Selling a rangefinder or SLR camera? Test it first!

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       Rangefinders are cool!

        If you have a rangefinder to sell, don't think of it as worthless and old-hat.  Yes, digital has arrived, but the better rangefinders are wonderful cameras, little marvels of engineering which can still produce professional results at thirty or forty years of age.   Recently at Christmas, my twenty-something nephews coo-ed and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over my immaculate little Olympus Trip 35, which has served me well for around 15 years.  Then they started showing me their rangefinders.  Tactile quality will always be cool.  There will ever be a market for these cameras, and the price of the best of them cannot fail to rise in the next few years as there are fewer around to meet demand.  So don't give away that beautifully-crafted magic-box.  Make sure it is working, list its' good and bad points honestly, and get the best price for it.

        I'm currently looking for - more - rangefinders for my working collection.  A nice SLR, at the right price, will always be welcome too.  As with everything for sale on ebay, some sellers do a really professional listing, and some just really don't. 

        In this guide, I want to tell you why the same camera can sell for 120 pounds, thirty pounds, or not sell at all.  Many of these cameras were very popular in their time, produced for several years, sharpened by revisions, and produced by the million.  To sell YOUR camera, the price a buyer pays will reflect their CONFIDENCE in the item they are bidding on.  The same questions need to be asked for ANY camera.  Does it work?  Show me the results!  What condition is it in?  Prove it!  What has been done to it lately?  What may still need doing?  What desirable 'essentials' come with it?

        Is yours any good?         

        A typical rangefinder can be bought for under thirty pounds, in good recently-used, working order, with any flaws or minor damage described and illustrated in clear, large, well-taken photos.  Desirable models, in beautiful clean-as-new condition, with cases, instructions, any batteries required, a same-make flash-gun, a filter, lens-hood and lens cap present, can make well into three figures, as clued-up collectors fight for One of the Best.   Some cameras will NOT sell on here, or only make the start price, often 99pence or perhaps 5 pounds, as the seller hasn't really bothered to do their best in selling.   Wonderful statements such as these, which I've seen recently, "I really don't know much about cameras" or "I found this in the attic/wardrobe" or "this belonged to Grandpa, who used it regularly in the '70's", all serve to tell us NUUUUU-THINGG about what we are getting for our bid.   An unknown quantity can work out as economically unviable, very quickly.  Serious collectors won't be at all interested.   

         What can be wrong with a camera?  Plenty.  Maybe the shutter is seized or damaged.  Home repair is verrry tricky, professional repair is expensive.   It could be electronically dead, with no response from the light meter. This is not terminal, but why should you buy a dead-meter camera when you can buy a live one?  Perhaps the lens has been scratched, which shows on pictures by ruining them.   Try to source a better lens, and you may as well pursue a better example of the same camera.   The camera body can carry damage which, while not affecting the cameras' operation, can look just awful to the eye.  Some 'brassing', where the chrome or paint finish has been worn through by regular use, is no problem  In fact a touch of patina can look thoroughly characterful - this is not the same thing as deep dents that suggest the camera has been dropped, or nasty cracks and missing buttons, damaged dials, and such.    Do the selection dials for aperture, shutter-speed, film rating and focus turn easily, with a good precise feel, or are they sloppy, or seized solid?  Will a film advance when the buyer loads it?   It would be nice if it did!   If not, a professional repair, or parts from another spares camera may be needed.  Have dead batteries been left in the battery compartment, to leak corrosive acid into the camera, effectively killing it?  Some cameras have a seperate compartment which holds a battery for the flash - is this clean and free from corrosion?   Lastly, a clean appearance can make a great impression!  Your local supermarket will have moist tissues for spectacle cleaning, which are ideal for careful cleaning of the camera lens and viewfinder.  Cotton buds and more of these tissues can get all the dust off the exterior of the camera.  A puffer bulb and very soft make-up brush can get dust out of the inside, if there is any.  Hopefully there will not be!   Something which may be lurking, is decayed foam-rubber from the light seals inside the camera.  Thes can be scraped off with a touch of isopropyl alcohol or lighter-fluid, which evaporates without trace, using cotton-buds and cocktail-sticks to remove all the residue before fitting the new seals.   A camera technician will often charge around thirty pounds for this job!  I did mine for about a tenth of that.    

