Buying a used DSLR camera can be a great way to get a high-quality camera for a lower price. Learn what to look for with our top 10 tips.

Are you thinking about buying a used DSLR camera? These cameras can be a great value, especially if you are just starting out in photography or if you are on a tight budget.

But with so many options available, it can be tough to know where to start.

Before you make a purchase, it’s important to do your research and make sure you are getting a good quality camera that meets your needs.

In this article, we will cover 10 things to keep in mind before buying a used DSLR.

From researching the camera’s history and reviews to negotiating the price, these tips will help you make an informed decision and get the best value for your money.

Whether you are a seasoned photographer or a beginner, these considerations will help you find the perfect used DSLR to suit your needs and budget.

1. Research The Camera Model’s History & Reviews

The first step in buying a used DSLR is to do your research. Look up the specs and see how the camera compares to newer models. Read reviews from other photographers who have used the camera to get a sense of its strengths and weaknesses.

You can search for the camera model online and look for reviews on websites such as Amazon, B&H Photo Video, and DP Review. These reviews can give you an idea of the camera’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any common issues or problems that other users have encountered.


Many camera manufacturers have a section of their website dedicated to their products, including information on the camera’s features, specifications, and release date. This can give you a sense of the camera’s place in the market and how it has evolved over time.

There are many online forums dedicated to photography, where experienced photographers discuss their equipment and share their experiences with different camera models.

You can use these forums to ask questions about the camera model you’re interested in and get feedback from people who have used it. If you’re buying the camera from an individual seller, you can always ask them about the camera’s history and any issues they have encountered while using it.

They may be able to provide you with more detailed information about the camera’s condition and performance.

2. Check The Camera’s Physical Condition

When you are looking at a used DSLR, it’s important to carefully inspect the physical condition of the camera.

Check the camera's physical condition when buying a used DSLR camera

Here are a few things you can do to check the physical condition of a used DSLR camera:

  • Inspect The Exterior: Check the camera body for any visible signs of damage, such as dents, scratches, or cracks. Pay particular attention to the areas around the lens mount, as these can be prone to damage.
  • Check The Viewfinder: Look through the viewfinder to ensure that it is clear and free of any dirt or debris.
  • Test The LCD Screen: Check the LCD screen to make sure it is functioning properly and that there are no dead pixels or other visible issues.
  • Test The Memory Card Slot: If the camera has a memory card slot, make sure it is functioning properly and that you are able to insert and remove a memory card without any issues.
  • Check the lens: If the camera comes with a lens, inspect it for any visible damage, such as scratches on the glass or problems with the aperture blades. Make sure the lens is able to focus properly and that there are no issues with the autofocus system.

3. Test The Camera’s Functions

Make sure to test all of the camera’s buttons, dials, and other features to ensure that they are working properly. This will give you a sense of the camera’s overall condition and help you determine if it is a good value.

Take some test shots in different lighting conditions and at different apertures and shutter speeds to check that the camera’s image quality is good.

Look at the photos on the camera’s LCD screen and on a computer to check for proper focus, exposure, and color balance.

Check the camera’s autofocus system by taking some photos of a moving subject and make sure that it’s able to focus correctly.

Test the camera’s flash by taking some photos with the flash on and off to check that it’s working properly.

Check the camera’s video mode and record a short video to make sure that the video function is working properly.

4. Check The Camera’s Shutter Count

The shutter count is a measure of how much the camera has been used. A high shutter count may indicate that the camera has been well-loved and well-used, which could lead to more wear and tear.

On the other hand, a low shutter count could indicate that the camera has not been used very much, which could be a good thing.

