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Used DSLR eBay Buyers Guide

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Canon EOS 350D

Canon EOS 350D - Used bargain?

A Digital SLR can be a great used bargain, as the technology here moves more slowly than in compact cameras. Even a five year old DSLR will produce much better results than most compacts, and should last you for many more years to come.

However, as with everything on eBay you need to take a few precautions to make sure what you’re buying is as good as it looks.

Before you dive in and check out our new and used DSLR auctions, follow our simple guide to make sure your used DSLR buying experience is hassle-free!

Check out the Listing

It sounds obvious, but make sure you know what you’re bidding on. Read the description of the item carefully and make sure it’s what you think it is. Is the camera brand new, used, refurbished or just for spares or repair? The number of people who fail to see the words FAULTY or SPARES/REPAIR in large bold writing is remarkable.

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Beware of Poor Descriptions

Cameras that are listed with poor and very short descriptions should be treated with caution. No photo? You’d expect that anyone selling a digital SLR would be capable of uploading a quick snapshot to eBay, so this should ring alarm bells. If there is a photo is it of the actual item or a stock photo they’ve found on the internet? If you’re buying a high-value item then the item description needs to be complete and professional.

Sometimes you can grab a bargain on eBay if the seller doesn’t quite know what they’re selling, but most DSLR owners should be savvy enough to know a reasonable amount about what they’re selling.

Canon DSLR Auctions 150x150 CONSUMERWhat’s in the box?

Find out exactly what is included in the sale – is this a body-only auction or has the seller included a lens as well? If a lens is included then check out exactly what it is. If no lens is included and this is your first DSLR then make sure you factor in the cost of one – even a basic lens could set you back £70-80.

Also check to see what else is included – is it in the original box? does it include the manual? Batteries, chargers, flash guns, memory cards, lens covers, camera bags are all valuable additions especially if you’d need to buy them separately.

Whether the manual and box are included and in good condition can also tell you a lot about the seller and how much care they have taken over their camera.

Don’t get carried away!

Many items on eBay are great value, but sadly some items attract a lot of interest and will go for more money than they’re really worth. Look through completed listings to see what similar items have gone for and then set yourself a limit – then make sure you and stick to it!

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Research the Seller

Taking a couple of minutes to research the sellers feedback rating and recent feedback is just the first step. If you’re seriously interested in an item then you should delve deeper – have they sold any other similar or high value items?  If they have good feedback but it’s all as a buyer of low value items this isn’t nearly as valuable.

Look through their recent buying history too – did they buy this camera off eBay just a short time ago?  If they did then alarm bells should be ringing as there’s a good chance something might be wrong with it.


What condition is the camera in? Don’t be scared to ask the seller questions about the condition of the body and lenses, a genuine seller shouldn’t have anything to hide. If the seller discloses some information about the condition factor this into your maximum bid – if there are dust spots on the sensor for example it could cost up to £50 to have it cleaned. Scratches, dust and fungus on the lens will similarly de-value the package depending on the severity of the damage.

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Use Paypal

Paypal is part of the eBay family, and offers a very good level of buyer protection if you buy something off a seller that turns out to be a scam. Some sellers will try and discourage you from using Paypal because they will incur some charges, but it’s by far the safest way and definitely offers more protection than sending a cheque, bank transfer or paying cash in person.

Be careful with International Sellers

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The UK isn’t always the cheapest place to buy a DSLR, so many eBay sellers from foreign countries will try to capitalise on this, particularly sellers in Hong Kong and the US.

It comes as no surprise then that buying high-value items from international sellers needs to be treated with extreme caution.  Whilst there may be savings to be had on face value, you need to be very careful with postage charges, be aware that you may incur a customs charge when it’s imported, and that any disputes will likely be very hard to sort out.

Also be aware that models vary regionally, so for example a camera advertised as a Canon EOS 500D from a seller in the US will probably turn out to be a Canon Digital Rebel T1i. There isn’t technically anything wrong with this, but it’s something to bear in mind.