How to check the camera before buying?

Every day on the website of Radozhiv they ask me how to check the SLR camera and lens when buying, especially when buying a used one. photographic equipment. Digital cameras are complex devices and it is simply not possible to check all the functionality of the camera “quickly” when buying.

Camera check

Checking the camera. In this figure, the insides of the Nikon D700

Often, the difficulty of verification lies in the fact that there is neither time nor appropriate funds for full testing in the store. Therefore, I advise you to perform a basic check in the store, and a more detailed one at home. For example, in Ukraine, you can return the goods without any problems within 14 days. You just need to save all the papers and boxes, and within 14 days of using the camera, any 'critical bug' will appear on its own.

Recommendations for the purchase:

  1. If this is a new camera, be sure to check what warranty comes with it. Usually there is a guarantee from a seller and an official guarantee from the manufacturer. I recommend the equipment with an official guarantee. You can see what the Nikon or Canon 'official coupon' looks like on the Internet, however, according to the official warranty, in the event of any malfunction or malfunction, the repair will have to be carried out at the manufacturer's service center. Service centers are not available in all cities; in small cities, at best, there will be a “reception point” that will send the equipment to the nearest large city, but not the repair shop itself.
  2. Next, you just need to inspect the appearance of the camera, the new camera should be absolutely clean, like jewelry, without any scratches. Most importantly, look at the battery, it usually has a sticker with the manufacturer's hologram on it. Often, instead of a native battery, they slip in cheap Chinese batteries. However, lately modern cameras have good protection against “non-native” batteries. In most cases the warranty does not cover the battery as the battery can wear out. The battery has the property of 'dying' and the service center will not change it under warranty. It is not so easy to check the battery, for this you need to completely discharge it while shooting and then charge it.
  3. If this is a used camera. - then you need to pay attention to the anti-slip rubber bands on the case, they usually swell and peel off, and on the screws, they must be clean, otherwise there is a risk that the camera was disassembled, which means that everything may not be all right with it. Usually, the appearance of the camera immediately shows how hard the camera has been used.
  4. The shutter of each SLR camera is designed for a certain number of actuations (that is, an SLR camera, or rather its shutter, can make a certain “manufacturer-guaranteed” number of shots during its life). So, amateur cameras have a limit of 100-150.000 shots, after which the shutter may break. If the camera has run more than 50.000 frames, you should think about whether you need to buy it, since it has already worked out half of its life resource. Checking the mileage of some cameras (especially Nikon cameras) is very easy - just open the last image from a RAW, NEF or JPEG camera using a special program, for example, such as ShowExif, and in the 'Total Number of Shutter Releases' field, see the number of frames taken. I don't know if the counter can be rolled back.
  5. Others worth checking the heart of the camera - its matrix. To do this, on a camera without a lens, with the bayonet cap on, in M ​​mode, take several pictures with a long shutter speed, and all noise reduction functions should be disabled. The following parameters are best used: ISO 100, excerpt - 15sec. Then view the result with maximum magnification on a camera or on a computer display, while there should be no bright luminous dots-pixels. In fact, hot, broken and colored pixels can appear over time and if the camera has several of these pixels, then you don't have to bother and buy a camera. In any case, the decision is yours.
  6. Also, you can take several pictures of a homogeneous object at the maximum closed aperture to check the contamination of the matrix. Usually cameras are sold with standard 18-55mm lenses. With this lens, the easiest way to capture the sky is at ISO 100, f / 32, 55mm. The new camera shouldn't have any extra 'trash' in the picture. BOO. a camera usually has a whole bunch of debris on its sensor. If the matrix is ​​heavily littered, you should think about whether such a camera is needed. Matrix cleaning is not easy and expensive.
  7. When checking the lens, you should pay attention so that it does not make unnecessary sounds when focusing, and the lenses are clean. Checking for back and front focus requires a separate article. I do not write about checking for back and front focus, since I know many cases where amateur photographers incorrectly checked the lens and then complained about its work. Photo enthusiasts often have a bunch of invented problems with the camera :)
  8. I also need to check the built-in flash. One shot with the flash is enough to make sure it works. If you only buy a 'Body' (camera without a lens), then put the camera in 'M' mode, turn on the flash by pressing the flash pop-up button (usually located on the side of the built-in flash and has a 'lightning bolt' icon) and press the shutter release. True, some cameras take their very first picture only with the 'native' lens on the camera.

My experience:

DSLRs and other cameras usually either work or don't work. If the camera has problems, then in just 1 hour of actively poking around in the menu and taking test shots, you can confidently find the problem. Usually the problem is all sorts of errors that appear on the camera's display and after which the camera stops working. Errors after shutdown may disappear and then appear again. Another pitfall may be a non-obvious problem with a sticking mirror or shutter. Typically, a mirror or shutter can stick with burst shooting and with different orientation of the camera in space. I know of cases when the camera worked fine in the vertical case, but did not work in the horizontal case at all.

