Basic Tips to Buy a Camera at a Yard Sale


Here in the community, we often read about how our fellow Lomographers bought a camera at a yard sale or flea market. But how do we know when buying a camera if it is in a functioning state? Here are a few tips about what to look for (or to avoid).

Credits: mllev

What you need:

  • Go to a flea market, or any kind of yard or garage sale of course;
  • You might want to bring along batteries;
  • Keep your eyes open!! Cameras are often lost among a number of other objects.

So, you are at a flea market or sale and come across a camera you would like to add to your collection, how do you assess if it may work?

1. Check the shutter:

If the camera does not need any batteries, check the shutter still works: it is the first condition to a working camera! If the camera requires batteries, ask the vendor whether he has some, or try the ones you brought if they are compatible.

What I do to check if the shutter is in a good shape is put the camera on Bulb mode (“B”), and open and close the shutter several times. If the shutter does not open or close when you action the button, you probably will not be able to shoot with the camera or be prepared to try and fix it, if you have such skills.

Tesastscad wrote a really good tipster about fixing a sticky shutter here.

2. Check for fungus

The next step is to check the camera for mushrooms: look through the viewfinder, open the back and check all the camera for fungus.

Fungus is one of the most dreaded things that could happen to your equipment, and is almost impossible to get rid off because it is so small.

What does fungus look like? Here are some photos off Phototuts:

Photos from Phototuts

To know more about it, check out this blog post on Phototuts

3. Check the knobs, buttons etc

Check all buttons and knobs are functional, especially the rewind knob!!

4. The most important tip: HAVE FUN!!

Once you have bought the camera, go home, clean it up (Yayoboy recently wrote a nice tipster) about that), and shoot a test roll!! That is the only way to find out if your new camera works properly: the only way to be sure is to shoot a test roll.

Here are some of my latest acquisitions:

What about you, have you bought any new (old) cameras this summer?

Hope you enjoy this little tipster!!

written by mllev on 2013-09-05 in #gear #tipster


  1. segata
    segata ·

    Nice article, most of my collection is built this often from a thing we have in the UK called a car boot sale, they can be held anywhere and the best way to describe it is a cross between a yard sale and a flea market, sellers typically selling from the back of their cars, my first SLR was obtained from one as was my current highest specced one, never spent more than £10 either.
    Only bit of advice I would add to people obtaining cameras this way is get a basic set of small screwdrivers, oil and some good cleaning supplies as well as reading up a bit so the camera that they would initially pass on due to something being stuck or a bit worn out now becomes a bargin buy to fix up and even customise, I even purposely look out for beaters now to fix up.

  2. lokified
    lokified ·

    Another bit of advice: check the light meter if it has one. Cover it with a hand & make sure he needle moves. Great article!

  3. mllev
    mllev ·

    Thank you!! :)

    @segata: You do have pretty good deals - the other day, I bought a polaroid camera for 1€, I could not believe it!! I finally managed to get my hands on film this week, I can't wait to clean it up a bit and test it...

    @ lokifield: checking the light meter is also a good idea, but not all have needles, in which case you can't be sure unless you have the right kind of batteries with you...

  4. dieuwkemonica
    dieuwkemonica ·

    Nice and very handy article!

  5. jammy
    jammy ·

    One of my favourite things to do is to look for old cameras at charity shops or car boot sales but I've had to reign it in a bit as I have a lot now!
    They don't even have to be working, I just think cameras are beautiful, the older and dustier the better.

  6. djobrien687
    djobrien687 ·

    Going to a boot sale on sunday, having thoroughly reading this article and the comments a few times I am hoping for the best

  7. mllev
    mllev ·

    @dieuwkemonica: thank you!!
    @jammy: I definitely agree with you: even if the camera does not work, you can always display it!!
    @SteveSestrich: thank you for that precision
    @djobrien687: have fun on sunday and share your findings with us! :)

  8. djobrien687
    djobrien687 ·

    @mllev: thank you

  9. djobrien687
    djobrien687 ·

    Back from boot sale, two polaroid cameras for £10, good condition too

  10. mllev
    mllev ·

    Wow, great catch!! Congrats!! :)

  11. herbert-4

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