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Gear & Apps

How To Buy Photography Gear Without Breaking the Bank

By Miguel Quiles on July 18th 2014

Let’s face it; photography is a very expensive hobby. If you’re looking to get into the profession (or become a serious hobbyist), you’ll find that there is always something out there that you’ll need for your kit to take your photography to another level. I’ve been very fortunate to have amassed a great collection of gear and saved thousands compared to buying new. Let me share with you my top 3 tips to save you money on your next camera related purchase!


Cash and Lenses

Tip #1: Find Deals On Craigslist

Looking back at some of my gear purchases over the past few years, most of it has been purchased used on Craigslist. I’ve been able to score some pretty amazing deals there. Back in 2012 (before the Canon 5D Mark III was released), I purchased the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon backpack, in the box with everything it would come with new, and a shutter count under 1000 clicks for $1400. At the time, the camera was easily selling for $1900 (used) or more. I also purchased a Canon 7D with a Canon 17-40mm L lens for $1100 (which was less than what the camera sells for by itself at the time). I even picked up a Canon 7D in the box with under 500 shutter clicks for $500! I could go on and on with some of the other crazy deals I’ve found, but I think you get the point.

The key to finding deals like this is checking Craigslist frequently. I have the site bookmarked on my desktop and phone and anytime I have a free moment (bathroom trip, sitting in a fast food line, etc), I quickly browse to see what’s for sale. If you see something that looks like a good deal, send the seller a message and get some communication going. I typically like to exchange an email or two before making an offer on whatever they are selling. If they have some sort of a bundle they are selling, sometimes asking if they will sell any of the items alone will yield some great results (that’s how I got my 5DMK2 so cheap). There are several websites and apps as well that will notify you if any specific items get posted for sale which can also help in this process. In my local market, Craigslist has been an amazing outlet for quality gear at a low price. Just be cautious, meet in public places, and always do your due diligence on whatever you’re trying to buy.


Tip #2: Join Photography Message Boards

There are many great reasons to join photography communities online, and saving money is toward the top of that list. Most photography message boards (like POTN & FM Forum) have a “for sale” section where users from around the world sell or trade their gear. Joining these message boards is free and along with scoring you some great deals on used gear, you can also find other users that can help you take your skills to the next level. The key to making deals there is to only buy from users that have over 50 posts (usually found under their name) and never send payments via anything other than PayPal.

You also should make sure the seller posts several pictures from various angles of whatever product it is they are selling. In this way, you can get the best idea of what the condition is of the item. Some sellers might offer to sell something to you for less if you send your payment as a “gift.” DON’T DO THIS! As a gift, you have no protection if the seller decides not to send you the equipment or it is different than it’s pictured or described. Using this tip, I purchased a Canon 35mm 1.4L lens for $900 and 2 Alien Bee Octos for $50! Just like with Craigslist, the key is to bookmark those sites, visit them frequently to see what deals come up, and always exercise caution.

amazon box

Tip #3: Use Amazon Wish Lists

While there are many online retailers out there selling photography related gear, I tend to buy my stuff new from Amazon. At times, I’ve been able to get some unbelievable deals. For example, when I purchased my Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-105mm F4L lens, I got the entire kit for only $3299. I ended up selling the lens on Craigslist for $850 which brought the price of the camera body in the end to $2449! This was before a 2% Amazon reward as well as another 2% rebate for using my Discover credit card.

To start, begin by creating an account and doing some online window shopping for items you would eventually like to purchase. Additionally, add some “dream” products that you may not have the funds for currently, but would like to own in the future. Once you’ve compiled your wish list, bookmark the site and visit your wish list page often. Because Amazon prices fluctuate based on who is fulfilling the order, you can often land great deals. I remember sitting in a movie theater line one day and checking my wish list, only to find that a 3rd party battery grip for my Canon 5D Mark III had dropped to only $29.99 (normally $70) and there was only 1 available from that particular seller. Because I purchase so frequently, all of my payment and shipping info was already saved and I purchased it all before getting to the cashier to order my popcorn! I would also highly recommend signing up for Amazon’s Prime service, as it gives you free 2-day shipping on your orders and super low cost overnight delivery (not to mention access to their movie and music services which come in handy during those late night editing sessions). It’s an amazing value and pays for itself after your first few purchases.

