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07-14-2009, 09:43 AM   #1
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What to look(out) for in a used dSLR?

When buying a used dSLR, what are the things you should look out for other than the specs of the model? Is anyone aware of a checklist or similar somewhere?

My immediate thoughts would be (in no particular order):
  • Shutter count
  • Scratches, dents, dings (could indicate camera being dropped)
  • Original box, cables software etc (if someone keeps those it could mean that they have taken better care of the camera?)
  • Does internal flash work?
  • Test shots to make sure camera works in general
  • Make sure all buttons etc. work
  • Are all covers, lids, plugs etc. still on camera?
  • Any warranty left?
  • If rechargeable battery, how much life left? How long does charge last?

Any other recommendations?

07-14-2009, 10:16 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by emilf Quote
When buying a used dSLR, what are the things you should look out for other than the specs of the model? Is anyone aware of a checklist or similar somewhere?

My immediate thoughts would be (in no particular order):
  • Shutter count
  • Scratches, dents, dings (could indicate camera being dropped)
  • Original box, cables software etc (if someone keeps those it could mean that they have taken better care of the camera?)
  • Does internal flash work?
  • Test shots to make sure camera works in general
  • Make sure all buttons etc. work
  • Are all covers, lids, plugs etc. still on camera?
  • Any warranty left?
  • If rechargeable battery, how much life left? How long does charge last?

Any other recommendations?
- Evidence of tampering. Look for prying marks on all the seams. Look for wear (scratches) on the screws.

- Not having the original box is not necessarily an indication of anything. Normally, I do keep all my original boxes, however, sometimes I simply don't have the space... or I move... or... many other reasons. I do have the original box for my K20D BUT the camera recently acquired scratches in the area of the battery compartment.

Dang, the camera was rubbing against my tripod. I don't like plastic bodies! This never would have happened with a Magnesium Alloy body (like my MZ-S cameras!).

Anyhow, scratches don't mean a whole lot either. My opinion that one should take everything into account....

- Seller's attitude. This is a big indication of a whole lot of things. Buy only from sellers who seem genuinely friendly, appear to have a passion for photography, know the equipment they are selling.

- Be wary that the shutter count in a EXIF can be changed by an unscrupulous seller. Better to check it yourself! I should point out that such a incident will be exceedingly rare.

- Lenses - check for all sorts of problems. Dust inside lens, lens fungus, AF motor problems (listen), check for tampering (scratches on the retaining rings from a spanner wrench).
07-14-2009, 12:41 PM   #3
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aside from the very good advise already posted is to look at a set of photos run at every shutter speed (or a good sample) from about 1/60 all the way to the top end.

check for fully exposed frames, and uniform exposure. dark on one edge and lightr on the other indicates non uniform opening and closing curtain speeds, part of the frame missing as shutter speeds increase indicate delay in one curtain moving.

the only reason I mention this is I just had the shutter fail on my K10D after 2 1/2 years, (owned since new, hence no "issue" with seller) and it exposed fine below 1/500 but above that, the top of the image cut off, about 50% at 1/1000, 25% at 1/750th and virtually all black at 1/2000 (about 5% at bottom showing)

a shutter replacement is expensive, relitively so be careful to check it is functioning.
07-14-2009, 04:04 PM   #4
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This would all be true if you can check it personally or first hand but if it is an internet item then, photos are all you can look at and just ask for additional photos and photos taken from the camera itself recently so you can check out its exif data.
Shutter count is the usual one to check but as it is a mechanical item, we actually wouldn't know when it will break down, it's just the lower the count, the better..as some would mention that their shutter counts go above the 100,000 mark and some would just not even go above 20,000.

07-14-2009, 04:45 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by GerryL Quote
This would all be true if you can check it personally or first hand but if it is an internet item then, photos are all you can look at and just ask for additional photos and photos taken from the camera itself recently so you can check out its exif data.
quite true, but if you can get a couple of sample images, and then when you get the camera things don't quite jive you have a legitimate reason to return it after all it is not doing what the seller stated it did, or has many more exposures than stated hence deliberate misrepresentation
07-14-2009, 04:50 PM   #6
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Why check for shutter count? Does something inside the camera burn out overtime from usage or something? I have taken about a thousand shots with my K-M/K2000 and it still works like brand new. I don't understand how shutter count could be a problem as long as the user takes great care of the camera.
07-14-2009, 04:56 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by LeDave Quote
Why check for shutter count? Does something inside the camera burn out overtime from usage or something? I have taken about a thousand shots with my K-M/K2000 and it still works like brand new. I don't understand how shutter count could be a problem as long as the user takes great care of the camera.
There may be too much emphasis on shutter count. It's going to be quite rare to encounter a digital camera with a shutter count near or exceeding its MTBF.

However, the importance of shutter count is in confirming the sellers story about how much he/she used the camera. For example, ad that states, "hardly used K20D for sale"... but you find it has a shutter count of 25000.... Well, then I would immediately question the seller's integrity!
07-15-2009, 09:55 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by LeDave Quote
Why check for shutter count? Does something inside the camera burn out overtime from usage or something? I have taken about a thousand shots with my K-M/K2000 and it still works like brand new. I don't understand how shutter count could be a problem as long as the user takes great care of the camera.
Pentax DSLR shutters are rated to 100,000 shutter counts.
You have to replace it after it fails but that is what it is rated for or the shutter's life span.
Some shutters fail at different counts, so a smaller shutter count would also at least give you some sort of a less used camera and a longer lifespan for the shutter.

07-15-2009, 04:35 PM   #9
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I would add a check of front/back focus in manual mode. The day could come when you'd want to use the viewfinder to focus a shot!

Al
07-15-2009, 04:49 PM   #10
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Chewing gum stuck to the mirror.
07-15-2009, 05:03 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by raymeedc Quote
Chewing gum stuck to the mirror.
As I realized after posting that I might not have made my point clear, let me add that this is not something to look for in the hopes of finding it present, it's something to be upset about in that unfortunate eventuality.
07-15-2009, 05:47 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by raymeedc Quote
As I realized after posting that I might not have made my point clear, let me add that this is not something to look for in the hopes of finding it present, it's something to be upset about in that unfortunate eventuality.
Well, if it is there at least you can hope that there is some flavor left so you didn't lose out completely
07-15-2009, 05:58 PM   #13
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I appreciate the input, and have to admit something. I am actually not buying a camera, but am looking to sell my old one. I have never sold a dSLR before and wanted to make sure I knew what to look for when describing it so that I can avoid any surprises for both the buyer and me. I just didn't want it to sound like I was trying to advertise.
07-15-2009, 06:05 PM   #14
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You should supply a recent dust detection image for buyers. Obviously dust can always accumulate after you take the photo, but it's somewhat of an indicator of the condition of the sensor. I have one small spot on my sensor that I haven't been able to get rid of. It's fairly small, but I'd disclose that to a buyer.

Paul
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