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Buying used cameras and lenses has become a popular way of obtaining more photography equipment without breaking the bank. Lenses, in particular, are changed often and therefore can have a long life. So, why not benefit from great quality cameras and lenses without forking out for brand-new ones? To find out what to look out for, here are our top tips for buying used cameras and lenses!

camera and lens buying used cameras and lenses and what to look for

Buying Used Cameras & Lenses: Before You Buy

Note: we will be focusing mainly on DSLR cameras in this article.

Try Before You Buy

If possible, try to get your hands on the camera or lens before purchasing. This can be a little tricky if you’re purchasing from sites such as Ebay but it’s definitely worth the hassle. If it truly isn’t possible, make sure that the images and description are as detailed as can be.

Check Your Source

There are tons of places to find used cameras and lenses. For example:

  • Local camera stores
  • Online used camera and lens retailers
  • eBay
  • Photography boards and groups

If you are going for eBay or a private seller, make sure you know who you’re dealing with. You don’t have to be best friends with the seller, or take them out for a drink. Be sure to check things like:

  • Their feedback
  • Their credentials
  • Reviews
  • Their photography knowledge
  • Details about the equipment.

Also, be aware of secondhand camera and lens websites that you haven’t heard of before, as some may not be all they seem. Check reviews beforehand or maybe ask any photography friends for recommendations for reputable secondhand sellers.

Buying Used Cameras & Lenses: Things To Watch Out For

nikon camera and lens buying secondhand cameras and lenses

Here are some things to double check and be aware of. If purchasing from a used camera store, we would recommend going in yourself to check out the below. If you are purchasing from an eBay seller, we would recommend asking for some pictures and videos. The best option is to visit to check the equipment out, if possible.

High Shutter Count

Be wary of a camera with a high shutter count. Much like a used car, you don’t want the mileage to be too high. If it is, you could be looking at a short life and lots of problems! The shutter count is simply how many photos have been taken on the camera. We would recommend finding a used camera with a shutter count that is less than 100,000.

Sensor Damage

The sensor is the part of the camera that is arguably most important. It determines the resolution, the size of the images, the depth of field, and other important elements. Make sure to look for any scratches, marks, dead pixels. Be careful to check for any fungus too, as this can cause you a world of problems.

Shine A Light On The Lens

As with the sensor, it is a great idea to shine a light on the lens. Be sure to look for scratches and damage, as well as large dust particles and fungus inside. Some cosmetic marks are fine, but make sure that they don’t affect the image.

Check The Zoom & Focus

If you are purchasing a zoom lens, check that the zooming action is smooth. There needs to be the correct balance – so it shouldn’t turn too easily, or be difficult to move. Be sure to also check for zoom creep, which is when the lens’s zoom action drifts when pointed downwards. Also, pop the lens onto a camera to check for any focus issues.

Contact Points & Mount Rings

lens contact points on bottom of the lens

On almost all modern lenses, there are contact points on the back of the lens. These are usually gold, and they pass information from the lens to the camera. If the lens hasn’t been kept on a body or has been changed a lot, dirt and dust can easily get in. Make sure that the contact points aren’t damaged in any way, and also that they’re not dirty. Don’t forget to check for damage on the mounting ring, too!

Final Tips

collection of cameras and lenses buying used cameras and lenses

Buying used cameras and lenses can be a great way to get more photography gear at a lower price. A lot of equipment is still in great condition and will serve you well. However, be aware that when purchasing from some dishonest sellers, there can be issues which can leave you out of pocket. Where possible, try to obtain a warranty or make sure that there is a refund/return policy from the seller.

Happy camera and lens hunting!

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