image004 (1)Bonus Tip

Best Buy often price matches items from Amazon and other local retailers, even when the items aren’t in stock. Patience and good people skills are crucial, so if you end up going there to ask for a price match and are declined, take it easy and try it again later. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars buying new gear from Best Buy using their price match policy and it’s definitely an option if you’re in a bind and need something quick.

Editors Tip

You can also save money when you buy used cameras and lenses on marketplaces like Swappa. If you’re unfamiliar with Swappa, they are a user-to-user marketplace for buying and selling used tech, and they recently added cameras to their site. Their support team reviews every listing before it can be posted online, and they have a pretty good fee structure.

Final Thoughts

Above all else, patience is the key to saving big money on your next purchase. If you’re in a rush to buy something, chances are that you’ll settle for whatever the lowest price is that you can find at that moment. I can tell you that all of the biggest deals I’ve found came in situations like I detailed above, where I wasn’t even really looking to buy anything. Going this route not only saves you money when you are ready to buy, but it also helps you get top dollar when you’re ready to sell those items.

Remember that Canon 5D Mark II I was telling you about? When I got ready to snag that deal on the Canon 5D Mark III on Amazon, I was able to sell my 5DMKII for $1500, the same camera that I purchased a year prior for $1400! Follow these tips and I’m confident you can maximize your buying power, keep your wallets fat, and keep your spouses from killing you.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Miguel Quiles is a commercial wedding & portrait photographer based out of New Jersey. He’s been involved in the photography industry for over 15 years, starting off first as a salesman at a local camera store. Since that time, Miguel has been refining his skills and pushing the limits of his creative abilities through the medium of photography.

As a self-taught photographer, Miguel hopes to share his experience and knowledge with new and upcoming photographers who wish to take their work to the next level.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jeff Morrison

    good read

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  2. Rich Taylor

    Great read! Good advice! Thank you.

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  3. Mi Guel

    I have had great success getting my gear on Ebay, Craigslist and Amazon. I was so pleased with Amazon, I joined their Prime club. Also Facebook, has a few Groups that sells gear as well.

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  4. Mi Guel

    The bulk of my gear, I got from Ebay, Craigslist and Amazon, all in immaculate shape. Also Facebook has Groups that specialize in the resale of new/used gear..

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  5. William Emmett

    You may also look into the Canon Loyality Program. When my old Canon TX got flooded in Katrina, I used it and bought a bridge camera. I saved a ton of money. I check with Canon, either the Canon website for new gear, or for refurbished. But, many times the equipment is also on sale at either B&H, or Adorama, for the same price or less. I also have to consider Canon does charge sales tax, and the camera stores do not. In Louisiana, that is a saving of 10%. I also buy many lenses at KEH. They are used but you would never know by the appearance of the lenses, just the price.

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  6. keith craine

    I use to monitor the Canon refurbished store. I have email alerts turned on and get immediate notification of sales on the refurb store. There is exactly the same warranty as a new lens, and during periodic sales you can get lenses for 40% off. All items have been like-new with zero wear or indications of use.

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  7. Michael Stagg

    I’m a big fan of for getting great deals on gear. As Miguel said, patience is, indeed, a virtue – as well as keen sense for finding deals. I recently purchased a Canon 70D from Amazon which then was selling for $1,200 elsewhere (body only) for $1,089 after the sale price and bundle incentives ( I purchased a memory card with it).

    Something else, you might want to consider: student discounts. I’ve saved tons on software and camera gear through EDU savings with Adorama and B&H. Also, think about joining professional organizations. I belong to PPA and ASMP; both offer members discounts from preferred vendors. The PPA also throws in $15,000 of equipment insurance!

