How and Why You Should Buy Secondhand Cameras…

I am happy to admit that I have not bought a new camera since 2006. I still have those cameras. Two Canon 5Ds that I continue to use for commissioned work. Why wouldn’t I? There great! But my photographic history is filled with other brands. I’ve owned Hasselblads, Nikons, a Pentax 6 x 7, one Olympus OM1, one Ricoh GR, a Lumix Panasonic GF1, Rolli’s, Fujicas, Leicas and one Yashicaflex. All of which I have bought secondhand.

Today, my camera bag only contains those original Canons and one Leica. That’s it. There are three lenses. All prime. I travel light. To use a clothing metaphor it is like having a good pair of jeans, a white shirt, a good classic cut jacket and a pair of well made shoes. A capsule wardrobe that works wherever you are.

I have never had a problem with any of the cameras I’ve bought and all have been sold-on via eBay or a specialist dealer. Maybe I’ve been lucky, I don’t know, but what I am aware of is how many people buy cameras and never use them.

I have been made even more aware of this recently as I have been looking out for a camera for my eleven-year-old daughter. I’ve been looking on Facebook marketplace which is full of good value options in excellent condition. Cameras made over the last ten years or so have all been pretty competent. They do what they claim to do comparatively well and you can easily get one with its box for less than £150. Maybe a Canon, a Samsung, a Fuji or a Lumix Panasonic. You may get lucky and find a highly sought after model but you are more likely to find one you have never heard of.

Despite this the chances are that a review was written by a magazine or website when it was released and that review will be available online. And my experience of finding these reviews has alerted me to some really cheap gems out there.

These are digital cameras which have been replaced by the smartphone in most homes and are now sitting in cupboards collecting dust. Interestingly analogue cameras that are far less useful to most photographers today are being sold at vastly inflated prices with the idea that old must be valuable! Again, I am not talking about the Formula 1 models here but those cheaper models and brands that the serious collector would not be interested in.

I am interested in getting people engaging with photography at all levels without the barrier of cost raising its ugly head and with the cost of new cameras reaching stratospheric heights it seems to me to that buying second hand kit is the obvious solution. It makes sense to re-use, to re-cycle and prevent more plastic in landfill and it makes sense for most photographers at most levels of interest. So, why not take a look at marketplace and see what you can find, you may just be surprised. You may find a Ford Ka rather than a Ferrari but it will still get you where you want to go!

Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.

Scott’s next book Condé Nast Have Left The Building: Six Decades of Vogue House will be published by Orphans Publishing in the Spring of 2024.

© Grant Scott 2023

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