This is not a rant, neither is it a complete “1o1″ about buying second hand DSLRs. Please do your own research. This is just what this photographer think about buying second hand DSLRs.

You know, every few years, the camera makers will come up with something that looks pretty much the same but with some enhanced or upgraded features. We, the “full time” photographers will be sucked into buying these new toys. So what happens to the old toys? We keep some, we sell some.


Some things you need to know about full time photographers (the tan jiak type ok, means… if camera break, ricebowl break).
  • we shoot plenty. yah i know, one shot one kill… we kill alot, but we usually under report the casualties, just like everyone else.
  • depending what we shoot, chances are, our camera go through alot. That said, I mentioned before, if camera break, ricebowl break, so you can be very sure that we take our cameras to the limits, but never over the limit. We use them, but don’t abuse them. The fact is, we handle them day in day out and we know what kind of shit the camera can take and what they can’t. Aesthetics… nobody gives a damn. It’s not like a beautiful camera makes you beautiful.
  • we send our cameras for servicing, calibration, etc regularly so that they can perform when we need them.


Some things you need to know about cameras (specifically DSLRs),
  • their bodies are generally made with pretty tough materials that can handle a fair bit of knocks and scratches without damaging what’s in it. Isn’t that what the body is for? To protect the innards.
  • the shutter has a lifespan. Usually it differs from camera to camera. The numbers given by the manufacturer is an indicative one, which I think is quite conservative (in the hundred thousands).
  • the sensor has a lifespan too, but it’s not well documented (I think) because they generally outlive their owner’s interest.
  • scratches on the LCD is NOT going to affect how your picture is going to turn out or affect your ability to take good pictures. So does scratches on lens hood (yes, this post is for you! if you are reading it).


Some things you need to know about buying a second hand DSLR (the ones that everyone tells you),
  • Shutter count: Excessive shutter count means the camera is well used. Some people think well used means abused (duh).
  • Age: older camera means it’s been around for awhile, which means you might have problems getting part replacement (but we are talking about a long time). Some people think old (one generation difference) means dying soon (duh).
  • Physical condition: If it looks scratchless, it must be good. Never judge a book by it’s cover.
  • Comes with box and warranty card: Must have box and warranty card (even if it’s already expired). For god knows what reason… I don’t know anyone who shoots in the box. Some people are just weird like that.


Some things you need to know about buying a second hand DSLR (the ones that you probably don’t know!),
  • Shutter count: since the introduction of video function in DSLRs, buying second hand DSLRs becomes a little more challenging. Now, shutter count only tells you part of the story about the working life of the DSLR. When you use the video function, the shutter opens, exposing the sensor to light while you get your “live view” even though you might not be recording. This means the sensor is continuously exposed to light, which means the sensor is “working”. Remember, the sensor, like the shutter, has a lifespan too. Here’s a very simplistic calculation, let’s say, if you shoot a video at 30 frames per second (typical) for 10mins. That’s like 600 seconds x 30 frames = 18000 (!) equivalent shots on the camera sensor (taking it at typically 1/50s). You can have a camera with 2000 shutter counts with a sensor exposed for hundreds of hours or one with 100000 shutter count with a sensor exposed for  a few 10s of hours. An aging sensor can cause strange color tints on pictures taken.
  • Cost of replacing parts: The shutter can be easily replaced by the manufacturer (at least for Canon). A shutter replacement for a 5Dmk2 is about 200+. The entire outer body of the camera can be replaced for about 300 bucks. The LCD, less than 50 dollars. However, a sensor cost close to 1k (that was what I was told but you might want to check it out yourself).
  • Physical beauty can be misleading: Some photographers like to ‘gaffer tape’ their cameras after they buy it for various reasons. What it means is they’ll put on some protective tape over the entire body, leaving just the essential buttons, dials, LCD and other parts that cannot be covered. So even if the cameras gets knocked around, it will not leave any scratches. But that doesn’t mean that the camera hasn’t dropped, knocked around, etc.
  • Age vs usage: A 3 year old camera with 2000 shutter clicks from a full time user? I would suggest you find out why.


Some things  you might want to ask yourself before buying a second hand DSLR,
  • what are you going to use it for? Is it necessary to have a mint looking camera or a working one. If you are going to show it off to your friends at parties, then get something that’s mint in condition. Then again, a battered up one can be a conversation starter.
  • how much are you going to shoot with it? Alot of people are concerned about shutter count. Seriously, ask yourself how much do you shoot a month? 5000? 10000? Unless you use it for work, it’s uncommon for people shoot beyond a couple of hundreds a month (carrying that thing out is already quite a chore). The shutter will probably outlive your interest. Even if you are a heavy user, replacement is rather affordable if it fails.
  • how long more do you think you’ll buy another? 2 years? 3 years? Your depreciation is pretty low considering the 1st owner already absorbed most of it.
  • who is the owner? Is he truthful about the history of the camera.


Remember, If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. Btw, for those not techincally inclined, the shutter is NOT the shutter release button! Shutter is the curtain that opens and close to allow light to the sensor.

So here’s the ad ;D I have a 3 year old battered up 5Dmk2 for sale! Used, not abused! I have 2 that you can choose from because I’m keeping one for my work. Both are working very well since I’m still using them for work. For more details, email me at