Ever wondered how to buy cameras on the cheap? Fear not, here's the Cheapskate guide the buying cameras.
Wait, WAIT! I need to get this off my chest first, with great power comes great responsibility, right? Well as I used to be a huge gear addict, let me tell you straight up, you could be going in for a never ending circle of getting and selling cameras. Before even reading below ask yourself and I mean really ask yourself if you NEED the camera you think you need….. read this article and come back if you still feel you need the camera!
Also, this camera guide is going to get you used cameras. I had camera's from all the manufacturers and from various people, I never had a camera fail on me.
This could be considered the golden rule of camera buying, be patient. A camera you wanted just got brought by someone else, there's always another one that's going to pop up. Sometimes it feels like you can't wait or can't even live without the camera in your hands, but trust me that's just lust talking. If you are patient you can snatch up some very good deals, you just need to let some other deals pass beforehand. Of course if this is an uber rare camera, that's another matter =)
Play the supply and demand game
You can get the best deals in cameras by knowing and playing the supply and demand game. It's half of the battle just knwing which camera to get. Let's take a recent example….The Fuji X200 just got announced….. Guess what camera is going to pop on ebay in the next few months? The X100 line. Since the supply of X100 will be high, the prices will be down because everyone will try to get rid of theirs to fund their next purchase.
If you can't wait for the release of a next camera, see if you can get a previous version of a camera, so instead of going for the Canon G16 for example, you can go for G15, 14, etc. The focus will always be on the latest and greatest, so the previous versions are usually much cheaper.
Besides looking for different versions of cameras, you can look for unpopular cameras, again, everything has to do with supply and demand, and if a camera was never too popular to begin with that means they are not high in value and can be snatched for cheap. For example, cameras like the Canon EOS M, the Ricoh GXRs, and Samsung NX.
The Samsung NX cameras are completely left out of any steam in the mirrorless world yet are extremely good. I did a quick search and I'm looking at a body only NX10 now for $85, crazy! A Canon EOS M can be had for about $150. That's a steal for APSC cameras. The only issue with unpopular cameras is, if you want to get rid of them, the tables will change and you will need to part with them for cheap!
Can you live with that?
You can also try to find a camera that has a fault. I remember how I got my Epson RD1, it used to cost about $1000. I got mine at $480 (if my memory serves right) because it's rangefinder was out of alignment.
I didn't care because I could do it myself and I used hyperfocal distance most of the time and didn't care about the rangefinder! You can find cameras that the battery compartment doesn't close (it's called tape!), some dings on the screen, etc. If you can live with little quirks, some camera are simply steals.
When I was new into photography, I used to be big on actuations (the number of total times shots were made) and since others said so, around 50.000 actuations was the limit. Do your research and make your mind up. I personally don't even ask about this stuff and I have yet to have a camera failure.
Where to buy the cameras
There's multiple places to buy cameras, but ebay usually has the best deals so let's go there and look at the prices. On ebay, search for your camera name. Then click on Buy now & Listing: Lowest first.
Look for the first result you see that offers a camera that works (sometimes the super cheap ones are just broken ones for parts). That is your baseline price, the cheapest you will find it on ebay. What you can do afterwards is to check:
If you find a good deal, great! Get it and done. If not, ebay is probably where you will get your camera. Click on Auctions and then Ending time: Soonest.
You will see prices that are much cheaper than the ones that offer buy it now, but you have to bid on to win, but don't worry there IS a trick to get those pretty much guaranteed. But first you need to know how to look at the listings.
Looking at listings
When you look at listings, you need to look at the feedback, the stars besides the person's name. It really doesn't matter how many they have per se, because some people simply don't use ebay much, but that being said you don't want to buy from a newcomer, that's taking a risk.
I usually look for about 50 stars and 99/100% in terms of feedback, it's usually a sign that the person has some experience and is ok to be dealt with. If they have less then 15 stars then I look into their feedback a bit to see if he or she is trustworthy. Also, the more feedback, the less likely the 100% feedback, because the more you deal with ebay, the more chances you will rub a jerk the wrong way and they will give you bad feedback. But fact is, ebay is on your side as a buyer, I never had a problem as a buyer. As a seller is another ball game, but let's move on.
Look for listings without boxes, people will pay more for cameras in the box, but they are more expensive. It might indicates that the person takes care of his or her camera but on the other hand, the first thing I do is throw away my boxes and I take care of my stuff!
Usually non professional sellers offer no returns and that is acceptable, they just don't want to be bothered with the item anymore, but even if they do, they are bound by their description, so if they said the camera works and it didn't, you can take it to an ebay case, they usually side on the buyers side and you will be refunded.
Also, I tend to deal with people in the US, the further away it is, the longer the wait for the camera to come and sending back the camera in case of issue is a pain because you need to deal with customs, but on the other hand, since those sellers know that, their cameras are priced to sell.
How to Snipe cameras like a pro
Now it's time to actually buy! Say you bid on one camera that was at $50, and you bid $70. And just at the last moment, 5 seconds to be exact, someone put $71 and you lost it. You've been sniped. Fact it, only the last 10 seconds of an ebay listing matter, and the act of snatching an item at the last second is called Sniping……and the best part is you can snipe the items automatically.
(Alternatively you can import your “watch” list”). Put in the maximum price you want to pay for the camera, I recommend the amount you saw for the cheapest “Buy it now” listing for the camera. So if the cheapest you could get the camera was $150 in buy it now, put in $150 for the snipe and the time, I usually put 3-5 seconds. Let's look at the screenshot below on an Android:
That means that when there is only 5 seconds to go on the listing (the screenshot shows that it has 3 days and 1 hour 13 minutes to go), put in a bid of $150 dollars. The thing is, it will not put all of that amount only a little bit extra over the previous bid. Say someone bit on the camera for $100, if you put in $150 it's going to bid $101 because you only need a dollar to outbid the other person.
But because that other person might have had a bigger bid like $120, the system will outbid it for $121 and will do so until it reaches $150. The only way sniping will not work is if the person put in a bid that is bigger than yours, like $180, you will lose because as soon as the listing has 3 seconds to go, it will put up to $150 but that other's person maximum is $180.
Sniping pretty much guarantees you a cheaper camera since not many know how it works, and the worst that can happen is for you to buy the camera at the same price as a buy it now listing.
Get your camera!
Once that is done, just pay and your camera will come!