Great digital cameras for less: Buying a used DSLR
By Jay Dougherty Jan 8, 2007, 2:29 GMT
Washington - Today's hot digital camera is tomorrow's bargain - if you know what to look for.
Digital camera makers have worked feverishly over the past several years to offer more megapixels than the next company, and that has meant new models coming out every six months or so.
That's now good news for those who once eyed the prohibitively expensive digital SLR cameras with envy.
Professional-quality digital cameras such as Nikon's D1X or Canon's original 1D 8 frames-per-second speed demon once sold for over 5 thousand dollars.
Now, those models regularly go for 500 to 800 dollars on the used market.
More recent, smaller cameras such as the Nikon D70 or Canon 20D boast more megapixels and smaller size. These once sold for as much as 2 thousand dollars when new just a couple of years ago. Now, they've available for a quarter of that price.
But does it make sense to buy an older DSLR when the latest models offer more megapixels? The short answer is 'yes.' The longer answer is that savvy digital camera buyers have long known that image quality is about more than megapixels.
Pictures from the Nikon D1X, for instance, have been used in National Geographic for years, and you probably look at images from older DSLR cameras from Canon, Nikon, or Olympus every day in newspapers and magazines.
Performance-wise, a DSLR offers you a great deal over a point-and- shoot digital camera. Most models offer instant-on responsiveness and can take multiple pictures per second.
There's no more waiting after you press the shutter button for the camera actually to snap the picture. Also, because the imaging sensor - the main light-gathering chip - in a digital SLR cameras is larger and more refined than the one you'll find in a point-and-shoot pocket camera, you'll get better image quality.
But how can you venture into the used camera market without getting ripped off? Here's what to look for to help you find a true bargain at a good price.
--- What's the condition?
You really can tell a book by its cover when buying a used DSLR. A camera that's been well cared for be obvious, although you should ignore minor scratches and scuff, as these will appear on most used equipment. Handle the camera if you can. If you're looking at online auctions, make sure the picture you see is of the actual camera being sold. Ask the seller if you're not sure.
Pro-level DSLRs such as the Nikon D1H or D1X and the Canon 1D are built tough to withstand the rigors of frequent professional use, so the camera itself is likely to last many years.
--- How many pictures?
Approximately how many pictures have been taken with the camera? Getting an answer to this question will tell you a lot about how much the camera has been through.
Digital SLR cameras are designed to take anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 pictures before the camera's shutter - the mechanism that moves inside the camera when you snap a picture - may need to be replaced. Replacing the shutter is generally not cost prohibitive - around 200 dollars from a factory-authorised service centre - but the more life you have left on the original shutter, the better.
Owners of Canon 1-series cameras can find out exactly how many pictures a camera has taken by using the CanCount utility, which can be downloaded freely from the Internet (http://www.soens.de/Software_EN.html).
--- Money back?
It's not too difficult to find sellers of used DSLRs who will offer a money-back trial period. Take advantage of this if you can find it. That way, if anything is wrong with the camera, you can return it for a refund.
--- Dead pixels?
It's not terribly uncommon for older DSLR cameras to have one or more dead pixels that show up on photographs. Ask the seller of the camera whether there are any dead pixels. Look for units with none.
--- Buttons, terminals, and flash
Make sure that all buttons work without sticking, and check all terminals and on-camera sockets to be sure that they are not damaged.
--- Serial number?
Prefer cameras that come with original box and paperwork, and get a copy of the original receipt, if possible. Exercise more caution if someone is selling a camera body only, without accompanying paperwork. Get the camera's serial number and check it against a stolen equipment registry, such as the one maintained by Photo.net (http://www.photo.net/neighbor/registry/).
Remember that a DSLR is often sold without a lens, so you'll either need your own compatible lens or you need to look for a camera that's sold with a lens. Lenses are precision optical instruments and come in many focal lengths, which is one reason why DSLR cameras are preferred by photographers who want to get the best possible picture.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur