How Not To Go Broke Buying Equipment

Scott Fitzgerald once told Ernest Hemingway, “rich people are different from the rest of us.” “Yeah, Hemingway replied, “they have more money.”

The cameras and lenses I used to make the images on this blog and are, for the most part, gear that I actually own. The exceptions are images that were captured with equipment on loan from manufacturers I was testing for product reviews. You may be surprised to learn that at after the review the gear gets sent back to the manufacturer. I don’t get to keep equipment loaned to me by cameras manufacturers although I suspect that’s not true of all so-called reviewers.

Although many professionals shoot with cameras made by companies such as Nikon and Canon, it’s not necessary for you do the same thing. There are plenty of reasonably priced cameras that offer interchangeable lenses, and sophisticated electronics from, Olympus, Pentax, Panasonic and Sony. Take the time to check out their lower and mid-priced models instead of expensive top-of-the line cameras.

Consider a used camera. Of all the camera bodies I use regularly only two were purchased new. When a new digital SLR comes out, lots of photographers who want to be the first “kid on their block” with the new camera trade their old cameras in for the latest model. This is the best time to buy the previously latest model and let the other person take the  hit on depreciation. Used cameras are available from many sources. For more than twenty-five years, I have purchased used equipment from KEH Camera and they remain a trusted source of used gear for me. Many local camera stores, if there’s any left in your town, have a selection of used DSLRs and some camera clubs or organizations sponsor local camera shows where you can actually see, hold, and feel used gear.

There are subsets of used cameras called “demo” and factory refurb-ished models. My EOS 1D Mark II N was a demo unit that was used to show the camera to prospective buyers. It was never sold and had the warranty card but it has been handled, the box has been opened, and somebody—maybe lots of somebodys—have played with the camera. It was also purchased after the EOS 1D Mark III was announced so it was an “old” model that made the price more affordable. Many camera stores, including the big New York and Los Angeles shops offer demo gear so it pays to have a sales person you work on a regular basis to keep you informed of bargains. Refurbs are similar but somebody may have previously owned it and there may or may not be a camera warranty in the package.

And lest we forget, there’s eBay. I’ve sold many cameras and lenses on eBay but never made a major photographic purchase so I can’t speak from personal experience but I know many happy eBay buyers of photo equipment. And while the bargains that abounded in eBay’s early years have pretty much disappeared, it remains a great place to locate and purchase hard-to-find items.


For an intersting approach to creativity, read my friend Rick Sammon’s book Creative Visualization for Photographers, which is available from Amazon.

Author: Joe Farace

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