Searching for that perfect used point and shoot, classic SLR or Polaroid and don't necessarily want to spend big bucks? With the right combo of bargaining skills and a little camera knowledge, you can delve into some great finds out there. Here are just a few tips on what I've done searching around the world for that camera that calls my name.
I LOVE buying film and cameras from the Lomography store, but as a shutterbug I also enjoy “digging” around for that perfect camera find. All of the film cameras I currently use in my collection were bought online or via flea markets as the one posted above. When I first started buying film cameras – I turned to eBay/Craigslist, but as I began enjoying the weekend flea markets in the States, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines. I quickly picked up on how to make sure what I buy doesn’t just end up for display. All the cameras I’ve bought are in good, working condition, and do not require much fiddling or cleaning when I’m ready to test them out.
Flea Markets/Sulit/Craigslist – One man’s junk, is truly another man’s treasure. I prefer buying cameras at the flea markets or online bulletin board sites like Sulit or Craigslist because I can inspect them before I hand over the cash. Flea markets are a treasure trove of great camera buys. Yangiabad Bazaar in Tashkent, Uzbekistan is by far one of the craziest, weirdest, and most energetic flea markets I’ve ever been to. My friends who are from the former Soviet Union claim it is one of the last true Soviet bazaars where you can buy anything and everything, including original Soviet cameras (Lomo, Zorki, etc.) really cheap. Moreover, Craigslist has been a great addition to flea market-style buying because of the face-to-face and hands-on interaction. Sulit is the Philippines’ version of this and since I was based in Manila for the summer, I took advantage of the opportunity of finding good bargains on this site and met the seller in person at a public place so I can check out the camera before buying.
The all-important inspection: First – I check the lens and view finder. I make sure it is clear and has few dust particles as possible. Then I open the back of the camera. I make sure the film chamber is clean and inspect the shutter blades. I avoid cameras that have sticky blades because that can lead to too many headaches of wasted film. While the camera back is open, I fire the camera at different f/stop settings to see how fast the shutter opens/closes. If it requires a battery, I check the battery chamber to make sure there is little to no corrosion. A little corrosion can be easily cleaned by a cotton swab and vinegar, but too much means that it could have leaked into other parts of the camera, affecting the electronics. It might also be good to have spare camera batteries or double As on hand for testing. If all goes well – prepare to bargain. Some of the fancier flea markets in the States will insist that their prices are “set”, but at the ones overseas (like Yangiabad), bargaining is expected. There is such a thing as low-balling, so don’t embarrass yourself and the stall owner by lowering the price too much – the shopkeep has to make a living too.
Online Auction. The Internet has brought the fleamarket to our fingertips. Despite the fact that I can’t test the cameras beforehand, I still sometimes buy cameras from eBay since sometimes it is hard to find a certain brand or make at the fleas/Craigslist/Sulit. I’ve only had one mishap w/ receiving a camera that was not in the condition as described online, but because I bought it from a reputable seller w/ a return policy then I got my money back (minus shipping cost). The key is to buy from reputable sellers w/ return policies and can answer specific questions about the camera. This is the best way to avoid getting ripped off. Most recently, I found my spiffy new Leica Mini-Zoom point and shoot this way and it made it to Uzbekistan in one piece!
More shots from my second hand finds:
Enjoy bargain hunting and most importantly – happy shooting!
Photo and words by Yvette Cuenco. Yvette is a Filipino-American originally from Concord, California who has lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY, and is now feeding her travel bug by living/working overseas in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Read more of Yvette’s international adventures here and forays into Filipino (and other) cuisine here.