Tips for Buying a Camera on Ebay

I spend more time than I would care to admit watching cameras on Ebay. I have a feeling that my knowledge of cameras has come as much from Ebay, as it has from anywhere else. Why? Because when you are considering making a purchase, you do research. Research builds knowledge, and before you know it you are an expert on obscure cameras that haven’t been in production for decades. I thought I would share some of the things that I look for in a camera on ebay, before I make a purchase.

First of all I want to give a shout out an Ebay seller named certo6. His ebay camera auctions can be found here. I am not sure if it is his full time job or not, but he is committed to selling great cameras. He buys old cameras, repairs and restores them beautifully, and then lovingly describes their characteristics thoroughly in his Ebay listing. He has earned a great reputation for having wonderfully restored cameras and as a result his cameras receive a premium final bid. I have only purchased one camera from him, but he is the only seller that I follow religiously despite rarely making a bid.

If you can’t buy a camera from certo6, you are going to drop down a notch into the deep sea of the unknown. There are so many camera auctions going on that it can be overwhelming. Here are some tips that will help you get the camera you want.

1. Hold your horses! First, don’t expect to get the camera instantly. I think this is the biggest mistake people make. People get excited when they find something cool. They make a bid before doing any research. Next thing you know someone outbids you and it becomes a battle to win the auction rather than about getting the right camera.

2. Watch similar items. This is where patience is a virtue. Before you bid on a camera you should try to get an idea for what it is worth. If you have the time to watch similar items, and track what their final selling price is then this information will give you a general idea what you can expect to pay for the camera.

3. Learn about the camera If you are bidding on antique cameras or rare camera, information is your friend. Do a Google search for the exact model and look online for as much info as you can find. There is probably a Flickr group dedicated to that specific camera where there are threads talking about it. Look for common problems, and typical problems that your camera may have. If the camera you want has a tendency to have shutters that go bad you can ask the seller to address whether or not the shutter is working. This will save you from buying a camera that looks good but is actually broken.

4. Decide what you are willing to pay and stick to it. An interesting psychological thing happens with auctions. After someone makes a bid on something they have imagined themselves owning the item. This has the side effect of giving a feeling of ownership over something you don’t actually own. Now when someone bids on “your camera” it feels like a personal insult. So you counter bid and the camera ends up selling for more than it is worth. Decide the maximum you are willing to pay for the camera and when it goes above that price walk away. I mean it. Walk away. You can take consolation in knowing that some idiot just over payed for it! This helps reduce buyers remorse, too.

5. Keep your options open. Watch a variety of auctions for the camera you want. This will help you avoid getting emotionally connected to a single item. It is much easier to walk away from an auction if you are watching another similar item.

If you follow these camera auction tips eventually you will end up with a great camera at a fair price. If you have experience buying cameras on Ebay and have tips to add to my list, please leave a comment below. Finally, here are some of the camera deals on Ebay right now…

5 Responses to “Tips for Buying a Camera on Ebay”

  1. Carlos Soberman Says:

    Brings back wonderful memories of my film cameras, most of which are still stored away. Can’t bear to part with them for pennies on the dollar. I need to let go!

  2. George L Smyth Says:

    Agreed with certo6, I bought a namesake camera from him (the East German Certo 6) and have had quite a bit of fun with this old camera. For those who enjoy the process as well as the results, going in this direction can be a rather fun thing.

  3. K. Praslowicz Says:

    2 brings back the memory of one of the Lenses I purchased on eBay a few years back.

    I had watched a few to determine a price I was willing to pay. A new-in-box version of the lens appeared and I put a bid on it which was just a bit under the maximum I’d pay for it. The next day another new-in-box version of the same lens appeared with a buy-it-now price that was $10 more then what I had bid on the first lens. Had that one listed first I would have grabbed it immediately. I bumped up my original bid by ten dollars and waited. My maximum bid was now at the buy-it-now price of an identical lens which was next in the listings.

    A few days passed and just as expected, someone out bid me. I immediately went and bought the buy-it-now lens.

    I think the original lens went for about $30-40 more then the buy-it-now lens. If someone would have just done a bit of poking around they could have saved some money.

  4. nineteenineteen Says:

    Excellent article about the dangers of buying on eBay! I myself have fallen into the trap of simply bidding because I didn’t want to be outbid. Thankfully common sense (and my generally stingy nature) has usually protected me from making poor purchases.

    The only other thing I would add is that it pays to check the feedback responses for the seller – negative and (also important) neutral as it gives you a good idea of the trustworthiness (certo6 is a great example of a seller you can trust). I have to admit I am reluctant to buy from any sellers I haven’t thoroughly researched and got a second opinion on (usually from flickr groups). This might lock me out of some of those great bargains I hear so much about, but I’m not a risk-taker by nature. And I’ve never been disappointed. Yet.

    Again, great article and I look forward to exploring your blog more.

  5. Beezy Says:

    Just stumbled across this, nice advice. One additional thought. Be creative and flexible in your searching. I recently found a unique example of a Polaroid camera – something created as one-of-two by a Polaroid employee. A new eBay member posted it as his first listing, but placed it in a category different from where most Polaroids live. It wasn’t logically wrong, just not where most people look. The description wasn’t crafted in such a way that made it show up well in searches. Finally, the pictures were not very good, and didn’t showcase the camera well. As a result – and after a bit of nailbiting – I was able to win this camera as the sole bidder at the opening offering price, for only slightly more than what much less unique versions of this model sell for. eBay is like fishing; sometimes the big ones get away and sometimes you get lucky! Be patient, know and keep to your price limits, and keep looking…

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