by Kieran Metcalfe
Posted at 17:47pm on 30th September 2019

This is an article which I originally wrote for Amateur Photographer as part of their "Secondhand Week". They used a slightly abridged version on their site, but this is the full article as submitted.


I’m self-employed, but not as a photographer, so I can’t justify massive expense for my camera gear. I shoot a Canon 80D (bought used), with various lenses (all bought used too) to soften the blow somewhat.

In building my kit collection, I’ve used four of the main retailers and never had a problem with any of them. The 80D was from Camera Jungle, two lenses from WEX, two from London Camera Exchange and one from MPB.

Trust & Warranty

Buying from private sellers and auction sites is by far the cheapest way to add to your kit. However, there are two main aspects for me which push me towards buying used gear from retailers rather than private sales: Trust and Warranty – and the peace of mind both of these give far outweigh the modest increase in cost. You will still save a packet based on buying new.

It is a sad indictment of folk on auction and classified advert websites that I feel I dare not buy from strangers online. I’m sure 90% of sellers are upstanding citizens and their items are totally above board. However, the few certainly spoil it for the many, and I have heard far too many stories about faulty gear, incorrect items, even bricks in a camera box to be comfortable taking the risk.

And if you do buy something, and it then breaks, what recourse do you have? Again, some sellers might be willing to reimburse you, but they are not required to do so in many cases.  I would largely agree with that, unless the fault is easily demonstrated to be pre-existing.

Buying used from a retailer, for me, sidesteps both of these issues. They have a reputation to uphold, and in most cases I have bought from them based on that reputation and have no reason not to trust them. (No to be confused with online retailers selling new kit at to-good-to-be-true prices… that’s a whole different ball game).

They also back that up with a warranty – some companies offer 6 months, others a full 12. You have all the recourse you would reasonably hope for in any gear purchase.

Typically, for me, the only time a lens has failed on me was weeks after the warranty ended (but isn’t that the way with anything?). A good insurance policy covering mechanical breakdown would have been the ideal solution here as the repair cost more than my excess would have been had I been insured at the time.

Lower Depreciation

While this is not something I have had to do as yet, the other benefit of used gear (privately bought or from a retailer) is the lower level of depreciation of your item when you wish to sell it. Not all lenses you buy might be used, but all lenses you sell will be!

Buying a new lens for, say £1000, will hit hard when you try to sell it. Suppose MPB are selling your condition of lens for £600. They’ll not buy it from you for that price – let’s say they offer £450. That’s a 55% loss in value.

But, if I bought the lens used initially, for £600 and take care of it, selling it back at £450 is a much more bearable loss of 25% in value. Obviously, these figures are plucked out of the air, but the principle remains the same.

While you’re not buying your gear to sell it immediately, it is certainly worth bearing in mind what might happen if and when that time comes.

Specific Experiences with Specialist Dealers

London Camera Exchange – One of the best aspects of dealing with LCE is that they’re also a high-street retailer. Contrary to the suggestion in the name, they’re nationwide and have a branch in Manchester City Centre. When I was looking to buy my Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary, it was brilliant to be able to go in and try it out on my camera before committing to it.

Equally though, being online means the stock from their entire network of stores is available online. My Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ATX-PRO II came from their Guildford store (obviously much more post-friendly than the 150-600 above!

WEX – I bought two lenses from WEX in one order with money I received for my 40th Birthday (Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 and EF 100mm Macro USM). They have an extensive grading system, more so than others, although it is a little unclear what precisely differentiates a 9 from a 9- or a 9+! When looking for gear on their site, it’s very helpful to be able to look at the item and immediately compare the new and used stock prices and availability on one page. – I was looking for a 70-200 f4L to replace my EF-S 55-250mm, but I ended up with a dilemma. Bought new, this would set me back £590. Used copies from MPB topped out at £350 for one in excellent condition. But I also spied a ‘Well Used’ one for £260.  The description stated there were “light marks to the front element which do not affect the image quality”. I did a fair amount of research into this and, based on feedback, I took the plunge – knowing that I could return it (how many eBayers would allow that?).

When the lens arrived, I couldn’t see any marks on the glass at all. The only hint that it was “Well Used” was the faded black rubber on the focus and zoom rings. The lens is otherwise flawless and utterly pin-sharp.

Camera Jungle  – When I bought my 80D from Camera Jungle I was very impressed with the price and the quick turnaround; it was with me in a couple of days. It taught me one small lesson about reading the details of the listing – there was no box with the camera. However, it was very well packed in their own box with folding supports (as opposed to a repair company which once returned an item to me packed with kitchen roll!). It was only after the fact that I discovered CJ are owned and run by Jessops.