ABOVE - Channel Islands National Park - Santa Cruz Island - with a 500mm f/4 lens on one body and a 24mm wide angle lens on the other... Both lenses were bought and sold via Ebay. I've been doing this a long time - photography & cinematography - it is my passion and one of my favorite past-times - plus it is how I pay the majority of my bills. Professional photography equipment isn't cheap. Quality lenses, camera bodies, and accessories are usually far more expensive than the "weekend warrior" or "serious hobbyist" can afford. This is why Ebay is such an incredible resource for finding deals that bring the stratospheric prices of quality equipment down into an area where the layperson can contemplate ownership. What you MUST watch out for as a buyer is the true statement that not every "amazing" deal is what it seems and as a seller you need to be careful to make sure you follow Ebay's guidelines for selling to protect yourself from people who will do their best to abuse the Ebay Buyer Protection system to stick you with a returned, damaged, item and no cash.
BUYER BEWARE - SOME GENERAL RULES FOR KEEPING OUT OF TROUBLE -
In the photo above I'm goofing around in my office before a shoot for the Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Latin Culture Festival. Part of being a pro is sometimes following a dress code. In this case I had to wear "cowboy" apparel and a cowboy hat. Black jeans, black cowboy boots, a black t-shirt and a new black Stetson cowboy hat and I was ready to rock. In this photo I'm holding my trusty Nikon D4s with my favorite Nikon professional telephoto zoom lens ever - the Nikkor AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8D IF ED. Of all of Nikon's professional telephoto zooms - the 4 versions of the 80-200mm and the 2 versions of the 70-200mm - this particular model is the fastest, presenting the least amount of barrel distortion and it is the lightest of the AF-S and AF-S VR models. It's a "keeper". I bought this lens off Ebay. It was 2 years old. It was then and still is nearly flawless. All the things you'd want. 1) Look at the external (outside) barrel of the lens. If it shows lots of wear - chips - scratches - etc... there's a good chance the lens has been roughly handled. And although Nikon lenses are extremely durable and strong - they can only take so much abuse before they start having issues. 2) The Glass is Flawless - Look for pits, scratches, abrasions, on the front and back elements. Also look at the lens barrel at both ends. If the front lip or back area where the lens contacts are - if they are bent, dinged, dented, etc... it's not a good sign that the lens is going to be a good buy. On smaller lenses you want to be able to screw lens filters into the threads and on all lenses you want to make sure you can attach lens hoods, etc... 3) Aperture is Clean & Functions - This is critical. Oil, dirt, dust, debris of any kind can destroy your aperture in the lens. The blades are micro then and designed for nearly zero tolerances where materials that could obstruct their function are concerned. Any oil or dirt on the blades... keep looking. 4) Internal Dust - Mold - Etc... - Dust can be a sign that the lens hasn't been cared for properly. Some dust with certain designs is almost inevitable and there can be dust inside the lens from it's construction - but if you shine a light through the lens and see layer after layer on the internal elements - this is not good. Mold is a sign that the lens has gotten wet or been mistreated in its storage. Moisture INSIDE the lens is deadly. Mold is very acidic and it etches the glass as it grows... like putting battery acid on the lens and letting it eat into the glass. Mold damage can be repaired - but at great cost. 5) Accessories - A great example is a lens I recently purchased - the Nikon AF-S 500mm f/4D IF ED Mark II. Granted brand new this lens was $7,000. I DID NOT purchase this lens on Ebay, instead I purchased it from a camera shop owner I am friends with. It was his personal lens. It came with all of the accessories except the lens hood. Nikon AF-S Super Telelphoto Lens all come with large super lightweight carbon-fiber hoods. These hoods while practically weightless (usually several ounces lighter than their older counterparts - which are usually half their length) - they are brittle and they break easily. I thought, "no worries, I'll just order a new hood". Wrong. The Nikon HK-24 hood for this lens isn't made anymore. The newer HK-28 will fit - but it's $400. Wait. You read that right. The lens hood for this lens is $400 to replace. And now here's the catch - Nikon has discontinued the HK-28. I was able to find one... at a Nikon dealer in Japan. I got lucky. Make sure you are getting a lens with all of the accessories included. 6) Buying from Outside Your Country - BE VERY CAREFUL! There are import taxes on most items over a certain value. You need to make sure that you understand that if you buy a $1000 lens from this or that country you might end up paying another $200-$300 in import taxes. Responsibility for these taxes belongs to you. So be an educated buyer and know that if you spend more than the minimum allowed without taxes you're going to get a bill you were not expecting.
