How to Shop for the Best Used Camera Gear

If you’re looking for the best used camera gear, there’s plenty of good options. Camera manufacturers are constantly releasing new models, which means the market is almost always flooded with good deals on used cameras, accessories and lenses. But before you drop a lot of cash on the table, you’ll want to be sure the used equipment you’re planning to buy is in good condition. In this article, we’ll outline the most important steps you can take to help you avoid cameras and gear that leaves you disappointed once you get it home.

What to Look for in Used Camera Gear

The first two things you probably ask when you’re shopping for a car are: (1) What model year is it? (2) How many miles has it been driven?
You can do the same thing when you shop for cameras. Every man made device will eventually wear out and stop working. Cameras included. The age of the camera you’re considering can suggest how much longer it will last. But for a more precise measure, you’ll need to determine how many photos have been taken. That’s important because the shutter opens and closes with each shot. It’s the workhorse that accounts for much of the physical motion inside the camera body.
Most camera manufacturers rate the expected lifetime of their cameras by specifying a “shutter count.” Every time a picture is taken, the shutter count increases by one. Consumer-grade cameras are often rated for around 100,000 shots. Mid-range and professional-grade models vary between around 200,000 to 300,000 or more.
Knowing the age of the camera and its shutter count, you’re able to avoid buying cameras that are nearing their end of life. There are a few different ways to determine the shutter count and you’ll find that Anabel DFlux at Digital Photography School explains it in great detail for several popular camera makes.

Don’t Forget To Inspect for Bumps and Bruises

You’re no doubt looking for a camera that’s in “like new” condition, so take some time to look over the camera body for scratches and other signs of rough handling. The viewfinder on a DSLR is sealed to keep out contaminants like dust, hair, and moisture. Because it’s sealed, dirt inside the viewfinder is a good reason to reject that particular camera.
The sensor inside the camera gathers light photons that ultimately make your photograph. The folks at “The Phoblographer” provide detailed instructions that simplify inspecting and cleaning the all-important sensor.
The firmware built into every DSLR can be an issue. Just as tech giant Microsoft has caused trouble with users whose computers don’t work after the latest Windows 10 update is applied, updating the firmware built into every DSLR can cause the camera to stop working. Check into the firmware version and, if it’s not up to date, make sure the seller completes the update before you buy the camera. You don’t want to get it home and discover later that your camera now serves best as a doorstop.

If You’re Buying Lenses…

… inspect them carefully. Look for scratches on the lens at each end of the barrel. Then look through the lens at the internal lenses. A compound lens that’s been stored where humidity is high can become “infected” with fungus growth, which is impossible to clean without disassembling the entire lens.
Also be sure to operate the focus and zoom. Both should rotate smoothly without any clicks of grinding/grating sensations – either of which could indicate dirt or damage to the lens body.
Finally, if the lens you’re looking at uses gyroscopic sensors within the lens body to provide image stabilization (as Nikon and Canon do), test that feature to be sure it works.

Now It’s Time to Protect Your Investment

Once you’ve done a thorough check and bought your camera gear, think about protecting it against loss. Upsie is the market leader in service contracts that protect your camera against damage, which includes:
  • Mechanical Failure
  • Liquid damage
  • Cracks due to drops
  • Power failure
  • Zoom issues
  • Screen failure
With an Upsie extended camera warranty, you’ll save up to 70 percent or more versus big-box retailers, camera manufacturers, and other sellers. Upsie’s warranties for a used camera bought at $600 is significantly cheaper than other options.  Upsie costs just $81.99 for two years or $113.99 for three years. With co-pays of just $25 per incident, you’re well ahead of the game with Upsie.
When you need service, we can provide it at our certified service center with freight paid both ways, or you may take it to an authorized service center near you and still enjoy Upsie’s low prices.

Get Started

Begin by visiting where you can tell us what camera you’ve bought and get an instant price quote on both 2-year and 3-year service contracts. You can buy Upsie’s extended warranty protection within 60 days of your camera purchase, but your safest bet is to get your new gear covered as soon as you get it. Give us a call at 877-844-7745 or visit We’re here to help.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.