CamerAgX

August 23, 2009

Buying photo equipment on eBay

Filed under: Gear, How to — Tags: , , , — xtalfu @ 4:23 am


I bought most of my cameras and lenses on ebay.com, sometimes through auctions, sometimes at  “buy it now” prices. I never had a bad experience so far.


If you buy on eBay, you will face three types of sellers:

  • on-line stores specialized in photographic equipment, new or second hand.


That’s the low risk option. Some stores limit their inventory to a few brands, and only carry high quality, very nice to pristine cameras. Others are less restrictive, and also have cameras which have lived a more difficult life. If your intention is to really use the camera you’re purchasing, buying a comestically challenged camera may be a good option, as long as it’s in good mechanical condition. Specialized stores are supposed to know what they sell, and will not plead ignorance if the product does not work or is not completely similar to the published description. They will arrange for a free return, and a refund.


A word of caution, though: the products are evaluated before being listed, and the obvious lemons don’t pass, but the tests are not always as thorough as one would wish: a lens may have looked OK when tested on a particular type of body, but will fail to operate on another one, which is in theory 100% compatible but is interacting with the lens differently. Always test the equipment you purchased as soon as you receive it, and contact the seller if there is any issue. Reputable stores will listen to you, and they have a good return policy.


Over the years, I bought cameras or lenses from Adorwin (the eBay store of Adorama), Betteroffblu, Cameta and Shutterblade and could appreciate their professionalism.

  • Stores not specialized in photography


That’s the riskiest option, in my opinion. The store could be anything, from a pawn shop to an antique dealer, the worst being a dollar store or a shady repair shops buying broken electronic equipment in bulk and making one sellable camera out of 3 broken ones. Even if they know a few things about the products they’re selling, they will generally plead ignorance, and will offer little or no support if there is an issue with the equipment. I never had a really bad experience on eBay, but it’s with this type of seller that I came the closest to being seriously disapointed. Buyer beware.

  • Low volume and non professional sellers


Low volume sellers belong to multiple sub categories. You will see items sold by a person who pretends he got the equipment he’s selling from a friend but that he knows nothing about it, and  you will find the passionate amateur photographer who bought his equipment new 20 years ago, used it day in day out and took great care of it; he will take pride in providing a honest and accurate description of his equipment, and that’s the person you want to be buying from.


Because of the way the auctions work, the prices tend to be highly variable and very unpredictable. Professional sellers tend to protect themselves with a “buy-it-now” price, and if the item does not sell this time, they just list it again. Non professional sellers tend to use the auction system more than professionals. With the number of people watching eBay listings every day, it’s difficult to find a real bargain, but some sellers (lazy or inexperienced) still publish unappealing listings (blurry pictures, ambiguous descriptions) that a trained bargain hunter will be able to interpret to his advantage: I bought my Nikon F3 this way, at 30% of what the action would have reached if the listing had been professionally layed out.


As always, do your homework and try and understand the market first (ads in magazines, completed items list on eBay). Set a limit for the price of the equipment you want to buy second hand. In any case, read the ads very carefully, ask questions, and only place a bid if you feel confident enough.


Other reputable sources

  • keh.com -


    I never had the opportunity to buy second hand equipment from keh, but good friends did. keh has the reputation of being very conservative in the way they describe the equipment they’re selling (if they say it’s in good condition, then it’s very very good). They only sell over the phone or on the Internet – no walk-ins.

  • bhphotovideo.com -


    B&H is a big photo video mail to order company, with a huge brick and mortar store in New York. I bought new equipment from them on multiple occasions. A very pleasant experience. I never had the opportunity to buy second hand equipment from them, though.



Feel free to share your comments and experiences. Thank you.


