Buying new camera equipment can be thrilling, but also hugely expensive. The latest DSLR bodies, lenses, flashes and other photography gear often launch with eye-watering price tags. It’s enough to give any hobbyist or professional photographer pause. But do you always have to buy brand new kit or is pre-owned gear a smart alternative?
In today’s market, there are good reasons to consider both new and used equipment when building your photography arsenal. New cameras and lenses come with the advantage of cutting-edge features and technology. However, buying refurbished and used items can also be a great choice, especially for budget-conscious purchasers. Cover photo by Markus Spiske.
Pros of New Camera Equipment
While the higher cost can be daunting, new photography equipment does offer key advantages. For those wanting the absolute best and latest tech along with full warranty protection, buying new may be worth the splurge. One of the biggest advantages of buying brand new photography equipment is that you get the absolute latest model with the newest features and technology. For example, if you purchase a newly released camera, it will likely have improved resolution, faster burst shooting modes, better low light ISO performance and other updated specs compared to previous versions. New lenses will also boast the most advanced designs, special coatings, and improved auto-focus.
In addition to cutting-edge tech, new gear comes with the full warranty and support of the manufacturer. Most new bodies and lenses come with at least a 1 year limited warranty covering any defects; some high-end models offer several years of coverage. If any issues do arise, you’re protected and the manufacturer will repair or replace the item under warranty.
Finally, purchasing new equipment gives you total peace of mind knowing the item is completely unused and untouched when it arrives. Unlike with used gear, there’s no need to worry about shutter count, signs of wear and tear, or how it was previously used. Everything is in mint condition straight from factory packaging.
Pros of Used Equipment
The biggest advantage of buying used and refurbished gear is the dramatically lower cost compared to brand new equipment. For example, a 2 year old DSLR body or lens that retailed for $1000 new may be available for $500-600, reflecting significant savings. The more gently used the item, the less depreciation it will have. With the US alone sitting on more than $650 billion worth of unused tech, the market for used devices is vast and an untapped market for not only buying equipment but also selling what you no longer need to fund your next purchase.
Well cared for used equipment still offers excellent quality and performance, especially if purchasing from a reputable retailer who thoroughly tests and inspects items. Used equipment from major brands like Canon, Nikon, and Sony often has plenty of life left if the shutter count and previous usage are reasonable.
For those on a tight budget, looking to maximize savings or just getting started, used and refurbished equipment represents a great value choice. You can kit yourself out with high-end gear for much less than buying new.
Environmentally Sustainable Choices
An important advantage of buying used is that it reduces e-waste. When properly maintained, a DSLR or lens can have a useful life of many years, even decades. By purchasing pre-owned items instead of insisting on brand new ones, you help keep equipment in circulation and out of landfills.
There are also significant raw material and resource savings by acquiring used rather than new gear. The manufacturing process to build cameras, lenses, and other photography equipment from scratch requires metals, plastics, glass and other natural resources. Buying a used item saves all those brand new materials from being exploited and processed.
At a time when sustainability and conserving precious resources is more crucial than ever, the re-use value and reduced environmental impact of buying used photography equipment is an advantage not to overlook. While both new and used gear have merits, purchasing pre-owned items aligns well with eco-friendly values many photographers today consciously want to reflect. By giving a high-quality used camera or lens a second life rather than retiring it after one owner, you keep costs down while also making a planet-friendly choice.
What to Look Out For When Buying Used
Since you don’t have the full warranty protections and assurances of buying new, it’s important to thoroughly inspect and test any used photography gear before purchasing. Here are some key things to look out for:
- Fully test the equipment, don’t just take the seller’s word that it works. Check autofocus speeds, image quality, metering, and all controls. Make sure lenses have no fungus or haze.
- Closely inspect for any physical damage. Are there any dents, scratches or other signs of drops or impacts?
- Ask the seller about shutter count. This gives you a sense of the camera’s lifetime usage; you want to look for low counts.
- Inquire about the item’s history; was it lightly used or shot heavily? Any repairs or services?
- Review the warranty. Used gear often comes with shorter 6 or 12 month warranties so it’s important to understand the coverage you’ll receive with the item.
- Examine at multiple focal lengths. Zoom lenses should function well throughout the range.
- Check for dust by examining the sensor and viewfinder for any worrisome particles.
Take your time evaluating used gear and be wary of any issues. Buying from a reputable seller can provide more confidence. With some smart precautions, you can find quality used equipment.
When it comes to building your photography kit, both new and used equipment have their merits. As we’ve covered, brand new cameras and lenses offer cutting-edge features and full warranty protection. However, buying used and refurbished gear can also be a very smart choice, especially for those on a tight budget. Pre-owned items from reputable sellers still provide excellent quality at dramatically lower prices. With some diligent inspection and testing, you can find used equipment in great condition that serves you well for years.