Help us keep the lights on:
Join this years fundraising campaign and get a limited edition supporter's cap.
Read more about our plans and needs for 2024 and beyond.


Sign up Login
Home Forums Articles Galleries Members Galleries Master Your Vision Galleries 5Contest Categories 5Winners Galleries 5ANPAT Galleries 5 The Winners Editor's Choice Portfolios Recent Photos Search Contest Info Help News Newsletter Join us Renew Membership About us Retrieve password Contact us Contests Vouchers Wiki Apps THE NIKONIAN™ For the press Fundraising Search Help!

How-to's Camera Reviews

Nikonians ultimate checklist for used gear

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs)

Keywords: checklist, buying, used_gear

Before you buyChecklist | Questions?

A lot can go wrong when you buy used camera gear. We have compiled a checklist based upon experience what you should look for before you pay for that camera you plan to buy. The list below can be applied for DSLR cameras and most of it also for Mirrorless and Film cameras. Some items are only appliable for testing a used film camera and are marked as such. We also have a checklist for used lenses and a 50mm review, which might be of interest to you.

Nikon D3X

The Nikon D3X with its true 24.4MP CMOS sensor is still a great camera which is relatively inexpensive. New it was listed at $8,000 USD, used in 2021 it can be had for $1,500 USD or less.


We have many posts in the forums about buying used DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras, particularly with the ongoing replacement cycle and price drop on older models. The list below should help you evaluate a camera before you buy it. Several items of the advice here can also be applied for brand new cameras. Many of these issues are normal wear and tear - but some can involve expensive repairs. Standard rates for fixing e.g. a flash hotshoe can be $400 USD.


Make sure you have read up about the camera you are planning to buy before you do so. Nikonians Complete Nikon Index and our discussions in the camera section are great places to learn and to ask questions about a specific model.

To read the rest of the article, please log in. This article is available only for registered Nikonians members. If you are not registered yet, please do so. To discover the world of Nikonians and the advantages of being a registered member, take our short discovery tour.


Eric Bowles (ericbowles) on February 17, 2021

Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art a

Excellent article. We see a lot of comments about shutter count or activation count. While that is an indicator of camera age and life remaining, it's not foolproof. There are a number of repairs that cause the shutter count to be reset at zero - usually related to replacing the main board. Nikon does not trouble shoot electronic issues - it's more cost effective to just replace the parts. If you see a shutter count that is below 10,000, consider the possibility that the shutter was reset during a repair. This can be true for refurbished as well as original purchase gear. In the US, refurbished gear is normally packaged in a white box. Original purchase gear is normally packaged in a gold and black branded box with a serial number sticker on the box. The hotshoe or flash unit is a relatively common repair and not too expensive. The easy solution is to test an external flash unit as well as the pop-up flash. Cosmetic issues on camera bodies and lenses can be a good thing. These issues normally turn a working camera into a Bargain grade - often reducing value by $100-200 or more. Scratches and scrapes often have no impact on performance, so if you can find a camera with a scratch on the LCD, a scape on the body, or some loose rubber on the body, you have a good chance at saving money. With lenses, a small scratch or dust that has no impact on performance can let you negotiate a better price. Repairing gear you purchase is a mixed bag. If the camera or les is working but has a minor issue, you could justify a repair. Just keep in mind that repairs often cost $175-300 or more, so you need to negotiate a big discount. You might negotiate the discount, and then not fix the issue if it is minor.

John Ellingson (Haymarket) on January 29, 2021

I'd insert one of your memory cards and attach one of your lenses and take a number of images at high f stops to see how clean or dirty the sensor is. If you have one of your own cameras with you, take the same images with your camera and compare them. A comment on dents and dings. There are dents and dings that matter and those that don't. If they are cosmetics they become bargaining points on price. If they affect function they become much more significant. If you purchase the used camera from one of the major sources, you will have a return period and the confidence that they have given it a thorough inspection as well. I buy most of my gear used. I look for gear that may have cosmetic scratches and dents that do not affect function because I get the same functionality as a piece of gear that is pristine, but at a lower price and the dent or ding did no have anything to do with the image produced.

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on January 29, 2021

bgs is one of the two co-founders of Nikonians, with in-depth knowledge in several areas Awarded for his valuable Nikon product reviews at the Resources

@PCassidy, yes good point for film. Will add a section for film cameras.

Paul Cassidy (PCassidy) on January 28, 2021

Donor Ribbon awarded for the generous contribution to the 2024 campaign

One item I don't see is for film cameras only, "Check the platen plate for signs of wear" Usually it may have two lines from the film transfer. If it is clean, smooth and no marks it is highly likely that it has had "Easy Use"