Buying & Selling Second Hand Photographic Gear

Posted by: In: Camera Equipment, Hardware 13 Apr 2013 Comments: 3 Tags: , , , ,
Image of a home made welding glass filter

10 stop filter made from welding glass (from a popular auction site), plumbing tape, and a cokin filter holder.

So my time has come! I’ve got to that age where lugging around a DSLR and big Canon L lenses is just too much for me now. I have quite a collection of  lenses and I want to downsize. but how do I best go about that?

There are several routes to consider, and in the interest of impartiality, I want to state up front that none of the links in this post carry any affilliate marketing. Buying and selling photographic gear can be difficult when you read reviews that want you to jump a certain way. My caveat here is that all prices will likely fluctuate as this post ages. This is more about the process than the price, so please bear that in mind!

Buying

Photographic gear is expensive once you move into the realms of detachable lenses. It’s undoubtedly also a minefield… What are your options? It depends on what you’re buying. Are you after a camera body, a lens, a tripod, or other gear? When looking to save money, sometimes it’s possible to come up with solutions that are a little cheaper than buying the expensive good stuff. My example here of an ND filter made from welding glass (I think it cost £1), some plumbing tape to cut out the light, and a cokin p series filter holder shows how you can spend a lot less than £90 for a “Big Stopper”.

Image of a home made negative scanner

Neg scanner made from a 50mm f1.8 (52mm filter size essential!), extension tube, toilet roll tube and some paper…

Likewise, my other illustrative image in this post is of my neg scanner. A 50mm f1.8 (great, good value, prime lens for photography) an extension tube (the cheap man’s macro alternative), a toilet roll and some creative origami can save you a lot of £££’s. Of course, I had the 50 and the extension tubes lying around, so I was lucky.

Of course there is no true home made solution for a Canon 85mm f1.2 prime lens, so there is no real option but to pay the money!

Buying from a physical shop

This is what we did in the olden days. The only way to buy something was to go out to a shop and part with cash to receive the goods. The advantage of buying in a physical shop is that you can get advice before you buy, and you can generally actually touch what you’re going to buy. Many many people will say that if you’re buying a new camera body, go to a shop and see how it feels in your hands. Weight, ergonomics, usability and build quality are all hard to quantify on the internet! Also, if you’re undecided between several products (Canon or Nikon for example) getting your hands on the item makes all the difference. The difference in weight (for example) and build quality between a Sigma lens or a Canon lens might make a difference. You could also take a memory card down to a shop, and shoot some images to the card with different lenses/bodies then go home and pixel peep to decide for yourself which is the one for you. Finally – if something goes wrong, you actually have people you can go and see about it.

Of course – buying from a shop has disadvantages. It might be inconvenient if you have to travel a long way, and almost certainly will be more expensive. Physical shops have overheads like sales staff, business rates, shop rental, heating and other expenses. They have to make more of a profit than an e-shop because they have more costs. This “expense” is often why we see so many camera shops shutting down, and only the big guns like John Lewis, and PC World can keep going because of their diversity. Poor Jessops. I like buying from a shop. I know I’m not getting the best price, but I am getting a service from a real person, and I don’t like to see the high street closing shops left right & centre. That said though – an extra £20 for a tripod head in a shop isn’t too bad, but an extra £200 for a top of the range DSLR is a little more serious. As a buyer, you need to weigh up the benefits and disadvantages.

Buying from a UK based Photographic Retailer

Camerapricebuster.co.ukThere are several online retailers that specialise in photographic equipment. Some are extremely good, and some are terrible. Some will pass themselves off as UK retailers when in fact they are not – and are just PO boxes for far eastern companies. It can be a bit of a minefield out there, so research is your friend. Simply typing in the company and the word “review” into your favourite search engine will, more often than not, deliver results that are informative.

My starting point (in the UK) is Camerapricebuster. It’s an excellent resource for price comparison of photographic equipment and tries to list UK stock suppliers rather than “grey” importers. Clicking on on the item you want will bring up a list of suppliers along with the price. It’s an extremely handy site – not just for finding cheap prices, but for getting an idea of the range of prices you can expect to pay for your gear. It also gives you an immediate rough evaluation of your own kit too.

If you are planning to spend serious money, it’s well worth setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. I tend to have a list of items down one side of the sheet, with columns for each vendor and their prices. As someone who is about to start selling quite a bit of 2nd hand gear, and buy a new camera and lenses, keeping track of all the prices really helps.

