The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Used Camera Gear


Gear Focus

Sep 2, 2019

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Complete Guide to Buying Used Camera Equipment

Photography is an ever-evolving field, so as technology gains capabilities, accessories and systems change. Unfortunately, the cost of these advancements can get out of hand rapidly for users, and can be a big deterrent for hobbyists, or those new to the trade. The cost of lenses alone is enough to put anyone off photography!

Fortunately, there is a solution to the brutal monetary hemorrhaging. There are several options for both buyers and sellers regarding used camera gear, and the market is no longer confined to a brick and mortar presence. New technologies have inspired some unique ways to exchange equipment. So finding the right one for you is easier than ever with our camera purchasing and selling guide!

Buying Used Camera Gear

The Pros

A single new lens can run from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand. Unless you happen to be running a successful photography business, the cost alone can put new gear out of reach. With secondhand hardware, the price can be sliced in half, or more! This makes pre-owned gear perfect for experienced buyers' secondary equipment kits, and serves as a great option for people who are just starting out.

Another pro about used gear is the variety available. Photographers, whether amateur or professional, may decide to upgrade, or even buy brand new gear to keep up with the advancing technology. This can result in some pretty stunning packages you can snap up for a bargain. If you are buying from a reputable shop that sells used camera equipment, you can even get a limited warranty. Usually, these warranties are limited in scope when it comes to returning the product. However, if you receive your camera and the shutter stops working the next day, it’s good to know you haven't wasted your money.

The Cons

The biggest drawback to buying used camera gear is the possibility of being conned. There is always a certain amount of risk involved, and being unable to inspect equipment beforehand can make buyers wary that the seller is not being truthful about why they’re selling. Private sellers don’t offer warranties, and usually store guarantees only allow you to return the product. If you buy a damaged camera, you could end up sinking more money into fixing it than you spent on the initial purchase.

Another consideration is the source of the used camera gear. Shops with "gray gear" have sprung up around the world, often selling either a knock-off of a well-known brand, or equipment that is outright stolen. Not only does it pose a moral quandary, but you may also face legal consequences for buying equipment on the "gray market".

Camera Shopping Online

The internet has expanded as far as purchasing ability, but has also inadvertently morphed into a minefield. Fortunately, there are a few rules you can follow to reduce the chances of being had while buying used camera gear.

Firstly, consider the source of the gear. Sites that offer Consumer to Consumer, or C2C Marketplaces, offer certain guarantees. Shopping around on Craigslist, on the other hand, does not. Craigslist is an un-facilitated site which generally requires direct buyer and seller meet-ups in order to make exchanges. This can be dangerous for a number of reasons, so sites like Gear Focus, Amazon, and Ebay take the guesswork out of how you'll receive your purchase with shipping options.

Many products for sale on the market range from lightly used to completely inoperable. Often times, minor surface scratches will knock off a good chunk of a camera's price, but will be purely cosmetic and not change the performance. If you are looking for something ready to use, this is a perfect option. If you would rather do a little maintenance to customize and rejuvenate some old gear, you'll save money up front, but have part costs to consider later.

Buying lenses online presents a challenge, as the quality of the listing photos makes a big difference. Often, the photos available make it hard to see any imperfections in the glass or small dings to the body of the lens. For the most part, you’ll be relying on the listing. A good seller will list any imperfections in their used camera gear. While some, like surface scuffing, can be overlooked on a camera body, scratches on a lens may make it inoperable for your intended use. A discrepancy between the images and listing description requires further investigating, and might mean it's time to move on.

Ask Questions

If everything lines up, it’s time to ask the seller some questions. Confirm that all the covers, like the battery compartment, work smoothly. If you need them, ask for more pictures of the product! You can ask about the dials, screen, or flash if the camera is equipped with them. If these run well, it is a good sign the camera was not abused. Be sure to check for a legible serial number. Without it, there are no warranties and the gear may, in fact, be stolen.

Shutter count is also a consideration. Shutter count is much like car mileage, and each brand has its own recommended count. To check this, you will need to ask the seller for a photo taken with the camera. You can check it yourself if you know how, or upload it to a site which will read the EXIF file of the image for you.

Reviews from unhappy customers can point out potential issues like the seller being slow to respond, or not shipping appropriately. The product and price might be right, but a bad seller can make for a troubling experience. In short, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Camera Shopping In-Store

If you have access to some used camera stores in your area, they are worth a browse. With these stores, you can actually handle the camera, which makes it easier to see how it’s been treated in the past. Plus, feeling the equipment in your hands is an excellent indicator of what will work for you. Before, where you had to rely on the seller to tell you certain mechanical things functioned, you can check now for yourself. Try taking a few pictures to check for drops in quality, or ask about the store's "test drive" policy. Some stores will let you trial the equipment outside of the store, so long as you return it in the same condition.

