Westminster fountain at sunset

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I'm looking to buy my first external flash to use on my Canon 350d (which I bought used — no problems). Most likely this will be a Speedlite 430EX II.

Looking on Ebay, it looks like I can save over 25% by buying used, so I am rather tempted, given the cost new is around GBP200, vs GBP130-150.

Are there any major drawbacks to buying a used flash, assuming that the one I got had been cared for?

I'm not a professional photographer — this would just be for family and holiday snaps.

Anything specific to look out for when buying used flashes, specifically Speedlite?

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In the end I followed several used Canon 480EX on eBay, all of which went at within £10 of the price of a new one from Amazon. I even saw a couple which went for more than the price of a new one. I bought new. An extra £10 is worth it for not having to worry that what turns up isn't in a poor state. –  dunxd Oct 22 '11 at 21:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As with anything you buy used, wear and tear can be a drawback. Flash heads and key electronics do have a limited life, though I can't recall having a flash 'bulb' die on me, usually some other, unknown issue takes their life before then.

For the record, I purchased a used 420EX that was used as a rental unit by my local store. So I assumed going in it had considerable use and probably was cared for like a rental car. But it has been a trooper and performed flawlessly. I would not fear the used flash.

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I have bought all of mine 2nd hand with success. However I would only buy ones described as excellent/mint condition and only if I could inspect before buying. Things to look for would be corrosion in the battery compartment, any signs of condensation inside from rain or being dropped in the pool :) If the flash has a zoom function, check that, as it's a mechanical thing that often stops working. Same with any popup diffuser, if the flash has one - they often break off. Set flash to manual and fire off at full power, half power and a low power setting and make sure it's not stuck on full power. Maybe a quick run through the menus or function buttons to make sure the electronics all seem ok. Check for any dents or cracks, signs of being dropped. I've also found that most flashes that have been well looked after have all the original accessories (stands, cases, diffuser). If those are missing you wonder how careful they are with their gear.

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I don't think there are any drawbacks to buying a used flash beyond those of buying any sort of used gear. I've purchased a used flash in the past and ended up having no problems with it. With eBay you'll be buying it sight unseen, but if you buy it used locally and can meet the seller you'll have the opportunity to test it out at the time of purchase. If this is the case, ensure that it works in both TTL and manual modes as well as looking for signs of physical damage (be sure to check out the hotshoe area).

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and a good store won't carry used gear of questionable quality and history. They either scrap it (cutting their loss on the deal) or sell it on to more shady businesses. There's very few stores I'd buy used gear from without getting a 30 day or longer return policy I can trust for that reason. –  jwenting May 18 '11 at 11:14

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