Buying & selling cameras on eBay

How to buy and sell camera gear on eBay without getting burned.

Buying

  • Valuation
    Before you do anything, go to eBay Advanced Search, check the ‘Sold’ checkbox and search for the camera / lens / whatever you want to purchase. The results will give you a good indication of the actual market value of the equipment you’re looking for, meaning you should be able to avoid paying over the odds for it.
  • Auction Versus Fixed Price
    Auctions are always better than fixed price sales. Items sold by auction are almost always less expensive to buy than fixed price ones. Sellers listing cameras for a fixed price usually list them for top-dollar. It’s true that most decent camera gear is now sold this way on eBay but if you’re not in a hurry, the thing you’re looking for will come up in an auction sale sooner or later. It pays (literally) to be patient.
  • Check Feedback
    Check the seller’s feedback carefully before buying. Less than 99.5% is a bad feedback score. If you’re splashing out on a pricy camera or lens, you want it to be in good condition. Some sellers are less than complete in their description of the item for sale. Past feedback from buyers should point to the honesty or otherwise of the seller. (There’s a separate tab for feedback as a seller and a buyer. The ‘Seller’ tab is the one you should read.)
  • Compacts and Lower-End Stuff
    Be especially careful when buying compact cameras or lower-end stuff: owners tend not to be keen photographers and often won’t realise their equipment has faults. Higher-end equipment tends to be owned by enthusiasts who know what their camera is supposed to do. They also, in my experience, tend to look after their hardware better than happy snappers.
  • Avoiding Bidding Wars
    Sometimes you will find that there’s another prospective buyer out there who wants the same item you’re bidding on. This can lead to a bidding war, where back-and-forth bids raise the price substantially. The way to avoid this is to use AuctionSniper.com. This website lets you decide how much you want to pay for your camera and it then places a bid in the last few seconds of the auction. They take 1% of the sale price as commission but it almost always saves you money in my experience.
  • Check It Over
    When your camera arrives in the post, open the parcel immediately and thoroughly check it over. Any faults that weren’t listed in the advert mean you need to contact the seller and ask for either a partial refund (If you want to keep it) or request a return. Always use eBay’s own messaging system when contacting sellers about faults. If you use personal email, eBay has no record of communication, which is important if you end up having to open a dispute.

Selling

  • Valuation Again
    As with buying, it’s a good idea to look at eBay’s Advanced Search > Sold option to find out what your gear is worth before you list it.
  • Fixed Price is Better than Aucion
    In my experience, you will always get more for your camera in a fixed price sale. Although some auctions raise good prices for equipment,they tend to be hit-or-miss compared to fixed price sales.
  • Long Listing
    The longer your item is listed for, the better your chances of raising the price you want. More potential buyers will view your camera over 30 days than 7 days.
  • Photographs
    The more photographs you can put in your ad, the better. People like to see what they’re getting for their money. I size my eBay photographs to 2000 pixels wide before submitting them. eBay will resize them but 2000 seems to be about right.
  • Cleanliness
    Clean your camera  / lens before photographing it. Little bits of dirt and dust are usually very apparent in big images and will put buyers off. A soft cloth and some compressed air make all the difference.
  • Completeness
    Be honest in your description. If there are any mechannical or cosmetic faults, list them in your ad. Failure to do so will most likely result in a complaint from the buyer. You really don’t want to get into a dispute or receive bad feedback.
  • Pack it Well
    Robust boxes are a must. I prefer double-walled ones. (I once had a film holder arrive broken because I sent it in a weak box.) Scrunched-up newspaper makes good packing. Don’t leave any space in the box for your precious gear to rattle around in.
  • Insure it
    Royal Mail’s Special Delivery gives you free cover up to £500, plus optional cover to £10,000 for an additional fee. You could also use Parcel2Go.com and get your parcel insured there, though their insurance is quite pricey. (They are good for sending stuff overseas though.)

…and that’s about it.

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Commercial Photography

I spent some time today looking at local commercial photographers’ websites.

Some notes:

  1. There’s a lot of competition.
  2. To some extent, all commercial photographers in central Scotland are Jack of all trades.
  3. The majority specialise in one area – e.g. architecture; still-life; industrial and so on.
  4. The quality of websites is variable: one or two are excellent but most are distinctly average.

Commercial photography is something I’ve thought about doing myself off and on over the years. However, I have enough of an income to get by on for now, so I’m not planning anything. Besides which I think it’s possible that doing something you love for a living might take the sparkle out of it.

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Rock Concerts

In 2013 I went to see Neil Young in Glasgow. He was touring his new album, Psychedelic Pill.

As experiences go, it was rather mixed: the music was great – great sound too. But we were in the standing part of the venue, which meant being so surrounded by other fans so packed in that you couldn’t move more than a couple of inches in any direction. There was also the (Completely hammered) guy directly in front of me wobbling about and shouting incomprehensible nonsense throughout the concert and raising his glass of beer over the heads of the people in front of him.

