Going to eBay is like walking into the world’s greatest store. It has new items and secondhand items, and both are generally available for appealingly low prices. For photographers, it’s a dream to browse all the photography gear on eBay.
That being said, you never know when you might get ripped off by an unscrupulous seller. Or when you might get sent a used item that is a little bit more used than was originally advertised. More frequently, you can spend a lot of time searching fruitlessly for the perfect item, only to get lost in a forest of postings.
Examine Images Carefully
eBay listings come with photos to show off the item in question. This helps you as a buyer pick out the item you want. For new items, the photos don’t matter much. After all, if the product is still in its original packaging, there isn’t all that much a photo can tell you.
But, if you’re looking at a used piece of camera gear, you’ll probably want to pay very close attention to any and all pictures. First, start by reading the description to get the seller’s perspective on any damages, blemishes, or wear and tear. Then, closely examine the attached images to see if there is anything the seller may have left out. If the photos are blurry, out of focus, or obviously obscure one part of the product, it’s worth it to get skeptical.
It’s worthwhile to send a message to the seller and ask for more detailed photos if you have any reason to be suspicious. If you end up purchasing, you’d kick yourself later for noticing some damage that could have been picked up on before you made your transaction.
Watch Out for Red Flags
Even though eBay is a bit more trustworthy than in the past, there are plenty of reasons to tread carefully. It’s not hard to get scammed if you aren’t paying attention.
The first thing you need to do is read the description carefully. If something in a product description seems too good to be true, it probably is! Read closely to make sure everything seems fine.
The next thing you should do is read the seller’s reviews. It’s likely there won’t be too many reviews that say “this is a scam!”, because those sellers will get banned pretty quickly. However, you may see a handful of reviews that mention negative things like slow shipping time, inaccurate descriptions, or other things you may not want to deal with. Pay close attention to the negatives, and how many there are compared to positives.
Pay Attention to Shutter Count
When it comes to digital cameras, it’s important to know the life expectancy of a used purchase. Every camera has a number of shutter actuations that it’s rated for. And if you are looking at used cameras, it’s worth it to scan the listing for how close the item is to that number. If the listing doesn’t say, you can always ask the seller directly!
While the ideal number changes based on the exact camera model, under 10,000 actuations is considered to be a good buy.
Use Saved Searches and Watch Lists
If you’re constantly searching for similar things (like a certain camera), you should be using Saved Searches. If you’re looking for a camera, you can put checks next to your preferred brands, features, shipping preferences, price range, and more.
You’ll see a “Save this search” option at the top of the search page. This will let you use those search options later. If you check this frequently, you’ll find new items that meet your criteria and can easily identify the best deals!
If you see a deal you’re interested in, but you’re not ready to make a purchase, you can add that item to your watch list. You’ll get notifications when a listing is about to end. Those alerts can help you make a last-minute decision about the item you’re watching!
Use Advanced Filters
eBay offers a lot of filters and is good at knowing what you’re searching for. For example, when you search “DSLR”, some filters will pop up on the side like camera brand, megapixel range, and camera series. You can start with a search term like that, and adjust your filters from there. Or you can go to eBay’s Camera & Photo page, where you’ll be able to shop by category, including gear and accessories.
Your use of filters will depend on what stage you’re at in your shopping journey. The most common one will probably be price. If you know how much you want to spend, you can choose to see only items in that range. The brand may be good too, if there are some specifics that you are loyal to. For many, a useful filter will be the condition. You can look at new equipment if you like. Or you can focus on used, refurbished, or even items that are only good for parts or repairs.
Buying Type Filters
At the top of an eBay search, you can change what selling types are shown. The options are Accepts Offers, Auction, or Buy It Now. Buy It Now is great if you don’t want to haggle or compete, and just want to buy something for a set price. The other options are for the real bargain hunters. Use these if you’re interested in finding the perfect item and bidding on it.
All in all, the filters should be used if you have any indication of what you want. They let you get very detailed, as compared to many shopping sites, so you should take advantage of that. Or just ignore them, and see every camera on the site!
Buying photography gear on eBay can be a challenge, but it can also really pay off in the end. Let us know in the comments what great finds you’ve come across and what sweet deals you’ve scored!