Buying cameras and camcorders
Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.
The DoneDeal guide to buying cameras and camcorders
- Ask if the original box is available, a sign that the camera has been cared for.
- Check the camera in daylight.
- The majority of DoneDeal sellers will happily allow you to closely examine their camera equipment. If they don’t, they may have something to hide.
- Look carefully at the outside of the camera and lens for signs that it may have been dropped.
- A physical shock like this could prove trouble.
- Minor dents or chips in the paintwork are more likely an indication of a lot of use rather than a major technical trauma.
Try it out
- Trying a few shots before you part with cash will let you know if you are a good fit with the camera and everything’s working.
- Ask the DoneDeal seller to explain the settings on the camera if you are not familiar with them.
- Ask for the equipment manual.
- Some ads may indicate that camera equipment is in need of some repair or refurbishment.
- If this is the case, check with a reputable repair shop to see if the item can be fixed.
- If it needs fixing, see if the parts required are (a) available and (b) within your budget.
Digital SLR cameras
Digital SLR wear and tear
- Look at the camera and check for scuffmarks on the body. Assess the general condition of the camera.
- Are there signs of wear where the strap connects with the camera? This indicates how much it has been used.
- Check that batteries are still available on the market. Examine the battery compartment for signs of leakage.
Digital SLR flash
- Put in a fully charged battery and fire the flash. How long does it take to recharge the flash? If it takes more than five seconds the flash is tired.
- Examine the 'hot shoe' (the part you connect the flash to). Make sure it works.
- You may need to connect to another flash. Check the sync lead.
Digital SLR lenses
- Take the lens off and examine closely for dust, dirt and fungus. Look for scratches and lines. Check to see if the aperture blades snap quickly into place.
- Look for signs of wear on the threads of filters and lenses.
- Test all switches on the lens and camera to see if they’re loose.
- Manually focus. Check for sticking as you turn the field.
- Assess how quickly it focuses using autofocus.
- Ensure no light gets into the camera by checking that the connections into the body of the camera are not bent or scratched.
- Check for dust or grit on the sensor.
Digital SLR noises
- Hold the camera up to your ear and listen to the shutters. If there are different noises at different shutter speeds, be sceptical.
- Listen for rattling noises – this is a good indication that a camera has had a few knocks.
Compact camera basics
- Examine the camera carefully for signs of wear and tear or scratches and marks on the LED screen.
- If you buy a compact with a touchscreen, check that it’s responsive.
- Ask the seller about battery life. How many pictures can you take on a full charge?
- Slim compacts may fit in your pocket, but expect few buttons and small dials.
Compact camera features
- If you like to shoot close-up shots you need a high optical zoom.
- Check for shutter lag. That’s the time between clicking and the camera taking a snap.
- If a camera reacts slowly it won’t be useful if you wish to take sporting action shots.
- If it has red-eye reduction or image stabilisation features, check to see if they work.
- If it has a video feature, try it. Can you zoom in and out when filming? Does the microphone work?
- Are there manual controls? Do they all function?
- Test the autofocus. Does it frame your shot perfectly?
- Megapixel count only matters if you want to blow up your shots to big prints. Buy to suit your needs.
- Breathe on the lens and see if the fog clears evenly. Can you see any dust?
- Examine the camcorder. Are there any dents? Dents may mean it’s been dropped.
- Sniff. If the camcorder has a ‘fishy’ aroma, be wary of a leaky capacitor.
- Check the tape compartment for discolouration of any metal elements, and look for lint or dust.
- Check with the manufacturer’s tech support team whether replacement parts are available before you buy.
- Start recording and listen intently to how the mechanism of the camcorder behaves.
- Any weird noises as it rewinds, records or plays should arch an eyebrow.
Camcorder storage and memory
- If buying a digital camcorder be mindful about checking the storage of the machine.
- Storage is usually removable – a DVD or a mini DV tape, mini-disc or SD card.
- If using a hard drive-based camcorder, ensure the hard drive works.
- Ask the age of the batteries.
- Batteries that don’t hold a charge will need replacing.
- There are some vital accessories that you will need to operate your camcorder. Without them, it is effectively useless.
- Check that you are being given a lead to connect it to your computer.
- Do not leave without the charger.
- After shooting indoors and out, using the zoom and autofocus, don’t forget to play it back.
- Hook up to a monitor or TV and if you can, play the tape back on another camera.
- See if the picture and sound are stable.
- Ask the seller if the camera has had any repairs carried out on it. Multiple repairs spell trouble.
- Ask if it’s still in warranty. It may not be, but there’s no harm asking.
- Ask and you shall receive. See if the seller will sweeten the deal by throwing in some extra accessories that you will need to care for and get the best use from your camcorder.
- Extras to enquire about include a lens filter, case, tripod, tapes and microphones.
- Keep an eye on DoneDeal ads.
- If you need to find these items yourself, try DoneDeal's wanted ads section.
- Set up an email alert, so when items you want are advertised you’ll be the first to know.
- Don’t forget when the deal is done to use your camcorder to liven up future DoneDeal adverts.