What to test/look for when buying a used DSLR?

#1 Mar 16th, 2011, 20:38
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#1
I am planning to buy a dslr for some time. So I searched over the net for specs, reviews (both expert and user), comments etc and zeroed on a few models.

Now I am finding that there are some good deals available on the net for used dslrs that I think I can consider. The main hurdle is how to test the actual condition of the camera I am going to buy. A few external scratches are not deal breaker me if it is still healthy under the skin.

So my questions are:

1. How I can test whether the camera is in good working condition or not?

2. What are the things I should look for and how?

3. How to know the condition of the sensor (any dust, scratch(es) and/or dead pixels) and the shutter (any wear and/or tear)?

And anything that I have missed to mention. Furthermore, any and every suggestion and/or advice is most welcome.

P.S. I am completely novice in terms of handling a dslr. I am yet to put my hand on one. But do own a film slr and do not feel uncomfortable (rather enjoy) shooting with it.
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#2 Mar 16th, 2011, 20:50
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I bought a demo Nikon D60 model at the local electronics store .... it came inclusive of a years warranty, so I didn't have to worry about taking the 'leap of faith'.

There are some good ideas & food for thought here:

http://photography.lovetoknow.com/Bu...ed_DSLR_Camera



Good luck!
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
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Last edited by PeakXV; Mar 16th, 2011 at 21:56..
#3 Mar 16th, 2011, 21:30
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#3
Thanks peak for your prompt reply. And the link is indeed helpful.

One question. How much did you spend for your d60 and when? And did that warranty come with its own price?

BTW, what is "demo"?
#4 Mar 16th, 2011, 21:51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biman View Post Thanks peak for your prompt reply. And the link is indeed helpful.

One question. How much did you spend for your d60 and when? And did that warranty come with its own price?

BTW, what is "demo"?
I paid about $500.00 cdn (~ 22,000 rps) for the d60 with standard kit lens & 4GB memory stick (18 months ago). The warranty was inclusive in the price.

A 'demo' means that the camera is available to all potential customers to borrow for a day or two to try out & test. They can use it as much as they like - unsupervised. Potential they may bang it, bump, drop it or accidently spill their chai on it.... but as long as they return it to the shop by the deadline requested - no worries. When the models of these demos become discontinued - then there is real need to demo or promote them - thus they sell them off at a budget price.

So these purchases are not without their risks .... but a reputable shop should stand behind their sales via some kind of limited guarantee/backing.
#5 Mar 17th, 2011, 01:21
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Thank you peak. You got a good deal.

I reckon that this demo feature is really useful and sadly I don't think it is in use here in India.
#6 Mar 17th, 2011, 01:29
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The top manufacturers like Canon & Nikon (google canon or nikon factory demos) issue many factory demos for their various brands. I'm sure they must have them in India too .... although I'm guessing that they may not come up for sale to the consumer as often or even if they would be properly identified as such - as they do in the West. It wouldn't hurt to ask around about them though .....
#7 Mar 17th, 2011, 01:45
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The short answer is - There are no standard tests. To do a thorough and rigorous evaluation, you need to do to things

1. Be allowed to take the camera for a spin - so to speak
2. Know the camera brand before hand to be able to check that all the major functions are operational.

In absence of that, ask Peak said, you have to depend on the reliability of the retailer, and their reputation.

It is best to ask the local photography club members their opinion of the retailers and what to consider. Good luck.
#8 Mar 17th, 2011, 13:42
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Thanks nycank.
#9 Mar 17th, 2011, 14:05
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biman, what is your budget? its safer to buy a smaller spec dslr brand new than to gamble with a secondhand body with no warranty. you cannot tell if the particular camera suffers from banding issues and what shutter life it has left in most amateur bodies from both canon and nikon. all in all, i wouldn't recommend buying bodies secondhand. lenses, yes.
#10 Mar 17th, 2011, 14:51
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Biman, I also think its prudent to invest in a new one than an used one unless you know the in and outs of the camera you are going to buy. As already mentioned no number of test is sufficient and you have to take some chance what you may not want to take with your first DLSR experience. One of my friend quite knowledgeable on cameras bought a second hand D200 after lots of testing and got the in built flash inoperative in 6 months, Nikon charged a few thousands to get it working again. Still with all possible settings he never got the same color saturation and sharpness from that what he got in even an old D50 with same lens. You can check shutter count but you can't see the conditions of electronic circuits. My 18-135 always gives fabulous results and if you test you won't be able to understand even for a while that it has contact problem with my D80 and many times I lost all auto controls in critical moment while using this lens. But that can't be reproducable at will, so you understand where I am coming from.

Good luck in your purchase!!
#11 Mar 17th, 2011, 17:59
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#11
Thanks a lot photosync and kshil, for your thoughtful comments and showing the other side of the coin. I am all ears here and keeping them wide open to your comments and suggestions.
#12 Mar 17th, 2011, 18:15
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Originally Posted by photosync View Post biman, what is your budget? its safer to buy a smaller spec dslr brand new than to gamble with a secondhand body with no warranty.
Well, my budget is ~20K. Not anything and anyway over 22-23K. Now I can always consider a good P&S but can't go for even D3100 + 18-55mm with that amount. But then what I found that I can easily manage either a d70s/d70 from nikon or 30d/40d from canon with a 35/50mm prime (that too a used one) within that range. Well call me a crazy, but that possibility tempted me to consider the used ones.
#13 Mar 17th, 2011, 19:12
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#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by biman View Post Well, my budget is ~20K. Not anything and anyway over 22-23K. Now I can always consider a good P&S but can't go for even D3100 + 18-55mm with that amount. But then what I found that I can easily manage either a d70s/d70 from nikon or 30d/40d from canon with a 35/50mm prime (that too a used one) within that range. Well call me a crazy, but that possibility tempted me to consider the used ones.
You can get the rates from M M Photo...
If you go for Canon 1000D...I hope it will be in your budget.
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#14 Mar 18th, 2011, 01:11
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steer clear of the nikon d70. not worth anything these days. have an old 30d but its not that great either...you should be able to lay your hands on a 450 or 500d as they are out of production but have been replaced with the 550d
#15 Mar 18th, 2011, 01:25
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A couple of things to watch out for: (a) is the sensor dirty? (contrary to popular belief, it's not really the sensor, it's the low-pass filter in front of it), and (b) how's the shutter condition?

To check (a), put the camera in aperture-priority (Av for canons) mode, select a very small aperture (such as f/18 or f/22) and shoot against a flat background, such as, a sheet of white paper or blue sky. Examine the image in 100% view (i.e., pixel view) on a laptop/PC. If there's dust on the sensor, it will show up as blotches. While this is not grounds per se to reject the camera, it does mean that you would need to clean it yourself (which I have never attempted) or get it cleaned by a professional.

To check (b), put the camera in shutter-priority mode (Tv for canons) and select the fastest shutter speed, e.g., 1/8000 sec. Shoot. If the shutter release has any issues, you might see streaks/random colorations or something on the image.

Another thing you can check is the presence of hot pixels. To check for this, shoot a long exposure, say 30 secs, again on a flat background, preferably white. Hot pixels will show up if there's any. Again, this may not be enough grounds to reject the camera. You may be able to map out the pixels, either in-camera or in post-processing (PP). Software exist (such as Adobe camera Raw) which will automatically map out hot pixels during PP.

I think that's about it. Of course, you should examine it thoroughly for dust in the viewfinder (this should not affect the pictures), nicks/scratches on the LCD's, etc.

Arindam
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