SLR cameras can be crammed with a huge number of mechanical parts that can fail. You can look at my insides Nikon D700 In chapter 'Disadvantages of modern DSLR cameras'.


Detailed camera checks are tricky. Not every person will be able to understand the intricacies. Therefore, I recommend to amateur photographers to 'drive the camera' as much as possible in a variety of shooting modes for several days. If after such a 'run' everything works fine, then 99% that everything is in order with the camera. It is very good if you have a friend who understands cameras and who will help you test the camera.

In the comments, you can write down your verification methods and nuances that you have encountered in life - help others not to step on the same rake. Thanks for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 149, on the topic: How to check the camera before buying?

  • Sergei

    Thank you for the article!

  • Vika

    Great article I want to buy a used camera, but a little scary. Yes, and I can’t decide on the model, can you tell me d90, d7000, d7100, d5200, d5300 or d5500 ?? What's better?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      For a beginner, it does not matter much. Here my rating of cameras.

      • Vadim

        the task is not easy when choosing a used camera, now I am facing the choice of kenon 5d or kenon 7 d, 7d to check how else it is possible, at least by the serial number and mileage, but I don’t even know how to take 5d, the girl writes that the camera parents, rarely filmed when traveling to the sea, at the very ad “wedding photographer” ... I am writing to ask - you’re a photographer, how is it, you sell an instrument, I say I shoot on a crop, but this is heavy for me I’m not used to ... For me, this is strange to say the least. The price is tempting, but the 10-digit serial number and monochrome shoulder straps with yellow illumination mean the camera is from the first years of production? Or I'm wrong? such is the situation, so your advice is interesting! The seller claims that the mileage is maximum 25 thousand frames. I don’t know what to do and how to proceed. I would be grateful for your advice, I deliberately do not name the city, names, etc. to keep the decency at least somehow. Thank you.

        • Victor

          It is not clear what decency can be talked about if you choose a camera, the girl is a seller, you are a buyer, and only business relations can bind you by default, and in sales and purchase transactions you have every moral right to ask any and all questions about the product :)
          Otherwise, the picture is certainly better, but the mileage can only be determined in the service. Although you yourself can evaluate it by indirect signs and the state of the camera, it is not easy to restore the camera to the state of ideal, and given the price at which you can sell a penny today, no one will do this nonsense at a professional level.

        • Michael

          Only the service center will help you and that's not a fact ...

        • Pokemon

          If there is no big city nearby and a good s / c nearby, then, in principle, even if the mirror falls off, you will not lose much - this is not the 4th penny with its price tag ...
          You can see it yourself. With a range of up to 50k, the camera should not shine like a cat's eggs. The inscriptions on the back next to the buttons must not be erased / erased. The buttons should also not shine. The bayonet ring must not be scratched. The eyecup should also be in good condition.
          The entire space behind the bayonet ring, next to the mirror, must be clean - there must be no pigsty.

          • Pokemon

            Well, when testing the excerpts, everything should be worked out. You can also look at the matrix for defects - if the seller / or you have a lens and still have some patience.

          • Victor

            But what can I say - with such a ridiculous mileage (20-30k), a neat owner's camera should be in a near-state condition (there may be rare abrasions, maximum, but the paint on the hot shoe is a little worn, it is not clear why in those days they even painted their canon, obviously after all, not so that people, when buying used ones, watch how often they use the flash :)).

            Therefore, if the condition differs from the declared one - either the seller of the pigs, or does not agree on something, in both cases it is better to refrain from buying.

    • Pokemon

      Vika, d7000 and d7100 with whale glasses are enough for flea markets. D7000 is very cheap. Sometime in 2013, they asked for $ 900-1000 for this camera. Now it is sold for a penny with small shoots.

      • Pokemon

        I recommend it as a camera for growing d7000 or d7100, if the money allows. Before you start shooting with it, read the instructions carefully - it comes with the camera. It describes all the work with the camera to the smallest detail. Give preference to sellers selling boxed kits.

    • Valery A.

      D5100 is enough for a long time. Look at the look, the newer the better.

    • Valery

      Selling my D7000 with low mileage, if interested write!

      • Michael

        You can read more by mail Thank you

      • Julia

        Hello. Is there some more? Write a price I want to buy?

  • Konstantin

    I sell my nikon d7100 camera with a set of optics - I switch to full frame) run 2000 frames - like new, perfect condition

  • Victor

    Arkady, I apologize if I ask stupidity, but I can’t find information on how to check the lens by serial number in Ukraine. Everything is so confused on Nikon’s website, I couldn’t find the necessary column. If you know, tell me pliz.

