How to Buy a Quality Used DSLR

The technology is advancing very rapidly and dozens of new state-of-the-art cameras come out every year. By looking at the prices of the most modern models—for example, Nikon D810A body-only version costs ridiculous $3800 as of May 2016—you get to understand that you would simply not have enough money to test every new camera.

This is why buying a used DSLR may be a really good idea if you are on a tight budget but still want to have a good camera. Many photographers tend to avoid deals from the market of used cameras because a DSLR is a very sophisticated tool and there’s a lot of room for error upon choosing it.

However, it won’t be too difficult to get a quality used DSLR if you follow some general rules and your common sense. Today we will talk about how you should choose a good used camera and give you a couple of useful tips about what you should pay your attention to when buying one.

The primary and most essential thing is to look for used DSLR offers in trustworthy places over the web. It can be a huge online marketplace like eBay or Amazon, a special photography website, or smaller photography groups over Facebook or message boards. Irrespective of the place, make sure to buy the camera from a vendor who has good feedback (or can provide recommendations) and knows a thing or two about photography (better if it’s the owner of the camera).

Always remember about these general things we outlined above to filter out people that may be selling stolen cameras as well as avoid deals that sound too good. They may be scam, however it’s not always true and there are good vendors that may be selling their gear because they need money ASAP.

When you find a decent vendor who sells something you’re looking for and gives you a good price, use tips presented below upon buying the used camera.

Shutter count

Be sure to arrange for a meeting in some café or a crowded place where you can use your laptop to check the camera’s shutter count and make sure that it’s the same as the vendor informed you of.

In order to do this you should take a test shot in manual mode with the front cap on so that everything on the photo is dark (you will need this for the next test), upload the shot to your laptop, and check the shutter count over the web

Dead sensor pixels

This is yet another essential test that you will need to perform. Open the same photo that you used to check the shutter count and zoom in 100% on it. If you see more than 10 dead pixels, we won’t recommend you going for this camera unless it’s really cheap. Too many dead pixels mean that the sensor was damaged in this or that mode.

Sensor and mirror dust

Unlike the vulnerabilities above, which are irreversible and cannot be resolved, dust on the mirror and sensor is something that you can deal with by cleaning the sensor. Examine the camera’s insides carefully, at first checking the mirror for scratches and dust and then, after putting the camera in the Mirror Up mode, checking the sensor.

Dust on the mirror is not a big deal—and may be the reason for a rebate—but dust or scratches on the camera sensor are definitely a bad sign and we don’t advise you to buy a camera if its sensor is dirty or damaged.

Scratches on the body and loose rubber

If the camera was actively used, it will probably have marks or even scratches. This is nothing to be worried about and may become the reason for a small rebate. However, make sure that the rubber coating on the camera body is not loose. Still there’s nothing bad if the rubber parts are coming off, but in this case you may ask for an extra discount which you may use for changing the rubber coating.

Viewfinder and LCD screen

Examine the viewfinder and LCD very carefully, removing the protective screens, and make sure that there are neither scratches on both of them nor dust behind the viewfinder. These two elements, as well as the camera sensor and mirror, are the most expensive parts in the DSLR.

Lens mount

Take a long look at the lens mount area and make sure that there are no plastic/metal parts missing and that the contacts are clean. Also, try to mount a couple of lenses and see whether the camera recognizes them.

Autofocus issues

And the last but not the least is checking whether the AF system works correctly. With the lens mounted on the DSLR, check whether you can easily focus both on the objects that are close to you and on the infinity. Be sure to perform a more meticulous check of the camera AF system when you’re at home and feel free to claim it to the vendor.

We hope that this article was of help to you and we’ll be glad to answer your questions in comments. Feel free to shoot us a message!

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