What to Check When Buying a Used DSLR

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Updated October 31, 2022

If you are new to the world of digital photography, you may want to learn what to check when buying a used DSLR camera. Many of the best digital cameras are DSLR models, and new iterations are expensive, leading many consumers to shop in the used market. So what are some tips to ensure you get the best DSLR cameras and not a lemon? Keep reading to find out.


  • Modern DSLR cameras are fairly expensive, as are some mirrorless cameras, leading many consumers to enter the used market to find a decent model.
  • When shopping for a second-hand camera, bring along a laptop and take photos with the camera, sending them to the computer to check for dead pixels and look at the shutter count.
  • Take your time examining the exterior of the camera, looking for anything out of the ordinary, like worn rubber and a scratched optical viewfinder.

Why Buy a Used DSLR Camera?

When researching how much a DSLR camera is, you likely find models in the $300 to $800 range. This may be out of your price range, even if you learned how DSLR cameras work. These cameras are made from high-end components if you have ever compared the Sony RX100 with the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 digital camera.

Insider Tip

If you are buying used, look for a retailer or seller that accepts returns, just in case.

Shopping in the used market allows consumers to save money for what really matters, paying for DSLR lens repair and related tasks. Buying used models also allows you to experiment with various facets of photography, such as learning about ISO with DSLR cameras, without any risk. This also goes for learning how to get a depth of field with a DSLR.

Guide to Buying Cheap Used DSLR Cameras

There are many ways to buy a used DSLR, from local marketplaces to online retailers. When shopping, however, here are some things to look for to ensure you get a good camera at a fair price.

Bring a Laptop and Take Photos

Bring your laptop along, use the camera to snap some photos, and send those shots to your laptop. Open them up in your app of choice and look for dead pixels or anything else out of the normal range. Also, take a RAW photo at the base ISO setting (100 or 200) with the lens cap on, as this is the easiest way to assess dead pixels. Three or four are not a huge deal, especially with an older camera, but any more than that likely indicates a serious issue.

STAT: While buying a used camera lacks the “fresh out the box” feeling, a well-maintained second-hand DSLR camera will still deliver great shots and performance for a fraction of a brand-new model. (source)

Check the Exterior

Some small dents and scratches are normal, particularly with older cameras, but it takes some time to assess the overall look and feel of the exterior. For instance, if any rubber is coming off, that could indicate the camera has seen some moist conditions, which could indicate other issues. Check the viewfinder and LCD screen for scratches.


If a used camera is on sale, does that mean it is defective?

Not at all, as the seller is likely just looking to get rid of it. Make sure you look at the white wall response and shutter actuation before making the purchase. The same goes for the shutter button, shutter mechanism, and lens mount.

Where can I buy a second-hand DSLR camera?

You can shop online or via neighborhood apps like Facebook Marketplace. These retailers often sell models such as the Canon EOS, the Mark II, the Mark III, and more.

Is buying a used camera a good idea?

Sure, as these cameras are built to last in many cases, even entry-level DSLRs. Insert a memory card to ensure the storage system works, check the shutter count, and examine the image quality before buying from the previous owner.
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