7 Reasons I’ve Bought Hundreds Of Cameras On eBay

It’s no secret on this blog that I’ve owned and used a few hundred cameras.

This simply wouldn’t have happened if the heyday of my photography passion hadn’t coincided with the abundant availability of cameras through the internet, and most specifically, eBay.

I would guess that if I’ve had 200 cameras, then probably 190 of them have come via eBay.

The rest have been either gifts, or lucky charity shop finds.

Here are the seven biggest reasons why I’ve bought so many cameras (and lenses) from eBay, and why it still has such an allure.

1. Cameras are magical machines.

I’m not someone who buys a wide range of items on eBay. Perhaps the occasional unusual kids toy or a rare battery or something, but mostly it’s about the cameras.

Film photography has its own special kind of chemical sorcery, but if anything, digital cameras hold even more of a magnetism for me.

The fact that they can not only capture what your eyes see in front of you as a permanent image, but that they can do so in a split second, I still find mind blowing.

So having thousands of these wondrous little devices only a click or two and a short trip courtesy of Royal Mail away makes them very hard to resist.

Which leads to…

2. Receiving parcels in the post. 

In this increasingly digital and virtual world, real, physical items hold more appeal than ever. Whilst I’m an avid user of email and think it’s an incredible resource that allows across the world communication daily, there’s nothing like receiving a parcel in the post.

And when that parcel is hand wrapped, usually in whatever paper, card and bubble wrap the sender could find close to hand, it just emphasises the rustic charm, the romance, almost, of having a parcel brought to your door.

And even if of course you do know what’s in the package because you bought it three days previously on eBay, unwrapping that specific item for the first time has a kind of magic to it also.

This brings us to…

3. Each item is unique. 

Even though often I might be buying a camera that was produced in hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands, this actual item now in my hands is unique, and has its own story, and mysterious history.

It’s survived where many of its brethren have been forgotten in drawers or wardrobes, lost on holidays or simply chucked away after breaking. And it’s about to enjoy a new lease of life in my hands.

Whether it’s a cheap digital compact from a few towns away, or a more exotic camera from the other side of Europe, the US, or Japan that’s hard to find on home soil, it just feels so much more special and interesting and exciting than picking up a brand new generic item off the shelf in a high street store.


4. Affordability. 

A quick search tonight for digital cameras in used condition and working, in the UK, under £10, brings up 3251 results.

Push the boat out to £20 and you have a choice from over 7000.

There are even 137 currently under £1!

This availability of such affordable cameras pushes temptation through the roof, especially for a penny pincher like myself!

What else can you buy for these paltry amounts? A fat and sugar loaded meal deal for two in a service station? A gallon of fuel? A posh cup of coffee?

How do any of these compare to the sheer wonder of owning and exploring a new (to you) camera (see point 1 above!)?

5. The Watch List.

As long as I can remember (and I’ve used eBay since 2002) there’s been the Watch List.

This single function is a masterstroke of the brains behind eBay, in usefulness and even more so in devilish deviousness.

It’s super handy to have all the cameras (or anything else) you’re watching on auction at any one time on a single page.

Add in convenient reminders by email or pop up notification to inform you when items you’re watching are ending, or when you’ve been outbid, it amps up the psychological addiction ever further.

I love and hate the Watch List in equal measure.

It’s brilliant, simple and ingenious, and yet I am so very aware of how it preys on some of one’s less appealing traits like addiction, greed, and competitiveness, essentially to make eBay’s owners even richer.

6. Saved searches.

As with the Watch List, this is an equally clever way of reeling you in to buying more than you need.

It’s genuinely very useful to set up searches for more obscure and unusual cameras, and saves a great deal of time scouring through listings manually on a regular basis.

The best way to use this is set up searches for the cameras you really do want, but only come up a few times a year perhaps, then stay away from eBay unless you get an email alert with a camera for sale of the type you’re seeking.

The foolish way to use this, as I have found from experience, is to set up more general searches like Pentax DSLR, UK only, less than £50, and then be emailed daily with a dozen new matches to tempt me, even though I have two absolutely charming Pentax DSLRs that I love and cost me well under £50 each already.


7. Because it’s so easy.

This last reason is really a culmination and a combination of all the others.

