Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I'm considering buying a DSLR from a friend. I've read the used lens question elsewhere on this site, but I was wondering what I should look at on the body to assess the condition?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

A couple of things:

  1. Make sure the obvious stuff like autofocus, aperture control, shutter speed actually work.
  2. Check number of shutter actuations. Most bodies have a mean time between failure (MBTF) number for this, so check how close it is.
  3. Make sure all connections work. USB, HDMI (if present), Video out.
  4. Battery, charger. Be aware you might need to replace it, depending on the amount of use it has seen.
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And in each case, it's worth checking with your local camera shop how much a repair would cost. Replacement chargers/cables are obviously easy (and sometimes cheap generics are available), but repairing a faulty shutter or USB connector can cost a bit more (so factor that into the price if it's seen 100k+ shutter actuations). –  drfrogsplat Jan 11 at 5:20

#1) Shutter Actuations. Oh yes. Consumer DSLRs last something like 20-100k. It's a pretty fast thing to hit that. However, that's an estimate. It could go for 10k or 200k, you never know. But the higher the shutter count, the sooner it will fail. #2) Check all the things the other guys said: aperture, AF, flash (if it has it), make sure the sensor and viewfinder are free of scratches, make sure the mounting for the lens isn't damaged and doesn't let excess light in. #3) Take a picture in a well lit area. Look at it 100% on a computer and check for oddities (scratches, bits missing, etc.)

Just factor in that you'll be buying a battery. But make sure the charger works.

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To Add to Josh's answer:

  1. Check for burned pixel.
  2. Check for scratches on the sensor (you might need a technician review for that so I am not sure how feasible this is). What may seem like dust on the sensor might be a scratch.
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It's like buying a used BMW. Learn about your seller, and see if they are someone who would baby their equipment. If they have a website, go to the website and look at the photos. If they're a beginner, there is a chance they don't know how to care much for their equipment yet. The perfect person to buy from is a budding intermediate amateur/professional who is upgrading to a professional body, and selling the lower end body to raise funds. Also, a good sign of someone who takes care of their camera is someone who still has the box, receipt, packaging, and manuals.

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Consider a refurb -- Adorama usually has a few, and I think you can find them elsewhere, too. Given the rate of "depreciation" for bodies & lenses, these seem to be very good values, and you'll have the assurance that the equipment has been reviewed by technicians. In many cases, you'll also get a warranty on these items on top of the savings.

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