SO WHAT ABOUT THAT AMAZING NIKON AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8D IF ED Mark II I purchased on Ebay? It is the lens to the far right in the photo above. In this photo are two additional Nikon AF-S lenses - both purchased new from authorized Nikon dealers. You'll note that all three are in near perfect condition.
I got my 80-200mm lens and was so excited. It came in the original box - with the nice leather hard-shell case, instructions, all accessories - it was practically BRAND NEW!!! And I got it for a $1000 less than the newer AF-S 70-200 VR model - the newest version of this lens at the time. I was stoked. I used it for about 3 weeks and then one day it started making a god-awful high-pitched squealing noise and it wouldn't focus past 20ft. Everything up to 20 feet was great. Past that came the scream of death and nothing. I took it into my local authorized Nikon repair tech - I'm lucky to live 20 miles from one of two Nikon North America authorized repair service centers. The next day I got the call and the bad - but good news. The good news was it wasn't the focus motor. That's a $500 repair on this lens. The bad news was that the internal focus rails on this lens had been jarred out of place - it had clearly been dropped from a good height. It was a $180 repair - no parts - just labor taking the lens completely apart and putting it back together with everything tightened back down to factory standards. It's not as much hiccuped or twitched since and it's my "Go To" lens for most photo-journalism situations. So here's the rub - The lens itself showed no sign of an impact. No dents, marks, etc... So the most likely scenario is that it was dropped during shipping - inside it's padded, hard-shell case - thus the severe jarring of a significant impact but no external damage to indicate it. It taught me a good lesson. What I thought was a deal - and in all honesty was a great deal for me at the time - came with an unknown price... and I was lucky that it didn't cost me more.
ABOVE - A brand-new - full warranty - Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G lens - purchased on Ebay from an authorized Nikon dealer.
As a buyer the main thing to keep in mind is that if it seems too good to be true - it probably is. You also need to be very careful buying NEW items from Ebay dealers. Many of these are Grey Market - they were meant for sale in other countries and therefore if you buy them in the USA they will NOT have a warranty. They can sometimes be 40-50% cheaper - but buyer beware. Most legitimate brand dealers do NOT deal in Grey Market items. BUYING NEW ON EBAY - It can have some great perks. First - you are protected by Ebay's Buyer Protection Program. If the item isn't what you were told, or if it arrived damaged by no fault of yours (BE SURE TO NEVER ACCEPT A CLEARLY DAMAGED PACKAGE - Make the shipping delivery company take it with them and ask for documentation of a damaged package. If you don't you WILL NOT be able to file an insurance claim.) Another great perk is sometimes the difference between going to a large retailer's website and buying directly and buying on Ebay from the SAME retailer is that through Ebay you'll get extra accessories or free shipping. I bought the lens above from B&H Photo in NYC - AN EXCELLENT Nikon Dealer - and saved about $25 in shipping fees. That was the ONLY difference but it was still a good difference to take into account. REMEMBER THAT YOU SHOULD ALWAYS LOOK AT THE FEEDBACK RATING OF THE SELLER - LOOK AT THEIR LOCATION (I NEVER PURCHASE FROM OUTSIDE OF THE USA) - AND USE COMMON SENSE - DON'T LET THE IDEA OF AN AMAZING DEAL GO TO YOUR HEAD AND YOU MAKE A COSTLY MISTAKE.
SELLING GEAR ON EBAY - BE READY TO GO TO BATTLE - IT'S NEVER AS EASY AS IT LOOKS - Above - I recently sold my Nikkor AF-300mm f/2.8D IF ED lens on Ebay (it's the one to the right) - it's sitting next to my Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/2.8D IF ED Mark II lens and my main work camera body the Nikon D4s. Make sure you pay attention to the size of these two lens above... I'll come back to that in a minute.
As an experienced seller of camera equipment on Ebay I have to tell you that I've had (for the most part) a pretty good experience overall. What's key to making sure you don't run into any issues with "problematic buyers" is to ALWAYS FOLLOW EBAY'S GUIDELINES FOR SELLING & SHIPPING. Here are some important tips for successful sales experience on Ebay -
ABOVE - THESE ARE THE EXACT IMAGES I USED IN MY EBAY LISTING FOR THIS LENS - I provided detailed and thorough photos of the most important parts of the lens and accessories and I provide several examples of photos SHOT WITH THIS LENS.
