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Repair or replace your digital camera? Research is required – A66

August 08 2012 - Photo Technical

Welcome aboard photo enthusiasts.  I recently received a call from Dorie Cox, Reporter/Associate Editor for The-Triton.  She told me she had a couple of Nikon cameras needing repair.  I think one was the D70s and the other the D50, and one of those was already evaluated for a service charge of $250. The question was to know if it is worth the repair cost or should buying a new camera be the best option.

I have talked about www.dpreview .com in previous columns and mentioned this as a useful website not only to make a determination about repairing the old cameras, but also as the place to research buying a new model; comparing the old with the new and comparing a new Nikon to other new models.

Technology today is moving along much faster now than it was back in the days of film when cameras worked with many more mechanical parts.  Those cameras did not go obsolete quickly and retained good re-sale values of a longer period of time.  Digital, with camera now largely working on electronic circuitry, has changed all that.  Advances with yearly upgrades in models make last year’s model primitive (so to speak), and applies to both smaller pocket and more professional SLR cameras.

This doesn’t mean you still can’t take great photographs with your older cameras. The single greatest factor for great photography is you.  Many of today’s digital pocket cameras having amazing and powerful capabilities far exceeding what similar size cameras were capable of in yesteryear. If you know what you are doing you can capture great photographs  even with an inexpensive pocket camera.

This is not Dories’ situation, she has two broken cameras unable to properly take photographs, so what should she do, repair or buy new.  Using the dpreview website we first looked up exactly when her cameras were introduced to the market, and it happens both came out in April of 2005. In digital time this is an eternity. Looking at the specifications enough of the more vital ones have dramatically advanced.

Another way to look at her situation is to see what her cameras are fetching on the used camera market, since they are no longer sold new.  I made a quick check into this searching on the Internet for the D70s and could only find used sale for 2006, which were around $550 for a camera that sold for about $650. Note this was five (5) years ago, and you have to think the pricing has dropped significantly.  Therefore, if the repair is around $250 I can’t see this being a wise investment, and I’d rather recommend she put that money towards a new camera.

What about buying used digital equipment in the first place? I’ve sold a few, but I’m an honest broker. One of my buyers lives here in Fort Lauderdale, and was a friend so he did not have much to worry about.  Another lived in California and he would have legitimate concerns.  It was a few years back so I’ve forgotten how it was exactly handled, but it must have been contingent on a trial period.

This is something that has to be done if you are the buyer of used equipment.  You have to make an arrangement were you can see and use the equipment to make sure it does not show obvious damage and that it functions perfectly in every aspect before the sale is finalized.  You may want to contact the manufacturer to see if there a way to establish the cycle count, i.e., how many photos has the camera taken, and possibly get some other suggestions on checking things through.  Have the serial number handy to see if they have a record of any repairs that match the #.

I am somewhat reluctant buying used equipment, partly because I depend on my cameras professionally, and fortunately I don’t have to anymore.  When starting out and poor it was something I had to do on occasion, but this was in the pre-digital days when cameras were far more mechanical in structure.  Back then I would never buy a used flash, which functions more on electronics.

Digital cameras function almost exclusively on electronics, circuit boards, and when these need fixing it can be a bit more complicated and expensive, keeping in mind at the same time the fast pace of technological advances and upgrades.  It all adds to my uneasiness in buying used digital equipment.  The bottom line on my advice is, if the used camera is not too old (when it was first introduced, and you know the seller, and you are given a chance to give it a field test, then consider it…you might get a good deal.  Then all that is needed is your skill and talent to getting great shots.  With that I’ll take permission to go ashore.