There are a few other bands I’d like to see while they’re still around but next time it’ll be in an all-seated venue like the Armadillo.

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Nikon 35Ti Quick Review

Nikon 35Ti
Nikon 35Ti

This came in the post last week. I got it on eBay in my ongoing quest to find a decent pocket film camera. I had previously purchased a Ricoh GR1v but it seems a bit fragile, with lots of reports of the LCD breaking amongst other things, so I thought I’d try a 35Ti.

The little Nikon gets good reviews and while I’ve seen a couple for parts on eBay, from what I can make out it’s a lot more robust than the Ricoh.

Lens

It’s a 35mm f2.8. I haven’t had any film developed from it yet but sample images I’ve seen on the internet look sharp and contrasty. Minimum aperture is f22.

It has what looks like a metal cover that retracts when you power the camera up. The lens protrudes a centimetre or so from the body when in use. I prefer a 35mm to the 28mm of the Ricoh, which is just a bit too wide for my liking.

Metering

It uses Nikon’s Matrix system, which is reportedly quite good even in difficult lighting.  You can choose Program or Aperture Priority modes, which are selected from the power On/ Off switch on the top of the camera.

Exposure Compensation

You can vary exposure by plus or minus two stops. You have to hold down a small button and turn the control wheel on the top plate. It’s a bit fiddly compared to the Ricoh.

Flash

The flash is either always on, always off or auto. I never use flash so I can’t say how effective it is. Control is by two tiny buttons on the front left of the body. They’re not easy to operate.

Panorama

It has a switch for panorama mode. All this does is to move a blind into place which blanks of the top and bottom of the frame when you expose the image. Not hugely useful.

The panorama switch is to the right of the viewfinder.
The panorama switch is to the right of the viewfinder.

Construction

The body is made from titanium. It’s reasonably light. The control buttons and wheels look reasonably robust with the exception of the latch which keeps the back shut – this is a flimsy affair and looks like it would be easy to break.

Focusing

Autofocus is controlled by two sensors on the front of the camera, to the left of the viewfinder. The autofocus target in the viewfinder is a small oval. The focus motors are quite noisy.

You can also manually set the focus distance by pressing the ‘AF’ button and turning the control wheel. Again, this is quite fiddly.

Dials

The dials aren't hugely useful
The dials aren’t hugely useful

A small set of analogue dials on the top plate shows you focus distance, exposure compensation, aperture and something else I haven’t figured out yet. It’s not hugely user-friendly and is of limited use since the information displayed here can’t be seen when you’re looking through the viewfinder, which is when it matters. It looks nice though.

Viewfinder

Not a great photograph but you can see the focus target and (Faintly) the parallax marks.
Not a great photograph but you can see the focus target and (Faintly) the parallax marks. The red hue of the lines is due to the viewfinder illumination button being pressed.

The viewfinder has bright lines for framing. It also incorporates:

  • Parallax marks for close focusing
  • Shutter speed (Not displayed elsewhere on the camera)
  • Exposure compensation signifier
  • Autofocus target

There’s a button on top of the camera which illuminates the bright lines and other markings in low light.

Dimensions

118 x 66 x 36mm

Summary

It seems like a good pocket camera. Fairly robust, with a good lens and some control over exposure and focusing. It has a better reputation for reliability than the Ricoh GR1 cameras.

On the down side, it’s not as compact as my GR1 or Olympus XA. I can live with that in exchange for durability though.

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Canon T90 Quick Review

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I got this camera to replace my Leica M6. The Leica was worth too much to have lying around and I didn’t like taking it out and about for the same reason, so I sold it and got this.

The body cost me £90 on eBay. I got a 35mm F2.8 lens for about £40. Both are in pretty good condition.

At about the same time, I bought an A1 and an AE1 body. My reasoning was that I could choose the one of the three which suited me best.

As it turned out, this was the T90, because it works best for metering and shooting on manual. The A1 is mainly designed for automatic exposure and the AE1 doesn’t have as good a choice of metering modes as the T90.

T90 Metering: you can choose between spot, centre-weighted and average. I prefer spot.

Exposure modes: aperture priority, shutter priority, automatic and program (Not sure what the difference is between these last two).

It has a built-in auto winder. Speeds are 4.5 or 2 frames a second. I use it on single-shot though. Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/4000.

The shutter is notorious for jamming, resulting in an EEE error being displayed in the viewfinder. Apparently this tends to happen if the camera is left unused for long periods of time. Newton Ellis camera repairers (UK) say on their website that they can fix it – no indication what this costs though. I read somewhere that to prevent this problem when the camera is lying unused, you should fire the shutter on B and take the batteries out whilst the shutter is open. I haven’t tried this myself so can’t vouch for it.

The camera takes 4 AA batteries. Reports vary on how long these last but so far mine seems to be getting through them quite quickly.

