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Film & Digital Camera Buyer's, Sellers Guide

Some things worth looking into before you leap

Updated May 24, 2007

Digital Cameras

Digital cameras have their place, in fact most of the images on this site were captured with a digital camera. Endless "free film" and instant verification are two of it's most important attributes. The tip that I would like to pass on, is that you consider whether you may need flash and if so, if the digicam that you have in mind has a shoe and PC socket for attaching a common camera Strobe Flash which you may already have one or more of.

The built in flash on any digital camera that I have had a chance to work with, is virtually worthless for any distance beyond roughly 8 ft or 2.5 meters. This feeble light output is to save the batteries. Some cameras enable you to select a very high "Film Speed" or ASA /ISO setting to increase the reach, but that is at the cost of a more noisy or grainy image. There is a workaround to this by mounting the camera on a flash grip and installing a Strobe flash on it that is triggered by a Slave Flash unit. The slave flash detector can be mounted to trigger from the digicam's built in flash. There is a very reasonably priced new slave made in India available on internet auction regularly via buy-it-now.

A more serious problem with many a digital camera, is that they are designed by electronics whizzes with no real understanding of how the instrument will be used by a serious photographer. We will use the Kodak DC210 illustrated here as an example. Note that the Onn / Off switch we have highlighted in red, is where the shutter release would normally be. As a result, the user will frequently shut off the camera instead of capturing an image. Not a bit funny if you have just lost the shot of a lifetime. Notice also how the distance and light sensor are grouped closely to the lens, making a sunshade impossible to use even if you could figure out a way to mount one. Another thing to look out for is the time involved in going through the many selection options that you must initialize before the camera is ready to use. I have never found a camera that saves these preferences once the power is shut off and / or the battery is removed. This can be extremely frustrating as in the case of the Kodak shown, the camera will switch off to save batteries after 2 minutes while you are setting up a shot, regardless of the fact that you are using the optional AC mode. This requires reprogramming everything and again a great excercise in frustration and valuable time lost.

If you are looking to get the most bang for your buck with a new fully featured digital camera, consider a refurb. Refurbished cameras often come with an original manufacturers new warranty and will have been checked out before being sold, if indeed they are returns. Quite often they are simply extra inventory that must be sold at deep discount to move quantities without getting their authorized dealers in a snit, so they are simply re-labeled " Refurbished ".

Film Cameras

There has never been a better time to purchase a 35mm Rangefinder camera than now. The Yashica G series and Lynx models are outstanding performers, with extremely high resolution lenses among which you will find the largest apertures in their focal length. Unquestionably these are faster cameras to focus and shoot with than SLRs under any light conditions, and they do not depend on grainy high speed ISO films to capture that shot of a lifetime. These quality precision cameras are on offer at Internet auction sites and flea markets for about the cost of a plastic "point &shoot" junker that come with mickey mouse plastic lenses.

Before you bid on one of these cameras, you should try to the best of your ability to avoid certain pitfalls by communicating with the seller. If you can not get an answer, pass the offer by, there will always be others. Base your bid amount on the response to the questions below as rated by their importance to you. As a seller you can greatly increase the participation in your auction offer by providing the information that a buyer needs in order to feel confident in bidding up your offer over other similar ongoing ones that are vague or entirely lacking on key points.

Firstly of course.....Is the camera in working condition?

In the case of the G series, a response that the shutter seems to click and appears to open and close perfectly will not tell you much. The shutter can function perfectly at the single default speed of 1/500th second even when the electronics are shot.

I guess that the failure rate is about 40% of all the cameras on offer. In order to test the automatic exposure feature, a battery must be installed and the shutter cocked.

This can be done using the wind lever without film in the camera. The Over / Under exposure lamps that can be viewed both within the finder and on the top plate of the camera must be working. The battery test button must light up the test lamp and / or the window of the frame counter depending upon the model or production run [ Except the MG-1 which has no battery test other than checking the Over/Under lamps].

Warning, unlike most SLR cameras, the exposure cannot be manually set if the electronics do not function, except by adjusting the aperture to match the only shutter speed available which is 1/500th second.

