Flea markets are a good place to start hunting for vintage cameras, most likely there are some in the area where you live and thanks to people's interest in anything second-hand, flea markets are flourishing once again. If you’re an expert, you know that the real bargain hunting happens in the early morning, when unique prices are still available. However, even at later hours, there is the possibility of finding something intriguing.
But how often have we wondered if there is a photographic treasure hidden in those dusty boxes? What are the things we need to check on a camera before negotiating our price? Here are some tips to snap a bargain and come back home with a second-hand camera and start taking pictures.
The whole experience is quite charming and if you do snap a deal, it is an even more satisfactory mission. Each market offers a chance to roam around the stands and find peculiar antiques and many of the stands are full of vintage cameras. If you're an internet hunter and prefer to look online for your second hand cameras (for example on eBay), these tips are also helpful for the web savvy antique buyers.
Inspect The Mechanics
First, try your shutter. Check that your plates move smoothly and don't get stuck halfway. You don't want to suddenly be in the middle of a photo and miss the shot. See if there is any sign of rust around the edges, it could be a warning sign that the camera was stored in a humid environment. Your shutter blades should overlap neatly without any evidence of bending blades, which could cause impediment during release.
Another feature to check is your bulb aperture. Make sure that the shutter stays open as long as you want. While you are at it, check your timer to see if it releases at the designated time. Around the edges of your camera, there are light traps. This is usually a velcro-like material that can deteriorate over the years and leave minuscule scraps of fabric on your lens or worse, cause light leaks– however, it can be replaced.
While you are inspecting the body, check the battery slot if there is any and make sure that there is no damage from old exhausted batteries. Lastly, fire your shutter a couple of times and make sure that everything is smooth and nothing gets stuck or jammed.
Check The Lens
Where there is rust; there is a high possibility of mold and fungus in your lenses. The first warning will come from a pungent smell. That’s often with a vintage camera found at a flea market. It looks like a tiny spider’s web. This is less likely to happen in an antique store. Mold and fungus are infectious and they can spread to your other lenses.
If you do find it, make sure to store it separately. Another trick you can try is to kill the fungus with UV light so that it won't spread further. Since the dismantling of a lens is a long and expensive process, it is your choice, however, we would recommend it only if the value of the camera exceeds the cost of repairs.
While looking at the lens, it is important to make sure that there are no scratches. On many cameras, you can check the focus through your viewfinder. If the camera doesn't allow it, the only way is after shooting a roll of film. If you can, unscrew the lens and check the condition of the blades. Sometimes the grease that facilitates the smooth opening and closing can leak and mark the blades. This bleeding will impede the camera’s functionality. Feel the lens all over to ensure that the zoom is smooth and the aperture ring moves up and down without defects.
Test, Test and Test
To check the light meter, you can use a light meter app on your phone or compare it to another camera you might have with you. Without any help, you should know the exact exposure time in the light conditions there are at that moment. For example: during the day, with indoor window light, ISO 100, f2.8, 1/30 of a second is most likely an accurate exposure.
Lastly, check the overall body of your camera is in good condition. Check that there are no major damages, bumps or hazards. After checking all the elements, you have carefully inspected the camera and it is time to determine if it has passed the test. We hope that you find yourself a bargain! Happy shooting!
Have you ever shopped for a vintage camera? Do you have a flea market in your area? What are the things that you usually check before buying? Share your experience with us in the comments below.