Buying Used Gear That Isn’t Really Used

Refurbished cameras are inspected by the manufacturer and usually carry a 90-day warranty. The savings can be significant over an unopened item.
Refurbished cameras are inspected by the manufacturer and usually carry a 90-day warranty. The savings can be significant over an unopened item.

Digital photography is an expensive hobby, and we all want to find a good deal when buying gear. Now that the Internet makes comparison shopping easy, it’s hard to find deals and specials beyond what’s already out there.

The other approach to buying camera equipment has been to utilize the used market. The trade-off for getting a cheaper price on pre-owned equipment has always been the risk of not having a warranty should that gear malfunction. When you consider that modern DSLRs and lenses are more computers than machines, it’s no wonder why we can be hesitant to purchased used gear. If you’re going to purchase used equipment, you want to avoid scams and know you’re getting what is advertised. As the saying goes, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. I generally try to avoid the auction sites and Internet sales forums for that reason alone.

However, there are some legitimate deals to be had on used equipment that isn’t really used at all! The two great deals that you can sometimes come across are “open box” items and factory refurbished items. With both of these options, you’re getting gear that is either unused (open box) or equipment that has been certified to full working condition by the manufacturer. You’re also likely to get a warranty. Most open box items carry the full manufacturer’s warranty, while refurbished items will usually carry a 90-day warranty from the manufacturer, with the option to purchase extended coverage from the retailer.

landscape-guide-360pxRecently, I’ve purchased open-box items from B&H and saved significantly compared to new, unopened items. These items were essentially new; I couldn’t tell if they’d been handled at all, and they had a full manufacturer’s warranty. from Nikon.

In some ways, a refurbished item might be better than new; after all, it’s had to go through testing and certification by the manufacturer to qualify as refurbished. As of this writing, a refurbished Nikon D810 lists for $2449 at B&H. That’s a huge savings for a camera of that caliber!

If you’re still looking for used gear, keep in mind that you’ll pay slightly more at the major retailers than you would via a private sale. However, many times these retailers will offer a no-hassle trial period during which you can return the item if you aren’t satisfied. I’ve purchased lenses from KEH and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised on just how stringent their grading scale is. You may also be able to purchase a service warranty on the used item when you purchase from a retailer. When it comes to private sales, I’ve had very positive experiences with the sales forum (requires a silver membership level).

2 thoughts on “Buying Used Gear That Isn’t Really Used”

  1. An excellent suggestion regarding refurbished equipment Jason. I shoot with Canon. At my son’s suggestion, I bought a refurbished (a first for me) 5D Mark III full frame body directly from Canon’s site at a significant discount. It looked like new when it arrived, and it has performed perfectly for the past 18 months. Canon provided a 1 year warranty. Refurbished is an excellent alternative to seriously consider vs. expensive, new equipment.

  2. I ordered a D850 from Nikon that was listed as “Open Box.” Prior to placing the order, I had a chat session with them specifically asking about the camera that was listed. I asked if it included all accessories, etc. and specifically asked if it was a US model. I was assured it came with everything and that it was indeed a US model. What I received had no manuals or other paperwork and was NOT a US model; they even covered up the sticker that gave that little tidbit away. During a follow up chat arranging for me to send this back and get my money refunded the chat rep called sales and was told that ALL Open Box cameras sold by B&H are gray market. So beware……they are FAR from transparent on stuff like this……keep your thumb hooked over your wallet…….and maybe try Adorama.

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