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Getting the best price for used cameras and lenses

We are living through a second-hand boom at the moment, fuelled by several factors, including economic ones in this difficult year. There are people trading in their current model in order to get the next camera up, and there are always plenty of sellers out there keen to snaffle a bargain – particularly as many five- or six-year-old cameras are still very usable today. Lenses hold their value too. 

While you can try to sell your gear yourself on eBay or Gumtree, quibbling buyers and the constant threat of scammers can make it worrisome. Regular readers will recall the story we ran last year of the hapless teenager whose camera got stuck in limbo when he realised he’d been the victim of scammers on Gumtree. As he’d already handed the parcel to the Post Office, it refused to give it back (the matter never got resolved but fortunately MPB stepped in and helped him out with a replacement). This is just one example.

Meanwhile eBay offers solid financial protection via PayPal, but this won’t protect you from cynical buyers who try and get a few more quid off by claiming the gear isn’t as pristine as described, and then leave you a sour review as a parting shot. And, of course, most private sellers don’t offer a trade-in service. 

If you decide to sell your gear to a retailer what can you do to ensure you get the best price for a straight sale or trade in? Much is common sense – as Wex Photo Video’s Maz Caudle notes, ‘we have fully trained inspectors who look very carefully for anything that might put the next buyer off,’ so that is how you need to be thinking. Read on for more practical advice from a wide range of used specialists. 

MPB
0330 808 3271

What kind of used gear is really in demand at the moment?
Canon remains top of the pile but we’re seeing an increase in Sony and Fujifilm users over the last 12 months. Recently with many people restricted over the lockdown, we have seen a spike in macro equipment, but the bestselling camera and lens combination remains the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 24-105mm f/4 L lens – a classic combo to suit a range of scenarios.

What are the biggest issues and problems you see that reduce the potential value of sent-in kit?
Some repeat reasons we see for potential adjustments are high shutter counts not taken into account, dead batteries, scratches to glass on lenses and misquoted models – for example customers misquoting their Canon 50mm f/1.8 II as the Mark I.

Are there any real deal-breakers, e.g. fungus inside the camera body or lens? How would a seller go about checking for this before trying to sell their gear to MPB?
If you’ve got fungus, unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done if it is serious. The best advice is to be careful with storage, don’t leave your gear in a damp corner of your house. Also if it’s sitting on a shelf and you’re not using it just move it on as it will generally depreciate or attract the dreaded fungus.

Will having the original boxes/packaging and body caps or lens caps help push up the price you offer for used gear?
A lack of caps and boxes won’t typically affect the price we offer, unless they are very specific telephoto/fisheye/cine lenses. We do value the important accessories such as tripod collars, carry cases, lens hoods, and these are reflected in the prices on our site, and quotes.

How much of a problem are scratches and the occasional minor dent on camera bodies or lens bodies?
Scratches to paintwork won’t meet our ‘Like New’ rating, but can still fall within our Excellent/Good condition grades, and it’s the same with minor dents. Larger dents can indicate a significant impact and so are more likely to be downgraded. Do make sure to look after your lens as significant marks will be unattractive to other buyers – a cheap filter is a good way to protect your lens. It is however, worth pointing out that we will buy across all conditions. We will still happily buy a very well-used sports lens, but we just ensure it is graded correctly so the buyer knows what they are getting.

Should sellers get their camera sensors cleaned or lenses calibrated before sending on to you, in order to get the best price?
Our product specialists can take care of cleaning sensors but do take great care of your camera’s sensor as any irremovable marks will have a significant impact on the quote. As many lenses are calibrated, or fine-tuned, to a specific camera, it doesn’t have much of an impact with us. You’d be better off spending the money getting any ‘new’ used lens you buy calibrated to your existing kit.

What is the most valuable camera body or lens you have ever been sent?
We’ve recently had a couple of the mighty Arri Alexa Large Format camera bodies but the cream of the crop has to be the Canon EF 1200mm lens. Fewer than 100 of these were ever made and our team went all the way to Korea to pick it up!

Any other tips?
Safely storing your gear is key. As mentioned before, simple things like protective filters, such as UV or polariser, and quality bags help to maintain the value of your gear. One hot tip is to put silica gels with your stored equipment – they will suck up any moisture before getting to your lens.

