Buying Second Hand Cameras

Buying a camera off ebay? Or maybe you found a nice old camera on a flickr group? Or maybe a camera in some old shop where its just under a pile of dust but you like it anyway. The question is “should I buy that camera” & how to check the camera before buying. I’m going to tell you all that in simple points!

I’ve found a lot of great cameras right on the street. They are just lying around and no one is interested in buying them because they are film. I once found a Minolta HiMatic G2 for 200 INR (4$) and in the same place my friend found a FED 1 for 400 INR. (8$) Both cameras are perfectly operational and take great pictures. I’ve also bought about 3-4 other cameras and lenses off the street which work perfectly after a little tinkering. So what to do and how to check, read below.

  1. Read about the camera : Generally if you have a choice then I’d recommend that before buying a camera you read about it. Sometimes a camera looks and feels great but its not for you. Like I had a option of buying a Leica III (1935) for a really attractive cost but I didn’t take it because I felt that camera wasn’t for me. Similar case with the Mamiya RB 67. One of my friends bought it for a mere 5,000 INR or 100$ but if it was me I wouldn’t buy it because the camera doesn’t suit my style of work. So use the time and read about the camera. Read reviews, check out pictures from the camera, check about the batteries (if it needs any) and if they are still available. Read as much as you can. Sometimes its not possible to read that much because you’ll be out on the street and its a buy or leave it situation. Then if you don’t know about the camera, I recommend you leave it and walk away because there is nothing worst than spending on a camera which doesn’t work for you (or doesn’t work at all).
  2. Check the mechanics : This probably would be the most difficult part and it only comes with experience. One easy way to learn all this is by checking a camera which you already have. Open it up, work it and understand how it should be in a working model. Then you’ll be able to judge other cameras much better. Now more about this part in detail in another blog post because if I start writing about how to check the mechanics then it’ll turn into another direction.
  3. Negotiate : Most people selling cameras just want to get rid of them and buy digital bodies. I am not judging them but that is just mighty stupid (ok I might be judging them on some level but what the heck). I recently heard that my friend went to a shop where a guy bought a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 for about 200$ (for those who did not say OMFG, a Summicron 50mm f2 usually goes anywhere from 800$ to 3500$ on ebay). So negotiate and negotiate more. Get that price down!
  4. Find a good camera repair store : Most old cameras require a CLA (Clean – Lubricate – Adjust) to make them work perfectly. And well you won’t be able to clean everything and do everything yourself (well you can, just that I don’t mess with optics/mechanisms of old cameras). So find a good store to clean your cameras and get them working. It might cost you a little (sometimes more than the camera itself) but if you’re keen on using it then just get it done.
  5. Download Manuals : You can find manuals for almost all cameras online. So just find them whenever you get a new camera and read through everything. Some old cameras have specific usability notes, which if not followed will create big issues. So read the manual.

7 thoughts on “Buying Second Hand Cameras

  1. Steps #1 and #5 are the easiest. I still haven’t found step #4. But patience is the name of the game. So I will keep looking. Of course #3 is a must. I am a little weak in step #2.

    1. There are specialists in major cities who can help in step #4 but you won’t find them everywhere. Also you can learn a lot about step #2 by reading technical conversations on sites like APUG

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