First Published on AOL TIME WARNER, Oceanic Cable Leisure Section September 1, 2009 by Jerry Omo, Jr.
You all know the favorite places to buy photo equipment on line. EBay, Craigslist etc. What you may not know is just who you are buying from, worse yet, what the quality of your new purchase will be.
It is always best to inspect your camera, lens, flash or other photo accessory prior to plunking down cash for it. With online buying this isn't always possible. In this case you need to do as much investigation as possible prior to your purchase.
With Craigslist, you will find a sort of "garage sale" mentality when it comes to buying. Bargaining is really your best option here. If you are able to inspect the equipment before you buy it this is the best way to purchase used items. Here are some things that routinely go overlooked by both buyer and seller alike that will help you sale a few bucks on your next Craigslist purchase. For all equipment, it is important to find out if the sale includes the original paperwork. Does the item have the original manual? Is it still under warranty or is the original unused card available? What about the original box that it came in? These are all items that will increase the value of the item for sale.
Before you rush into the "quick sale" check online to see what the item is selling for New. Using a scale from 1 to 10, a “New” item would be a 10. These items are described as “factory new”, ”Opened box condition” or “excellent condition”. From there start deducting points, or fractions thereof for certain usage flaws.
We all know that the minute a new car leaves the dealer lot, it starts to depreciate. So too should the camera equipment, you purchase. If there is no original box, deduct 1/2 pt. This isn't that important unless you need to send it back to the factory need things like a product code for special discounts or want to resell the item yourself. If the original manual is missing this is a bigger deal I would deduct 1 full pt for this. While most manufacturers have PDF’s available for most models online, if you want an “original” manual, you would have to buy one. This is the only thing that will help restore the “value” of the used item for sale. Hey if it’s gonna cost me money, it’s a 1 pt deduction. If the warranty card is still valid, or better yet if the warranty card was never filled out, this could be a bonus. So + or - 1/2 pt depending on the situation. If you have the opportunity to view the item, inspect it for physical marks, general wear and tear scratches & especially dents. If the camera/lens is dented it indicates the camera might have been dropped, walk away in this case especially, if the unit does not have a warranty card. If you don’t, you might end up spending your money twice to replace another persons’ problem. Deduct points based on the severity of the use. Was it dirty? 1/2 pt. Heavily scratched 1 pt. Mild wear 1/2 pt.
On a lens, CHECK the front, back and inside elements of the lens for defects, fogging (mold), fingerprints and in Hawaii, salt damage or corrosion. The lens mount should be clean and have little wear, the aperture ring should be able to function properly at all F-Stops ( you may have to put it on the camera to know this. The paint on the lens should be clean, without scratches and especially dents. Major mark downs on the price of a lens includes; fogging if this is heavy the lens may be worthless all together. Look for actual mold growing on the element. If this is present -8 immediately. If the F-Stop ring does not actuate -9, if the lens front or back are scratched from improper cleaning, or have finger prints that cannot be wiped off -4 or 5.
On the camera bodies, your mounting ring, mirror dampening seal, and dirt or dust in the lens well, mirror or focusing screen are all indications of a camera that hasn't been maintained. -2 to -3 depending on how severe. Battery power is important, pull it out ask about if the charger is included for the battery if not -2 or 3 pts, this will again cost you money to replace. If when you pull out the battery check the date on the camera. If it resets to the manufacture date of the camera after having been set to the current date, this could mean serious electrical problems, again, walk away from the sale. This could potentially cost you as much as a new camera if it isn't still under warranty. Thumb through the menus, check the firmware version and date if available, these items in some cameras can be updated and should be current if they are.
Ask the seller if the camera comes with a media card, lens mount cap, pc connection caps camera straps, computer CD and connection cables to download your pix onto your computer? Lenses with lenscaps and or protective filters . Flash units usually have a diffusion cover for the flash if they are higher end units, they also have manuals that should be included. All of these "extras" if missing will range from 1/2 pt to 2 pts depending on the missing item.
Once you have tallied up all the flaws for a particular item you want to buy, finally add 1 pt for each year a camera is old, 1/2 pt for a flash and just 1/4 pt for a lens.
If your final tally is say 3.5 you would take the current going price for the same item new and reduce it by 35%. I.E. Your original 10 minus 3.5 For defects. This is what you would offer in an auction or should pay for your Craigslist purchase.
We understand that it isn't always possible to do this thorough of an inspection, especially online. So ask lots of questions of the seller, if this is an eBay sale check the return policy or email the Craigslist seller to find out if they have a policy for returning an item for defects. This will help you make an informed decision, not only about the item being sold but about the seller too. - aloha