Park Cameras
01444 237070

What’s been changing as a result of the virus and how is it affecting customers?
As well as offering great prices, we have speeded up and improved the collection and delivery process because of the developments this year. We used to offer free collection for any used gear over £1,000 but it’s now anything over £350 and we may reduce this even further. Of course, people are very welcome to come into our stores, all that’s changed is how we interact with customers. So store staff always have a fresh pair of gloves, there is lots of anti-bacterial products around and so on. We would recommend that people clean their gear before bringing it in too, just to make the experience a bit more comfortable for everyone. We keep used gear for 72 hours before putting it on sale, as an extra precaution.

What kind of used gear is selling well at the moment when you buy it in?
There aren’t many close-up and macro lenses on the market so when they do come in, they tend to go out the door quickly. The demand for Sony E mount bodies and lenses has also been insane and again, both new and used gear tends to go out the door quickly. So because we need a steady turnover of these items coming in, we offer good prices. A lot of it comes down to what is popular at the moment. With the Canon EOS R5 or R6 out, now is a perfect time to get a great price for used EF lenses. We’re also seeing a lot of people with EOS Rs, 5D Mark IV and Mark IIIs contacting us trying to get the best price in order to upgrade to the EOS R5 – so move fast!

Have you seen a lot of Olympus owners trying to sell or trade in their gear following the recent news that its imaging division is being sold off?
A few owners have raised concerns but Olympus has launched new products since the recent news. There are still lots of reasons to buy Olympus.

Why shouldn’t sellers just go on eBay or Gumtree?
We take away all the hassle with fair pricing, a rapid service and trade-in available for newer models, sometimes with trade-in bonuses. Our customers can get the quote from our website, have the goods collected free of charge and we aim to have it all turned around in 72 hours. We won’t reduce the quote if the gear is as described and once the goods are with us, there is no obligation. We will send them back free of charge.
Exclusive reader offer: get an extra 5% on your trade-in by quoting AP-PARK-USED

CameraWorld
01438 878014

What kind of used gear is really in demand at the moment?
Quality full-frame digital gear and also 35mm and roll film cameras. We buy and sell a huge variety and used items are in high demand. Customers know that when they buy a camera from us it’s properly cleaned, checked and if needed, serviced and of course we offer a free six-month guarantee.

How can people avoid disappointment if you get back to them with a lower quote than expected?
We really try to explain that a realistic description of the item’s condition is most important when requesting quotes. We often get items described ‘as new’ when they have actually been heavily used. Sending some close-up images of products really helps us to overcome this issue. Fungus is a big issue, especially with older gear that hasn’t been used for a while. People think it’s caused by damp, but it’s mostly from lack of air circulation/lack of use that causes it. Shining a torch through the optics can clearly show if there is a problem or not. Some lenses can be cleaned, but it’s an expensive job. Scratches and minor dents can also put buyers off, as it gives the impression that the gear has not been cherished. It can reduce the value in some cases by over half, even if the item is fully functional.

What is your policy on boxes and lens caps?
Buyers often prefer if the box and all supplied accessories are included. It does add some value, especially on older collectable equipment such as 1970s film cameras and Leicas. Any other tips for getting the best price for your used gear? People wishing to sell their gear should treat it like a treasured heirloom. You never expect to buy a second-hand car that’s dirty and full of empty cigarette boxes, so why not clean your camera first? First impressions count and we often get sent cameras and lenses that are really dirty and uncared for and they often get rejected immediately. It’s also really important to pack the item really well. Get a decent box and some good filler (rolled-up newspaper is a good idea) and pack the item carefully in case of rough handling by couriers. Make sure you include your full contact details on a note inside the box as sometimes we get random cameras appear and have to wait for the sender to make contact. We will also endeavour to beat any price offered from other dealers listed in this feature. Send us copies of their quotes and we will try to beat them!

Can you share the most valuable camera body or lens you have ever been sent?
We had someone send through a 1936 Luftwaffe Leica one time and it sold for around £20,000. I wish I had kept it as it was complete with the military papers and was in outstanding condition… I could have retired early! (Jason Mitchell, Managing Director).

London Camera Exchange
0207 379 0200

You have been around a long time – what can readers do to get the best price for their used gear?
Our message is that a second-hand camera or lens is an individual item, so it will always have some value, especially if you trade in. Our quotes are based on experience – some of our store managers have been doing this for over 40 years, so we don’t base the quotes on lots of fancy formulae. We are a people business, dealing with potential sellers as people, and we seldom turn used gear away. This is still the case if people use our online portal. We also don’t discriminate between the latest digital camera or a vintage film camera, and we will take in analogue cameras. If the equipment needs repair, we have a good idea of the likely cost and will adjust the price accordingly.

