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What to Look for in a Secondhand DSLR Camera

written by: Sah•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/17/2011

Are you thinking of purchasing a new SLR but you don't have the budget for an expensive one? Well, with secondhand cameras, you will surely find a good bargain! Here are some tips and tricks on buying a used digital camera.

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    Check the lens, focusing, body, LCD panel and batteries

    Having your own DSLR is important if you are serious about going pro. Unfortunately, brand new DSLRs are expensive and may be way out of your budget. Thankfully, there is secondhand equipment you can purchase at a much cheaper price.

    When buying a secondhand DSLR, you would want to make sure that the camera was well treated by its previous owner. This way, you know you’re getting a good buy and the camera will last at least a couple of years before you need to replace it. Keep in mind, however, that a flawless surface is not the only factor you should consider. Here are several things you should look for when choosing a secondhand DSLR.

    The Lens

    the lens mirror and electronic contact points DSLRs today have electronic contact points which carry information from the lens to the camera body. It is important that you check these contacts and make sure that they do not show signs of excessive wear and build-up of dirt. These contacts are usually gold in color and must be free of marks.

    You should also check for your camera’s mirror box and ensure that it is free of dirt and that the mirror is unmarked. While a scratched mirror may not affect image quality, it is a definite sign that the camera has been misused and that there may be other hidden problems that exist.

    To check for problems with the lens that comes with the camera, hold it up to the light and check for marks. Some lens may have fungus (due to incorrect storage) while others may have chips or scratches in the surface. All these can affect the quality of your images and must be avoided at all costs.

    You should also make sure that the mount if the interchangeable lens isn’t badly worn or this can prevent the light from coming in. Needless to say, this can also affect your images.


    If the camera you have in mind has a manual focusing ring, slowly rotate it to test different focus settings. Make sure that there are no points where it sticks. If it does, then chances are it will need to be taken apart, cleaned and reassembled.

    You should also check if the autofocus feature of the camera is working properly. To test, point the camera at different subjects at varying distances, press the camera shutter and see how it will react.


    The camera body is the most important of all components as it determines how good the images you produce are. Most DSLRs have plastic, paint, or leather covered surfaces. If the camera you intend to buy has scuffed surfaces or the covering is coming away from the body, then you had best think twice before buying it. Sometimes, the damage is repairable but you should remember that these surface marks may mean that the camera has not been looked after.


    LCD panels which are scratched do not affect picture quality but it can hugely affect the camera’s resale value. If you are considering of buying a camera that’s 5 or 6 years old, then it is important to check for the status LCD. Make sure that the screen is sharp and that there are no bleeds in the liquid crystal. There should be no light or dark patches on the corners the screen should be evenly illuminated.

    To check for the LCD, set the camera to various modes and see if all parts of the LCD works okay.


    Make sure that the batteries of the camera you intend to buy can be easily removed from the body. Also, it is important to check if there are replacement batteries still being sold. In several cases, manufacture of batteries for older DSLR models have been discontinued. Needless to say, avoid units which have irreplaceable batteries.

    Make sure that all contacts in the battery compartment are in good condition. Avoid units which have green, white or brown deposits on the surface. These are signs that the battery as leaked and may cause damage to the body.

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    Never forget the guarantee!


    shutter blades If your chosen camera has a shutter speed control, test all the settings and make sure that you see a difference between the fast and slow shutter speeds. Some shutters may have a high pitch squeak while others may have the dirty magnets (those that control the shutter).The magnet can be cleaned but it is costly and may damage the camera if it is not cleaned with care.

    On the other hand, if your camera has an automatic shutter, you should try covering the lens or sensor. Listen for the two clicks of the shutter – one to open and the other to close. In darker locations, the shutter will take a long time to close.

    Also, for SLRs, you should open the back panel and ensure that the shutter blades are not sprained or worn.

    Tripod Brush

    Most cameras have a threaded tripod mount. Make sure to check for this too and that the threads are not stripped.


    If the camera you intend to buy has a built in flash, notice how long it takes to recharge. In many cases, those cameras which take five to six seconds to charge could already be at the end of its life.

    If it has a hot shoe flash, then slide in the accessory and fire the shutter and you should be able to determine if the connections are okay. Make sure that the mount is not bent or cracked.

    If the camera has a flash sync socket plug and a flash gun, you should also check if it fires properly. If you don’t intend to use flash, then these might no longer matter to you, if you see a problem in any of the three mentioned above, then you can ask for a reduction on the price of the camera.

    Filter thread

    filter thread If you want to capture great pictures even in conditions where there’s too much light, then you need a filter. Most cameras have a threaded ring in front of the lens where the filter is attached. Make sure that the mount is not dented and the thread is not stripped.


    Even if the camera is five to six years old, you should still ask the seller for a guarantee that allows you to return the product in case you see something wrong with it. Typically, a reputable store offers replacement for defective equipment within 90 days of purchase.

Buying a Used Camera

When you want to buy a DSLR but you don't want to shoulder the expensive cost, you can always get a used camera! Here are several tips on how you can get a good deal on a second hand camera.
  1. What to Look for in a Secondhand DSLR Camera
  2. Top Places to Buy a Used Digital Camera Online