Tips for Buying Used : LUSENET : Bulletin Board for Medium and Large Format Photography : One Thread

To keep the forum going, I'll from time to time post some questions for discussion. Feel free to join in. What are the things to check when buying used camera and lens? I am sure some of you have lousy experiences with used. How to avoid that? How should we go about buying used? Any tips?

-- Ron (, October 04, 1998


Here are a few I've learned the hard way: (1) make sure you can return the equipment for any reason within ten or fifteen (or, better yet, thirty) days and get a full refund (less shipping charges) without any questions being asked. (2) make sure the seller doesn't charge a restocking fee on returned items. Most dealers don't seem to do this any more but read the fine print in their ads - a few do, such as Brooklyn Camera Exchange. I ordered a $750 lens from Brooklyn, decided I didn't want it, returned it, and was charged a $75 restocking fee. It was my mistake - the existence of the fee was disclosed in the fine print, which I didn't bother to read. (3) With new equipment, make sure that you keep all of the packaging and do not fill out any of the warranty or other cards until you are sure you will keep the equipment. (4) Dont' buy anything that isn't in stock - no matter how quickly the dealer says it will be in, if it isn't in stock when you want to order it, don't order it - even reputable dealers can't always be sure when something will come in and while they are waiting you've got the charge on your card and cancelling and getting a credit can be a hassle. Better, IMHO, to only order things that are in stock. (5) Most importantly, deal only with reputable delers. Avoid all those places that publish ads in very small print in the back of Popular Photography. Stick with places like B&H, Adorama, Camera World of Oregon, and others of their ilk. They aren't perfect and they occasionally make mistakes but at least they're not outright dishonest as some dealers are. There's plenty of information on the net about which places to deal with and which to avoid.

-- Brian Ellis (, October 20, 1998.

Over the years, I have purchased a dozen or more cameras used. I got stuck but once. The rest of the time It worked out to my advantage. The one thing I look for is NON USE. That is the camera or lens must be in like new condition. That is not too hard to find either as most people will take care of their equipment. If they don't, it shows and I don't even consider the purchase. Also, most of my purchases have been from individuals rather that stores or dealers. the one time I got stuck it was from a dealer!!

-- Bill Tate (, October 29, 1998.


-- Gene Crumpler (, December 19, 1998.

Well, sometimes a person must buy used equipment. (Graflex is out of business, and Pen-F's aren't made anymore) Figure on the camera breaking. Ask about how much it might cost to replace things like the shutter or ground glass. Can you even get the camera maintained (clean/lube/adjust)?

If a person is a real neophyte, take someone along who is experienced with cameras. I bought a Pen-F without ground glass in it because I thought that the focusing was different for that small camera. Right. (I was saved by the hand of God. The camera broke within their warranty period, and they offered me another camera. I have used that replacement very extensively.)

Yes, a lack of wear is fine. Test everything, and I mean everything. Ask the dealer to tell you if anything is wrong. If you see something and the dealer doesn't tell you about it, don't buy the camera and don't buy from that dealer again.

-- Brian C. Miller (, December 19, 1998.

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