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  8. Matt Kowalski

    I highly recommend paying attention to Canon rebate offers. Many times you can save $200 or $300 on a lens with the rebate plus earn bonus points if shopping through B&H. Canon will also sell factory refurbished bodies with full warranty for $500-$700 below list price.

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  9. Tom Bogan

    I guess I got lucky with craigslist when I bought my Tokina 12-24 f4 from a guy that went full frame. saved me $200.

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  10. William Emmett

    One source you did not cover, is buying used equipment through a company like “KEH.Com”. I always check with them when looking to buy a new (used) lens. Every lens I bought through them has been thoroughly tested, and cleaned up. My last purchase was a Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L USM lens. When it arrived it did not have any noticeable marks that it had ever been used. I also bought a Canon EF 70-200mm f4L IS USM lens, and it also was in perfect condition. KEH also has its own repair shop, so every lens, camera, tripod can be thoroughly gone over and rated before put up for sale. Be sure to check the rating before you buy though. KEH seems to be very conservative about how they rate. The other big internet sales companies have “used’ equipment for sale also. Check B&H, and Adorama Used section. These companies have a stellar reputation, and will give a great deal and service to keep their reputation.

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  11. Greg Faulkner

    I use here in the UK to shop around the main online places, gives you a good head start

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    great points captured

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  13. Paul Faecks

    Great tips, Miguel!

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  14. Ralph Hightower

    My opinion of Craigslist is “ixnay”. I’ve read too many horror stories of Craigslist. Also, I just checked for my area and Craigslist is pretty sparse.

    Amazon may be okay. My wife found a great deal for a Canon EOS 5D Mk III, EF 24-105 f4L package at Amazon in December 2013 for $4000; I checked B&H and I found a similar package for $3500. Look for specials. My wife frequents, but I’ve seen many of those vendors jack up the price and offer a significant discount; one vendor was selling a Canon 5D Mk III for a 95% discount at $3500.

    Reputable Resellers:
    I’ve bought a used Canon FD 28mm f2.8 from B&H and I’ve been happy with the lens. I also bought a used Canon F-1N with AE Finder FN and AE Motor Drive FN. KEH also repaired the motor drive for my A-1 and my “potato masher” Sunpak 522 flash.

    I’ve bought small items from sellers or from company stores like KEH.

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  15. Brian Stalter

    Unfortunately, in my area, Craigslist ‘deals’ are generally sparse and usually not that great – I can generally find used gear on and for significantly cheaper prices. I use a lot for camera stuff.

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  16. André Guerreiro

    all the gear i own right now minus the meFoto tripod, was bought used, either via ebay, or Olx (Portuguese craigslist i guess) and i got a Nikon d300 + 18-200 vr1 for 350$ then sold that same lenses for 180$ and sold my first dslr a Nikon d3000 for 250$ so i got a new camera for nothing

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  17. Phil Bautista

    The problem with Craigslist is there are a lot of hot items and scammers out there so you really need to do your due diligence. But great deals really need to be checked out well cos most bargains come with a catch.

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  18. Genard Williams

    I’m putting this to use ASAP! Thanks for the advice

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  19. Joshua flowers is my go to when searching for new gear. Their street price feature is pretty amazing.

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  20. heri purnanto


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  21. Drew Valadez

    Good points. The one that really describes how i got the equipment I have though is by using patience. Any extra money I made I put into a Piggy Bank outside of my banking so that there was no temptation to spend it on anything else. Little by little I chipped away at a few lenses. $50 here, 25 there and 50 there. I worked as security for a venue outside of my normal job and it was just fun money that I decided I wanted camera gear instead of blowing it at a bar or dinner. I ended up getting a 70-200/2.8L at the time.

    The other key point is also making sure that I get what I want and to not settle, at least as long as it is reasonable. If you think about it, getting a $700 lens that you kind of want is not all that much farther from a $1000 that you want. Yeah, $300 is a lot of moolah but for $700 and case of “I have this lens i kinda wanted but i really wanted the other one…” is not worth it. Save for that extra $300!

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