Selling (and buying) cameras and photographic equipment

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This short guide is mainly for sellers but can also be a help if you are looking for a camera but are worried about buying on Ebay.It does not cover everything but can be used for ,hopefully, most camera types . Books from libraries, specialist camera web sites and knowlegeable users can fill in most gaps.

If you want advice contact me - I will try to help.

If you can put a film through the camera  especially if not recently used this will confirm  if working  before listing, or could show up faults.

Camera shops are either very thin on the ground or are not taking in old cameras for part exchange so Ebay is probably the best place to sell. I am l amazed at what sells and for high prices so as long as you give buyers enough valid information then your items should sell. I have arranged the guide into sections depending on the type of equipment but the first section regarding description etc. refers to all groups.

What will sell :  Everything basically - if the start price is right -  put it on at your minimum acceptable price.99p listing is free but every few weeks Ebay have a 'Free' listing weekend when as long as it is an auction you can start at any price and up to 12 picture are free - take lots of close ups from all angles. Hidden reserves SHOULD BE AVOIDED AS THEY ARE A WASTE OF MONEY  -what does a seller gain? You pay an extra £2.50 at least and buyers know you want at least £50. Start an auction at your reserve then bidders know what you want and you save money- it won't sell for less .
Good quality modern and collectable SLR cameras,especially if made by the big ones - Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander,Nikon,Pentax, Rollei and Canon usually sell OK, but less popular  makers like Konica, Practica,Minolta ,Yashica and  most Kodaks although capable of excellent results do not have the same image. It is always best if you  have the makers own lenses but Tamron are a good next best as they produce good results and if you change your camera you only have to change the adapter but they are not good sellers (unless you have the 500mm or ultra rare 350mm).
Before you set a price check 'completed listings' as there is no point asking for more than they sell for.

What won't sell  : Plastic point and shoot cameras.. There are exceptions - Leica and Contax, Olympus MJU11 with 38mm lens and Yashica's with Tessar lenses. ,  but see next section. Enlarging equipment and  projectors also are hard to sell due to weight as well as  being   rarely used these days.Good enlarging lenses especially by Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock and Leica can be used as close up lenses on bellows.

How to start.  Lay all the equipment out on a table and make a list of  the cameras and lenses separately. If the camera has interchangeable lenses take off the lens from the camera. Also list the accessories that are with it.  When you have your list search Ebay for the camera model and lenses make a note of the details of it that are on the listing as you may get an idea of information  to include  . Check at the end what the camera and lenses sold for. This will give you an idea of the price it may achieve. I suggest you do this for a week to get an idea of more than one sale. Your Superduperflex may have cost you £350 three years ago but there is no point in starting at £150 if none are ever sold for more than £50 - so be realistic.

Before you list your items on Ebay you must make a detailed description of each item and it's condition . There is no point in just describing your camera equipment as a 'Superduperflex and 3 lenses' without further information. This will mean you get a load of messages asking different questions or they don't bother as they may assume you don't know much about the camera so are unable to say whether it is working and it's optical, mechanical and cosmetic condition.

What you need to check :


If you have the original instructions then refer to them for checking the cameras functions. It will also give you the battery information if required.Go through all the functions to confirm working. If it requires a battery for the shutter, meter or both then you should try to obtain one . You may be lucky at your local camera shop (if you have one) or supermarket but some are very elusive as they are banned due to their mercury content, although you may get a replacement on Ebay - just type in battery number and you will have lots of choice. The voltage may not be exactly correct but it may indicate if the functions work.You can often download the cameras instruction book for free from the web.

 Make notes of all cosmetic damage or wear. Check for dents, scratches loss of paintwork brassing or missing parts and describe accurately. To describe it as good condition, excellent , etc. means nothing without elaboration as previously described. Signs of light/normal/heavy use can help though as the amount of scuffing of external surfaces would be covered by this description.

Wind on the camera to see it is smooth and returns to it's correct position and fire the shutter. Some cameras (Voigtlander Vito for example) need a film or the sprockets moved manually to cock the shutter and some Kodak Retinas stop when the counter reaches 36 and will have to be put back to '0' before you can wind on.. Open the back to see there is no obvious damage and the shutter blinds are OK. You will need to wind on and fire the shutter to check whether the  blades open and close quickly (Compur/Prontor between lens shutters) or if a focal plane shutter neither blind sticks or does not open.While it is open run through all the shutter speeds to check they are working. You cannot check if they are accurate but if the 1 second looks and souds right then the others should be OK. Some camera slow speeds up to 1/15 are on a separate mechanism and may stick due to lack of use, they may free up after trying a few times but don't force anything. Check the highest speed - usually 1/1000th - to see that the whole of the frame appears as a circle. Sometimes the second blind catches up with the first one so only half is exposed. If it is a single lens reflex check through the viefinder for pentaprism damage and make sure the mirror is clean and goes up and down (if designed to return) smartly.