What are your biggest tips for trading in?
Trade in as soon as possible after the announcement of a new model, as the value of your camera will diminish as more and more older models also get traded in. As you can imagine, there are a lot of Fujifilm X-T2 and X-T3 owners who are now looking to get their hands on the X-T4. Indeed, some people go on rumour sites and take a punt on a new model coming out, so they trade in before it is offically released and put down a deposit. This is not without risk, but it’s not a bad tactic.

What about boxes and packaging?
If it’s a collectors item, untouched, in a box, it may have an impact on value, but if we are just talking about a camera with a decent shutter count, it won’t make much of a difference, box or no box.

What trends have you noticed in the used market recently?
Film cameras have definitely had a resurgence, and we have done a lot of business with second-hand macro lenses too. Most lenses hold their value. We sell a whole range of lenses from cheaper manual glass, which people can use on much newer bodies with adapters, through to the latest super-telephoto with image stabilisation. Older digital cameras, based on older electronics, are coming down in value.

Grays of Westminster
020 7828 4925

As a specialist in rare Nikon equipment, does this mean you are not interested in newer cameras and lenses from Nikon owners seeking to upgrade?
Not at all, if you look on our website you can see that we pay very good cash prices for the full range of Nikon equipment: DSLRs, AF and DX lenses, 35mm SLR film cameras, 35mm rangefinder cameras, Nikon manual focus lenses, speedlights, Nikon F equipment and so on. We also seek Nikon instruction manuals and early advertising material. One big difference between us and many other retailers is that we cater for collectors, and have done so since our inception in 1985. We often locate the rare and unusual for a client and the item is never shown in the shop as it is delivered to the buyer or the buyer’s agent. We are lucky to have some very affluent customers, all over the world.

What is your policy on original boxes and packaging, being a Nikon-only dealer with a lot of older, rarer models passing through your store?
We will pay more for cameras and lenses with the original box, packaging, instructions and receipt/warranty. It shows buyers that the original owner has really taken care of everything; if buyers have a choice of a camera or lens with the box and original literature, and one without, they will usually go for the former. For us, it’s all about attention to detail, which informs everything we do in this business.

So does that mean you turn down used Nikon gear that isn’t up to your required standard?
Yes. If you see our grading description, the lowest we will accept is VG (very good). This is defined as ‘may be slightly scratched, scuffed or worn, but in good mechanical order with clean optics’. When applied to lenses it means that the optics are in perfect condition. What we are describing is the cosmetic condition of the lens barrel. When it applies to cameras, motor drives, speedlights etc, the understanding is that the item is in perfect working order and the description would mean the exterior appearance. In other words we are judging cosmetic appearance, so this is very important to us. We give a full one-year warranty on all our second-hand equipment, so it needs to meet our standards.

Where does the future of Nikon second-hand equipment stand now that full-frame mirrorless cameras play such an important role in the line up?
I’m sure the market will continue to thrive, as many photographers won’t want to give up their DSLRs. Resolution is a factor too, as there are many who won’t want the extra file sizes for the type of work they are doing. Thanks to the inclusion of an adapter for Nikon SLR lenses, there will still be many photographers who want to invest in SLR glass, particularly as these can then be used on DSLRs and newer mirrorless systems.

Camtech
01954 251 715

You only sell used gear, so what are the biggest issues facing you at the moment when seeking quality second-hand stock?
As we carefully vet the gear being sent to us, our biggest problem is finding enough stock, as a lot of people try and get a bit more on eBay. There are good protections for buyers via PayPal, but it is more fraught if you are selling on there – the biggest problem is people arguing about the condition of the camera when they receive it. Selling to us, you won’t get such problems. You won’t get ripped off and will be offered a fair price. We urgently need second-hand stock so we tend to offer the best prices. But to recap, we tend to turn away heavily or professionally used equipment. We have a reputation for buying and selling nice gear and that is our niche.

Tell us more about your testing and vetting process?
We have been in the trade a long time and we only to tend to buy boxed stock that is close to mint – we like instructions too. We run a very thorough quality check. You do get mould, fungus and fogging, particularly with older manual lenses. We will always ensure that these issues are sorted out prior to our offering an item for sale.

What used gear is in demand at the moment?
All mechanical cameras, Nikon in particular, Hasselblad, Contax… Not so much Canon. Older manual lenses have found favour again, as you can often run them on newer cameras with adapters, and the quality is often very good. Older Olympus film cameras, such as the earlier OM1s and 2s, 3s, and 4s, are also very desirable as there is such an interest in film again. Leica has gone through the roof. The brand has become very successful since it started bringing out some very reliable digital cameras, and the Leica M2 and M3 have soared in price.