  • Maria

    Does anyone have experience in checking film Nikonov, what to look for there, there isn’t exif (if I understood correctly)
    thanks in advance

    • B. R. P.

      Exif not. Check the shutter operation over the entire shutter speed range, shutter integrity, whether the diaphragm pushes the controls (buttons, knobs), the film broach, the film compartment lid closes normally, the battery, flash operation, autofocus operation (if there is an af camera).

  • Vladislav

    Good evening everyone.
    Who has canon cameras, tell me - can you see the frame counter directly in the camera? Specifically in Canon 7D. In order not to bother with the computer. They say that it is possible, but how exactly?

    • Alexey

      Install ML

  • Nikita

    Is there anyone from Obolon who will have the opportunity to check the camera in one of the nearest offices of the new mail?

  • Mikhail V.Ch.

    Read your article on testing cameras before buying. I will add the following. Camera mileage in the NIKON system is changed “as much as big”, as they say in Ukraine. From my own, so to speak, experience. In Kiev, after replacing the shutter with a D7000, after an accidental shutter breakage, in which he himself is to blame and with a run of 92000 frames, after checking the camera in a workshop, the mileage was a “pleasant” value of 23 frames. Although I did not ask to change the mileage. To my question “why was it removed”, there was an answer - 3 minutes and there will be any run. I checked it on a laptop with a special program right in the workshop. So that technology grows, and hackers will hack whatever they want ... Although before that I read and heard that it is impossible to change the mileage. So buy a one-three-year-old camera ... with low mileage, especially of the professional level, D700, D750, D610. D800, etc.

    • B. R. P.

      Known situation.

    • Ivan

      It's not about hacking or hackers. There is a service program with which any number of frames is set. And this program "walks" on the Internet.

      • Mikhail V.Ch.

        And you want to say that this program developed by NIKON to replace the mileage on the camera? Why would such a reputable company need it? I personally do not "catch up" ... IMHO ...

        • Alexey

          This is a service program, there is for all cameras of all manufacturers, for the vacation I have. You can do a lot of things with the camera.

        • Ivan

          No, this service program was created to repair and configure cameras (more precisely, two for each camera). Setting mileage is just one of the features. And it was made so that when you change the motherboard (TOGO by the name of Nikon), you can record the mileage that the shutter had. Or, when replacing the shutter, reset the frame counter.

    • Pokemon

      The program that walks on the Internet is quite old. I saw it, and even downloaded it, but I didn’t install it myself. I don’t know how it is now, but the version that is on the Internet does not work with cameras D4, D800 and newer and crop D7000 and newer. Otherwise, Avito would have long turned into a brothel, and there nothing could have been bought from Nikon cameras at all. The temptation is very great, but unscrupulous sellers and scammers, after the collapse of the ruble at the end of 2014 and in February 2020, there were a lot of Avito, due to the impoverishment of the people.

      • Alexey

        There is NOT ONE program. And for each camera - its own. On the net you can freely find an archive with programs for these cameras - see photos. For other cameras, there are no programs in completely free access yet :)

        • Pokemon

          Well, I did not understand this, because there was no time and need. Yes, I saw this archive and downloaded it. And for d4 / d750 I did not find the necessary version.
          And I did not have older Nikonov at that time. MB D3X will appear this year, then I dig deeper, although there is no special desire to understand.

          • Alexey

            I had (and have) several old Nikon cameras (except for my usual kenons), so I was able to configure all of them with this software. And I set up older cameras with another software, but, unfortunately, I can’t give it :)

  • Vladimir

    It would be necessary to have an urgent article - how to check the camera when receiving cash on delivery at Novaya Pochta, when the decision must be made on the spot and there is no way to play back.

  • Alexander

    Good afternoon, looking after the camera. The camera owner does not know how to view the camera run. I asked the owner to send a picture, sent it. I opened a file in jeep format in several programs, I did not see the frame counter anywhere. Snapshot master data is present, there is no invoice. How can this be? Can the file counter be reset manually, can Exif data be lost when converting from Rav to Jeep?

  • Vladislav

    Hello Arkady! Does the Nikon D3S also have an easy mileage check? And if there is a new shutter, will the program show a new mileage, small? Or will it show the total mileage?

  • Alicia

    Thanks to the author of the article! When you buy a camera for the first time, you may forget to check some points, but here it’s practically a checklist)
    A bit offtopic: can anyone advise what is the best DSLR for a beginner? My son is interested in photography, we want to give him a good camera and courses for beginners as a birthday present. Now he is experimenting with soap dishes, but he has no clear wishes for technology. For now, we are looking at inexpensive options from here – technovybor. ru/foto/zerkalnye/ – but neither I nor my husband are particularly versed in this. Thank you!

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