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Dec 5, 2015 | Tips to buying cameras at flea markets

In building up my collection of Canon cameras I often get the asked how expensive a hobby like that can be. It turns out — not so much — since I go to flea markets and second-hand stores to find camera bodies. It is true that camera bodies are cheaper than lenses, so your mileage will vary depending on your interests, but hopefully this gives you a rough guide based on my experience with the Ooi-keibajo Flea Market here in Tokyo and the Helvetiaplatz one in Zurich.

Tip #1: avoid the stalls that only sell cameras

Buying cameras at a flea market

These stalls are usually owned by people who know the appeal of cameras and lenses and are out to make a small (or possibly larger) profit. The stall in the photo above was one such example, and you can notice the little price stickers too — another warning sign. Usually these stall owners are unlikely to bargain, too, so you’re almost certainly buying at a markup.

Tip #2: just because the camera viewfinder is open or the lens is exposed doesn’t mean it’s bad

Buying cameras at a flea market

Certainly you ought to look for cameras that are sold in cases, but even then that’s not always a given, since sellers might ask for a premium on the account that there is case, when in fact the camera within the case is really just a junk. On the other hand, you can find really pretty cameras that are only lightly used if you look around carefully. For example, the AV-1 above (which I really should have bought, in retrospect) is both beautifully functional and rare, since it’s a full black body.

The checklist I go through:

Buying cameras at a flea market

Tip #3: lens filters are a blessing in disguise

Buying cameras at a flea market

A lot of the most beautifully kept lenses and camera bodies I’ve found at flea markets have had lens filters. This is a good sign on two fronts — first, the original owner cared enough about the camera and the lens to buy a filter for it, so that the lens wouldn’t get scratched, and two, the lens filter helps protect the lens from the not-so-friendly or not-so-knowledgeable hands that come by the market.

Tip #4: do your research before going

This is a bit obvious, but not all cameras are worth paying for. The AE-1 Program is a dime a dozen at flea markets, so if you’re at a sufficiently large market, you can shop around and spot a couple of these and compare prices. You’ll never know what you can find at a flea market, which is definitely part of the fun!

Buying cameras at a flea market

I bought the above Canon AF35ML Super Sure Shot (1981) for 400 JPY (~$3).

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 5th, 2015 at 11:22 am, EST under the category of Articles. Both comments and pings are currently closed.