1) ALWAYS BE COMPLETE TRUTHFUL ABOUT THE ITEM AND IT'S CONDITION - Provide clear and detailed descriptions of the item and any defects, functional issues, wear, etc... If you present it as something and then it's not - that's the fastest way to upset a buyer. No one likes spending their hard-earned money on something and getting something less than they expected. 2) PROVIDE CLEAR AND DETAILED PHOTOS - And refer to the photos in your description. Make sure you document any issues, blemishes, etc... and then tie that into your written description of the item. Leave no stone unturned - make sure that you do not give the buyer any reason to question your honesty or integrity. 3) ALWAYS ANSWER THE BUYER'S QUESTIONS - And try to be as clear and helpful as possible. Sometimes a buyer has unrealistic expectations of how a certain item will perform - and when they find it doesn't do what they thought and they question or complain - take the opportunity to be professional and address their concerns and be sure to provide accurate and truthful information. 4) ALWAYS SHIP YOUR ITEMS USING EBAYS SHIPPING SYSTEM - It keeps everything in their system - tracking - delivery - etc... thus protecting you. If you DO NOT purchase your shipping through their system it's much more difficult to state your case should an item be lost. 5) INSURE EVERYTHING - Yes it costs more money - but it's so worth it. Be SURE to communicate with your buyers - let them know that IF the item arrives damaged - DO NOT ACCEPT IT - Shoot photos of the damage and give it back to the delivery person. Have them document it as damaged. The fine print that most shipping companies get away with not paying insurance claims states that if you take possession - they will NOT pay an insurance claim. 6) SERVICE AFTER THE SALE - Be sure to keep the lines of communication open with your buyer should they have questions about the purchase 7) ALWAYS COMMUNICATE THROUGH EBAY'S MESSAGE SYSTEM - This is a paper trail that works to protect you. If the buyer says you were unresponsive but you in fact had exchanged several messages back and forth - Ebay's dispute resolution team will see these messages and be able to read what was exchanged. 8) EBAY REPRESENTATIVES CAN AND WILL READ YOUR MESSAGES - So be professional. Keep your communications to the facts. NEVER be threatening or insulting or disrespectful. Even if you feel the buyer is clearly trying to run a scam - Ebay's resolution department is actually REALLY good at seeing through the BS. Plus they can see your previous transactions and the buyers... this can often be very important in their final decision. You never know what the buyer has done in previous transactions and for all you know they may (or may not) have a history of filing claims for whatever. You need to stay focused on your own reputation and if all else fails be sure you know the guidelines for selling like the back of your own hand so you never step out of bounds. 9) MAKE SURE YOU THINK ABOUT IF YOU WILL ACCEPT RETURNS OR NOT BEFORE YOU LIST - Ebay's selling system gives you the opportunity to state during the listing process (it is a radio button/check box) if all sales are final and no returns are accepted or if you WILL accept returns. On camera equipment I will NOT accept returns. Lenses and cameras are too easy to damage if you mishandle them. If they arrive safely then you own it. I have paid $180 to repair a lens that I'd had just a couple of weeks that I'm certain was damaged during shipping... I didn't go after the seller for that - it wasn't his fault because the lens was impeccable otherwise and clearly had not been abused. If it arrives damaged my buyers are instructed to not accept it and ship it back. I'll refund their money and I'll hash the insurance claim out with the carrier. I've had to do this once. And because I had opted to insure the item for the full amount I was not out any money in the end. I actually resold the item as "damaged - not working - for parts" and made more money. It took 4 months. THAT'S RIGHT - INSURANCE CLAIMS ARE NOT PAID IMMEDIATELY. But I didn't lose anything but time. 10) IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE - OWN IT!!!! I once sent a gentleman's lens to the wrong person - and sent their item to him. BOTH were very understanding and because of the mix up I not only offered to refund their shipping fees but I also reimbursed them for shipping the items back to me. I then sent their items expedited 2nd day air to make up for the lost time. I made NOTHING off those two sales... but I did the right thing and made two people feel much better about doing business with me. I NEVER hesitate to apologize if there was a mix up or in the case of the rain and bad weather - even though I have no control over it - I've made sure I emailed buyers during their time waiting on a delayed delivery to apologize that the shipping was delayed. In the end I've had a great experience selling on Ebay because I treat everyone who buys ANYTHING - no matter how big or small - with the same respect and professional attitude.