Are the battery compartment and screw-in cap clean and free from the corrosion which can be left behind by a leaking battery? It may be possible to clean this unless the contact on the screw in cap is partially eaten away. Yashica has no replacement parts for these cameras, not even a booklet. If you do not have a manual to include, consider providing a copy of the printer friendly manual that covers the entire 'G' series, including the MG-1. The link can be found elsewhere on this site directly after the description of the GSN

A dust & light seal gasket in a track on the body runs around the perimeter of the rear of the camera. A matching edge on the cover fits into that track. Unfortunately the foam gasket on many, [in fact I would venture to say most] of these cameras has disintegrated into a mushy goo and not only fails to perform, but may actually glue the back cover shut. Storage conditions partly seem to effect the condition of these gaskets. After all they go way back to the 1960s. Visit the Rescue Guide on this site on how to fix this yourself.

Are the front and rear lens surfaces both within and without free from scratches, fog and fungus?

When the rear cover is opened and the aperture ring is turned, can you see the Iris of the lens grow larger or smaller in perfect symmetry? Does the Time Delay shutter release work? No battery is required to test it

Is the viewfinder clear and free of haze and the Orange Dot split image focusing mode working?

Are the cosmetics reasonably good. You decide how to rate that.

In the case of the Black models, you will find that the owners may have been glad to pay the premium for these models, but balked at getting the real leather case designed for them.

The difference between the plastic case suitable for the hard chrome bodies and the real leather case for the black models is, that the leather version has the carry strap fitted to itself. If they planned to use a carry strap with the Yashica plastic ripple finish case, it will need to have been attached to the body and most certainly have scratched up the black finish at the side of the camera during any active use. If you receive a GT / GTN with a strap attached, immediately remove the strap to save your camera. These black "Pro" finish cameras are getting scarce in really good condition.

Failure to disclose that previous owners names or ID numbers are engraved on these cameras is not a rarity. Ask! Due to the intense vibration created by the typical engravers as sold by Radio Shack, etc., there is a good chance that by engraving the camera, one or more delicate electronic components have been destroyed, or set up for early failure and the camera has been ruined for all intents and purposes.

Some of the problems dealt with here have solutions you can undertake. Visit the Rescue Guide link from the main page.


At some point you may have been steered toward escrow, and for large ticket items the big chunk that is skimmed off your selling price for the service may be worth while particularly if you build this into your minimum opening offer. Unfortunately what constitutes " Escrow " is open to interpretation. My copy of Webster's Universal College Dictionary primary definition is, " a deed, funds or property deposited with a third party to be transferred to the grantee when certain conditions have been fulfilled.

In order to meet this definition the Escrow agent must in my opinion have a physical presence accessible by the buyer, at which the funds can be held, and the property can then be shipped to this safe haven by the seller in confidence. When the buyer inspects the property under the watchful eye of the Escrow Agent and finds it be be as represented, he can then take possession and payment is sent to the seller. For their mutual protection the Escrow agent should be licensed in both the states in which the buyer and seller reside. Both parties will usually share the expense of the service.

If the Escrow agent is merely a cyber entity dwelling some-where on the the planet that simply holds the funds, albeit in a USA State Licensed business, it offers the seller minimal protection.

A rising scam is to use escrow for the buyer to gain access to the sellers property if shipped directly to the buyer, just long enough to swap out for example, a good front lens element, then return the item with a damaged replacement as "defective". Of course this can apply to scientific instruments and electronics gear. In any event before you agree to use an escrow agent, be sure you check with the office of the Attorney General of your State to be sure they are licensed and that you use a known secure REAL website address. Just as only httpS;// not http:// will take you to the real Paypal, fake escrow services imitating real names proliferate.

You may want to check with the loan department of your bank to see if they can suggest an escrow agent. Banks frequently make loans to business customers who purchase equipment or machinery from out of state. Before the bank issues payment of the loan it will require the property in question to be shipped to a location within their state so that can can obtain the required lien on that property to fulfill the terms of the loan. Local escrow agents offer the needed protection to both parties.

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