you can sell your gear in better condition in a few years.

How to Buy New Gear on the Cheap

First of all, don't lock yourself into the mindset that you have to buy brand new gear.  I've purchased dozens of used lenses and cameras over the last 10 years and have never even once been stuck with a lemon.  However, there are things to watch out for, and I'll walk you through them.

eBay Auctions

I have made some fantastic purchases using eBay auctions which saved me a few hundred dollars on a lens or camera.  For example, this morning I bought a Sony FE 70-200 f/4 G OSS lens.  It sells for $1,500 new, but I bought one that was an open box return in like new condition on eBay for $869.  That's almost half the cost!

My process for bidding on eBay items is to first go to Amazon and see what the cheapest used item is in good or like new condition which is available on prime (better return policy).  I use that as my base price and then go to eBay to see if I can get it cheaper.  I often can.

On eBay, I only bid on items that have 10 hours or less left in the auction.  The “Buy it Now” items are usually overpriced.  I usually place my max bid for an item at $200 less than the cheapest used listing on Amazon.  It often takes losing 2 or 3 auctions before you win one, but I often buy gear on eBay for crazy low prices.

The most important thing with eBay is to be absolutely certain you are bidding on the exact same piece of gear.  Be certain it's not cheaper because it's gray market (bought in another country than where it is sold–meaning the warranty is no good).

Also, check the seller rating.  I only buy from sellers with top-notch ratings and who have LOTS of reviews.  If you stick to that, you're very unlikely to end up with a lemon.

There is a lot of black market gear on eBay, so NEVER buy memory cards on there because they are often fake merchandise.

Amazon Used

I recommend that if you're buying used gear on Amazon that you only buy items which are available with prime shipping.  If it has prime shipping, it means you can easily return it if the item doesn't come as described or it's a bad copy.

Used items are available for most Amazon products in a tiny box on the right-hand side of the screen.

Lately, there have been a lot of scams on Amazon, so only buy from sellers who don't have “Just Launched” next to their user ID.  They will trick you with a low price and then message you asking you to pay a small shipping fee through Paypal, and then you won't get the item.

This is the pros/cons list I made before buying into the Sony system.

Before You Switch Camera Systems

Be careful not to get wrapped up in gear acquisition syndrome.  When your camera is two years old and you see a new camera announced, it can be easy to feel like the new camera is a necessity.  Sometimes I've talked myself into gear that I later learned didn't suit my style of photography.

I always recommend sitting down with a paper and pencil and actually writing down the pros and cons of the new camera system compared to your current system.  The photo above shows my pros/cons list of switching from Fuji to Sony.

Sometimes I've done this exercise and realized that I was actually happy with my current system and shouldn't switch.  It has kept me from making thousands of dollars of mistakes.  Just because a new camera is all the rage, doesn't mean it's right for you.

You Don't Have to Buy Used If You Time Your Purchase and Sale

Buying used gear will often save you tons of money, but you may also want to buy a new camera or lens the instant it's released.  For these purchases, the pricing is often the same between retailers.  However, you can still save money buy buying from B&H or Jet.com which don't collect sales tax in most states.

I buy tons of new gear because I want to review it here on the site.  When buying new gear, I know I'll always lose some money on the sale, but often it's not much.  I bought a Nikon D800 the day it was released, used it for a year and a half on a daily basis, and sold it for only $250 less than I bought it for.  I basically rented a full frame camera for two years for $250.

The trick to not losing tons of money on buying new gear is to be certain you sell before the new model is released.  If you do that, you'll likely not lose much money as long for the demand of that camera line is high.

For example, I bought a Sony RX100 v.  The new version is rumored to be announced in 4-6 weeks according to Sony Alpha Rumors.  So what did I do this morning?  Packed it up to ship it off to the buyer.  I only lost $123 on this camera despite the fact that I bought it new.  However, if I were to wait 6 months until the new one were released, I'd probably lose $300 or $400 on the sale.  The price of the previous generation of that line is selling for $425 less.  That's a lot of depreciation.

The moral of the story is that if you buy something new, sell before the steep depreciation happens when the new version is released.

Conclusion

That's my process.  It's how I spend next to nothing on photo gear, yet always have top-notch gear.

The point of this article is not to send you guys in a panic to obsess over changing gear all the time.  My point is that you should never feel “stuck” with your current gear or that your gear is holding you back.  Most of the time, that's an excuse that a little hustle can fix.

16 thoughts on “How to Switch Camera Brands Without Losing Money”

    1. I should have explained that in the article. I just mean that when resolution is low, I found myself not being as picky about perfect sharpness because you just don’t notice it as much. Same with noise.

  1. Hi Jim, do you find the resolution between the cameras is that noticeable when viewing it on your computer?. Ive spent a fortune on fuji gear this year(XT-2, trinity lenses & 56mm) and just want to make sure its not a system thats going to get crushed by these high res cameras. Im definitely guilty of being a bit of a pixel peeper.
    Thanks

    1. I love the Fuji system. Don’t switch. It’s really just a matter of me wanting to learn something new. Every camera system has strengths and weaknesses. This is just a good fit for me personally right now to work on some things in my personal work. That’s really all.