In short, I really like the T90. I like to meter and make exposures manually and it’s ideal for that. You also get motor wind and it just feels nice in the hand.

FD lenses for it are cheap – much less expensive than comparable Nikon glass.

The only downside is the potential for the EEE shutter error but as I said you can get that repaired, or just buy another functioning body for less than £100.

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Viewfinder display (Not a great photograph I’m afraid).

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Metering & exposure mode controls.

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LCD Display

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Rear panel with On/Off switch & some buttons I never use

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A look inside the door on the right side of the T90. Buttons are for viewfinder information brightness; battery check; rewind and (I think) self-timer. I hardly ever use these.

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Mistakes

I loaded my Hasselblad with some Ilford Delta 400. As it turned out, I didn’t load it very well. The winder became a little reluctant about a third of the way through the roll.

Then, when I was loading the film onto the spiral after shooting it, I couldn’t get it aligned correctly.

End result: three or four wrecked frames.

I subsequently Googled ‘Loading a 501CM correctly’ and discovered that I’d been missing out a crucial step: it appears that you have to slide the film leader under a lip at the top of the magazine, which I didn’t know.

Needless to say, the ruined frames were some of the better ones on this particular roll.

Ignorance was the cause of my errors: I hadn’t taken the time to learn how to load the film into the camera properly. I’d also forgotten how to load film onto a spiral correctly. The cost was a couple of lost photographs. I can always go back and re-take the photographs but they’ll not be quite the same. Some lessons are learned the hard way. It seems age is no protection.

The triangular aberration in the lower right of the frame was caused by incorrect loading onto the film spiral. It's happened before. I need to find a solution or revert to sending my films away for processing.
The triangular aberration in the lower right of the frame was caused by incorrect loading onto the film spiral.

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Mud

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I went out with the camera yesterday and took this photograph. It’s just down the road a bit. It was the first time in a while that I’ve had mud on my boots. Quite pleased with this composition. I see quite a few scenes when I’m out in the car that I would like to photograph but with the roads round here being country ones, there’s nowhere to stop.

Periodically I toy with the idea of getting a little motorbike specifically for camera outings but the thought of another system to feed and maintain puts me off, so for now it’s going to be locations within walking distance or places where I can stop the car.

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Veganism

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Recently I gave up dairy and eggs. I’d been vegetarian for about 25 years and had been thinking about going vegan for a while. My older brother has been vegan for a couple of years and kept on telling me how great he felt, how he had lost weight.

As for me, so far so good. I don’t miss cheese, eggs or milk at all. In fact I don’t think I could go back to eating them. I don’t really have a sweet tooth any more so I didn’t really eat cakes, puddings or ice cream. One less problem.

I’ve lost about 7 kilos over the past couple of months and whilst I’ve been on a weight-loss diet, I think being vegan has made it easier to lose the weight.

I don’t know if I’d say I feel significantly healthier but I certainly don’t feel any worse. (I’ve also been avoiding beer, which has made a difference to how I look and feel though.)

Meat and dairy are primary sources of calcium and B12 for most people, so I’ll be taking supplements for those: a B complex pill for the B12 and soya milk for the calcium. Hopefully that’ll suffice, though I have read about vegans with brittle bones here and there. (Possibly scare stories, I’ll do some research and find out.)

Another aspect to veganism its that it’s easier on the planet: meat and dairy are resource-intensive and they account for a big chunk of CO2 emissions.

One of my main motives for going vegan though, is the fact that I like animals, or, more accurately I hate to think about animal cruelty. I don’t think it’s possible to produce meat, eggs or milk without the animals suffering in some way. It feels good to have a clear conscience about that side of things.

The only other thing I have to think about is leather: only one footwear manufacturer’s shoes fit my fat feet (Geox). Unfortunately, they use leather or suede in all their products, so I’ll be doing a search for an alternative when I run out of trainers (I went on a splurge before I decided to go vegan so I have a couple of years worth of them stocked up).

Anyway, veganism seems to be trendy these days. So much the better. I just hope those experimenting with it for whatever reasons will stick with it.

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Gravure.

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This is just up the road a bit. Taken a few days ago. I thought I had Tri-X in the camera but it turned out to be Delta 400. A nice film all the same.

I’d like to make a gravure print of this. Might happen, might not.

It would be nice to have a press but they’re big, heavy and expensive, bedsides which I don’t have too many negatives that are suited to gravure.

Maybe one day though…

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Oliver Sacks

I’ve read most of Oliver Sacks’ books. I’m not a book critic so I won’t go into detail about why I like his writing but in short, he was humane, learned and interesting.

Yesterday I bought the last book he ever published, “Gratitude”. I got it on my Kindle. It was a great read, if short (It’s only 64 pages). In my opinion it’s one of his best.

I was disappointed to reach the end so soon, but the last lines of the book contained this insight, which was worth the cover price alone: “And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life – achieving a sense of peace within oneself.”

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