Your trusty camera of 10 years is no longer working. It pains you to get rid of it, especially considering the amount of money you paid for it. Here’s how to decide if you should repair or replace your beloved camera.
How much did that camera really cost?
This article was inspired by my friend Aaron Frisbee, who reached out to me on Facebook asking if I know what could be wrong with his autofocus. He listed the troubleshooting steps he performed — which were the exact steps I would have recommended. I fired off a quick reply:
“Hey bud, It sounds like you have checked everything I would have. I hate to tell you … it’s 10 years old. It may be past its life span. You probably paid $1,300 for it 10 years ago, so roughly it only cost you $130 a year to own. Not bad. Time to get a new one.”
Immediately after I hit send, I felt bad for my less than empathetic response and quickly called him to brainstorm options. His main heartbreak was the amount of money he initially invested in the camera all those years ago. When he realized it only cost him about $130 a year for the camera, he felt better. So that brought up a good point: How much would it cost to replace that exact camera today with a used one?
What is the cost to replace it vs. fixing it?
A quick internet search and we found a few ranging between $75 and $295 — a far cry from the $1,300 he first spent. Yes, the technology is much older but hey, back then everyone raved about how great the quality was and the many features. Besides, he still loves the results he gets.
If he chose this option, I would recommend paying a higher price from the two reputable companies we found, B&H Photos and mpb.com. These companies, along with Adorama and ProCam, have a used-equipment department. They won’t risk misleading or selling bad gear. A downside is he hasn’t gained anything new — he’s still using 10-year-old technology.
Oh, did you notice, we didn’t bother asking how much it would cost to fix the camera? At these prices, we predicted shipping and the cost of the parts wouldn’t be cost-effective. Now if you have a higher-end camera and the replacement cost is too high, shop around for a good company. I’ve used Peachtree Camera repairs out of Atlanta. I know Tim McEver very well and he’s a stand-up guy.
Buy new or used?
This is a tough one. When purchasing a large ticket item, my father taught me to measure my desire by what’s in my wallet. If I can comfortably afford it and if it’s something I really need — not just want — then buy it. In this case, if I really need a new camera but I can’t justify the expense, then consider buying a used camera.
Keep in mind that buying a used camera comes with risk. To minimize risk, I would think twice before buying it off eBay or Craigslist unless you know a lot about cameras and can spot a problem. Personally, I wouldn’t have a clue, but I do have lots of friends that do. I would ask for advice. Here is a comparison between a New and Used NikonD850 camera body from B&H Photo
Do you have a backup camera?
If you are a professional photographer whose sole income is photography, you need a backup camera. You could buy a less expensive used camera and then get your camera fixed. Another option is to get your camera fixed, but upgrade to a newer camera. Either way, you need a second camera.
So before you decide to throw your trusty camera away, check out the repair cost. If the repair cost is a little too expensive, put that money toward a new or used camera, then take on a few extra photography jobs to help pay for the repair of your old camera.