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What to do with Old Camera Equipment

If you just got your first camera, perhaps this article is not for you. But if you've been at this for some time now, you probably have a growing collection of old camera equipment in your closet. If you're wondering what to do with it all, here are four options to consider.

First off, try to track down all the accessories that came with whatever you're trying to sell. They will be of little use to you once you no longer own what they fit, and a new owner will no doubt appreciate such details. They might not need every little doo-dad that came in the box any more than you probably did. But having the complete package reinforces the impression it was well cared for. Return any settings to the manufacturer's defaults, and wipe clean any memory cards you choose to include.

The obvious first choice strategy for shedding your excess camera equipment would be to sell it to someone else to help pay for your next acquisition. That seems reasonable, but doing so tends to be more challenging than people assume. There are a lot of photographers out there who have been shooting with what you have. And an insignificant chunk of them are no doubt trying to sell there's as well. This while most buyers are looking for the latest model, just as you are.

Camera equipment is generally not a seller's market, but some items do tend to hold their value better than others. Notably, you can expect to recoup more of your investment in lenses and accessories from original equipment manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon than from third-party alternatives. Exceptions abound but are hard to predict. Something gear can attain near-legendary fame if it fills a niche otherwise hard to fill. I have a now-collectible Nikon 70-180mm zoom micro (macro) lens worth more than what I paid for it new. I also have lenses that have devalued in the market beyond the point I would have thought possible.

Where to sell your gear can be a difficult question to answer. Many camera dealers will buy used equipment, but you must realize they can only pay you wholesale price if they are to turn a profit at retail. They can't pay you what your old camera is worth if they expect to sell it themselves for a fair prices. And remember, they have to cover their overhead as well, whether that be a brick-and-mortar lease, employee salaries, or merely the cost of keeping the lights on.

Owing to its direct buyer to seller nature, eBay has been a good option for many years. Both merchants and buyers jealously safeguard their feedback scores and are surprisingly trustworthy given how little policing of transactions is possible. Newer alternatives such as Facebook marketplace and similar local exchanges might be even better if an interested buyer can be located. But selling camera equipment can take time and effort regardless of which route you take. You're unlikely to get much out of camera gear at a garage sale.

And please, be realistic and honest when evaluating the condition of your used gear. You would expect no less, were you the buyer.

I have an old, 50mm Nikon kit lens that never gets any use as originally intended but does work great as a diopter when reversed and mounted to the front of my 200mm Nikon micro. Stacked this way, I can shoot macro at 4x life-size. I retired one early digital body to a place permanently mounted atop a modest studio light box setup. Such possibilities are limited, of course, but worth due consideration. Of course, you can always decide to keep that old body as a backup, should your new one someday be out of commission at an inopportune time.

Consider giving gear to a worthy cause if you just can't sell it or come up with some creative way to repurpose it. Local camera clubs and community colleges are sometimes in need if all your cousins and nieces and friends are already situated. Although many have increased restrictions on what they accept during the COVID pandemic, local charities are another possibility. You may qualify for a tax deduction for donating.

As you mull over your options regarding what to do with your old gear, please don't just throw it away. If you can't find a way to get that gear into the hands of someone who can use it, at least don't let it end up in a landfill somewhere. Back in the film-camera era, bodies help their value much longer. Functionally, they were little more than light-tight boxes with precision-controlled openings.
But modern digital cameras truly are specialized computers and lose value with each new model that rolls off the manufacturer's assembly line. Once all other options have been exhausted, please treat them as e-waste when their time comes. We owe them that much.

We're now less than a month before the end of winter, so why not get a head start on the season by doing some spring cleaning? And remember, once you clear out that closet, you'll have plenty of room, and hopefully a bit of extra cash, to buy more camera equipment. Such is the life of a photographer.

Date posted: February 28, 2021 (updated March 1, 2021)


Copyright © 2021 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Spring Cleaning Time: Selling Used Camera Equipment

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