Buying from a UK stockist means that you don’t have to deal with import duty and you get a full UK warranty if anything goes wrong. Internet based shops are usually cheaper than physical ones because of lower overheads. One of these overheads though is usually staff, and some online shops don’t have a great customer service. Here – a search engine is your friend as you can research those companies with better service. More often than not – their prices will be slightly higher. Some physical shops also have an online presence, and this can be a bit more reassuring for a nervous buyer. Again though, their prices may not be as competitive as other purely-online outfits. Lastly, it’s always worth checking some big named, but not primarily photographic retailers. Places like Asda, Argos and Tesco all sell photographic equipment and sometimes will clear their stock to free up space. There has been an occasional bargain to be found! (Asda selling a 650D + kit lens for £483 for example)

Buying from a non-UK Retailer

Buying a “grey import” (a non-UK model) is awash with controversy. You’re getting your gear at (for example) Hong Kong prices and paying a UK fronted company in £’s. Research again is your dear friend here, as there are several potential pitfalls alongside the far superior prices you might expect. Some companies do very well selling “grey” stock and have an excellent reputation, but it’s a definite case of “buyer beware”. Small print exclusions such as the buyer possibly having to pay for import duty may increase your costs beyond your expectation. It’s another case of risk vs cost and my personal experience of buying “grey” was not good. I was lucky because I paid for my goods with a credit card and was able to get my money refunded through them. If you are considering using a popular auction site for your purchase, you may also want to run the seller through a search engine first. Feedback ratings can be misleading!

Buying Second Hand

Second hand is a great way to get hold of both accessories and lenses & bodies. People upgrade or downgrade all the time, and if a new camera or lens is released that already has an existing “version” that sells well, you may find a glut of people trying to offload their old version so they can have the new shiny. Auctions sites are a go-to for this sort of thing, but many online and physical camera shops sell second hand equipment (usually at inflated prices). There are also photography forums that have “classified” sections where it’s possible to pick up some great bargains. The only thing to be wary of with second hand gear is that you really don’t know how it’s been used and in many cases don’t get any guarantees. All the warnings of buying second hand gear apply here!

Part-Exchange

If you’re dumping old gear and replacing, part-exchange may seem like good value. It certainly removes the hassle of selling your own stuff, but usually, you will be paying shop prices for your new gear, and getting second hand value minus shop profit margin for your stuff. Prices also vary WILDLY across various different part-exchange companies. My Canon 70-200 f2.8 (IS) mk 1 had offers from £350 to £850 from different shops! Yet another reason for setting up a spreadsheet for your buying/selling if you’re buying a lot of gear at once, or you buy and sell frequently.

A Real World Example

CameraPriceBusterAs I’ve been looking to buy a new camera recently, I can show a real-world example of this. Let’s take a Fuji X-E1 with a kit 18-55 lens. Camerapricebuster has this at £938 including postage & packing. It’s always good to check the top result if you’re considering it so off we go to Mathers to discover it’s a real shop in Lancashire. A dummy purchase taking me through to the checkout though shows me that they actually charge £15.95 for postage!!! (a bit cheeky, but still the cheapest out there) So that’s £945 from a UK dealer with UK stock. It’ll be the lowest risk.

The next check is with my local camera shop. It’s Sunday and it’s in Chester which is quite a drive, but I’m fairly sure it’ll be more expensive than the top 5 in the list. If I decide to go over there and look at their prices, I’ll make a decision then as to whether their service is worth the extra. A very brief check on one of the largest online shopping sites (has a river with the same name) shows the price as £949 delivered. Not a massive difference from the price above. For a laugh, I’ll see what our local PC World is doing it for and it’s up currently for £1,049. Not as bad as I expected!

Auction sites are the next step, and I’ll be checking second hand prices as well as new. I generally only use one auction site, and it’s the biggest. Filtering by “UK Only”, I get a couple of second hand prices. An auction currently at £760 for an “it’s just not for me” person and a “Buy It Now” of £825 for someone who won his in a competition. I want brand new, so looking further down the list I can see that the only brand new UK stock is going for £949 – £999. This is no cheaper than buying from Amazon, so I’ll stick with the big boys for now.

Unclicking the “UK Only” option lets the importers into the mix and immediately I start to see price improvements. a Hong Kong import for £738. The small print  states that I may be responsible for import duty on this which doesn’t bode well. Looking through the negative feedback and I see one person who left bad feedback because they did get caught. Other negative feedbacks all have the same response of “it was a system error, sorry”. The exact same response!

So there we go. I can now go down to my local camera shop armed with the following knowledge (prices include delivery):

  • Mathers (UK Camera shop) £945
  • Amazon £949
  • PC World £1049
  • Auction Site (new UK) £949
  • Auction site (new import) £738
  • Auction site (second hand) £825

This is sort of what I was expecting. Prices tend to follow the trend of Big High Street Electronics Chain>High Street Photography Specialist>Large Internet Company>Internet Photography Specialist>Internet Grey Importer>Auction site (import) = auction site (second hand). I would expect things that are readily available second hand (the X-E1 is quite new) to be more readily available on auction sites.

In my mind, if my shop can do a deal for £950 – £1,000 and maybe throw in a spare battery or memory card, I’ll get it from them because that extra is worth the peace of mind of a physical shop for returns/problems/servicing as well as the ability to actually play with one before I buy. Plus, I like the people who work there and feel as though shops in high streets are important. If the price is over £1,000 though I’d have to think very hard.

Selling

So how do we fund this money for a new camera? In my case – the only way to fund it is by selling off my gear. We’ve already discussed part exchange and the only benefits to this is the time saved by not having to “list” everything out for an auction site or a forum as well as the pain of postage.