From the comfort of your own home you can use the killer one-two of the Saved Search and Watch List to find, buy and have delivered wondrous magical machines, in curious makeshift patchwork packaging, each with a unique story to tell, for mere pocket money.

Oh, looks like I could have made this post about 800 words shorter.

It’s really no wonder that the only way I’ve been successful in resisting eBay has been by avoiding it completely, clearing my Watch List and disabling (or deleting) all Saved Searches.

How about you? Have you bought many cameras (or other camera gear) from eBay? What do you find appealing/addictive/infuriating about it? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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30 thoughts on “7 Reasons I’ve Bought Hundreds Of Cameras On eBay”

  1. Yup! I had no use for ebay until I wanted to shoot film again, it is the only way in my corner of the world that I can build the Contax system that I love to use!

    1. Steve, how did you approach collecting the Contax stuff via eBay? Did you do a general search on Contax gear and pick out the stuff that caught your eye? Or a more detailed search for specific cameras and lenses each time you identified one you knew you wanted.

      They are magnificent cameras, I’ve had half a dozen. The 139 Quartz was my favourite (and the only one I still have) but the 167MT was an incredible camera, such a ruthless and efficient yet beautiful machine.

      1. Not quite Dan, my original Contax 139 was not working and I wanted to replace it so I searched for that specifically…many are offered without lenses but I waited until I found one that looked good complete with the Planar 1.7/50 for about the price of a lens on it’s own. Since then I have searched for the same camera and picked up two more bodies and a couple of yashica lenses that were thrown in, and I have been watching C/Y Zeiss lenses and accessories to build the system. I also got a 167MT body when I was on a month long vacation in the UK and the 139 I took with me decided it needed a service….that was the most affordable way to keep shooting with the lenses I had in my bag, and the 167 rounds my system out nicely, it is the camera I like to use if shooting high speed film, or fast action like an airshow or motor racing! So my searches are very specific, I love the Contax system and am happy to stick with it!

      2. The Yashica ML lenses are really good, I think they’re underrated. I had a 50/1.7 and 50/1.4 (amongst others) which I was very happy with. I tried a Planar 50/1.7 for a while but it just didn’t live up to the hype for me, performed no better than the Yashica, and was about five times the cost.

        The Yashica FX-D Quartz bodies are great too (their version of the Contax 139 Quartz) and I thought about 95% as good to use as the 139. The Contax bodies do have the edge though in build quality and smoothness of operation. Pretty much the best film cameras I’ve used!

      3. Absolutely right, I still have one Yashica ML which is great, and gave another two to my daughter. I do like the Planar though, I have two of them 🙂

  2. I rarely purchase anything new and I have mainly bought used photo equipment off Ebay. I don’t have things that I didn’t need before I started though!
    I have done the same with phones and a laptop recently too, not minding that they are ‘behind’ in tech terms. In fact, with charity (US: ‘Goodwill’) shops for clothing, household and garden furniture from antique auctions or reclaim centres and even cars bought used, there is little in my life apart from the weekly food shop (and even then I get a veg box for the main part with only some bits from a supermarket) where any purchases are actually brand new stuff!

    1. Brilliant, Bear, an example to us all!

      I’m pleased to say I’ve never bought a new car (the newest has been at least a decade old!) and, aside from phone cameras, only one new camera I think.

      Not so good on the clothes front but I do generally buy decent stuff that lasts me ages, and I don’t have much overall.

      Can’t believe how some people buy a new wardrobe every new season, let alone every year, it’s quite shocking.

    1. If you can find stuff locally like that, then fantastic! I’ve had a few finds here and there in charity shops over the years, but don’t tend to trawl them like I used to – too much temptation!

  3. I would say you summed it up very well Dan. I don’t buy much anymore, and no photo equipment for ages, but I have been selling a bit. I have been actively buying and selling for almost 20 years and have had few disappointments. It’s a lot easier and faster to sell now than it used to be. My favorite acquisitions are cameras from one family where the seller has shared a little of the backstory of the equipment and usually some odds and ends that reveal a bit of it’s history. Prices here are way up and It seems like the only way to get bargains now is if someone had done a poor job of listing or taken bad pictures, in which case it is a gamble. It seems that people are dumping MFT gear now so that may be the big bargain at the moment.

    1. Always good to hear from you Jon!

      Have you been selling on eBay? How’s it been going?

