When I started with digital photography I bought everything new, cameras, lenses, everything. Within a couple of years I learnt that is actually quite short sighted and expensive. Sure if you can afford it then feel free and go right ahead and buy new, but if not there is sense and good reason in purchasing second hand, as long as you take some precautions. Here are 9 tips when buying equipment.

  1. So the first biggie if a deal looks too good to be true it almost certainly is!
  2. Grey market stock is often cheaper and can be the reason for some great deals on new gear. Grey market stock is stock originally intended for a different country which has been imported in to your country. There is nothing wrong with buying grey market stock but it should be noted that manufacturer warranties may not be valid outside of the intended country of purchase. You have to balance whether the reduction in price is worth the lack of warranty. In addition some manufacturers won’t repair grey market stock outside the warranty country even if not a warranty issue.. This means you would need to rely on a third party repair/service centre (of which there are plenty of excellent ones). Personally I would look to buy open box 2nd hand products with a warranty ahead of grey market.
  3. Do your research, check out what current new retail prices are, not the MRRP, but the actual price you can buy it from reputable retailers like WEX or London Camera Exchange. No point buying second hand from a private seller if for 10% more you can buy it new with a protected warranty.
  4. Where possible always purchase from a reputable retailer. Not only do they have a reputation to uphold but many offer a 1 year warranty on second hand equipment.
  5. Check out Amazon warehouse deals from Amazon themselves (rather than from a third party). Make sure to check the warehouse deal is good value as decent ones sell very very quickly. Some third parties sell above MRRP hence always best to check.
  6. When buying second hand carefully read all descriptions. What shutter count does a body have (though remember a new shutter is relatively inexpensive on an expensive body so not a deal breaker), does a lens show signs of internal dust or worse fungus. If the latter run, run run away! Several sites offer a grading system ranging from ‘Open box’ to ‘spares or repair’ with the price reflecting the condition accordingly. I personally wouldn’t buy anything below an 8, or equivalent condition wise. If showing more serious signs of wear you don’t know what knocks it has taken. I always avoid any notable dust in lenses and any ‘dinks’ which would suggest an impact. Yes if it fails within a year I’m covered but I would prefer to avoid being without a potentially vital piece of equipment.
  7. Avoid buying from a private seller unless you are able to collect and therefore inspect the item before you hand over any money.
  8. If you really really must buy from someone online pay via paypal goods and services. NEVER pay Friends & Family. This will offer you an extra degree of protection if the item is not as expected. BUT there will always be an element of buyer beware.
  9. Don’t buy cheap or second hand memory cards. This is something you really can’t scrimp on. The only memory card I’ve ever had fail on me was a ‘cheap’ branded card. It turned out it was a very good counterfeit. I look out for lightening deals on Amazon or similar but ultimately I only ever buy cards I am 100% confident are genuine.
  10. Consider trading in. If you have older equipment you won’t be using consider trading it in. Selling it to a big name (see list below) won’t get the best price but is a very easy sale. Some will also offer trade ins against new equipment at a higher price than your old equipment is worth so making buying new viable.

Personally I buy almost all my equipment 2nd hand or ‘open box’ via WEX, Amazon or MPB as they normally have the widest range and therefore have what I want when I need it. The above doesn’t just apply to camera equipment but computers as well. Did you know Apple sells refurbished computers at discounts with standard warranties? Not just computers but phones and ipads as well. Easy way to save a few pennies. Just follow the same rules as above.

Sites that I would be happy buying second hand from are (noting I offer no warranty as to their service other than my experiences of them have only been good!);



London Camera Exchange

Amazon Warehouse



John Lewis – Their deals will normally only be found in stores. They also have some specialist outlet stores just for ‘returns and open box’. I bought a lens from their Swindon outlet store for 30% off all because the box has been damaged, the lens and everything else was otherwise perfect in mint condition! MASSIVE saving

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