A classic camera should bring you pleasure - not frustration and unexpected cost. There are some beautiful cameras for sale on ebay - but there are some real lemons too!
How can you tell the difference?
Unfortunately, you can't examine an ebay camera first hand - so you have to do the next best thing.
Ask the seller questions!
It's your money! Spend it wisely!
Which questions should you ask?
This guide is aimed at people bidding for classic 35mm SLRs. But the same principles apply to almost all cameras.
Q-1. IS THERE ANY STRUCTURAL DAMAGE?
Unless the listing has close-up photos of the camera from all angles you should ask the seller for details of any damage. Dings, dents, and cracks in the body are signs that the camera has been dropped - and a dropped camera could have internal damage which renders it beyond repair.Walk away from any camera with structural damage.
Brassing (areas where the paint has rubbed through) and minor scratches in the paint are not necessarily signs of a bad camera. But they do give a clue as to how well the camera has been treated. Classic cameras do not respond well to neglect.
If the seller tells you that the camera has no damage - and you find a crack in the body, you have grounds to demand a refund.
Q-2. DOES EVERYTHING WORK?
Are all the knobs and dials in place? Are any of them broken? Do they work smoothly? Has the seller checked them? If there are parts missing ask the seller why. If he tells you it's a minor repair - and that it will be easy to fix - walk away! If it was easy - he would have done it himself!
Classic camera parts are hard to find - and often expensive!
Q-3. HOW NEW ARE THE LIGHT-SEALS?
Almost every camera over ten-years-old will need new light-seals (see my other guides for more info on light seals). If you buy a camera with its original seals, you will have to have them replaced - at a cost of at least £30.00. If the seller doesn't know how to inspect the light-seals, refer him to my guide. If he is a so-called professional seller - he should already know!
Q-4 HAS THE CAMERA BEEN TESTED WITH A FILM?
The best way to test a camera is to take pictures with it! This may sound obvious - but countless cameras are sold on ebay untested. A classic camera may look great - but if it doesn't work, it's just a classic ornament! If the seller has not put at least one film through the camera, ask if he will allow you an inspection period (in writing) to test the camera properly. A week should be enough for you to take some pics and see the results.
Unless you are buying spares or repair - never buy from a "No returns" seller! That way lies frustration and madness!
Q-5 DOES THIS CAMERA SUFFER FROM...
In order to finish this question, you will need to have some understanding of "known problems". The good thing about classic cameras is that they have been around for a long time and most of their strengths and weaknesses are known.
In some of my other guides(coming soon!) I will be writing about the "known problems" with specific cameras. I will also write about the strengths of specific cameras, and hopefully help you to make a more informed choice.
In the mean time, feel free to contact me via ebay messages if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them, or to point you in the direction of someone who can.
For guaranteed, beautiful classic cameras - please visit my ebay shop