Check the camera's shutter count when buying a used DSLR camera
Image source: Karen Tamrazyan

There are a few ways to check the shutter count on a DSLR camera:

  • Check The Exif Data: If the camera is still functional and the images it has taken are still available, you can check the Exif data of the images. Exif data contains various information about the photo, including the number of times the shutter has been activated. You can use a free Exif viewer to check the Exif data of the images.
  • Use A Third-Party Shutter Count Checker: There are several third-party applications available that can check the shutter count of a camera. Some of these include ShutterCount, and My Shutter Count.
  • Ask The seller: If none of the above options are available, you can ask the seller to check the shutter count of the camera. Some camera manufacturers provide a shutter count check service on their website, however, you will need the camera serial number and some other specific information.

It’s important to note that not all cameras can have their shutter count checked, especially newer camera models.

Also, it’s important to remember that the shutter count is not the only factor in determining the condition of a camera and its life remaining, other factors such as proper handling, storage, and maintenance play a huge role as well.

5. Consider The Camera’s Age

The age of a camera can be an important factor to consider when buying a used DSLR camera, as it can affect the camera’s performance and the availability of replacement parts.

As technology advances, newer cameras tend to offer better performance, improved image quality, and more features than older models.

Canon 60D & Canon 5D Mark 4
Canon 60D (Left) & Canon 5D Mark 4 (Right)

Keep in mind that the older the camera, the more likely it is that you may be missing out on some of the latest features.

As the camera gets older, it is more likely that some of its components will become obsolete, so spare parts may become harder to find and may be more expensive.

Keep in mind that this may make repairs more costly if something breaks.

6. Check The Camera’s Battery Life

When buying a used DSLR camera, one important factor to consider is the battery life. A camera’s battery will degrade over time, affecting its overall performance.

Check the camera's battery life when buying a used DSLR camera

Here are a few steps you can take to check the battery life of a used DSLR camera:

  • Check The Battery: Make sure that the camera comes with a battery and that it is holding a charge. If the camera does not turn on, it’s possible that the battery is dead and will need to be replaced.
  • Ask The Seller: The seller should have an idea of the battery life, and they might have replaced the battery before. It’s always a good idea to ask them about the status of the battery.
  • Run A Battery Test: If you have access to the camera and it turns on, you can run a battery test to determine the battery’s health. You can do this by turning on the camera and taking several photos. Check the battery level indicator to see how quickly the battery drains.
  • Check The Age of The Battery: You can also look for the manufacture date of the battery. Batteries typically last for a few years, and if the battery is older than that, it may be on its way out.
  • Invest In A Replacement Battery: If the camera is in good condition, but the battery has seen better days, it may be worth investing in a replacement battery. This can be a more cost-effective solution than buying a new camera, and it will ensure that the camera is ready to use when you receive it.

It’s important to keep in mind that a camera’s battery life can affect its overall performance, so it’s important to be aware of the battery’s condition when buying a used DSLR camera.

Make sure to ask the seller, test the battery, and investigate if it might be time for a replacement one if necessary.

7. Look For Any Included Accessories

Some used cameras may come with additional lenses or other accessories that can add value to the purchase.

These can be a great deal if they are included with the camera, but be sure to research the value of the accessories before you buy to make sure you are getting a good deal.

Look for any included accessories when buying a used DSLR camera online

Here are some accessories that may be included with a used DSLR camera:

  • Battery And Charger: Make sure that the camera comes with a working battery and charger. If the battery is not included, it can be quite expensive to replace.
  • Memory Card: Make sure that the camera comes with a memory card, as they are required to store photos and videos. If the memory card is not included, it can be quite expensive to purchase one.
  • Camera Strap: Make sure that the camera comes with a camera strap so you can easily carry it around.
  • Lens: Some used DSLR cameras are sold as part of a kit that includes a lens, in that case, make sure that the lens is included and also in working condition.
  • Remote control: Some cameras come with a remote control that allows you to take pictures remotely, which can be useful for taking group photos or for taking photos of subjects that are difficult to approach.
  • Other Accessories: Depending on the camera and the seller, other accessories such as a flash, extra batteries, battery grips, a bag, and filters may be included.

