Would you buy a secondhand camera? – Tech Daily debate

Secondhand cameras

Do you buy your cameras brand new, or prefer to pick up a secondhand model on the cheap? Our experts debate the merits of both approaches.

Buying a new camera is an expensive business, especially if you want an interchangeable lens model. A good DSLR costs upwards of £350, and that’s before you start buying extra lenses, batteries or a case.

If you’re not bothered about the latest features like wi-fi or GPS, then you could save some money by buying a secondhand camera. But is this budget-friendly strategy worth the risk? We asked two Tech Daily writers for their verdict:

DSLR cameras – our test lab verdict on all the latest models

‘A secondhand compact (sort of) makes sense’

Rob Leedham profile imageSo, Jonathan, I’ve been told you’re about to buy a secondhand DSLR. Don’t worry, I’ll help drum back in the good sense that has clearly absconded you.

A compact model, where the lens is tucked into one neat package, sort of makes sense. But an interchangeable lens camera with its warranty voided and a whole host of potential problems you could run into. Explain yourself.
Robert Leedham – Senior Researcher

‘I don’t need the latest DSLR’

Jonathan RichardsonWell, my Canon G9 is seven-years-old and is only outdated if you buy into ads telling you so. So why would a DSLR be any different? I don’t need the latest DSLR just to get bells and whistles. What I want is a solid body that will take good photos and have interchangeable lenses.

That’s why I’m thinking about buying secondhand. Looking at Amazon, for example, which lists both new and used cameras, I can pick up a Best Buy DSLR in very good condition for around £130 less than new. That’s the price of a decent compact camera in savings.

A fool and his money are soon parted. So tell me Rob, why is it I should buy new again?
Jonathan Richardson, Digital Producer

‘What worries me is the camera’s lens’

Rob Leedham profile imageWhat worries me about secondhand camera buying is the lens. Bells and whistles have got nothing to do with it.

When you first open a box fresh DSLR, you can trust that it’s not going to have any minute scratches or imperfections that will mar your precious family photos. This is something that can affect even new cameras, Nikon’s D600 suffered from dust problems that were compensated for by its warranty. My worry is that you wouldn’t spot these problems in a secondhand DSLR until it’s too late.

‘You’re protected if a camera isn’t sold as described’

Jonathan RichardsonWarranty is a concern, and a scratched lens would mar my experience that’s true. But I would request some test shots and view the results. Plus, you’re protected if a camera isn’t sold as described.

In the absolute worst case scenario I would just get a new lens. With so many variants available I will probably be getting more lenses as time goes by anyway. And, if my secondhand experience is first class, it means I will be confident enough to save money on future purchases by buying used.

‘DSLRs are now available for as little as £350′

Rob Leedham profile imageWell, your mind seems set on going secondhand. I’ll be interested to see how well it pans out, and be there to gently remind you of my risk-averse advice ways if you end up claiming for a refund. Having done that before through eBay, it’s not a process I want to repeat – there’s far too much hassle involved.

With DSLRs like the Canon D3300 now available for just £350, a price that includes a raft of up to date features, I’m still not convinced by the ‘go old, it’s good as new’ argument.

‘I’d rather get more camera for my cash’

Jonathan RichardsonIt’s not just the money spent but value for money. I’d rather get more camera for my cash and if that means buying a used camera then so be it. As long as I can point, shoot, save and transfer then that’s all I need. And when the time comes to sell and upgrade I won’t feel it has depreciated as much as if I were selling a camera I’d bought as new.

You’re right to point out the risks, but as long as I stay focused I am confident I can snap up a bargain – and spend the money saved on trips to put my new(ish) camera to good use.

Which? Tech Daily poll

Do you have any stories of success to share about buying a pre-owned camera? If so, let us know in the comments section and tell us what you think of buying a secondhand camera in our poll:

Would you buy a secondhand camera?
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More on this

DSLR Best Buys – the top-rated models
Choosing and buying the best digital camera – our handy guide
How we test digital cameras – watch the video

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7 replies

  1. I bought a second hand Pentax and I’m very happy with it. I didn’t have much money to spend but I wanted to upgrade from the film Pentax ME Super I’d inherited and learnt to shoot on. Plus I had already bought a whole load of second hand lenses for next to nothing and Pentax cameras still support the old mounts from the 60s onwards, all be it without any auto features like focus or aperture.
    I managed to get myself a Pentax K10d with kit lens, bag and some filters for £110 on ebay and it all worked perfectly. The only thing I miss on it that I would get on a brand new camera is improved light sensitivity. My max usable ISO is 8000 where new cameras are usable in to the hundreds.
    The cheap price of the lenses and their ready availability is what really sold it for me, especially as I prefer to shoot manual as much as I can anyway.
    I’d love to own the Canon 5D MKIII that we use for shooting Which? videos but the cost of the camera and lenses are prohibitive for an amateur.

    1. The process appears to have been a education in photography.
      Camera bodies, lenses, fittings, accessories etc.
      A exciting exercise and if coupled with close-up tubes and reversing lenses can provide stunning pictures which would cost hundreds of pounds to obtain using ‘made to measure’ equipment.

  2. Two years ago I decided that I was finished with film cameras (now cost a MINT per exposure!) This left me with two very expensive Canon SLR roll film bodies I have no use for (and are worth, if I sell them, £150 the pair at the most), and a stack of Canon EOS lenses. I already use a bridge camera (for the super-zoom) and a great pocket digital So I had three choices: buy an equivalent digital body, at about £3500; buy an APS-C camera and make my lenses telephoto; or change systems altogether to something new, any make, and sell the lenses. None of these seemed good; the ideal would have been a Canon EOS 5D Mk III, but they’re £3500!

    Eventually, I began looking on Amazon (not helpful), and on eBay at past sales of full-frame digital Canon SLRs. After some agonizing, I began to watch the auctions in progress and after a month getting a feel of the market, picked out a dozen current sales of original EOS 5Ds and contacted all the sellers with detailed questions, filling in details missing from the online information that I thought important. (In particular, some versions had a fault which should have been corrected, similar to car fault recalls). I put in my maximum bid for the first auction to complete, from the six who answered my questions satisfactorily. This, then the next, then the next went well over my bid.

    So I looked back at the remaining three and asked another question: what is the serial number of this camera? Two told me; one would not, but gave me a part of the number. She said that people could use the number for criminal purposes. So I asked for background, and she turned out (by her own evidence) to be a semi-professional who had upgraded and was selling this workhorse with a few (unmentioned) bits that she didn’t use but I could – and there were 8 batteries. I bid £550 for this camera – and it was mine for £386! It arrived by courier three days later.

    It has since been my best semi-pro camera, fits all my lenses properly and is now covered by my home insurance’s all-risks section (which kicks in after a year). Despite having a lower pixel-count sensor, no WiFi, low quality video and a slower computer than the latest offerings, it does everything I really need. By resisting the pull of the latest features, I have saved at least £1500. And I remember this saving whenever I lust after the goodies on each new model! Oh, and older full-frame lenses are a real bargain secondhand, compared with those for APS-C!

    1. Have found the website. It is Shop Fujifilm, but the savings are not that great, though one does get peace of mind by having the 12 month guarantee.

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