Nikon FE2

Nikon FE2

August 22, 2009

Why are manual exposure cameras worth more than automatics ? (Intro)


The facts


Let’s take three lines of manual focus cameras which still have a very active second hand market today: the Leica R series, the Nikons FM & FE and their derivatives, and the Olympus OM-1 & OM-2 and their “single digit” descendants. Each line contains automatic exposure cameras (Leica R4, R5, R7; Nikon FE, FE2, FA; Olympus OM-2, OM2s, OM4, OM4t), and manual exposure cameras (Leica R6, R6.2; Nikon FM and FM2; Olympus OM-1 and OM-3).


For a given generation of camera, manual exposure models are almost always worth more than their automatic exposure siblings.


Average retail price of a camera in Excellent Condition (source: a reputable specialist of used photographic equipment)

Brand Manual Camera Auto exposure Camera
Leica R6.2: $ 999 R7: $ 550
Nikon FM: $ 190 FE: $ 170
Nikon FM2: $ 245 FE2: $ 199
Olympus OM-1: $ 150 OM-2: $ 190
Olympus OM-3: much more than $500 * OM-4: $ 235
Olympus OM-3T: much more than $1,000 * OM-4T or TI: $ 450


More after the jump

Nikon FM: compact and rock solid, a good risk-all backup camera for Nikon users

Filed under: Gear, Nikon Cameras — Tags: , , , , — xtalfu @ 6:59 pm


In the mid seventies, a new generation of SLRs hit the market. They were following the example set by the Olympus OM-1 and were much more compact than their predecessors. They also used less mechanical components and more electronics.


The FM was Nikon’s response to the OM-1, and to similarly compact cameras from their main competitors. The FM outlived them all. The FM and its derivatives, the FM2 and the FM3a,  were sold for more than 30 years, and when the production of the FM3a was finally stopped, they were still in such demand that for a while used FM3a’s were selling for more than when their price when new.


Compact, reasonably light and rock solid, the FMs were often used as backup cameras by professional photographers until they stopped using film a few years ago.

Nikon FM

Nikon FM

(more…)

Charleston – June 2009

Filed under: Pictures — Tags: , , , , — xtalfu @ 5:32 pm

Early July 09. A week-end in Charleston. Hot and humid. Adults, Kids and Dogs trying to cool down

Charleston - July 2009 - Fountain - Nikon FM - Nikkor 24mm f:2.8

Charleston - July 2009 - Fountain - Nikon FM - Nikkor 24mm f:2.8


(more…)

August 17, 2009

Nikon Pronea S

Filed under: Gear, Nikon Cameras, the APS format — Tags: , , , , — xtalfu @ 2:54 am


Launched in 1998,  the Pronea S is Nikon’s second and last APS SLR. Nikon rapidly lost interest in the APS format, and refocused its R&D (and sales) efforts on the more promising Coolpix digital cameras. With its smaller image format and lenses, the Pronea can be considered a remote ancestor of the vastly more successful Nikon D40.

Nikon Pronea S (with the built-in flash deployed and a Nikkor 24mm AF lens)

Nikon Pronea S (with the built-in flash deployed and a Nikkor AF 24mm lens)


Apart from the fact it’s using APS film instead of more conventional 135 (24x36mm) film, there is nothing really remarkable about the Pronea S. Its characteristics are aligned on the other mid-level amateur cameras of its time.


It benefits from the advantages brought by the APS format (smaller size than 24×36 cameras, choice of three aspect ratios for the prints) but it also suffers from all the limitations that ultimately caused the demise of the APS format.

(more…)

Paris – Garden of the Pont Neuf

Filed under: Pictures — Tags: , , , , , — xtalfu @ 2:50 am


Located at the very center of Paris, and linking the right and left banks of the Seine with the western end of the “Ile de la Cite”, the Pont Neuf (New Bridge) is the oldest bridge of Paris. It was built at the end of the XVIth century, under the reign of Henri IV whose equestrian statue dominates the area. A public garden lies below the bridge. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Paris. A (relatively) quiet place in a big city.