You also offer a commission scheme for selling used gear, right?
Yes, with this scheme we sell a customer’s used equipment for them on a commission basis; this means that the customer will get a higher price for their equipment, and for the customer is a preferable alternative to a straight sale or part exchange. It also takes all the hassle out of selling your gear. We have been offering this service for over seven years, and have successfully sold many thousands of items on behalf of our customers… we’re happy to take just one item or a whole collection, payment is made as soon as each individual item is sold. Every item taken for sale on a commission basis is given a thorough health check, cleaned, and prepared for sale. The equipment is sold on our website, and in our advert in AP every week. For the more collectable or unusual items we regularly attend camera collector fairs such as Photographica in London and this has proven to be very successful over the past years, though it’s not been on this year because of the virus.

Ffordes
01463 783 850

What are your tips for getting the best price for used gear?
We get a lot of emails from customers and it can sometimes be difficult working out exactly what equipment they have as sometimes there are different versions and ages of equipment, especially with some brands such as Leica. Saying you have a Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M fitting lens does not tell us the full story as there is the original chrome version and several black-finish lenses, and all are worth different amounts. The price will also be dependent on the cosmetic appearance of the lens and also what it includes… does it have front and rear caps, does it have a lens hood, a lens case and is it boxed? So the more information we have the better, and the more accurately we can price individual items. As far as getting the best price for your equipment is concerned, you will always get the maximum return on equipment if we were to sell it on a commission basis, as there is less VAT payable. You usually have to wait until the item sells to get paid for it, however.

What kind of used gear is selling well?
The used-camera market continually changes and we have noticed that since the pandemic, there is more demand for film cameras and related equipment – not just 35mm SLR cameras but also film compact cameras and medium-format cameras as well. A lot of our staff have been in the industry for many years and they have experience in both film equipment and digital equipment (and we also have customers who are very knowledgeable). This wealth of knowledge and experience is important in being able to not only value customers’ equipment, but also checking it fully and knowing exactly what is being sold to potential buyers.

Do you give a higher price if the original boxes and packaging are also provided?
Boxes supplied with used equipment always give a better impression of the equipment from a buyer’s point of view. But it depends on what the item is as to whether it makes any difference to our final quotation. The more modern the equipment, the less likely that a box will affect the value; the older and rarer the items then the more likely the box will make not only a better impression on the buyer to convey that the condition of the equipment is cosmetically good but also that it has been cared for by its previous owner. To give you one example, a Leica M3 body with a box will command a higher retail price than one in the same condition without a box. Generally it’s a good idea to keep all the packaging you got with your gear.

Clifton Cameras
01453 548 128

We’ve asked other dealers the question, but why should readers come to you when they can easily flog a camera body or lens on eBay or Gumtree?
Trading in, or part-exchanging, your kit is an ideal way to upgrade or change items in your kit bag and means a hassle-free and quicker way than selling privately. We have an experienced team who are able to supply a no-obligation quote via our online form found on our part-exchange information page or a link on each of the product pages. The more information you can supply on your item/s the more accurate guide price we can give. To help keep the process nice and simple, we offer a free collection service from a UK home or work address.

How do you grade used equipment?
Condition is the key part of the assessment when valuing used items. This is graded from Mint (like new, minimal signs of use) down to Heavy Use (extensive wear but working). We generally take in Mint to Good condition items as this is what we find buyers are looking for. We define Mint as ‘like new with very minimal signs of use. Boxed with all standard accessories’. For cameras, we expect a clean sensor and up to 30k actuations for Pro bodies and non-pro up to 10k. For lenses, the mount may show minimal use signs of use but no deep marks. We want clean optics with no dust or scratches. We have noticed over the past few years that shutter actuations has become a key bit of information for people interested in pre-owned items. We have detailed information on all the condition grades on our website.

What advice do you have for people who want keep their gear in the best possible condition, so they can get the best possible price for it when trying to sell it on?
Our advice for keeping your equipment in good condition is to be aware of the item’s limitations regarding weather resistance and sealing. Using the equipment near seawater can create a residue on any rubber material; sand/dust can cause scratches on screens/optics and get into cameras and lens elements; and cold temperatures can create external and internal fogging. All of these potential issues can be reduced by regular cleaning and using protective covers/filters etc. A cheap UV filter is a great way to protect a lens, for example. Before having the goods collected it is always good to make sure the equipment is clean, settings reset and packaged securely. One setting on cameras that is good to reset is the lens-focusing adjustment options, as this may cause apparent focusing issues during testing.

Source
Amateur Photographer

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