AP readers share experiences of buying used kit
April 3, 2022
We asked you to tell us about your experiences buying used kit, and you responded in droves. Here’s a selection of what you bought, where you bought it from, and why
‘I avoided buying used kit for years,’ admits Liz, ‘but since making my first purchase in 2019 I’ve been making up for lost time. There seems to be a very short delay between a camera being released and models appearing on the second-hand market.’ Liz bought her EOS 90D and a 70-200mm lens from her local branch of LCE but has bought a range of other used kit in private sales from places like Facebook marketplace, including vintage lenses, analogue cameras and her 17-55mm lens.
‘For me, the trick to buying from places like Facebook is knowing where your tolerance price is. If it turns out faulty, at what price would it hurt but you could swallow it? But if you want the reassurance of a guarantee, and technical checks on the kit, then you need to stick to a reputable second-hand retailer. Either way, there is a lot to be said about how great and green going second-hand is.’
When Denise became a victim of NHS austerity cuts she wondered if she could make a living doing the thing she was most passionate about – photography. Short version: she could, and she did, and 11 years later she’s still going strong, shooting everything from weddings and portraits to news and sports, based in the West Midlands.
‘My jobs are very diverse,’ she explains, ‘and I thrive on that. If you shoot the same thing all the time you can go into a kind of auto mode but I love that I’m still being tested, it keeps me on my toes. There’s not many things I could be asked to shoot that I would not be comfortable doing.’
Denise has an extensive collection of kit, most of which she bought used. ‘When I was a newbie all my kit was bought new, I thought that’s the way it had to be,’ she confesses. ‘But then I bought something from MPB and the quality was just so good. You could just see that the person who owned it had hardly used it. I thought why am I buying new when I can get stuff that good second-hand? So I have continued to do that.’
Denise generally buys her camera bodies new – her main cameras are two Canon EOS 5D Mark IVs, with a 5D Mark III as a back-up – but her lenses second-hand. ‘Most of us will upgrade our cameras every three to five years, but lenses will last decades. I know people who are using 20-year-old lenses. So I think I have a bit more confidence in buying a used lens.’
One of her favourite purchases is her Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens. ‘I use it at events, for product photography, for food photography, newborn portraits… so a wide range of things because I cover so many different subjects. But the lens that doesn’t leave my side is my 70-200mm. There is literally not a job that I do that I don’t bring that. It’s the lens I feel most comfortable with. If something’s not going right, I can pick up that lens and suddenly everything is alright again.’
After her first experience with MPB Denise has stuck with them for most of her used purchases. ‘I like that they give you the choice of what quality of used kit you want, with a sliding price scale depending on how new it is. I really like the values of the organisation as well, and I like how diverse their workforce is. That’s something that matters to me, so it makes me happier to want to spend my money with them.’
In addition to her pro lenses Denise bought a Canon EOS M3 from them as a carry-around camera, and recently bought her first drone, a DJI Mavic Zoom, but the kit doesn’t just travel in one direction – when it came to selling a couple of EOS 7Ds she no longer used, she knew exactly where to take them.
Klare is based in West Sussex and enjoys photographing her twin interests of mountain bike racing and wildlife in the South Downs National Park, which is on her doorstep. All of the gear I have is pre-loved,’ says Klare. ‘I’ve bought from various places including privately, CeX and Cash Converters.
I like to reduce my footprint and do my part for the environment by using what’s already been put into production. The price is obviously a draw too, as new kit is often out of my reach. The downside is that it can sometimes be a bit of a gamble but I tend to stick with reputable shops and most places these days are pretty good with describing the condition.
‘The most expensive thing I have bought is my Canon EOS 80D body, which I got from Cash Converters. It was only about two months old and in perfect condition, and I still use it now, years later. I absolutely love this camera – it does me proud for my sports and wildlife photography.’
Philippa worked around the world on private yachts for 25 years and moved back to the UK in 2019. She now lives on a narrowboat exploring the canals and rivers around England and enjoying bird photography. ‘I’ve never (touch wood) had a bad experience buying second-hand,’ she says. ‘I bought my D750 “as new” from a private seller on eBay after spontaneously booking a trip to Lake Kerkini to shoot Dalmatian pelicans and wanting something better than my D90.