Selling on an auction site

Well it’s popular, that’s for sure! It’s also expensive. If you’re new to selling on auction sites (I’m really just talking about the big one but trying not to endorse it :)) it can be quite daunting. In most cases, the worst that can happen is that your buyer doesn’t like what they bought and they have to return it. I’ve only had that problem once, and we just negotiated a price discount rather than go through the returns policy. It’s unlikely you’ll hit a snag as long as you don’t try to hide any defects in the equipment you’re selling. If you try and sell a lens (for example) that’s got marks or scratches on it, and you don’t mention it, you could be facing a disgruntled seller. Think about it from your point of view – how would you feel to get what you thought was a pristine lens, only to find it dinged and scratched.

There are many schools of thought regarding your strategy when selling. The fear of having something go for 99p that’s worth far more is always a risk, but that’s mitigated by having a “Buy It Now” price, or simply starting your auction at the minimum price you’d accept. 99p auctions get far more watchers though. Lots of people sniffing for a bargain! The best thing to do is check the price of items similar to yours. Let’s work through an example. I am looking to sell my Canon 50D. I have a battery grip and a spare battery which I’m happy to bundle in. I hit search and filter by “Completed Listings” and “Digital Cameras”. Boxed ones are going for £340-£350 and one with a grip (and the kit 18-55 lens) sold for £440 and another with just a grip sold for a surprising £460. At this point, I’m thinking I may get around £400 for mine. My part-ex offer for those of you with a sense of humour was £175!!

The auction site will charge 10% of my final sale price plus I have to pay 3.4% for the payment process that’s not very pal-like 🙁 Out of the £400, I will walk away with £346 if it sells for £400. Of course, I could use a local buy/sell/classified magazine, or even advertise in the post office window. A shopping search on my search engine reveals a lot of camera shops selling second hand 50Ds for anything from £350 to £450, so walking away with £400 might not be beyond the realms of possibility (mine has a grip & a battery!). That means though, on an auction site, I need to get £450 which is unlikely… You can begin to see now that there is a degree of effort involved here. Most of all though, you need to consider the cost of selling on an auction site because when you’re selling high-value items, the cost does mount up and you don’t get to actually see what you sold it for.

All this research is best documented in a spreadsheet of some sort so you can get an idea of the money you’re likely to make.

ScreenShot003The example above shows all my “stuff” listed with the new price, a couple of quotes from second hand dealers who would part exchange with me, and auction site values both before and after fees. This then allows me to determine three different prices. The first is my “offer” price. This is what I start with when advertising locally or on forums. The Accept price is where I say “yes” and if someone comes in with a really lowball offer, the “worst” price is the bare minimum of what I want to get. Anything less than that and I pull the auction, or refuse to sell.

Looking at things in this way gives you a good picture of how much your equipment is worth. It’s also worth remembering that things like flashguns, memory cards, extra batteries, filters (UV as well as specialised ones) can often be used to “sweeten” a deal, or to “throw in” as part of a package. If you’re changing your system completely, you’ll need to be rid of it all anyway.

Selling Elsewhere

Selling locally can be a little more lucrative and safer. If you receive cash for your goods, you know that if the buyer claims “problems!”, you can’t have the money taken off you. It’s not quite as quick though! In the UK, I used Preloved and Loot to place free ads for my stuff and sold quite a few items with these sites. I’m also a member of a photography forum that has it’s own classified section, but they know the eBay prices and will almost certainly hammer a deal out! One thing to beware of when selling through a system like this is people who want to “transfer” the money to you and get you to post to another country. Typically they will use a system such as Paypal which is heavily weighted towards the buyer and if the buyer claims (falsely) that the goods were broken. One example a friend told me of, was a Nikon lens that was sent to eastern Europe. The buyer paid a large amount of money for postage and to “compensate” the seller for having to post abroad. When it was sent however, the buyer claimed the lens was “broken” so the seller asked for the lens to be returned. The buyer then returned an empty box (which was signed for by the unsuspecting seller) and because there was now proof of return, Paypal refunded the money. The seller lost out on the money and the lens in one swoop.

Lastly, if someone is coming to your house to buy some equipment, offer to let them try it out first. That covers you if they get home and start saying it doesn’t work.

Negotiating

Not something that us Brits are that good at, but when setting a sale price for your item, it’s always worth setting the price higher than the price you’re prepared to accept. This allows wiggle room for negotiating. Don’t be afraid to offer to meet halfway on an offer price, and don’t be afraid to simply say “no”. Stay polite though, and you may find people will be willing to up their offer. Once you have an idea of the 2nd hand prices for your gear, you’ll have a much better idea of how silly or serious these offers are.

If you do have any other tips, please feel free to comment below!

Ian.

Comments: 3

  1. Posted by Dave Young 19 Apr 2013 at 4:52 pm Reply

    Excellent post explaining the advantages and disadvantages of selling online. Really enjoyed it, well done!

    • Posted by Ian 19 Apr 2013 at 10:58 pm Reply

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment!

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