Most photographers have had to dispose of photography gear in their lifetime.
We’ve all had to ask ourselves what to do with our old cameras and lenses: “Do I throw them out? Do I donate them to somebody or a charity? What can I do?”
Well, you have several options to consider, and knowing what each of them entail will facilitate answering that question for you.
So before you chuck that expensive piece of hardware in the bin, read on to learn about the many ways you can give your old pal a new life.
The main points I’ll be covering here are:
- How to calculate the value of your camera or lens
- What your selling options are
- What your donation options are
- Other miscellaneous options
Let’s start with pricing your gear!
Value: Are Old Cameras Worth Anything?
Figuring out how valuable your camera or lens is depends on a number of factors. These include:
- Release date
Starting off, the model and release date of the gear will determine how valued an item is based off their age. Technology advances at incredibly high rates, and in many cases, what’s new now is old a year from now.
When a newer model is released, the previous model depreciates in price. This is common knowledge.
However, should a previous model perform well and prove itself a more powerful model than newer releases, its popularity will grow, and its value will not decrease as fast as other models.
Old, discontinued, gear that experience a resurgence in popularity also sell very highly. Their ‘legendary’ or ‘classic’ status will prevent them from ever depreciating too low.
A model at the end of its lifecycle varies in cost depending on the above factors. Celebrated models remain high in value, while intermediary models, those who don’t perform as well (no major updates, bad performance, poor marketing, etc…) depreciate faster.
But let’s not forget the type of camera, because it plays a big role, too.
DSLRs are all the rage nowadays, but what if you had an old film camera? Or an old video camera/camcorder? How about an early 2000’s digital camera?
Many of these are discontinued or no longer fully supported.
However, they may have a cult popularity. There may be old camera collectors. As mentioned before, if a model has ascended to ‘legendary’ status, you could find potential buyers.
Nevertheless, market value and model type is not the only value your gear has. You can still find value in donating and in repurposing old parts.
But before we stray too far away from this, I want to expand on the selling option.
Selling Your Old Gear (Cameras & Lenses)
Let’s assume you’ve figured out the monetary value of your old lens. You want to sell it, but you don’t know where to start.
Your first instinct would probably be to sell it online.
You would be right. Begin by…
1) Writing up a description
Then take a few clear images of your lens. Make sure to include as much information as possible, including:
- Brand/model compatibility
- Focus options
- Focus ring
- Maximum aperture (constant or variable)
- Size and weight
- Visible wear and tear
- Duration of use (and age of model)
In short, any necessary information the customer would need to know about the lens. Weather resistance, lens version, number of diaphragm blades, autofocus motor, any and all relevant specs regarding the lens.
You’d want to know everything about a lens before buying it, right?
Pretend you’re the buyer. What information do you want to know? Put it in there.
Once you’re done, it’s time to start finding buyers.
2) Shop around
You want to find the best place online to sell camera gear. But that one place depends on your location. Often, you’ll want to post it in multiple places at the same time.
That’s because people can be flaky and stingy. Anybody who’s tried to sell anything online has experienced this.
Posting your antique/vintage cameras and lenses on multiple platforms ensures you get the best bang for your buck. It’ll cut down the time spent trying to haggle and settle on a price.
Facebook Marketplace is a good start; you can look at how much other people are pricing their lenses. Although, you would be using your own public profile to make a post.
- For a more anonymous option, Craigslist is the most popular for US residents.
- In Canada, Kijiji is the go-to for anybody looking to purchase second-hand items.
- Both the UK and Australia use Gumtree to buy and sell used items.
Most other countries and regions have their own classifieds website that advertize used items.
Before making a public post on any marketplace, ask the people you know if they’d be interested in buying your gear. Family, friends, coworkers…
Somebody, or somebody they know, might be interested. But be wary of people asking for discounts. Proximity and acquaintance may coax them to ask you for one.
Donating Your Old Gear
A lot of good that can come from donating what you don’t need anymore. In most cases, people are grateful for the kind gesture and are likely to pay it forward.
Where to donate your old cameras and lenses though? If you’re considering this options, there are a few avenues you can explore:
It goes without saying but passing on an old camera to a family member is a great way to introduce the world of photography to a relative.
It keeps the item in the family and it inspires them to take on the art and possibly turn it into a profession.
Thrift stores are great places to donate your old photography equipment to (some of them recycle old cameras for cash, too!)
Many frugal and, well, thrifty people visit these stores looking to score a really good deal, and anybody low on cash will certainly appreciate finding photo gear priced down.
Some stores may even take your broken camera off your hands if they’re looking for spare parts.
More technically savvy individuals are able to salvage parts of a camera or lens to use for another piece of equipment. Who knows, perhaps your 15-year old Canon was just what they were looking for!
Charities, community centres and schools
We can’t forget charities, of course.
Many charities and community centres accept donations of any kind.
Giving them a (functioning) camera ensures somebody less fortunate could pick up photography as a hobby, maybe even a profession.
Donating to schools is a valid option, too. Having a camera on their premises allows kids to take advantage of the art and learn how to take photographs.
Schools in lower class areas would benefit the most from this, as they are likely not receiving enough funding to invest in the arts.
Even the schools and organizations themselves could benefit from having the camera. They could capture moments for their yearbooks, fundraisers, public events, and boost their presence in the area through ads.
You could be changing somebody’s life with this donation!
Other Avenues: Freecycle & Freelensing
Other means of getting rid of your camera includes selling or donating to a collector.
Now, the chances of you actually finding somebody interested in collecting your camera are very low, but if you’re a proud owner of a very old, sought out piece of equipment, I’m sure you can find the right person online.
Try asking your local camera store or art gallery. They might know someone.
Alternatively, you could sign up for your local Freecycle group and donate your equipment there.
If you’re unaware, the Freecycle movement is a collection of groups around the world gifting and receiving items for free, all in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and promote communal activity.
It’s a great way to engage with and give back to your local community.
Lastly, if you want to get creative with photography, there are other uses for old camera lenses.
For example, you may consider using old prime lenses for freelensing (lens whacking) purposes to create a tilt-shift effect.
How does that work? Check out the guide I linked to above, as well as this resource on how you can turn your old 50mm into a tilt-shift lens.
Conclusion: Sell, Donate, Recycle
Thanks for reading this quick guide on what to do with old cameras and lenses.
Now you know who buys old cameras and lenses, where to sell old (film) cameras, how to donate photography equipment and even how to turn your old glass into a tilt-shift lens!
At the end of the day, there are many ways you could sell, donate, or repurpose your photo gear. All you have to do is a bit of research and ask around.
You never know who could be looking for exactly what you’re giving away.
Stay safe and happy selling!