Inspecting lenses at used camera stores is also much more accessible than online. You can manipulate them, inspect the glass, and even take trial shots. Check the lenses for any scratches and examine the seals. Many used camera shops will have camera bodies to test lenses with, or you can bring your own. As with bodies, take a whole series of shots with the lens you’re considering. Initially, dust may not turn up or how the aperture is a fraction slow may not be apparent. However, these affect the quality of the photos you will eventually take with the new lens.

Selling Used Camera Gear

The Pros

However, as technology advances, the same kit that worked five years ago might slow you down now. Newer equipment will take cleaner, better photos, and keeping up with the rising standard of photos means investing in better gear.

Selling old gear also adds to your budget. Whether it’s to invest in new equipment or some other aspect of your life, recouping some of your initial investment is beneficial. If your gear is in excellent condition, it will sell for a higher price than "well-loved" equipment. Knowing the best place to sell used camera equipment will get you top dollar.

The Cons

Selling kit pieces you’ve worked with for years is an emotional process. The kit is part of the memories, and letting pieces go can be emotionally taxing. Not only do you need to decide to sell, but then you must list, and let the pieces go.

Finding the best place to sell used camera equipment is a task all its own. Finding the right platform can be a headache. Then you have to deal with the company, the potential buyers, and more. It all adds up to a lot of stress.

Another significant consideration is the possibility that you will be scammed. There are people out there who have no problem committing payment fraud to obtain your equipment. While you can take steps to protect yourself, there’s no guarantee you’ll receive the money.

Prepping for the Sale

The process to sell used cameras and equipment starts with cleaning. Cameras, lenses, and any other accessories need cleaning up before they are ready for a few beauty shots. Come up with a detailed description, list all defects, and be ready to answer questions about the gear. You won't want to be the vague, suspicious seller people fear and avoid.

Research similar equipment with an equal amount of wear and tear. You need a realistic price range for the kit pieces you intend to sell, and on the same platform you intend to use. This will help you sell your equipment quickly and without as much haggling on the buyer end. When packaging, use the original box if you still have it. Include any warranties, accessories, and manuals that came with the kit as well. If you don’t have the box, don’t worry. Simply package the gear as securely as you can to avoid any damage during shipping. Buy Sell Photography Gear

Available Markets

C2C Marketplace

C2C Marketplace is a newer way to sell used cameras and photography gadgets. The listings are free to set up and never require renewal.

C2C marketplaces allow you to sell used cameras and gear much quicker for as low as a 3.5% seller fee, plus payment processing fees. This is the lowest rate around for such an easy tool to use.

Professional Buying Sites

Sites like Keh, Adorama, and MPB are a relatively stress-free way to sell gear. Each site has you ship them your equipment, then they evaluate it based on their internal standards, and make you a monetary offer. This means you don't need to worry about making a listing!

The flip side is that these companies sell for their own profit. What they offer people selling camera pieces is usually a pittance compared to their resale price. If you’re selling to upgrade your gear, receiving 50% to 60% of what the gear is worth doesn’t work in your favor.

Used Camera Stores

Used camera stores are very hands-on, and many will evaluate your gear on a walk-in basis. Since they’re local, you don’t have to go far to find where to sell used camera gear. Since these stores often aim to make a little bit of profit for doing the grunt work, the pay for selling your gear through a third party is usually lower than if you sold it yourself.

eBay and Other Auction Sites

Auction sites typically allow you to set a smallest acceptable price, and then the bids rise from there. Each website has its own policy though, so make sure you read the fine print before signing up. Those tiny, hidden lines of text often detail buying and selling fees. eBay, as an example, hits sellers with a 10% fee, a 2.9% payment processing fee, an insertion fee, and that doesn’t even cover shipping costs. These can really cut into profits, especially since these fees only invoice after you sell. These auction sites also tend to have rating systems, so buyers could potentially ruin your ability to make future sales.

Facebook, Craigslist, and Other Local Markets

Local marketplaces involve meeting your buyer in person to exchange your used camera equipment for the money. To sell your gear, you will need to create a listing and be prepared to answer questions. These usually require you to re-list if you don’t sell within a specific time, and items sometimes take longer to sell. There’s also some risk involved with having your contact information out on the web, and with meeting a stranger to complete an exchange.


Whether you’re buying or selling used camera equipment, finding the best platform for you takes dedication and can be incredibly rewarding. Do your homework, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Once you get the hang of using your favorite store or site to swap out your gear, you'll never be left in the dust as technology continues to shape the craft of photography!

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