I am a big believer in buying used equipment. As a matter of fact, the most current camera I own is a Sony A6000.
Why? Because I thoroughly believe in the value both financially and practically that used equipment offers to photographers of all levels.
So, without further ado, here are the five reasons I think you should buy used photo equipment:
1. Value for money. Really, buying used is all about getting as much for your hard earned money as you can. Right now you can buy a brand new Sony A7 with the 28mm-70mm kit lens for $998.00 USD from Amazon or B&H Photo. IF you shop used, from any of the reputable used camera dealers like KEH or mpb, you can get the same combo for around $850.00 USD. Leave off the kit lens and upgrade to the well reviewed FE 85mm f1.8 and you are still probably under $1k. You could probably beat that on eBay.
Going further you can get, what at the time of introduction, was a cutting edge camera – the Canon EOS 5D (original/classic) for around $350.00 USD. Add a 50mm f1.8 for around $125.00 and you have, arguably, one of the best DSLRs of all time—for under $500.00 USD.
Of course, these are both examples of full frame cameras. You can do even better with APS-C cameras.
No matter how you slice it though, it equals extreme value for money.
Let somebody else take the depreciation.
2. You can buy better glass. The money you have saved on the camera can go toward purchasing better lenses.
A lot of people tend to buy the highest spec camera that they can afford, then put a cheap lens on it. Um, no. We all know that this should be the other way around and buying a used camera can accomplish this.
If you shop diligently you can also find similar value on used, high end lenses and put the glass your camera deserves in front of its sensor.
3. Ecosystem. As time has passed, all the major camera manufacturers have added compatible accessories to their inventory like speedlights, battery grips, and remote releases. Third party companies have done the same. As the camera models have evolved, so have the accessories, and many times, the older accessories show up on the used market at deep discounts. Sometimes the newest accessories are completely backward compatible with the older models.
Also, most major camera companies still support their older models with utilities and PDF manuals.
4. Lower anxiety. If you are in any way, serious about photography, you have some serious money invested in gear. If you reduce the amount of the investment then loss, damage, or theft isn’t as painful. If your gear is insured (which it should be) the premium will be lower as the replacement value is lower.
5. Ease of use. Older used cameras have fewer features. This is a good thing especially if you are new to cameras or you are starting in a new system — say, a Canon shooter moving to Sony.
Fewer features means a shorter learning curve and most of the newest models have features that aren’t really absolutely necessary to the average photographer. If, after some time passes, you decide to move to a newer model, you already have the foundation in place. So, instead of learning a complex camera from the “ground up”, you just have to become comfortable with the newer features.
So, now that you know why to buy used equipment. The next question is where do you find good used equipment?
Well the first thing that comes to mind is eBay. Now, this is not for the faint of heart, after all, the internet is full of stories about fraud victims and people just plainly being scammed on eBay purchases.
The very first thing if you are contemplating eBay, is to be knowledgeable enough about a specific item to ask the right questions of the seller. Beyond that, there are a lot of resources on the internet to advise you on what to look for in an eBay seller such as feedback ratings and return policies.
I have been buying and selling on eBay for almost twenty years and I think that as a platform, their best days are behind them. However, there are still good deals to be found from good sellers if you do a little research.
Next are pawn shops. These can be a real gold mine. Two of my three current cameras have come from pawn shops and were really good deals. Most reputable pawn shops offer some kind of refund policy. The shops I bought from give two weeks money back and one month store credit returns on digital cameras.
Thrift stores are more uncertain. The employees don’t really know the difference between a camera and a toaster so, there is no discrimination as to what is put on the floor for sale and generally no guarantee or refund policy.
So far we have really been into “buyer beware” territory. The next option is preferable but a little pricier.
Web based used camera dealers. KEH camera and mpb.com are the two big ones. Full disclosure: I am not sponsored by either company nor have I received any compensation for mentioning them.
I have purchased from KEH and it was a seamless, gratifying experience. When I am shopping for gear, they are one of my first stops. (As a price check if nothing else.)
Both of these companies offer tested and graded gear with limited warranties and the ability to purchase extended warranties at check out. You do spend more with this option, but you gain peace of mind.
So buy used gear, save money and have fun.