Buying Second hand equipment: The Pro's and Con's
Ebay - Private sales or Online Stores
APUG Classifieds (or similar on other Forums)
Over the past 20+ years I've bough quite a wide variety of second hand photographic equipment and it's worth sharing - highlighting the good and bad experiences and how to avoid the worst sellers.
In the past I always used to buy from reputable dealers, excuse the UK bias but these included Robert White & Teamwork, and 2 or 3 Leitz official dealers, but there are many others, both in the UK as well as the US etc. A major advantage is you can trust their judgement on quality and you usually get a limited warranty, up to 6 months. In general these dealers sell items at fair second hand prices, and turn-over items quickly because of this.
But with the advent of the internet things have changed. Some reputable dealers sell items faster than they can find them . . . . . .
I should add that APUG has a few highly reputable advertisers selling second hand equipment at fair prices.
APUG (and also the LFPI forum):
A very good source for buying 9OR SELLING) second hand, one I particularly recommend very highly. Over the past 3 or 4 years I've bought camera's and quite a few lenses etc - all have been as good as and some far better than the advertisers descriptions. Postage has nearly always been punctual and at a fair price, the only postage problem was USP not the seller . I have had one bad experience but when brought to moderator's attention it was sorted out I was one of a few (including a moderator) with problems with the seller(& on another forum too) and I had my money back eventually.
Highlights have been a "Mint" late production 150mm Xenar, and an equally good 135mm Caltar-S II (Symmar) both at bargain prices, and a 3 cameras 35mm - 5"x4".
I'd particularly recommend posting "Wanted Adverts" that's how I was offered the Caltar.
1. Private sales.
Can be excellent but also qite hit & miss. In general I've come out on top despite 3 or 4 bad deals.
The poor deals where: 2 Speed Graphic's in poor condition sold as a pair to build one good one from the parts. A slight problem, when they arrived one was pre-Anniversary the other a Pacemaker & no parts where interchangeable, but both are now completely rebuilt & functional so after some work and some extra costs all was well.
Worst still was a bunch of 4 Graphic lens boards, only one was a Graflex board ! Turned out the seller was an APUG Subscriber, but he's since been banned anyway
Best was my main Agfa Ansco 10x8 Commercial View, it was a non Paypal, US only sale. Good contact with the seller, 2 trans-Atlantic telephone calls, paying the "Buy It Now" price, then patience while funds took days to clear through the US Banking system, and the 6 weeks shipping, it was all worth it. The seller threw in a brand new Beattie screen !!!!
Try and buy from people with near 100% feedback. On more expensive items try and make contact & maintain good dialog, pay promptly.
A few other Ebay purchases have been less than perfect but the low prices have meant I haven't lost out.
Some of my best Ebay purchases are often for multiple items, fewer people bid, I've picked up a Chinon CE-4S camera f1.4 50mm & power drive that way, with a Spotmatic & 2 screw fit lenses £22 ($34)
I should add I'm often buying for other people and have had some superb bargains buying outfits.
2 Ebay Stores.
Choose carefully, many US stores are excellent, I've used quite a few for parts and smaller items.
In the UK you need to be much more careful, a few are dominating second hand sales with rather heavily inflated prices, it's particularly noticeable with LF equipment. For example some are selling 90mm f6.8 Angulon's for between £230 & £260 when reputable dealers sell them for closer to half the price, as are US dealers. My personal view is these sellers try it on, I've seen the same lenses listed & re-listed for well over a year in some cases just waiting for Mr Gullible to buy
The best Ebay Stores are often affiliated to traditional dealers (US, UK etc). In the UK two I'd recommend are MW Classics and The Real Camera Company, but there are others. I've also bought a few times from a German Ebay store.
A few other tips, any mention of slow or sticky shutter speeds means the shutter may need a CLA, allow for the cost !!! That cheap TLR might need an expensive service.
To sum up: Ask the seller if the adverts is vague, not detailed etc, many times a simple question tells you not to buy, or that it's a good bargain.
My personal view based on experience is that the classifieds here on APUG or on the LFPI are the best places to buy & sell equipment, other than to go through a reputable dealer.
I've not forgotten local sales through newspapers, Craig's List etc but that's another issue
Last edited by Ian Grant; 09-18-2009 at 04:40 PM. Click to view previous post history.
My highest preference is KEH and Samys. I get to see and handle the equipment at Samys and I get the honor of paying state sales tax in lieu of shipping. There is the instant gratification factor and they are competitive or better than KEH prices. I have done well at KEH. Only one problem and that was resolved by them sending the replacement before I shipped back the original item.
Close after KEH is B&H. I have only made a few purchases on APUG Classifieds and they have been good experiences, too.
I have done well with eBay stores including KEH. I look for well known stores with good reputations. As always with any internet purchase look at the photos, read the details and ASK questions.
I have had good experiences with individual eBay sellers by looking at ratings at or near 100. I tend to look at the sellers with the higher sales numbers. Every once and a while I find something that a seller with less than 20 sales with exactly what I am looking for. With those again I have had good luck and occasionally they will throw in some extras because I took a chance with them.
My biggest problems have been caused by GAS pangs and the desire to get one more lens or accessory. I have found no solution to this problem and now I accept it as the price for the interest in photography.