OK. SO REMEMBER I TOLD YOU TO REMEMBER THE SIZE OF THAT 300mm f/2.8 LENS I RECENTLY SOLD ON EBAY? Above - in my back yard with the Nikkor AF-300mm f/2.8D IF ED lens I sold last week on Ebay - the next shot a photo of the hummingbirds I shot with it. I SHOT THE PHOTOS OF THE HUMMINGBIRDS just before taking the selfie above with my phone.
SOME OTHER QUICK TIPS THAT I HOLD TO WHEN SELLING ON EBAY - 1) No International Shipping - Yes it limits my sales opportunities - but it greatly reduces my headaches with buyers who are either hard to please or may be up to no good. Sad to say that there are a lot of people around the world who try to take advantage of the "possession is 9/10ths of the law" principle. There are also plenty of honest, good buyers out there too - but I don't really have time to figure it out. 2) Low Purchase History - No Purchase History - I will cancel a sale and refund the buyer's money if they have brand new or very low transaction accounts *** For expensive items (over $100). I had a guy do a "buy it now" on a lens I was selling for $500 - he had a new account with ZERO feedback/transactions and he never responded to any messages I sent. Likewise he didn't pay after pressing the "Buy it Now" button - which you are supposed to do within a reasonable time-frame. After 3 days I cancelled the transaction - I didn't have to refund anything because he never paid me and I relisted the item. BTW - I say "he" because he had a male member ID - I have yet to meet a female named "Joseph". 3) Negative Feedback - It's true that some people are just never going to be happy. But if you've done a couple of hundred transactions and you've been on Ebay 16 years and you've got a 100% Positive Rating - I figure you're probably going to be low-maintenance. BTW - The stats above are mine... :-D 4) General Weirdness - Asking to ship to a non-verified address. Messaging gibberish. Starting a conversation with me by insulting me and calling me a liar or crook - LOL - you do get some strange people - I just say that I don't need the drama and I'll refund your money and wish you well.
HERE WE ARE FULL CIRCLE - I WROTE THIS CARD BECAUSE I AM CURRENTLY DEALING WITH A FIRST - SOMEONE WHO PURCHASED AN ITEM WITHOUT OBVIOUSLY DOING THEIR DUE DILIGENCE - AND NOW THEY ARE FALSELY CLAIMING THE ITEM IS DAMAGED TO TRY AND FORCE A RETURN AND REFUND.
I shipped the beautiful and pristine - excellent condition AF-300mm f/2.8D IF ED lens to a person who purchased it on Monday. They got the lens Thursday. It arrived without any damage - in it's hard-shell fitted flight case wrapped in 4 inches of bubble wrap (the heavy stuff not the little pop with your fingers for fun stuff) in a heavy corrugated shipping box rated for 120lbs... the lens and everything weighed 20lbs. I know this lens - and those of you who follow me - some 46,000 of you - YOU know this lens. You've liked countless photo-journalism photos shot with it (Horse & Bull vs. Man - all of those photos were shot with this lens). It's simply an amazing lens with beautifully clear glass. The new owner got it and the same evening decided to shoot an outdoor soccer game with it. They didn't get good results and they emailed me late last night - I didn't see it until this morning. They said the lens kept fogging up and it didn't focus the way it was supposed to. WHAT? What does that mean? Exactly HOW is the lens "SUPPOSED" to focus? It was without any explanation or further details. You cannot diagnose if there is a real problem if all you get is it's supposed to focus different than it does. I was really scratching my head over that one. Then they came back that it was too big and heavy to shoot "hand held" and it was too heavy and bulky and they wanted to return it for a full refund and they had decided to get the AF-S 300mm f/2.8 II - remember the lens above I said to pay attention to the size and bulk of? I respectfully answered them and explained that lens fogging is something that has to do with the weather - when the air around the lens cools below the dew point and the humidity in the air is high - the lens will produce condensation - just like anything else that's left outside that isn't heated. This is thermodynamics and physics - it's not a fault of the lens. They also stated that the photos they took didn't come out focused - they were blurry. OK. We have an issue with moisture on the lens - which will TOTALLY mess up focus - and if they are shooting "hand held" as they stated - I'm extremely fit - and I've held cameras my entire life - and there's NO WAY I'd attempt to shoot a soccer match with a 300mm f/2.8 hand held. Also - I suspect they are shooting with a DX camera. This means that the 300mm lens has a focal length closer to 450mm. All of these very real aspects of general photography will conspire to leave you