Buying old cameras

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Buying Cameras.
How you go about buying cameras will depend to a large extent on what you are interested in. There are four sources of old camera each with their advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages - once friends know you are interested in old cameras, offers will come your way.
Disadvantages – it can be hard to refuse a camera you are not interested in.
Car boots and flea markets:
Advantages – the cameras can be handled, you can negotiate price and you can find very rare cameras.
Disadvantages – this is a very hit-and-miss method regarding finding cameras at all and you get absolutely no guarantee after the sale.
Advantages – cameras will be reliably described, will have some sort of guarantee, you can handle the camera, staff may well be able to offer advice about the camera and a top-end camera will possibly be serviced.
Disadvantages – an expensive option and only easy to sell models are likely to be offered.
Advantages – most camera models can be found with patience and you get some (usually small) consumer protection.
Disadvantages – you have top rely on the seller's description, you need to factor in postage and it can be hard to deal with problems.

Dealers are very convenient if they are local as you can keep an eye open for models you want. London Camera Exchange have many branches – others have Interweb presence as well as physical shops. You can rely on a camera from a dealer working and they will offer at least a short guarantee – enough to try a film out. If shopping in a physical shop you also get the chance to discuss the operation of the controls with the staff. This is invaluable in the case of quirky cameras and can stop you wrecking a Soviet camera.
Buying from car boots and flea markets can be enjoyable in its own right. You can never be sure of what you will find or even if you will find any cameras at all.
Many sellers will assume that a camera that was expensive thirty years ago will be worth a lot now and may not be impressed with your low offer. Others will think that film cameras are now obsolete and will not expect much for them. Regardless of the asking price, you are in a good position to haggle – and you are not obliged to buy if the price is too high.
Buying from the Interweb means you have a very large range to choose from. Any mainstream model of camera from the last seventy to eighty years will appear on sites like Ebay very regularly. Just about any model ever made will appear eventually.
Online is the most risky way of buying old cameras as you are entirely dependent on the seller's description. There are, of course, ways to minimise the risk. There should be at least one clear photograph of the camera. With modern digital camera there is no excuse for dark or out of focus photographs. Where the seller's photograph is dark, out of focus or shot at a strange angle, assume the seller is hiding something and move on – there are plenty of other cameras out there.
The same goes for the description. Even someone who is totally ignorant about cameras can see what is before them. At the least they can tell you that the camera is in one piece, what happens when buttons are pressed and knobs turned. Failure to give a sensible description – again assume the seller is hiding something. If the sale looks genuine but does not give you all the information you want, ask the seller for specific details.
With auction sites like Ebay, it is necessary to control the price you pay. First, you need to decide the amount that you are willing to pay for the camera on offer, taking into account things like the lens offered, shutter condition and, naturally, how much you want to own that particular model.
Next you should look at the P&P charge. Some sellers use P&P to jack up the price they receive and charge several times the actual postage charge. A slight increase is to be expected to cover packaging materials and the seller's time, but that should be very small. Rather than worry too much about the postage charge, deduct the P&P from the maximum you are willing to pay to give you your maximum bid. An example: if you are willing to pay £30.00 for a particular camera and the P&P charge is £3.50, then your maximum bid is £30 – £3.50 = £26.50. Another example: if you are willing to pay £30.00 for a camera and the P&P charge is £10.00, then your maximum bid is £30 – £10 = £20.00.
Ebay will allow you to set a maximum bid and will increase your actual bid in fairly small increments as other people add their bids. I find this is the best way to bid as once your maximum bid is set, you can ignore the auction until it is over. This way, you do not find yourself being tempted to up your bid over the price you wanted to pay. You won't win every auction but you will never pay more than you need to for a camera.
If you want an idea as to how much your maximum bid should be, Ebay will allow you to look at past auctions for a particular camera model and see what people have actually been paying for them. There will be variation here as the cameras will have different specs and be in various conditions, you you will get a clear idea as the the value of a particular camera model.

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