My experiences YMMV
Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!
Nothing beats a great piece of glass!
I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
I have bought a few small accessory items from e-Bay stores located in China, particularly adapter rings and the like. The prices were low enough that I took the chance to see if I would receive items, if ever, and if they would be acceptable. To my amazement, items from China with "free shipping" seem to arrive via US Post in a couple of weeks and the quality of adapter rings, etc. has been perfectly fine. I suspect most such items are made now in China anyhow even if one pays three or four times the price in a domestic store. In the US at least, there seems to be a decent connection between US Post and suppliers in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Amazing.
By denying the facts, any paradox can be sustained--Galileo
Not everything is made in China and they make PLENTY of knock-off copycat parts that are of dubious quality compared to the original.
Originally Posted by mts
Additionally, for all the well-trodden trade routes that have been setup, consider that we have 20' and 40' containers PILED up at the port of Long Beach and stored around LA that were built just for shipping goods from China to the US and it's not economically feasible for them to ship it back and re-use it. So what do they do? They build more containers. Truly insane.
Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.
I prefer a store that stands behind their gear. Keh has always been good to me. eBay is alright, but let the buyer beware. Many sellers don't even have the expertise to guarantee an item. You have to read eBay descriptions like a lawyer. If it says "worked last time I used it, but that was a year ago.." or something like that, watch out. Also beware AS-IS and no-returns auctions.
I've had some good experiences, but also some bad ones. Here's a list of a few bad ones: 1. Nikon 16mm F2.8 AF from a studio photographer in Cali. Wouldn't focus to infinity, which makes it pretty useless. He said it had just come back from Nikon Factory Service. He did accept a return, but gave me a real hard time about it, telling me I didn't know how to use it. 2. Tokina 70-200mm f2.8 MF with a broken bayonet mount. The seller refused a refund, so I had to send it to Tokina for repair. 3. A Nikon FM2 that was not in EX condition as stated. It had many wear marks. I kept it, and had to get the film transport worked on only months later, because it had ben used so hard. 4. An ipod that was supposed to be in EX condition. When I got it, it looked like it had been through a war. Twice. Seller was very difficult and I eventually had to threaten a chargeback on Paypal before he would accept a return.
I like eBay much more as a seller than a buyer. If we could get rid of the bad sellers, it could be really great, but that will never happen, so Let the Buyer Beware.
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Over the years I've developed good relationships with several excellent repair shops and technicians, like Marflex, Frank Marshman (CameraWiz), S. K. Grimes, and Precision Camera Works, and as I see it, this is key to making good deals from private sales and eBay. I also have a good idea for most of the items I buy, what kinds of things are likely to go wrong, and what will be an expensive repair, and would would be an easy fix or possibly something I could repair myself.
I would rather buy something in non-working condition at very low cost from a private individual and have it brought up to spec by one of the best camera techs in the business, than to pay more for something in basic working order that may not have been serviced in a long time or not by the most qualified technician for that particular piece of equipment.
It is pointless, for instance, in my opinion, to pay more for a large format lens in a "working" Synchro-Compur shutter that hasn't had a CLA in 20 or more years, than to purchase the same lens in a non-working Synchro-Compur shutter that probably only needs a cleaning, because in fact, both shutters need a cleaning--it's just not as obvious with the "working" shutter. Sometimes a non-working shutter is really broken and may need to be replaced, but in most cases, they just need cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment.
....or indeed fix it or learn how to fix it yourself if you're that way inclined. I have picked up many bargains that way but my favourite was an Asahiflex that was nominally u/s and hence very cheap but only needed a spring re-seating.
Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
In the past I was a huge peruser of shuttlerblade.com (eBay store). Many here have reported problems with them, but I have but a lot of gear from them over the years and I would have to recommend them as reputable. Again, my experience and everyone has fostered horror stories, I don't care who they are.
I got going with darkroom supplies primarily from B&H and lately with Freestylephoto.biz. I believe that starting this year, when I get my boon, I will be doing ALL of my shopping at my local camera shop. Well, they're over an hour away. But they keep chemistry on the showroom floor. They are my kind of shop and they are going to have my business from now on.
They are Camera's Etc. of Newark, Delaware. Located just north of the U of D campus. 1-302-453-9400. The guys and gals are all side photographers. Mostly film. Perhaps more than a smattering of d*g*t*l. I don't hold it against them. They always have lots of great consignment gear at the counter. Can't say as I have seen anything LF ever but I'm sure they now who has items for purchase on the short.
Just thought I would share.
Thanks alot, Ian. Hope you're keeping up that Mediteranean tan of yours.
I never purchase from big dealers as they invaribaly sell the worst used equipment because they have to take things in trade or purchase heavily discounted and feel they can always sell to the unknowing. There are a few smaller Dealers in used equipment I have pruchased from.
I typically look for lightly used equipment from the original purchaser on eBay, look at feed back and always establish a dialog and for large ticket items a phone coversation is a must. Pay with Amexo and always have items sent insured, with confirmation/tracking # supplied to me. So far, it has worked out extremely well. I never purchase junk as it will always be junk and the extra price to pay for Mint equipment is a small price in the long run.-Dick
I've bought two items from Adorama on Ebay since Helen has been posting here. Both items were received in better condition than expected.