Advice for the Budding Photographer – Camera Buying on eBay

Allen Mowery
August 8, 2011

eBay is a wonderful place. Think about it… One website where, from anywhere in the world, you can purchase pretty much anything that exists in the world, from everyday appliances to antiques and collector items, to the bizarre and downright weird. For those looking to save some money, it can also be a great place to find deals on items that would cost more to buy closer to home.

Many novice photographers, or those looking to get into photography, find themselves on the website perusing and often buying equipment. While eBay is a wonderful resource full of variety and bargains it can also have some pitfalls. If you are looking to purchase your first dSLR from eBay, here are a couple tips to keep in mind.

Seller Integrity

As with any purchase you make on eBay, seller integrity is very important. Is this an authorized equipment dealer? How many transactions have they had? What is their feedback rating? Was negative feedback a legitimate gripe or the result of an anal-retentive customer? Be sure to check this out so that you don’t get screwed.

Check It Out Locally

This holds true whether you’re buying a camera on eBay, B&H, or any other online retailer. Once you have your camera selection narrowed down, stop in at a local camera shop, BestBuy down the road, or any other retailer who might carry your desired equipment, and get a hands-on feel before making your purchase. Check out the menu navigability, the quick accessibility of setting adjustments, and even how it feels in your hand. Not only will this help in your decision process, but you will be more confident in the choice you have made once you finalize your purchase.

JUST A NOTE: When camera shopping for my first dSLR, I liked the way Nikons felt in my hand, yet I purchased a Canon for feature-related reasons. Now, I love Canon, and Nikons feel foreign, so calling this shot is entirely up to you.


Depending on how much you are looking to spend on a camera, be sure to verify whether you will be able to insure the purchase should you choose to do so. SquareTrade works hand in hand with eBay to provide optional long-term coverage against defect and even breakage for qualifying purchases.

Don’t Fall for the Package

Across the board, manufacturers, marketers, and retailers know that customers are more likely to buy a product if they feel they are getting an added value for their money, and sellers on eBay have long ago caught onto this as well. Don’t easily fall for “camera packages” that includes extra memory cards, a tripod, camera bag, a few screw-on lens adapters, etc. While these items look enticing and of value in the listing, oftentimes they are poorly made, will not last long, and are sometimes unusable from the get-go. Many times it is cheaper to buy the specific items you want separately, and, more often than not, you will get better quality by doing so.

Go for the Body

We’re still on cameras here, not groping advice for the club. As I mentioned above, be wary of package deals, and this includes lenses as well. Online camera sellers will sometimes replace the kit lens with an even lower-end one (such as replacing the standard Canon 18-55mm lens with the poorer-quality Tamron 28-80mm lens) while trying to pass it off as a great improvement. Consider buying the camera body by itself and purchasing the lens separately.

Two great suggestions:

Even if you don’t save any money in the end, you will have superior photos and a better-quality lens.

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