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Wise to buy used digital SLR

danny liao , Apr 09, 2004; 02:13 a.m.

Looking for some opinions. Do you think it's wise to purchase used digital SLRs of Ebay? Particularly, the Nikon D1x.

Responses


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Greg Chappell , Apr 09, 2004; 05:06 a.m.

Most film SLR's I've ever purchased have been used with the exception of an EOS 3 I recently purchased new. I have bought and sold on eBay for 5 years now. As with all things eBay-related, it's about the sellers feedback and your own gut feeling. Like it says at the bottom of every page on that site- caviat emptor.

Most digital SLR's that are going to be sold second-hand are going to be pretty high mileage, apart from the (very rare) seldom used examples. They are nothing like film SLR's that so many have babied throughout the years. They are cheap to shoot once you have one, and I can only imagine how much any second-hand D1x has been used. I'm on my first Digital SLR, and this is all so new to everyone. It's not like the 35mm market that was already almost 100 years old when I first started. I would have a hard time right now in deciding to buy a used DSLR. My gut feeling right now is to buy new and use it until it wears out, then buy another new model with the current technology. Hopefully that cycle is 3-5 years. At todays prices (even todays lower prices) I cannot afford to buy a new Digital SLR every year, and I certainly wouldn't want to sink money equal to 50% of the original cost of a used DSLR not knowing the mileage the original owner put on it.

Lucas Griego , Apr 09, 2004; 05:57 a.m.

Danny,

I've bought two used DSLR's - both are Fuji S2Pro's. I got them for much much less than a new one. It helps to have a really good knowledge of all the specs of a particular model. When your looking at it you really want to be able to go through every function and see that it works.

My case may be different as I'm in Hong Kong where people change technology like the rest of the world changes socks. A new mobile phone/mp3player/DSLR comes out and instantly the shops are filled with yesterdays model. So here their is a very high turnover of good quality gear that has slight to no wear. I'm not sure if it's the same where your at.

It also has to do with the way you generally go about purchasing gear in general. I buy used lenses all the time, many of my MF bodies are grey imports etc. etc.

Because of work (editorial and commercial photography) I push my gear through a lot on a daily basis. More than the average guy with a camera. So I find it a bit funny when people are worried about warranties, insurance and brand-new-out-of-the-box when they shoot flowers on the weekends and the occasional family portrait.

I even bought an S2 that had a cracked housing from where it'd been dropped. It looked bad - but AF worked, shooting was no problem. So I bought - superglued the housing back together and voila! Good as new. It's now get's rotated in and out of my bag on jobs. So far so good. It is a bit of gamble - many friends said 'don't do it' - but now I have the body that works and had enough cash because of the saving to get some extra lenses.

Think about - no matter where you live there will eventually be a good amount of used DSLR's to choose from. People are not pushing them as hard as they'd like to think they are.

I guess the bigger difference will be that I buy mine through a shop where I've gone for a long time and have a good relationship with. I've never bought anything over e-bay. From all the nightmare posts I see here about what happens there I wouldn't bother. You really need to give the camera a complete run through with your own CF cards and computer to check images. I used a lap top. Good luck.

Maureen M , Apr 09, 2004; 10:49 a.m.

Used DSLR's? I only gamble in casinos...

As Lucas suggested, only buy used digital after having thoroughly examined and tested it out yourself. This leaves eBay out of the question.

My own top 4 reasons for not buying used digital bodies are that:
[a] in the case of Canon, the numbering system can be reset to zero at any time, so there is no way to know how close the shutter is to its 30,000-50,000 actuations lifespan (this may sound like a lot, but many digital users take thousands of shots in a short time because it's "free"),
[b] I wouldn't want to buy a camera whose sensor may have been improperly cleaned by a clueless maroon,
[c] many people use older non-dedicated flashes which can (note that I said can, not will) cause immediate or cumulative damage to the hotshoe circuitry, and
[d] in the case of the 300D/Digital Rebel, the jury is still out on whether or not the current firmware "hack" trend can do permanent damage to the camera.

