Friday, January 30, 2009

Don't Buy Used Digital Cameras, Ever.

Don't ever buy a used digital camera. You just never know what you are getting.

Case in point, up until about six months ago, my D70 looked almost new, almost as good as the first time it came out of the box. Since then, it has started to develop some signs of slight wear, but still looks great. I could list this on eBay and honestly say that, cosmetically, it looks like it's in great shape. I could also say that I've taken thousands of shots without any problems. I could also say the the camera's EXIF data indicates 22,113 shutter actuations. I could say all this and it is completely true.
But what is also true is that I've taken over 63,000 shots with it and that several hundred shots came out terribly and that, at one time, I was receiving regular error messages.
A savvy shopper will ask how many acutations the shutter has, but it takes a super savvy shopper to ask how many shutters has the camera gone through. See, the reason I can say that the shutter has only 22,113 actuations is because that's how many are on the new shutter. Yes, my little D70 had it's shutter replaced after about 41,000 actuations.
The number of shutter acutations is shown in the EXIF data embedded in each picture. If you have a Flickr account, the easiest way to see this data is to shoot a low quality small JPG file with your camera and upload it directly to Flickr without any alteration. Editing and saving the image in an editor will cause a great deal of EXIF data to be deleted. Here is a small JPG shot on my D70. I uploaded it directly to Flickr, as a result, you can see a boat load of EXIF data.
The new shutter for the D70 cost about $200, plus shipping and tax, it came out to about $250. As the shutter was failing, it would partially work, but leave the resulting image partially blacked out. That's where the several hundred 'bad' images came from. Also, before the repair, I was getting sporadic error messages. I'm not sure if it was related to the bad shutter, or if something else was repaired during the shutter replacement.
It is common for novices to banter about how camera manufacturers like to say that any given camera is tested to 100,000 cycles. But that's not important, what is important is what the average failure rate was. Sure, Nikon can test the D70 100,000 cycles, but they don't tell you that on average, the shutter fails at about 40,000 cycles. Talking about test cycles is useless unless it's followed by failure rates or by a warranty.
I hope this post helps to illustrate the perils of buying used digital cameras, you just never know what you are going to get. Is it really worth spending $250 on eBay for a used D70 when you can get a new Nikon D40with lens for $410 (and warranty)?

1 comment:

Immune said...

I had no idea that the camera records so much info with each image and that uploading a picture directly to Flickr could reveal that info. Very cool. Thanks.