I was nervous about buying on eBay but thankfully it was a great deal and a great camera. I then needed a couple of FX lenses to go with it and the staff at LCE Exeter were very helpful in setting me up with the 50mm and 24-120mm.
‘My amazing 70-210mm lens lost autofocus while I was in the Caribbean last month (it’s decades old and has been well used) but still works brilliantly in MF. I found a replacement just this morning on MPB and bagged it for a bargain £64. I’ll have it tomorrow which is phenomenal service.
I got the pelicans in flight shot with this lens (commended in BPOTY 2021). It doesn’t have eye tracking or stabilisation or anything “modern”, but the glass and build quality is amazing and I get great satisfaction from using my skills to get great shots with it. I bought my Lowepro Flipside 400AW backpack from MPB too, and a Lensbaby Velvet 85 – it’s an intriguing lens. MPB is brilliant – I trust the quality and their reputation to sell at a competitive price with a guarantee.
Liz lives in Cheshire and specialises mostly in landscapes and travel photography, which she supplies to stock libraries including Getty Images and Alamy. ‘Most of my cameras and lenses have been bought as second-hand or reconditioned,’ she tells us. ‘I started with a used Canon EOS 400D bought from Park Cameras with a used Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS STM lens from London Camera Exchange (LCE) Derby.
I gave the camera to my son but am still using the lens – it’s a great all-rounder. I then upgraded to a 550D (also from LCE in Derby) which I traded in last year at MPB for my current camera, a Canon EOS 77D. I wanted a better sensor and considered the full-frame EOS 6D but I wouldn’t have been able to still use my EF-S 18-135mm lens.
‘In September 2019 I also bought a refurbished Fujifilm X-E3 kit with the XF 18-55 lens from the Fujifilm Shop. I wanted a lighter weight setup for a walking holiday in Italy. When this arrived it looked just like a brand new camera, apart from the box. I added to this kit in June 2020 with a used Fujifilm XC 50-230mm II OIS lens from MPB so that I could have a greater zoom capability. Although it’s a “cheaper’ XC lens rather than an XF lens I am still very pleased with the results – the only slightly annoying thing is that there is no dedicated aperture ring.
In November last year, I managed to find a vintage Zenit TTL 35mm camera with a Helios 44M lens for £15 in a charity shop. The camera was listed as faulty but I really only wanted the lens. I bought an adapter so I can use it on the Fujifilm body and I am really pleased with the lovely swirly bokeh with this combination.
‘I’ve been really happy with all my used purchases. I have found that LCE, Park Cameras and MPB are all really good retailers to deal with – they describe the condition of their used equipment accurately and the prices are fair, both for buying and selling.’
‘I would say that most of our photography kit over the years has been purchased used, mainly from eBay, and has been for over 15 years now,’ says John, who is based in Stirling, Scotland. ‘The simple reason being that it represents great value for money and it is covered by a good money-back guarantee if and when things go pear-shaped, as they do from time to time.
As well as cameras I have purchased lenses from Zeiss, Sigma and Tamron; Manfrotto tripods and bags, SD cards, backdrops, reflectors, a Canon pro printer, computers, monitors… the list goes on. Both my L.R.P.S and A.R.P.S were awarded with images taken using second-hand equipment.
‘I can honestly say I’ve had very few issues with any, apart from a lens advertised with the wrong mount by mistake.. It was returned and I was given an instant refund.’
‘Over the past ten years or so I’ve bought a lot of used camera equipment, both because of cost and my love of adapting old analogue lenses to modern digital cameras,’ says Scott, who is a firefighter based in Glasgow, and a regular user of the AP Forum.
‘But the best second-hand purchase I ever made was my little Fujifilm X100T. I had been suffering from anxiety and depression after the birth of my first daughter and had lost interest in most things but specifically photography. I didn’t pick up my camera properly for at least a year.
My therapist suggested I force myself to take my camera out, so to make things easier on myself I bought the X100T due to its great image quality but also the fact it was very small and I could fit it in a jacket pocket. It fully rekindled my passion for photography and partly helped with my recovery. Despite having full frame, APS-C Bridge and 35mm cameras all over the house, this is the one camera I wouldn’t be without.’
