Nikon make great cameras.
Apart from the Nikon EM, they have never put a foot wrong!
Buying a used Nikon should be a sure thing!
You can't go wrong with Nikon - can you?
Actually you can!
Leaving aside the EM (what were Nikon thinking!) all Nikons were nigh-on perfect when they left the factory.
If you can get your hands on any Nikon that has hardly been used - snap it up! You can't get better than a pristine Nikon.
The problem with Nikon cameras is what happens to them after they leave the factory. They don't always stay pristine!
Many of them are owned by professional photographers.
And professional photographers treat their cameras the way rally drivers treat their cars.
They drive them very, very hard!
They push them to the limits - and they don't worry too much about dents and dings and scratches.
And although Nikon engineering is the best in the world, the workings of a camera can only stand so much wear and tear.
A professionally-owned Nikon will have had a hard life!
You need to be careful!
How can you reduce the risk?
First and foremost - avoid ex-pro cameras.
The tell-tale signs will be there in the pictures - serious brassing, scratches and dings and dents to the body. These are all signs of professional use - and should warn you away from the camera.
Other signs are tired looking motor-drives - or missing base caps where a motor drive has been. Most pros use motor drives and a motor drive can fire the camera at 5+ frames a second - that's a roll of film in 5 seconds! Even a Nikon will suffer after a few years of such strain!
Some sellers will be upset with me for writing this - but I was a pro for 15 years. I lived and worked with professionals - I KNOW how they treat their cameras - and I stand by what I say.
Ask the seller if the camera has been used by a pro.
If he says yes, walk away!
Second - know your models.
Nikon released a lot of their cameras in pairs - one aimed at the professional market, and the other aimed at serious amateurs.
A serious amateur is the perfect person to buy a camera from.
He coddles his camera and lavishes loving care on it.
A scratch on his prism is like a dagger in his heart!
Over the next few weeks I will write guides about most Nikon cameras - and how these pairings can help you choose.
But for now I will use just one example.
The Nikon F3 and the Nikon FA.
These two cameras were released at the same time.
It is a total joy - when new!
But many F3s are very tired now!
If you can find one that has had light amateur use - buy it!
Look at the pictures and ask the seller questions.
If it looks like it has been used by a pro - if it is scratched and dented and the paint is worn off - if there is a shabby motor-drive attached, or the base caps are missing - walk away.
But if it is in pristine condition - grab it with both hands.
You will have a thing of beauty and a joy forever!
But be careful!
Most F3s are ex-pro cameras!
Most F3's are ready for retirement!
The Nikon FA was aimed at serious amateurs.
It is a far safer used buy.
It may not have quite as much street-cred as the F3, it may not have interchangeable prisms - but it is a full pro-spec camera (titanium shutter-curtain, speeds of up to a four-thousandth of a second, flash-synch at a 250th of a second, etc etc etc) - and it will most likely have been cherished all its life.
Again, look at the pictures and be guided by your head - not your heart! You can see if a camera has been cared for. If it looks neglected - walk away. There are plenty of Nikons on Ebay.
A pristine F3 is a very rare beast!
A pristine FA is far, far easier to find.
If you must buy a Nikon - and if you are a serious photographer you MUST buy a Nikon - take the time to find a good one and be prepared to pay a good price! Avoid the tired, worn-out ones and bid hard on the lightly used ones. There is a world of difference!
I love Nikon cameras!
So will you - if you get the right one.
Look out for my specific Nikon guides over the next few weeks.
And for Nikon cameras that are guaranteed to be pristine - take a look at my ebay shop Beautiful Cameras