Buyer be aware

Here is a cautionary tale.

We all like a bargain, I am always on the lookout for photographic equipment at knock down prices. Apart from Ebay another place to look is your local charity shop. Whatever you do check out the item as best you can before you part with your money. I am not being mean, I realise they are raising money for good causes, but do you really need an attractive paperweight!

Let me give you some examples from my own experience.

Pentax MZ 5 – 35mm autofocus camera.

Obviously no battery in the camera but it looked clean, blemish free and cheap. Unfortunately when I powered up the camera back home having purchased the relevant battery, it just made a whirring sound, no film advance and no mirror movement. So off to my friendly camera technician I went. He just laughed and said ‘leave it there I will take a look but I don’t think it is going to be good news.’ I learnt a lot later on that all except the last models in the Pentax MZ range had an inherent problem with a plastic drive cog, it was prone to going brittle and breaking up. Since it would require a complete strip down to access the offending item it was an uneconomical repair.

Olympus Trip 35 – 35mm compact camera.

Spotted in a charity shop whilst on holiday, this little 35mm compact was purchase with a few other items and was so cheap I was not too fussed if it turned out to be a dud, (it was for a good cause anyway). Once again a problem with the wind on mechanism. This time I got out my jewellers screwdrivers to take a look. The problem was a broken drive cog, as chance would have it all the pieces were still inside the camera body. Some superglue and a soldering iron later everything was fixed and back in place and working once again. Had it not worked I would not have been upset since it cost so little in the first place.

Konica Auto S – 35mm rangefinder camera.

Another holiday find. Can you see a pattern here?

Bargain price, again! It looked clean, tidy and the wind on seemed fine. I put a roll of film through the camera to check it worked, as I was doing so I noticed that the film advance seemed a little erratic. Subsequently when I processed the film, the problem was obvious. A wind on problem once again. My camera technician gave me the look that said ‘you never learn do you?’ I have attempted to sort the camera for myself, I am not sure how successful I have been yet, I will need to run another roll of film through to check. I have since noticed that the lens has now become stuck at f16. When I expose a roll of film through the camera if I notice the film advance slipping  I will have to put my hand over the lens, fire the shutter and advance the film again to reduces the incidence of frame overlap and remember to calculate my exposure to allow for the lens being at f16.

Tamron – 70-300mm zoom lens.

Mark and I spotted this one day whilst out taking photographs. Not always wanting to carry my heavy duty lenses around, this lens looked the ideal buy. Everything felt ok, so I parted with my money. Back at our photo shoot location I fitted the lens to my Nikon camera body to check it fully. ‘Mark’ I said ‘ This lens does not seem to be focussing correctly’, I handed Mark the camera and lens to try, he concluded likewise that something was amiss. Yet another trip to see Kelvin at Protech Repairs. The fault was diagnosed as a broken plastic lug. The lens has since been repaired using a donor lens barrel from another Tamron 70-300 lens and is now working well.

It’s not all bad news!

I purchased a Canon 50E autofocus film camera body complete with genuine Canon battery grip that works just fine.

Mark captured a bargain on my behalf, a very little used Hoya 135mm f2.8 Ai lens. Although the lens has light signs of fungus on a couple of elements, a session under a UV halted that in its tracks.

Another bargain Canon find some years later was a Canon A1 manual film body that only exhibited the well known Canon ‘cough’. All that was required to solve this was a drop of lubricant in the relevant spot.

Why do I still buy these cameras and lenses?

I see these items as a little piece of history, in some cases they are pieces of equipment that I would like to have owned and used as a youngster but never actually got around to purchasing for one reason or another.

The conclusion is: When you purchase any bargain priced camera equipment check it out as well as you can and be aware it could end up as an attractive paperweight. I have noticed that the advance mechanism appears to be weak spot in most cases.

If an item states that it requires attention, again be prepared to write it off as an uneconomical repair due to complexity or lack of spare parts.

In defence of the shops that sell these items, the reason may be that they may not have the facilities or knowledge to test the equipment and take it on trust that everything is working as it should.

Why and how does this stuff get sent to the charity shops in the first place? This could be a combination of several factors, it has stopped working so gets donated with the thought that someone might be able to get it to work, sorting out stuff for relatives and just boxed up and sent it in or even genuinely donated without realising there is a problem.

Ebay and other selling platforms can be just fraught with problems too (although most sellers are honest), but again be aware when described as needs attention, sold as seen or no returns. It could be a simple fix or another piece for landfill!

You can get a bargain, but just be careful.


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