After a decade working as a commercial photographer Michaela, who is based in Tyneside, now concentrates solely on her portraiture and fine art work using both film and digital kit. ‘I chose the Sony A7R II because it offered the best performance to cost ratio available at the time,’ she says.
‘Paired with high-quality lenses, mainly Sigma Art and Sony G, I’m delighted with its output. I prefer the F4 version of the 70-200mm to the F2.8 simply because of the weight advantage.’ Michaela bought the camera at Wex Photo Video. ‘I find the staff helpful, the used equipment well described, and the turnaround times speedy.
They’ve recently opened a store in Newcastle which has been incredibly useful.’ When it comes to film she favours an Olympus OM-1 that she bought from Ffordes. ‘Ffordes is an old favourite of mine, and it’s always good to deal with a long-established business. The great thing about both Wex and Ffordes is their guarantees, which give you peace of mind when buying second-hand.’
Rachel Mullett is a Pembrokeshire born and based photographer who runs Skomer Island Photography Workshops and a photo gift company. ‘I spend a lot of time on Skomer Island each year photographing the breeding puffins,’ she tells us, ‘and was using a Canon 5D Mark III.
I always try to upgrade my kit when new models come out and I’m not sniffy about second-hand as long as they have been well looked after, have a low shutter count and suit my needs. The Canon 5D Mark IV was on my wish list because it had a better burst rate and tracking for my puffin photography and improved low light capability. It’s proved to be a versatile camera. I bought it second-hand from Carmarthen Cameras who I have always found to be very helpful. My current wish list includes the Canon R5 and RF 100-500 lens – it’s good to have something to work towards!’
As a working pro based in London Ruby’s subjects encompass portraits, fashion and live events but her favourite type of work is product photography. ‘It’s just me and the product, and doesn’t involve anybody else,’ she says. ‘It’s a slower process and you can be more creative.’ Her kit journey began with a Nikon D5000 and she has stayed with Nikon.
She currently uses a D750 but recently added a new mirrorless Z 6 II body to her arsenal. ‘I prefer to buy my bodies new,’ she admits. ‘There’s more to go wrong with a camera and you don’t want drama when you’re shooting an event.’
Ruby’s first foray into mirrorless has been largely positive. ‘I went for the Z 6II over the Z 7II because it’s better in low light and I shoot music photography,’ she explains. ‘I love that it’s so light to carry because I’ve shot so many London Fashion Weeks with DSLRs and the shoulder pain, from carrying it around!
And I love the EVF. When you’re in a fast-paced environment and you’re trying to get the settings right, you can see what’s happening right there and then, rather than click check, click check. It saves a massive amount of time.’
Ruby uses her Z 6II with her F mount Nikkors, via the FTZ adaptor. ‘It works okay but it’s a bit slow. You can really tell now that my lenses are quite old,’ she laughs, acknowledging she needs to upgrade. Her first Z mount lens will be the Z 70-200mm. Ruby’s lens collection started with her 50mm, before adding the 85mm.
‘When I started shooting London Fashion Week I got the 70-200mm, and then I realised I needed a 24-70mm too. Then I added the 105mm Macro for product photography, which I also use for headshots. All of my lenses were bought on eBay except for the 24-70mm, which came from Wex.’
‘I have been lucky enough to have a really good experience on eBay, up to now,’ she says. ‘Everyone that I’ve bought from has been honest. But I’m careful. I always check the seller’s feedback. I have a rule that if a seller has more than six negative feedbacks then I won’t use them. Not just for lenses but with everything. I just can’t be bothered with the drama. It’s such a hassle trying to get your money back, and trying to get proof, and all this battling backwards and forwards. And I make sure that they’re based in the UK.’
Sarah is a dog photographer who bought her entire Canon kit second-hand, and from the same retailer. ‘Buying used makes sense because it enables me to buy a higher spec kit for my budget than I would otherwise,’ she points out. ‘Carmarthen Cameras have incredibly friendly and helpful staff, and they’re also relatively local to me; it’s an added bonus to support independent local businesses. When I plan my next upgrade, I’ll be going back to them, and will more than likely be going second-hand again.’