with ZERO good shots. And the fact they admitted to me that they took the lens out where it experienced fogging... that's a potentially fatal issue because if the lens developed moisture INSIDE during the time they were shooting - YEP - that's how MOLD gets started. NOT GOOD. Honestly this is photography 101. I sent several emails back and forth - each response I got back was a new and different set of complaints. Which finally ended in them filing a "received damaged goods" claim against me - even though they had stated several times in their attempt to talk me into taking the lens back that it was working perfectly and had not been damaged and had nothing wrong with it. So which is it? Is it broke or not? Either way it wasn't damaged when I shipped it. And it arrived without being damaged. And their only experience with it was in the worst possible shooting conditions which is why they ended up with blurry photos. What did it for me was their insistence that the lens was too big, bulky, and heavy for them and instead they wanted to get a newer AF-S VRII model. First - it's 3 times more expensive than what I sold this lens for. Second - there's no way they thought that this was the model they claim they wanted because it was clearly presented as what it is and why would I sell a like new lens for 30% of what it's worth? Third - They have kept to their weight, bulk, and size complaints. So I kindly sent them a very professional email with the photo above showing that the newer AS-F lenses are in fact larger, heavier, and bulkier than the one they purchased from me. So that argument just doesn't hold water. I think they were not sure what they wanted and they thought this lens was it - but it ended up being a lot bigger and heavier than they expected. They without question under the conditions that they shot the photos in last night - THE INTERNET IS WONDERFUL for I looked up the weather at their location for last evening as it was 46 degrees with 75% humidity - absolutely NOT good photography weather. PERIOD. So I don't doubt they got horrible results from their first outing - but that's THEIR fault and not the lens. ______________________________________________ I asked Ebay customer service to step in an assist - mediate. I refused to accept then lens back because there was just too much "weirdness" with this person's claims and declarations. My faith in Ebay being fair and impartial is completely justified. They looked at the facts, looked at our correspondence, and they instructed the buyer to take the lens to an authorized Nikon repair center (I checked - there are two within driving distance of their home) and get the lens checked out. I suspected one of three things was going to happen - 1) The lens was going to be ok and they'd have no reason to return it - Ebay would side with me. 2) They'd discover that it was the focus motor drive in their camera - which consumer level Nikon bodies can have trouble (especially in colder weather when batteries don't perform as well as they would in "normal" temperatures) pushing the large heavy focus gears in Nikon Professional Super Telephoto lenses. If this was the case, again, the lens is fine and Ebay would side with me. 3) They'd discover that the lens did get damaged from exposure to the moisture and cold weather the first day the new owner had it and it would be damaged/compromised - and therefore Ebay wouldn't allow them to return it. You can't damage something and then ask for a refund. It doesn't work in the real world with a camera store - it doesn't work online with Ebay. I got news today that the case was settled in my favor. The lens was obviously damaged by the buyer and Ebay felt that it was not my fault. The damage must have been consistent with the moisture issues as I anticipated it might. THIS IS WHY I TRUST EBAY - THEY WORK VERY HARD TO PROTECT EVERYONE WHO USES THEIR SYSTEM. AND IN 16 YEARS THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I'VE EVER DEALT WITH ANYTHING LIKE THIS. IT HAS BEEN A GREAT EXPERIENCE - NOT THE BS WITH THE BUYER - BUT WORKING THROUGH THE DISPUTE WITH EBAY HAS ONLY STRENGTHENED MY TRUST AND FAITH IN THEIR PROCESSES AND BUYER/SELLER PROTECTION SYSTEMS.
I've been doing this a LONG TIME - I know my gear - I know weather and how it will affect my gear - I've shot in nearly every climate imaginable - under some rough conditions. And I take my reputation and integrity seriously. In my experience when selling and buying on Ebay - your reputation and integrity are simply not enough. You need to be smart and you need to make wise choices. Because if you don't you might be out a lot of money because someone else simply changed their mind. Be nice to each other and keep shooting photos and enjoying EVERY SECOND OF IT!
© Copyright 2015, Jon Patrick Hyde, All Rights Reserved.