I used to be a gear snob. I’m not very proud of it. Going into business cured me…. trying to make a profit can suck the fun out of anything for a period of time, but it also has the happy side effect of curing your snobbery.
A few years ago I turned to Craigslist to save some money. Is it a good idea? Most of us have heard some Craigslist horror stories, is the risk worth it?
The number one piece of advice (aside from all the safety concerns), is SPEND ENOUGH TIME WITH CAMERA OR COMPUTER, to make sure it actually works. There are a lot of nefarious ways to make equipment work for a short period of time but most of those wont hold up for an extended period. I cant stress enough that you have to spend time with the equipment, which is why EBay is a little too scary for me (I will use EBay for other things).
FOR SLR Cameras: If your buying a camera take the batteries out, remove the lens, try another lens on the body. Take dozens of pictures with a variety of settings. Make sure autofocus and Image-Stabilization are working. The last thing to observe is how dirty the mirror / sensor is. You can check the mirror by removing the lens and shining a flashlight in the opening. The sensor is best checked by taking a blurry picture of the sky or a white wall and importing that onto a computer. A few spots are acceptable, but just a few.
For Point & Shoot Camera’s: Don’t bother. I know, I sound pretty sure… and I am. You can find such great deals on point and shoots on various website (I.e. Dealnews, Slickdeals, etc… that is another story for different day), that there is no point in buying used. You’ll spend more finding a battery that takes a charge, finding memory that works, cords, etc.. than it will ever be worth.
Computers: For the sake of space I’m going to ignore the finding value part of this and skip to making sure it works. Laptop batteries can be pretty expensive and if the computer is more than a year old you can count on needing another (if its a Mac you can check how many cycles the battery has on it.. they are warrantied for 1000 cycles). The main goal in buying a laptop will be heating it up. You need to pop in a movie, and do a few things (like image editing or movie editing) that will heat it up. Many programs can be run directly from a USB stick so they wont need to be installed. Make sure the computer can take the heat for 15-20 mins without shutting down. Desktops generally don’t suffer from heat (not usually) issues, but take the computer through its paces to make sure it’s stable. Be super observant about the specs. Get into the device manager on a PC or info on Mac to make sure your getting the specs that are advertised.
Final Note… Refurbished is great! Make sure its “Manufacturer Refurbished.” Refurbished by anyone outside the manufacturer means nothing and carries no warranty. Avoid.
If you have any questions, drop me a line at email@example.com, or use the contact form at ManhartPhotography.com.
You can see more of my articles here (on knotmove.com, or on my blog at ManhartPhotography.com/blog.