8. Consider The Seller’s Reputation

Buying a used DSLR from a reputable seller, such as a camera store or a professional photographer, can provide some peace of mind. These sellers are more likely to stand behind their products and offer returns or exchanges if there are any issues.

However, if you are buying a used DSLR camera from an individual seller, then you should look up the seller’s name, phone number, and email address online to see if they have a presence on other websites or social media platforms.

If they do, you can check to see if they have any reviews or feedback from other buyers.

Ask the seller if they have any references from previous buyers. If they do, take the time to contact the references and ask about their experiences with the seller.

Ultimately, trust your instincts. If something feels off or the seller is unwilling to provide additional information or answer your questions, it may be best to look for a camera from another seller.

If you can’t or don’t want to meet in person, you can also do your transaction on a safe platform like Amazon, eBay, etc., and have security measures in place that can provide you more protection and peace of mind.

9. Negotiate The Price

Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the seller, especially if the camera has any flaws or if you are purchasing it from a private seller.

It’s always a good idea to try and get the best deal possible, and negotiating can help you do that. Here are some tips on how to negotiate the price:

  • Do Your Research: Before you start negotiating, research the market value of the camera you’re interested in. Look at prices on different online platforms, such as Amazon, eBay, and camera-specific sites. This will give you an idea of what a fair price for the camera should be and will help you make a more informed offer.
  • Be Polite And Professional: When you contact the seller, be polite and professional. Express your interest in the camera and let the seller know that you are serious about buying it.
  • Make A Reasonable Offer: Based on your research, make a reasonable offer for the camera. It’s important to keep in mind that used cameras may have some wear and tear, so you should expect to pay less than the original retail price.
  • Point Out Any Issues: If the camera has any issues or flaws, be sure to point them out. This can help to justify a lower offer.
  • Be Flexible: Be open to negotiation. If the seller is unwilling to budge on price, ask if they would be willing to include any accessories or extend the warranty.
  • Be Ready To Walk Away: If the seller is not willing to meet your price, be prepared to walk away. It’s important to remember that there are many other used DSLR cameras available online, and you will likely be able to find one that meets your budget.

It’s important to keep in mind that the seller’s asking price may not always be the final price, but it’s not always easy to negotiate a price when buying used items online. You also have to consider the shipping cost and other additional expenses that may come along with buying online.

10. Protect Your Purchase

When buying a used camera online, it’s important to take steps to protect your purchase and ensure that you receive a functional and authentic camera.

When making your payment, use a secure payment method that offers buyer protection, such as a credit card or PayPal. Avoid using methods such as wire transfers or cash, as these methods offer little to no protection for the buyer.

Consider making your purchase through a reputable online marketplace such as Amazon, eBay, or B&H, these platforms often have protection in place for the buyer. They also provide a secure and reliable transaction process, and in most cases, you can easily communicate and resolve issues with the seller.

Before making your purchase, ask the seller to provide the camera’s serial number or other information that can be used to verify its authenticity.

Compare this information with the camera’s original specifications to ensure that it is authentic.

If you are not familiar with the workings of a DSLR camera, get a professional technician to check the camera for you. They can spot any issues and give you a detailed report on the camera’s condition.

Be sure to keep records of all communication and transaction details in case there are any issues with the camera after you receive it. This will be useful when trying to resolve any problems that might arise.

To Make A Long Story Short

Buying a used DSLR camera can be a great way to save money and get a high-quality camera. However, it’s important to do your research and keep these 10 things in mind before making a purchase.

Research the camera model’s history and reviews, check the camera’s physical condition, test its functions, check the shutter count, consider the camera’s age, check the battery life, look for included accessories, consider the seller’s reputation, negotiate the price, and protect your purchase.

By following these tips, you can find a used DSLR that is the perfect fit for your needs and budget.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate or ask questions, and be sure to purchase from a reputable seller with a good return policy.

With these considerations in mind, you can confidently and successfully purchase a used DSLR that will meet your photography needs.