Teaming old lenses with new camera bodies is a growing trend and you can also find some great second-hand deals on full camera kits if you're in the market for one. With this in mind, we've put together a checklist of all the things you should look at before parting money on second-hand gear.
If you're not just buying a camera body, you'll need to check the lens(es) you're purchasing in the bundle. Hold the lens up to a light if you can look through it, or with light reflecting from it if not, and check for internal marks. If there are small lines that appear etched into the surface avoid it at all cost. This lens has fungus and will affect the quality of pictures. If there are chips or scratches on the surface elements in the centre also avoid, but if they are around the edge you shouldn't see too many problems. However, the resale value will be reduced dramatically and it won't look good. Make sure the mount of an interchangeable lens isn't worn badly. This will provide a sloppy fitting and could let light in. Also, make sure any connections from the lens to the body are not damaged.
If the camera has a manual focusing ring slowly rotate it from the closest setting to infinity making sure there are no points where it sticks and grates. If it does the mechanism will either be sprained or have grit in it. Ideally, this would need taking apart, cleaning and reassembling. Check that the autofocus works by pointing the camera at different subject distances and pressing the shutter to see how it reacts.
Many cameras have plastic, paint or leather coated surfaces. Treat cameras with badly scuffed surfaces with caution, the owner may not have looked after the camera and there may be less obvious damage. If the covering is coming away from the body it can usually be stuck back down using adhesive. If you intend doing this, check to make sure it hasn't shrunk.
Avoid scratched panels. It won't affect picture quality but will reduce the resale value and it doesn't look as good. Try the camera set to various modes to see if the LCD digits are all okay and to check you can view menus etc. easily.
Look at the battery contacts in the battery compartment. If there is a green, brown or white deposit on the surface avoid purchasing the camera. This is a sign that batteries have leaked and the damage could extend further.
Have a play around with the various shutter speed options as this will highlight if the shutter is sticking open. Some cameras also develop squeaky shutters. If the shutter has high pitch squeak avoid it as it needs servicing which can be expensive. With automatic shutters, try covering the lens or sensor and firing. Listen for two clicks, one to open and the second to close. The darker the ambient light the longer this will take. If the camera is a single lens reflex open the back and check that the shutter blinds/blades are not sprained or worn. Check shutter count where possible - the lower the better, as this will give you another guide on how much the camera has been used and how much life it has left in it.
Most cameras have a threaded tripod mount but don't make your purchase if the thread is stripped.
If the camera has a built-in flash, fire it with a fresh battery and see how long it takes to recharge. If it takes more than four or five seconds it could be at the end of its life. If the camera has an accessory shoe where a flash can be attached slide one on and fire the shutter to see if the connections are okay. Avoid cameras with bent or cracked shoes. If the camera has a flash sync socket plug a flashgun in and check that it fires.
If you don't intend on using flash, none of these points matter but once again make sure you get a reduction on the price of the camera as it will be harder to sell if you ever decide to.
There's a ring at the front of the lens that's used to attach filters and other lens accessories to it. You may find that the mount is dented or stripped of its thread. If you don't intend adding accessories this won't affect picture taking, but the resale value will drop.
You may not need instructions on how to use your camera, but if you ever decide to sell it and the new buyer requires them, you'll increase the chance of selling it. Similarly, the box and packaging mean a lot to some people so keep these safe too.
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