Open the iris blades to their biggest aperture so all the lens is uncovered.Look through the lens carefully from the front and rear, check and note whether  it has any of the following problems :- dust (small amount is not a problem normally), fungus (looks like a spider web), cloudiness (could be lens cement fault or oil), scratches to front or rear and coating faults (whether the blue coating is  marked),air bubbles (only found usually in prewar quality lenses but usually acceptable). You may have to look at it from different angles to check thoroughly. Some lenses (Canon FD) require the camera being fitted to the body before the iris blades can be opened up fully.Check the iris blades open and close smartly without sticking and they do not have oil on them. Check that the lens operates the camera functions correctly and the  focussing and zooming to see if there is any stiffness or slackness at some point. Check for damage to the outside and describe signs of use.
Some lenses made for earlier film SLRs can be used on current digital SLRS without alteration, some cameras (micro 4/3rd ) need an adapter.


Normally these are of minimal value , flashguns (check if working on camera if possible), tripods, exposure meter (working ?), etc. but a check on Ebay (completed listings') under the item would give an indication if it should be separately listed. Collectable or professional accessories are sometimes worth listing separately.

The above will cover most of the equipment but there are extra areas to check if the camera is collectable.

Identifying the camera.

Some early cameras are not always easy to identify but if you can look through a copy of  Mckeowns -the collectors bible ,( also Kadlubecks ) this will not only help you do this but give you dates, description and a value which should only be used as an indication of rarity. Check your local library as there were also books published which covered individual camera names and are of great help.You could also try the web by typing in the camera maker - there are many collectors web sites that could help. Look for model name / number which sometimes are difficult to find. Zeiss cameras have numbers embossed into the leather (532/16 etc) on the end or rear, Leicas are a veritable minefield and I have given further details below.You can still get 35mm (also known as 135) and 120 film at camera shops and others are sometimes available on the web from specialist suppliers.


Leica collectors have three priorities - condition, condition and condition, except where rarity is involved. Items which are truly mint command a hefty preminum so care should be taken to accurately describe and show any marks and accurately describe the optical condition.I have given these cameras a section on their own only because they made so many models. You can check the model on the web by typing in the serial number, but early ones might have been upgraded.You could have a 1930 Leica 1 which has been updated to a post war Leica 111F black dial but if you list it with the wrong details as long as you give the serial number and a good picture you will soon be informed of the correct model.Any unusual engravings or colour other than black or chrome could indicate military use.

Is your Leica a Leica?

There are many copies/fakes/ forgeries coming out of the old Soviet block and are usually  Zorki cameras (which are a copy of the Leica 11 and no slow speed dial oin the front) with fake engravings. They would not fool a collector but to the untutored eye could be taken for genuine . The quickest way to check is to unscrew the lens - if the sprung loaded wheel at the top of the opening is completely round like a pill it is Leica, if it is crescent shaped it is NOT a genuine Leica. The 4 screws on the front, either side of the lens,s are usually chrome on a copy, black on a genuine Leica. Leica cameras have a serial number on the top and this can be checked from a list usually in all Leica collectors books or on the web to confirm the model, however this is complicated as early ones were sometimes updated at the factory to a later model, but the same serial number was retained. Any camera with Nazi emblems, 1936 Olympic games engraving is a  fake as military cameras only had a FL number , initials of services or may be painted dark grey. .


The basic checks on condition etc. have already been explained but Leitz sometimes made the same lens for decades, or subtle internal changes  and therefore serial number should be given as year of manufacture can then be confirmed.


It may be more beneficial to list some accessories separately - viewfinders, rangefinders, motor winders,lenses and meters as buyers won't buy an outfit to get one or two items unless cheap.

You are now ready to list.

Your title should give the basic details of the equipment and what is included. Just  ' Camera' is a waste of space whereas 'Canon T90 + 3 lenses' is more likely to get interest and get browsers attention.Your main description should give the camera name and model name/ number and if space whether extra lenses , accessories, etc.  Don't just put 'camera' .

Make sure it is in the right category - I have seen cameras under film (for sale), 'other photography' and 'wholesale' for example where the chances of being seen are minimised.I suggest putting it under Film or Vintage photography whatever it is ,if old, as even if it is a lens or accessory  it will show up under Film or Vintage photography whereas if you list a lens under 'lenses' it might be missed .NOTE. If you start at 99p or below listing is free  but dont list in two categories under the same main category as it will only show up once on the main category..Use a good sharp pictures showing the camera equipment from different angles - take it out of it's case first , or take trhe lens cap off the lens,and if a folding camera open it up. Don't include equipment not in the sale - if you are listing the body only don't have a lens on it. The main description should contain all details of the equipment and their condition with details of accessories.If you intend to do a lot of listing on Ebay then .  There is an alternative on a free listing weekend  to list up to 100  aand if you schedule them for a few days ahead. You can then change to immediate listing  when you want the listing to take place so in effect you can list many listings quickly and you don't pay the extra 6p.

Don't list items or conditions as one continuous sentence- nothing can be more off putting than lines of type without a break - List different items on separate lines in an easily read typeface - try Verdana at 14p..

I hope you find this useful and best of luck - I don't mind if you contact me with a specific query not answered in this guide..



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