Buy­ing a used cam­era can save you a decent amount of mon­ey, but there are nuances. It is nec­es­sary to care­ful­ly check the equip­ment and make sure that it is ful­ly oper­a­tional. Expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­phers advise begin­ners to be extreme­ly care­ful when buy­ing a cam­era from their hands. Not all sell­ers are con­sci­en­tious, and often they are just try­ing to get rid of prob­lem­at­ic pho­to­graph­ic equip­ment. To buy a used SLR cam­era and not regret it in a few days, you need to know what to look for when check­ing it.

On bul­letin boards you can find even the old­est pho­to­graph­ic equip­ment. Source: rtings.com

Why is the camera for sale?

The first thing a buy­er who intends to buy a used cam­era should find out is the rea­son for the sale. The sell­er can indi­cate it in the ad, but it is bet­ter to clar­i­fy. You need to ask about the com­plete set and the avail­abil­i­ty of a war­ran­ty card. Some­times there are copies with all the doc­u­ments and the war­ran­ty peri­od has not expired — this is a sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage.

If the kit includes a charg­er, all cords and adapters are also a good plus. But the pres­ence of a user man­u­al or disks with soft­ware is not so impor­tant, since all this can be down­loaded for free on the offi­cial web­site of the man­u­fac­tur­er.

When a per­son sells a cam­era after buy­ing a new one, this is nor­mal. If he can­not voice a nor­mal rea­son or starts to play up, there is prob­a­bly some prob­lem in the cam­era, and they are just try­ing to get rid of the cam­era.

Camera inspection

The equip­ment must be care­ful­ly exam­ined for dam­age: abra­sions and traces of falling on the case, scratch­es on the lens glass, dam­aged screws (indi­cates that they were unscrewed). How to check a used cam­era for such flaws, even a begin­ner will fig­ure it out. By the appear­ance of the cam­era, you can often under­stand how the user treat­ed it and how long it served him at all.

Pay atten­tion to any signs of dis­as­sem­bly or repair of the cam­era. Source: pikabu.ru

The pres­ence of chips, cracks or scratch­es should alert. It is nec­es­sary to clar­i­fy how they appeared. If the cam­era was often dropped, this is a bad sign — it is bet­ter to refuse the pur­chase. It is also nec­es­sary to check all screw con­nec­tions. If they have traces of unscrew­ing, you need to find out why the cam­era was dis­as­sem­bled.

The cam­era should also be shak­en and lis­tened to if noth­ing inside it rat­tles. There should be no extra­ne­ous sounds such as clang­ing, crack­ling or rustling. Also, noth­ing should be loose.

Checking the matrix for broken and hot pixels

Let’s move on to the matrix test for the pres­ence of bro­ken and hot pix­els. The qual­i­ty of pho­tos and the per­for­mance of the cam­era as a whole depend on it. Remem­ber how to check the cam­era:

  • Switch the cam­era to shoot­ing mode “M”.
  • Set ISO 100 and shut­ter speed 15 sec­onds.
  • Dis­able all noise reduc­tion fea­tures.
  • We take a few pic­tures from a tri­pod (you can just put the cam­era on some­thing).
  • We exam­ine the frames tak­en as close as pos­si­ble (it is more con­ve­nient to do this on a com­put­er).

Mul­ti-col­ored glow­ing dots are hot pix­els. If they are miss­ing or there are sev­er­al of them for the entire frame, this is nor­mal. Dead pix­els look dif­fer­ent — just like black or white dots. If there are more than 10 hot and bro­ken pix­els, it is bet­ter to refrain from buy­ing.

Best of all, bro­ken and hot pix­els can be seen on a black back­ground. Source: profoto.lviv.ua

Camera run

Each cam­era has a resource set by the man­u­fac­tur­er. If the cam­era is prop­er­ly looked after dur­ing its oper­a­tion, it will work prop­er­ly beyond this resource. When buy­ing equip­ment, be sure to check the mileage. It is deter­mined by the num­ber of shut­ter releas­es.

The method of check­ing the mileage of a cam­era depends on the brand. For exam­ple, the mileage of a Canon cam­era can be found using the Canon EOS Dig­i­tal soft­ware. But there are also uni­ver­sal appli­ca­tions. You can use the Cam­era Shut­ter Count to check the num­ber of times a Nikon or Pen­tax cam­era has fired a shut­ter. Also this pro­gram sup­ports some Canon and Sony mod­els. Anoth­er appli­ca­tion that works with Canon, Sony, Nikon and Pen­tax cam­eras is EOSMSG.

The process of check­ing the mileage using all pro­grams is approx­i­mate­ly the same: you need to con­nect the cam­era to the com­put­er via USB, run the soft­ware, select the cam­era mod­el (if it was not detect­ed auto­mat­i­cal­ly) and press the but­ton to see the result.

Check­ing mileage with Cam­era Shut­ter Count. Source: fstoppers.com

Hav­ing found out the mileage of the cam­era, you need to find out what resource the man­u­fac­tur­er has installed for a par­tic­u­lar mod­el. This can be found on the offi­cial web­site in the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the cam­era. If it comes to an end or has already expired, it is not rec­om­mend­ed to buy a cam­era. Of course, you can replace the shut­ter, but this is a rather expen­sive pro­ce­dure, which is most often not jus­ti­fied when buy­ing used equip­ment.


It is nec­es­sary to check all the con­trols and elec­tron­ics of the cam­era. But­tons and switch­es must func­tion prop­er­ly. You need to try to switch modes, check all the mechan­i­cal levers, press the but­tons. Every­thing should work smooth­ly and the first time.

You still need to take a few shots in each mode, eval­u­at­ing the work of expo­sure meter­ing, white bal­ance, the clar­i­ty of the shut­ter, the built-in flash, and so on.

Lens check

If the cam­era is sold with a lens, the optics must also be checked. It is not hard. It needs to be inspect­ed for dam­age. There should be no cracks or even minor scratch­es on the lens­es. All mov­ing parts must work clear­ly and with­out back­lash.

You should also look close­ly for signs of mold under the lens­es. Their pres­ence indi­cates that the lens has become wet or stored in inap­pro­pri­ate con­di­tions. It is impos­si­ble to get rid of mold under the lens­es with­out dis­as­sem­bly.

A scratched lens is not rec­om­mend­ed. All images will show imper­fec­tions. Source: phillipreeve.net

It is also impor­tant to check the aut­o­fo­cus of the lens. You need to take sev­er­al shots in dif­fer­ent modes and eval­u­ate the result. If the pic­tures come out sharp and not blur­ry, aut­o­fo­cus is work­ing prop­er­ly.

Is it safe to buy a used camera?

Buy­ing a used cam­era in the sec­ondary mar­ket is asso­ci­at­ed with cer­tain risks. You can run into low-qual­i­ty equip­ment that is already worn out, and the sell­er is try­ing to get rid of it and make mon­ey on it.

Anoth­er option is also pos­si­ble — when a pho­tog­ra­ph­er buys a new cam­era, he puts up the old one for sale as unnec­es­sary. Such equip­ment can be searched on bul­letin boards, spe­cial­ized groups in social net­works and in com­mis­sions. In order not to be deceived, it is nec­es­sary to per­form the sim­plest steps to check the cam­era, which were described above.