Buying from a local dealer who may offer some sort of warranty could put some of the above fears to rest.

danny liao , Apr 09, 2004; 01:40 p.m.

I'm some what new too digital. So I appologize if it sounds stupid...what's the deal with the counter? I understand that it keeps track of usage but does that mean the camera is not good after a certain amount? Is it going to produce less than satisfactory results after the maxium # of shots have been reached?

Maureen M , Apr 09, 2004; 05:08 p.m.

what's the deal with the counter?

It's not about the counter, but the physical life expectancy of the mechanical shutter.

Most people would probably not take 30,000 film shots in their life due to the cost of processing, but digital has opened the door to "machinegunning" the shutter and taking more shots in general. I've shot more with my 10D in the last year than I shot with film my whole life.

If I bought a used digital camera, I would want to know for certain that it hasn't been used that much. It would cost at least a couple hundred $$$ to replace a shutter, so that would need to be taken into account when considering a used DSLR's value.

Bryce JFG , Apr 09, 2004; 05:22 p.m.

what's the deal with the counter?
Because they can.

It's just like the odometer on a car. Since all of the circuitry and etc. required to do it is already there on a digital camera, it was very easy to add this feature -which would be just as useful on a film camera- but WAY more trouble. In most cases.

Considering how electronic some of the newer film SLR's are, I'd think this may be on some of those too. I haven't heard of it, but I haven't been shopping in a very long time.

As for eBay, I would say; if you're comfortable with the concept, do it. But if you have reservations, then don't. eBay is apparently not for everyone. I have had hundreds of transactions both as buyer and seller, and can count (literally) on one hand the number of times the deal went bad. (And zero in which I wasn't eventually compensated in some manner or another).

That's a combination of being careful, and being lucky -which points back to my original suggestion, that you don't want to get into it unless/until you're comfortable with it.

Giampi . , Apr 09, 2004; 06:02 p.m.

I think purchasing USED equipment (or anything else) can be a very good advantage, if you have a strong familiarity with the items you want to purchase. By that I mean, how they are supposed to work and their "standard" pricing. I have bought most of my stuff used, DEMO or Refurb and NEVER had a problem. Not only will it save you money but, if/when you want to re-sell it you can do so wihtout losing too much.

As far as Ebay specifically, I have had good exeriences there as well but, again I have always purchased items I was very familiar with and was able to ask the "right" questions. The feedback is a good indicator as are the general terms of sale each vendor posts. Go with one who allows for a "grace" period for you to check out the equipment. Ask questions to the seller and don't be afraid to work out some terms that make you fell confortable with the transaction. Don't feel pressured and if a seller doesn't want to accomodate your request I would suggest you find someone else. In the event of a problem is good to have at least a starting point that is well accepted by both parties.

Also, if you use VISA/MC you can always go thru them in case of serious issues.

Greg S , Apr 09, 2004; 08:01 p.m.

I just completed an _bay buy for a $3,000 lens and am loving the deal (received lens in beautiful condition). But, there is a bit of nervousness involved. Multiple email communications, ways to cross reference the seller (do they their own site?), feedback, etc. can all help in getting oriented.

I've bought and sold on auction quite a bit and have had no problems (that couldn't be resolved). If you decide to bid, try to get as comfortable as possible with the seller. If something doesn't feel right, then pass and wait. For me to go the ebay route, I'm typically trying to save at least 25% (preferably 30%+) from other avenues. For the recent lens purchase, the savings was approx $1200 or so.

Steve Hovland , Apr 11, 2004; 12:07 p.m.

In a rapidly changing field like digital photography, I think you should buy a current model so you get the latest chips and software.

DLSR's are apparently being designed by new teams of engineers who don't understand, for example, why a convenient means of mirror lockup should be a common feature. An F100 has niceties of operaton that the D100 people don't seem to be aware of.


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