Buying a Camera - New or Used
This article explains what to look for in a new or used camera. In addition to reading
the following tips, you may find the BetterPhoto Q&A
After figuring out which kind of camera is best for you, these pointers will help
you pick the best particular unit.
What to Look for in a New Camera
Make sure the camera is in good shape. Is the box intact and undamaged (insist on
this) and is everything included in the box (manual, etc.)? This is especially important
to nail down before exchanging money over the phone.
Make sure the camera is priced right. Shop around. Call, browse, or email as many
stores as you can. At the same time, keep your shopping around in perspective; most
local camera stores just cannot compete with mail order so decide how much you value
local support and your local economy when you compare these shops to the mail order
prices. Also, check out this online
survey of mail-order resellers.
Make sure the camera is functioning perfectly. Ask if you can take it out for a
test drive (it never hurts to ask). Even if you must remain in the store, test all
the knobs and buttons to see how it all works. Look for loose connections and anything
that feels uncertain. If you are unsure of what to look for, either have a photographer
friend come in with you or have the salesperson demonstrate the operation of the
camera on the particular unit you would be purchasing. They will usually be willing
to show you how the camera works on a demo unit; they can often be persuaded to
recap on the actual unit you will be buying. If they are unwilling, you can keep
your money in your pocket.
Make sure you receive the appropriate warranty card and that the box been not been
opened or tampered with. Having a US Warranty if you reside in the States is essential.
Do not underestimate its value. Having a clearly unopened box is always nice. On
occasion, however, a saleperson has to open a box for various, worthy reasons. Just
be extra careful to get everything you are paying for and everything in pristine
condition. Refuse to take a bad unit off a salesperson's counter just because he
wants to get it out of his store.
What to Look for in a Used Camera
Make sure the camera is not too banged up. Does the shutter release, aperture controls,
and other knobs and dials operate smoothly. Ask for a test drive - many good camera
stores will let you run a roll of film through it to see how well it operates. If
the camera comes with a lens, look for scratches and mold. Old lenses with mold
growing on the inside of the lens are worthless paperweights.
Make sure you get some kind of warranty just to make sure the camera is in good
working order. Regardless of what promises are made, a camera store never has enough
time to fully test every used camera that comes in. For this reason, demand a written
statement that your money will be returned to you within a reasonable amount of
time (a few weeks to a few months) if you find problems with the cameras operation.
Make sure you are not supporting a shady operation. Although you will never see
any flashing neon signs that say "This camera was swiped from a poor church-going
widow," listen to your gut feeling and if you suspect that the camera may have been
stolen, do not buy it.
Make sure you are getting the right used camera for you. If you are looking in particular
for a camera for your first photo class, ask your teacher exactly what they require.
For example, manual override is a feature that most teachers demand. A few particular
models that have good names for this application are the Pentax ME Super, the Canon
AE-1, the Pentax K1000, and the Minolta X-700.
Make sure you are getting a good deal. Always offer to buy the camera for 10 to
15% less than the asking price. Used items are usually the most highly marked up
of anything in the camera store. There is nothing really wrong with this - new equipment
is usually so lightly marked up that the used department is one area that the camera
stores can capitalize upon to stay in business. Still, that doen't mean you cannot
try to get a better deal. If the salesperson will not go lower, ask for free fresh
batteries, film, case, etc. In the end, do not allow anyone to pressure you into
purchase - say no to aggresive sales and have fun getting the best deal you can.