How to buy a secondhand dSLR.

  1. Scour the ads for a camera near you. You will arrange for a meetup later so make sure you can go to the camera's location if needed. Don't limit yourself to one particular model only. At the least, choose a brand then perhaps megapixel count or a range of years or a model level lineup. Don't get one without a lens unless you have a fully compatible lens for it lying around your house.
  2. Watch out for seller feedback. Check negative feedback. Any hint that the seller is wrong, avoid.
  3. Scrutinize the description. If the seller says he knows nothing about cameras, avoid.
  4. Always ask a question by email, by phone or message even if the description is very thorough. You are going to see personally how to deal with the seller. Points you can ask if not in the description are:
    • What is the shutter actuation count?
    • Do all the buttons, wheels, and rings work as they should?
    • Are all the glass clean and clear? No scratches, dirt or fungi?
    • Are the LCD screens scratch-free?
    • Does the flash work?
    • Does manual focus work?
    • Has the camera ever been serviced?
  5. Most sellers mention a brief "perfect working condition" or something to the tune of that in their description.
    • If he does not know shutter actuation count, avoid. If the count is less the 5,000, grab the camera. Anything above 20,000 is old and overused.
    • If the seller says at least one of the buttons, wheels and rings don't work properly, turn down. It will need repair.
    • Scratch on the lens is permanent, avoid. Dirt if few can be ignored. Fungi spreads, avoid. Light cleaning marks (technically scratches) are acceptable.
    • A scratched LCD screen is up to you. It doesn't affect the picture or the picture-taking ability of the camera. The bigger the scratch on the LCD, the more you can bargain on the price if you can live with the scratch.
    • Don't get if the flash won't work.
    • Servicing is just one item most sellers has been serviced, ask the seller what was serviced. If the camera dropped, avoid.
  6. If you're satisified with the camera, arrange for a meetup. If you're getting from eBay, ask the seller beforehand (before the auction ends) if he agrees on a meetup when the auction is done. Choose a public place to do meetup like the mall or a park. What's important is that lots of people should be there so time it at lunchtime or so. If the camera does not use AA batteries, ask the seller to charge the battery completely for the meetup. If it uses AA's, bring 4 pieces of Energizer Lithium. Ask also for a memory card. If none, bring your own. Ask what type exactly.
  7. During the meetup, inspect the camera thoroughly. Take note of any detail about the camera's history the seller may be mentioning. Take your time. If you don't know how to test a dSLR, ask someone you trust to go with you. If the seller seems to be in a rush, drop the deal at once.
    • Inspect the camera's physical appearance.
    • Take a shot in every mode available PSAM or Auto, TV, Av, M. You may not get a good picture in M if you don't know how but it's worth testing anyway.
    • Take a shot in Auto mode with EV at 0, +2 and -2. 0 should be correct, +2 should be bright and -2 should be dark.
    • Take a shot in Auto mode using the highest ISO. Ask the seller to help if you can't figure out the ISO control.
    • Take a shot in Auto mode with forced flash. Never mind if it's scorching hot during mid-day. Just take one and see if the flash works.
    • Try focusing in manual mode. The switch is in front. Just swing it away from AF to M. The focusing ring is the thin one near the front tip of the lens (behind the hood if there is one).
  8. If you're a kid, bring your mom, dad or both with you. You'll never know when mom's bargaining powers can come in handy. If won at eBay, you shouldn't bargain though. If the ad says price is fixed, you shouldn't bargain anymore. Then again, dad's mighty convincing power may punch in.
  9. Only hand over your precious cash if you are completely satisfied. Shake hands to finalize the deal and beg off to enjoy your new old camera.
  10. Test on the way home and give feedback to the seller on the online site where you found the ad if applicable.

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