  2. Jim,

    I recently used mpb.com to sell my Nikon kit. Prices were reasonable. What also mattered to me was the low friction of the transaction and the minimal amount of time I spent on it. My free time is worth an arbitrary $150/hr. Your mileage may vary.

  3. No serious working photographer would go out to a gig without at least one back-up body. If your sister has any problem with the 6D your ‘advice’ has deprived her of income. A single strobe is not what someone who uses strobes for architectural work is going to use.

    This is little more than trying to justify many people’s GAS problems.

    @Larry Klein – Your ‘free’ time is worth nothing.

    1. Wow. Somebody’s feeling grumpy today. We usually try to keep comments friendly on this site.

      Real estate is not at all like wedding photography where a second body is essential. If a camera dies mid shoot, it wouldn’t at all be a big deal to come back the next day and re-shoot it.

      Also, I just spent a day with one of the top architectural photographers in the country. What does he use? That exact single studio strobe.

      Just because someone has a different approach than you doesn’t mean they are wrong. We like to be friendly to each other on this site.

      1. I have no idea with whom you spent time, but I do understand architectural photography.

        Yes, sure, inconvenience the homeowner, inconvenience the realtor client, perhaps inconvenience the stager who would have to leave props on site longer when those props may be needed elsewhere. That works really well and will garner lots of goodwill and recommendations.

        Being able to come back the next day makes a numer of flawed assumptions. It assumes everyone’s schedule is free the next day. It assumes that the camera will be fixed in a matter of hours, or that another can be borrowed/rented on short notice. It assumes lighting/weather conditions will be good the next day.

        Time is money. For the photographer. For the realtor. Wasting time costs people money.

        You mistake being pointed and frank for unfriendliness. This article is simply providing bad advice. I’m sorry if you’re upset by such stark honesty, but sometimes the truth hurts.

        1. You’re talking about a situation that you know nothing about.

          She does all of her work with the same 3 realtors and none of the homes are staged as they are not high end listings. She has photographed hundreds of listings for the same realtors, so I’m pretty sure that if there were the extremely rare situation where a camera died on one of them, the realtor wouldn’t even care, and she has people she can borrow from any time.

          You’re welcome to run your business however you like, but it’s a little unreasonable to think that every photographer in every situation must do the exact same thing as you.

  4. No, what you’re doing is giving bad advice. Just because your sister works that way doesn’t mean all working photographers do, or that they should. You’re trying to give general advice based on one, specific situation that would very seldom apply to others.

    1. What makes you say it’s general advice? Watch the video. It specifically is labeled HAILEY’s dream setup. Nowhere did I suggest in any way that other pro photographers should just use one body.

      The general advice was just tips on how to get a good price for used gear. Does that make you mad too?

      I have no idea why you’re being so unreasonable about this.

  5. You’re being super unreasonable. I will not be reading or responding to any further comments on this post.

    1. Robert, wow! Chill out. Any photographer reading this article is smart enough to know this is One view and should only take points out that can apply to them.

      Jim has left some great advice for photographers wanting to sell old gear, although I disagree with his reasons for switching from Fuji X to Sony but that’s not the point.
      Cameras are like cars and are personal in daily life, one must be comfortable with what they use , it affects their workflow and mindset, oh and everyone works differently. his sister-in-law may just be frustrated with the ergonomics of her old gear and more times than none switching to a new system brings back the energy needed to do the job well, it’s not neccesarrily second cameras and resolution, it’s deeper than that and most photographers knows that which is why a went Fuji X myself from DSLRs, to brought back the fun I’ve experienced from my film days.

  6. Firstly I am retired, secondly I’ve never made a penny from photography. I have just photographed my 100th parkrun 5km run event having taken 40.000 photos at these events alone. My favourite full camera bag full is Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 20mm, 28mm, 35-70mm (all f2.8) and 85mm f1.8. All lens are old af varieties, all bought on eBay. Total cost converted to dollars is $1800. Using Amazon cost of similar current kit is $10000. Because Nikon haven’t changed lens mounts very old lenses still work and I think the economics Jim mentions will not work for me. There are uk special cases. Brexit has increased lens prices and eBay fees are 10% from what I understand here. I could afford newer gear but I just can’t justify it. I really enjoy producing my photography and my gear doesn’t hold me back. My reading leads me to believe Sony is the leading edge of quality image production (although not ruggedness) but it’s soooo expensive. I expect Jim will enjoy his new gear a lot and I’ll be interested to hear if manages to break it less than his Fuji stuff!

  7. Nowadays people are not live without the camera. Every camera price is the big amount.But if you search from google there you see the difference s of a price.If you search a lot you switch the camera which you want at low cost.If you want to collect more information about it then follow the site.

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