         So, what stops a seller testing a camera?  Usually, lack of  a battery to make it work, and lack of an instruction manual, can make it all seem too much bother.

           If you have a dead battery, or no battery in the camera, don't panic.   If a battery looks to have leaked in the compartment, try a LITTLE vinegar on a cotton-bud to swab the contacts clean.  This can work more often than not.   Most of these cameras were made to use small wristwatch-style batteries of 1.55Volts rating which contained Mercury, and are no longer in production, for environmental reasons.  This does not mean they are not available, however, and many of them are still easily found on ebay.  The alternatives are well documented by the faithful followers of the camera, on the dedicated users' pages.   If you don't want to use/can't find Mercury-cells, then Silver-based batteries tend to have a slightly-higher voltage, which let the camera work, though with a possible tendency to make exposure-meter errors. Many users say that with colour print film, this isn't really a problem.  If you think it is, you can adjust your settings of aperture or shutter speed to allow for this error, or you can have the camera adjusted to suit the lower voltage if you are having it serviced at some time.  Zinc-air batteries also work as a mercury-type replacement, though these may need a tiny rubber O-ring fitted to them, and a tiny hole drilled in the cover of the battery compartment.  Zinc-based batteries tend to flatten quite quickly, compared to Mercury cells.  Some cameras such as Yashica, which should use a 5.6Volt battery, work just fine with a common 6Volt battery often used in car-alarm fobs, though they may need a little cardboard wrapped round the new battery to fill the chamber.  Full details for your camera are on someones' page, out there on the web.   

            Where were the battery replacement details available?  On the web.  That is also where your cameras' manual is, if you don't have the original.  They can be found by typing the full details into your favourite search engine.  You could print this out onto paper, load it onto a CD-Rom for the buyer, or have a link to it on the listing page you have on eBay.  This will show you bother!  And if you'd rather have the original manual, they come up frequently on eBay either from dealers, or individuals who find themselves with an unwanted copy.   ANY CAMERA should wear a filter to protect its' lens.  A popular filter is one to keep ultra-violet light out.  Filters are the first line of defence against lens damage, and can also prevent dust ingress into the camera.  If damaged, they are cheap to replace, and there are dozens of useful ones out there to give some really useful effects, such as correcting the colour-cast from typical Tungsten bulb indoor lighting.  Not using one can make people look rather ill.  Your choice!  Again, the enthusiast's page will tell you what size of filter you need to screw into the lens on your camera.  Filters are for sale on here. 

            A lens cap should come with every camera.  As well as being there to even protect the filter, on many rangefinders, the lens-cap acts as the 'OFF' switch for the light-meter, so not using one will have the battery draining itself happily away.  Without a cap of the right size, you can keep the camera in its' case, or store it in a dark cupboard. 

           Test it!  

           So, with a lens cap and filter, a battery, and a manual to show you how to load the film, how about shooting a test roll?  Remember this is not digital!  One point which comes over time and again from the experts' pages, is that these cameras shouldn't be rushed on the shutter.  Hold the camera steady,  EASE your finger onto the button, give it a moment to meter the light and set the shutter, and GENTLY complete the stroke.  No fast moves, and no-one gets hurt.                                            

Just try a variety of the pictures you would typically take.  Portraits, landscapes, pets, wildlife, cars, sunsets...  Get that roll developed, look for errors the camera made, and errors you made.  

            When your test-roll is developed, you can have them put onto a CD.  Your eBay listing can show the best of these, or you can link to your online photo-album, if you have one.   There is a danger present here...  After you have revived this camera, got it back to service-order, used and enjoyed it, you may not want to sell it!   Rangefinders allow you more creative input than many digitals do, their lenses are often high-quality rare-earth glasses, made with an eye on quality rather than price.  Many users have been delighted with pin-sharp enlargements up to A2 size from their shots.   These cameras often have wide-apertures, below 2, which can usually allow you to shoot indoors without flash, in an unobtrusive manner.  These are reasons why there will always be buyers for the best presented, working examples of them.  So, look at the examples of your selling on here, see what makes a great listing, and follow their lead.  And don't expect a good price, or even a sale, if you want the buyer to go out on a limb and take all the chances with your untested camera.

Happy Snapping!





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