      I have a love/hate thing with that too. Love that potentially you have such a huge buying market and you don’t need to leave your house to sell (well, aside from a trip to the post office). But it still seems to take ages to set up a listing, and I don’t enjoy giving a cut to eBay and another to PayPal, ha ha!

      I might have to start looking at MFT again, perhaps an older Olympus, though their model range absolutely baffles me.

      1. Dan, I picked up an Olympus EpL-2 on eBay for almost nothing and only shot it a few times, I had to buy a book to help me understand the tedious menu system, but early results are encouraging. I was thrilled that the same half case that came with my Panasonic Gf-1 also fits it. Indeed, they seem to be almost the same camera. I am dreading selling camera gear, so far I have only been selling fragrances believe it or not, no problems and it is surprisingly lucrative. Even with all the fees I can’t complain. I was waiting for the weather to improve to list camera gear.

      2. Thanks Jon. I’ve tried to love M43 a few times with my Lumix GF1 and it is a lovely camera, but somehow I don’t love it like I think I should. So I am still curious. How does the EPL-2 feel and build compare with the GF1?

        Will have to revisit the Olympus range and try to figure their model numbers out! M43 only makes sense for me if the bod and lens combined is small enough, otherwise if it’s the same kind of size and weight as a small DSLR, there’s no advantage for me.

      3. Dan, I have only used the EPl-2 a handful of times with the “body cap” lens I received with another camera. It is exactly the the same shape and size as the GF-1, but lighter, made in China, and the menu system is tedious and altogether different. I enjoyed using the “Art” modes and B+W as a kind if digital Holga. The colors are very nice also. It certainly doesn’t feel like a premium product, I wouldn’t want to take it on a long trip that’s for sure. It did fine on a weekend camping trip and the pancake lens was surprisingly sharp.

      4. The Lumix bodies I’ve used, even the consumer end point and shoots, have had a classy feel about them. Maybe I’ll start keeping an eye out for a Lumix GM1 again…

      5. Exactly Dan. Panasonic products have a premium feel which I can’t say about all camera gear. Also, I see very few complaints about Panasonic products in general. And my repair tech likes them.

  4. I bought most of my cameras on eBay. While I was doing it, it gave me the best ratio of low price to fully functioning camera. Junk stores overpriced the gear. ShopGoodwill.com had better prices but I had a 50% fail rate on the cameras I bought there. When I start leaning into more new gear (that I will resell, not keep, after shooting), I’ll turn back to eBay.

    1. Yeh I’ve been really lucky with eBay too. I think it helps that I’ve never bought anything super expensive, I think probably £150 is the most I’ve paid, for my Ricoh GRD III and Pentax K30. Mostly it’s under £20 so I’m not overly upset if I get a dud every now and again.

      What do you mean about “leaning into more new gear”? Do you mean more gear that’s new, or gear that is more new, ie less old, than stuff you’ve had in the past? I can’t imagine you being very interested in brand new cameras! i assume you just mean stuff that’s new to you.

  5. Although I’ve never bought a camera off E-Bay and am unlikely to (hurrah for Canada!), I agree with these points. Especially #1! As much interest as I have in the process, I have even more for the equipment. That started at a very early age, too. Must be the engineer in me. I have learned to talk myself out of some bargain cameras by the argument they are functionally too ordinary. And right now I’m fascinated by the Nikon CoolPix A1000, which is too expensive.

    1. Is there a Canadian eBay, or just the US one? I know before you’ve said how expensive shipping to Canada can be.

      I think a curiosity for more unusual cameras is a healthy way to stop collecting too much. If you just collecting any old camera, you’d end up with hundreds, even thousands, most of which are functionally 95% similar.

      A while back I was looking at the older higher end Coolpix, like the original P series, 1-4, all with largeish (1/1.8″) CCD sensors.

      A few later ones are quite intriguing, but not once they got to CMOS sensors and silly zooms. I just don’t ever need anything beyond 70 or 80mm and even then I at 28 or 35mm 90% of the time.

      1. Dan, there is an E-bay Canada – and practically everything on it ships from outside the country!
        When I was collecting film cameras I did end up with a lot of duplicates, but then I was spending generally <$10 each on them, often less than $5. These days one must be more selective!

