Buying a Film Camera on EBay: a buyer guide and warning
EBay, Amazon -- they're prime examples of scary internet stores. It's like going to Las Vegas -- you can either go for the attractions or you can go to gamble. If you gamble, you can waste all you money. But the lure of finding a great camera for a great price is just too much for this photographer.
That's why I've come up with a process for weeding out the good and bad sellers on EBay.
You'll need to begin your EBay search in your local camera shop. It's good to get a good idea of how much the camera you want is going for. That way, you can set limits for yourself. Even if you have all the money in the world. You want to set a realistic budget. There's nothing worse than getting into a bidding war on EBay and paying to much for a broken paper-weight. (It hasn't happened to me yet... that's why I'm writing this out to make sure it doesn't.)
You'll also want to research common problems with the camera you are seeking. For example: light seals, shutter problems, batteries that are no longer in rotation or for sale.
So, you know what you want, you know what problems to look for and you've set a budget -- now's it's time to shop.
Be specific in your search.
Beware of scam artists. I try to buy for sellers that are from the United States. Certain country's of origin should be a red flag.
Look for listings that have more than one picture. Like they say - "A picture speaks a thousand words." They can say that the camera is clean and works... but the pictures can say otherwise. The more pictures you have the more evidence you'll have for or against buying it.
Read between the lines on the descriptions. Look out for misspellings, inaccuracies and other things that just don't fit. Look for general understanding about the camera or photography.
Are they selling a camera that they used recently?
Could it be from an estate auction?
Does the description sound like every other description?
Also if the seller says it doesn't work -- believe them.
Do research on the seller.
Seeing what the person is listing will give you an idea of where the camera came from. It's odd because some sellers will say they know nothing about the camera but are selling it for an "in working condition" price. You'll be surprised how many sellers think that just because the shutter button works on a film camera.. that it'll work when you put film and batteries in it.
It also never hurts to ask a question or two about the camera.
If they avoid the question or show no interest in answering the question -- move on it's their loss.
Look the user's rating.. and how many items they've sold. It's a good gauge for how dependable and trustworthy this ebayer really is.
Remember you have the power to keep it moving -- go to the next seller. If that camera sells to someone else. You'll find another that you can go after tomorrow, the next day or next week.
It's not the end of the world. Just be patient and you'll get a great camera that will likely be with you for years to come.