I'm looking to buy my first DSLR (Nikon D610), and was wondering what are they key factors to look for, when purchasing a used/refurbished camera?

I've read through, Refurbished , and the answers are great, but I'm hoping someone with experience that could point me as to how they evaluate used a camera-body.

I'm a reasonable person understanding that buying used/refurbished means potential wear/tear.


2 Answers 2


Just like buying anything used, what you're looking for is the age of the camera, and how much wear'n'tear or damage you're willing to trade for the discounted price, and how trustworthy you think the seller is. Think of the click count (shutter actuations) like mileage on a used car. At a certain point, it may not be worth it any more given how much remaining life/reliability is left in the camera.

A D610, being less than a year old as of this writing, is unlikely to have a big discount used since it's a fairly new model, is liable to be rare on the used market, and won't have depreciated a great deal from the new price. OTOH, chances are also good someone won't have had it long enough to abuse the hell out of it. If you find one deeply discounted, you may want to do a little research on the seller and run some serial numbers. :)

You do want to inspect the unit in hand (if you can) for damage to the body. A used seller who is utterly scrupulous at pointing out even the smallest faults is likely to be more reliable than one who proclaims the camera's in perfect condition while the pictures tell another story. In vintage camera circles, there are jokes about how on eBay, the phrase "mint condition" often means "there was a camera in the box last time I looked."

You also want to know what comes with the camera. Not all used models are going to come in the box, with a kit lens, a battery, charger, disk and manual.

Figure out what kind of damage you're willing to put up with: scuffs, scratches on the LCD, some scarring around the mount, dust in the viewfinder, whathaveyou. Obviously, if there's any damage to the sensor or mirrorbox assembly, or water damage you don't want to deal with that.

For me, personally, as a nervous-nelly, I tend to purchase used gear from known reputable dealers with return policies. B&H, Adorama, and KEH are all known quantities when it comes to buying used gear online in the USA and their grading is, if anything, conservative. It's more expensive, but the peace of mind, for me, is worth it. YMMV.

With refurbished gear, you're looking, again, at the reputation of the seller, your discount, and service warranty. The warranty is typically why the price will be higher than that of a used camera. If the camera is factory-refurbished, you have the added assurance that the manufacturer is the one who checked out/repaired the unit (although a great many refurbished units are simply cameras that cannot be sold as new; not all refurbished units are necessarily repaired; both my refurbed 50D and 5DMkII had <100 click counts when I received them) and is offering the warranty. Canon and Nikon sell refurbished units directly off their websites in the US, and warranties to go with them. I think Nikon's is 90 days, while Canon's is now 1 year (same as a new Canon).


The primary concern is really the shutter count. If the camera was used heavily or will be used heavily, it will likely be the first point of failure and can be be replaced. It is arguably the most "consumable" part of a DSLR.

It isn't necessarily bad to get a used camera with a high shutter count, but you should pay less for one with a high shutter count than a low one because it means you are closer to needing to replace the shutter (normally in the $100 to $350 depending on the quality of the camera.)

Other than that, you mostly just want to consider general condition and the rest of the things you would normally consider for buying a new camera. Evaluate things like how well it handles noise, focus speed and accuracy, burst speed, dynamic range, things like that.

  • Thanks for the response @AJHenderson! A couple of follow-up questions for you. What is considered a high shutter vs a good low shutter count? Obviously, the lower, the better, but suppose you're buying a camera to use frequently for the next 3-4 years? I ask because I'm having my first baby, and need a solid product that will last me, but I'd like to not pay the full retail price Jun 18, 2014 at 17:21
  • @RobertoNavarro - that is unfortunately a loaded question. It is a bit like millage on a car. There is a lot of variety from one instance of a model to another, varies even more by model and the rated number of shutter actuations is not available for all models. It can be as low as 50,000 or as high as 300,000+ though for the average. The best bet is to search for details on the particular model you are looking at.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 18, 2014 at 17:44
  • @RobertoNavarro - also, completely off topic note, grats on the baby. My first is due in 11 weeks from today actually.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 18, 2014 at 17:44

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