Welcome to Improve Photography's guide to buying used camera gear! Through this article I will cover some of the best places to purchase used gear, and share some tips to help you find good high-quality used equipment. Not every photographer likes to buy used, but I think it is a great way to save money. Photography is not a cheap hobby or profession, however, purchasing some of your gear used, can really give your wallet a break.
Below I have listed a number of resources that I think are great for buying used gear. Learn how to use the following sites to your advantage below.
Craigslist, Facebook, and Improve Photography
These sites are grouped together because they are all classified-style ways of buying and selling used camera gear. Craigslist and Facebooks Buy/Sell pages are notorious for fake accounts and scams. Luckily for you, there are quite a few ways to tell if there is a scam in the works. When searching through the classified, be sure to to keep these few things in mind.
Too Go To Be True: If a listing sounds too go to be true, then it probably is. These are often stolen items; and the seller is likely trying to get them off of their hands as soon as possible.
Photos: The more photos the better. If they are a genuine seller, they will likely upload a decent amount of photos to the site, so buyers can get a good look at the gear. If there is one photo, or none; be cautious or steer clear.
Description: If the gear is written-out in detail, you can probably trust this source. Trusted sources will list out any dents, scratches, or blemishes to the gear. They should also have photos of those dents, etc. If there is little description or it doesn't sound like they know the product well, avoid the listing.
Purchasing: If you are buying something locally, make sure you always bring a friend with and meet at a location not too close to your place of residence. Never meet at your home, or give the seller any personal information.
Whats great about some of these classified sites, is that they are local. When you a purchasing from a local photographer, this gives you the chance to test out that lens on your camera body and fire off a few shots.
Make sure to check out the newly launched Buy/Sell Page here on Improve Photography.
Adorama, B&H Photo
Both of these sites are well-known and trusted online retailers for all of us crazy camera people. You can buy with confidence from both of theses sites for both new and used gear. You don't have to worry about getting scammed here! However, there is a down side to buying from these sites. Since these retailers are so large, they don't have the time to upload images of the actual used product to their site.
Fortunately, both Adorama and B&H have set up a rating system to let you know roughly what the condition of the product is in. Adorama uses a letter system, while B&H uses a mix of numbers and letters. See below.
I have purchased a used lens from B&H, and though I was a bit uneasy about not being able to see a photo of the lens I was purchasing, it was a 9 on the rating scale, and was in amazing condition when it showed up on my doorstep. You can buy with confidence from both of these retailers.
Keh is very similar to Adorama and B&H, as it is trusted website selling used camera gear. The difference with Keh is that they only sell used gear, nothing new. A few things that make Keh stand alone from the above is that some products have photos of the actual product, and the condition explanation is very detailed to help buyers purchase with confidence. There is also financing available if you cannot or do not want to pay in full, via Affirm. Users can also sell directly to Keh.
Everyone's favorite online shopping site, Amazon. I have bought numerous items on Amazon from lenses to camera bodies, used, new, and refurbished. I love Amazon, however I suggest following these rules when shopping used on Amazon.
Prime: If you don't have Amazon Prime, get it. You can get your fresh new gear sent to you in two days, as well as get access to movie streaming. Prime can be extra useful when purchasing anything used on Amazon. When looking at the list of sellers and their product, look for the Prime logo next to price; if it says fulfillment by Amazon, even better. This means that you will get the product shipped to you in two days. More importantly, you will fall under Amazon Prime's 30 Day Return Policy, so if your used gear doesn't work, you can send it back with no hassle.
Reviews: On the same line of the listing, look at the shop name on the far right. Take a minute to look at its star rating. Notice how many stars it has, and how many people rated it.
Photos: As stated previously in this article, you can never have enough photos. If I buy used on Amazon, I don't buy it unless it has photos of the product I am planning on buying.
Here is a example of a good and safe listing for a used Fujifilm XT-1. Notice the Amazon Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, Product Photos, and Ratings:
Your Local Camera Store
If you are lucky enough to have a camera store in your local area, make sure to check them out! Many local camera stores sell used camera gear that other locals sell or consign to them. If you hang around often enough and get to know the folks there, they might be willing to cut you a deal.
When I decided to graduate from my kit lens years ago, the guys at The Camera Corner hooked me up with a sweet deal on a Tamron telephoto lens. Buying from your local store not only helps the local business, but you also get the ability to be hands on with the used gear you are thinking about buying.
One last piece of advise; if you are planning on buying a used camera body, always ask to see the shutter count. Just like a car has miles, cameras have shutter clicks; they only last so long.
*Disclaimer: Following all of these guidelines doesn't guarantee that you won't get scammed, however they will decrease the possibility and make you more aware of your options.