Henri IV - Pont Neuf - Paris

Henri IV - Pont Neuf - Paris

Gardens of the Pont Neuf - Paris

Gardens of the Pont Neuf - Paris

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August 16, 2009

Casa Batlo – Barcelona

Filed under: Pictures — xtalfu @ 9:29 pm
Casa Batlo (lamp) - Barcelona - Jan 2009 - Nikon FM

Casa Batlo (lamp) - Barcelona - Jan 2009 - Nikon FM

The APS Film Format

Filed under: Gear, the APS format — Tags: , , , , — xtalfu @ 8:31 pm
Harbor of Porsall, Britany (France). Minolta Vectis S1

Harbor of Porsall, Britany (France). Minolta Vectis S1

135 (24x36) and APS format cartridges

135 (24x36) and APS format cartridges. The APS cartridge is more “intelligent” than the conventional 135 film container. An icon at the bottom of the cartridge shows the status of the film (new, partially exposed, totally exposed, processed) and a magnetic strip at the back of the film records the camera’s setup and the user’s preferences, in particular the form factor of each print (APS-C, H or P)


In 1991, Kodak, Fuji, Canon, Minolta and Nikon started working on a new film format, designed to address all of the supposed shortcomings of the 135 (24x36mm) format and bring a new lease of life to film before its replacement by digital technologies.


The development of the new format took longer than expected. The APS film format was officially launched in 1996, but greedy corporate executives tried to force higher prices on consumers and botched the commercial launch.


Digital cameras became viable earlier than when everybody had anticipated, and early as 1998, the camera manufacturers had come to the conclusion that the APS format was a lost cause.

The most emblematic APS camera, the Canon Elph (known as the Canon Ixus in Europe) was superseded by the first Digital Elph in 2000. In 2002, all the cameras manufacturers had reverted to 24x36mm or gone digital, and APS was dead.

(more…)

August 3, 2009

Innovative Metering – Fast Shutter – Conventional Ergonomics – The Nikon FA (Intro)

Filed under: Intro — Tags: , , , , , , — xtalfu @ 2:00 am


The Nikon FA is the last major manual focus SLR launched by Nikon. An evolution of the FM2 and FE2 cameras, it shares with the latter most of its body shell, a very fast shutter (up to 1/4000sec., 1/250sec. flash synchro speed) and a TTL flash metering mechanism. It finally catches up with Canon’s A1 and offers the same four automatic exposure modes (aperture and shutter priority, program and semi-auto).


Its “Automatic Multipoint Metering” (AMP) – a world premiere – is its real claim to fame. Better known under names such as “matrix”, “evaluative” or “multi-segmented” metering, it is now the default metering system of every dSLR in production.


Launched in 1983, this conservatively styled camera with very conventional ergonomics had a relatively short sales career. It was made obsolete in 1985 when Minolta took the market by storm with its first autofocus SLR, the 7000 (Maxxum 7000 in the US). Minolta’s competitors, Nikon included, spent the best part of the following three years trying to catch up. The FA stayed on Nikon’s catalog until 1988, and was not replaced. Its semi-automatic sibling, the FM2n would be sold until 2001, when the FM3a, a sort of combination of the best characteristics of the FM2 and the FE2, was launched.

Nikon FA with the MD-15 motor

An impressive (and heavy) camera: the Nikon FA with the MD-15 motor drive.


The metering system


Until the FA was launched, most of the cameras only offered some form of center weighted metering: the exposure sensor evaluated the luminosity of the whole scene, and because the sky is typically in the upper third of the frame, and the main subject of the picture in the center, it was designed to give more importance to the portion of the picture located at the center of the lower part of the frame.


It worked for most of the cases. If the subject was back-lit and not centered, the photographer had to determine the exposure with the subject at the center of the frame, memorize the exposure settings, and move the camera to compose the desired picture.


Some high end cameras also had a second exposure metering system, which evaluated the luminosity of a much narrower portion of the scene, almost a spot in the middle of the viewfinder. But spot metering and exposure memorization are not always easy to use , and are far from being idiot proof. The engineers at Nikon were pretty sure that with the newly unleashed power of integrated circuits, they could develop a new approach.


More after the jump


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