  6. So you’re basically justifying your gear buying addiction? 😉
    I used to be able to find things every once in a while at charity shops and on local ads, but that basically ended, I think most people who wanted to get rid of their film equipment have done so already, so for the past 3 or so years it’s always a miss when I look… except for that one time last year when I got really lucky… I already told you about that. Still can’t believe I have a free K 50mm f/1.2, even if it does have some fungus in it, but still shoots perfectly…

  7. The vast majority of my collection has come from thrift (charity) shops. I’ve been pretty decent at (mostly) funding my G.A.S. by buying gear this way, then cleaning, testing and selling it for much more than I bought it for. Unfortunately, the thrift stores have gotten wise and are now either selling online (shopgoodwill.com) or grossly overpricing the untested gear. My current shopgoodwill.com record is 5 working, 3 broken, so running pretty close to Jim’s 50%

    I’ve put that money into the more desirable stuff that I want. I’ve been very lucky with my eBay purchases, though I tend to scrutinize the listings and seller thoroughly before plunking down my money.

    1. Rob, I went through a similar phase when film gear was less well known and more sensibly priced, picking up old Zenit and Pentax bodies with lenses, and cleaning and testing the lenses, then selling on for more.

      Just got fed up with the cycle of it though and realised I wanted to be a photographer more than a camera shop owner!

      As you say, prices generally have become silly in many places now – online and off!

  8. In Peru only twicce I got the luck to get an attractive film camera, the Fujifilm DL MiniSuper. (which I still have) and the Canon EF (FD mount camera, the black beauty, stolen :l ) All of the other film cameras and digital cameras are from eBay. In my country it seems that most people that likes the idea of photography gets a Nikon or Canon aps c DSLR with a kit lens. Those are excellent cameras but I think machines as tools have to met your way to do things, in my case compact film cameras as the Samsung ECX 1 (which I have to confess to not using anymore), the Canon EOS 7 (Elan 7e in the U.S. and Eos 30v in Europe if I recall well) which is the Japanese edition. I paired it with a cheap Yongnuo and stopped to use my faithful but big ECX 1, the Canon has the same size as the big compact… And well, I like Ektar 100 and that I only can get from eBay. I can relate to the watch list, and I can relate to your whole post xD

    1. I had an EXC 1 briefly, massive aren’t they! And a crazy amount of features.

      I wrote about it on my Flickr some years back –

      Bigger Better Faster More...

      I didn’t end up keeping it long though!

      Before I got into photography and started learning not only about the technical side but camera models too, all I remember from seeing other people shooting was they either had a big fat strap with Canon all over it in red, or a big fat strap with Nikon all over it in yellow.

      Like you say, for the longest time, before phones had decent cameras, and before Sony joined the big players, everyone seemed to have a Canon or Nikon DSLR with a kit zoom…

      1. I was thinking in that camera, that Samsung. Actually that is the reason I found your blog, Dan. There was a link and I got to here. Thank you very much for sharing the knowledge you have about these not that known cameras. I have a favorite photo with that Samsung film camera, which is this one http://prntscr.com/rx34mb it is with the digital scan of the laboratory, which (afterwards I knew) are not even close to the natural colors if one asks for prints straight from the negatives. I used the portrait mode which select the best framing according to the distance of the person, or in this case a cat : D

      2. That Samsung EXC1 must be one of the most over-engineered film compacts ever made! Though I did have a number of film compacts with very similar designs and brains (Samsung and Rollei branded) that were surely all built on the same internal electronics, and each had more features than you could ever use. Yes I remember one was a portrait zoom mode, where you pointed the camera at your subject and squeezed the button to lock focus and it zoomed to whatever focal length it needed to make the perfect portrait – not too far, not too near. I think this sounds like what you’re talking about too? It worked shockingly well, I just could never imagine needing that kind of automation from a camera, I’d rather make my own decisions about focal length and where I stood!

      3. Effectively it was portrait zoom mode. I prefer to control the choices about the frame too, but in some cases the autofocus didn’t got where I pointed (maybe the parallax at close distances) so the portrait zoom mode was a way to double check if the focus had achieved the target. Thank you for your reply to my messages, Dan. Greetings.

      4. I often find any kind of multi point or overly sophisticated autofocus doesn’t lock on what I want it to, and is too clever for its own good. I always set AF to the simple single point at the centre of the screen, then use the half press of the button to focus lock and recompose. Which works well for about 98% of AF cameras I’ve used!

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