There are plenty of reasons why you might have some old cameras and lenses on your hands and not know what to do with them.
- just got some newer, better gear
- inherited them and aren’t into photography
- just fallen out of love with taking pictures
There are also plenty of types of old cameras and lenses you might be wondering what to do with. By types of old cameras and lenses, I mean:
- perfectly good, year-old gear that’s just been superseded by some upgraded version that you just had to have
- vintage, analogue, and film gear that you never use since getting into digital
- the type that falls in between i.e. obsolete 2-megapixel digital cameras that are neither use nor ornament
The suggestions in this article will cover all of these.
So, what can you do with your old cameras and lenses?
The answer to that, as you can see, is plenty.
Donate your old cameras and lenses
Let’s start with the most altruistic option here.
If you have old cameras and lenses you don’t know what to do with, there will always be people who would love to receive them for free.
Exactly who or what type of organisation you want to donate your old cameras and lenses to is up to you, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
Donate your old cameras and lenses to a school
The easiest way to ensure your old gear is put to good use is to donate it to a school, college, university, or an art school that runs photography classes.
Some of these may still even be running film photography and development courses.
Budgets are tight and they may not have enough equipment to go around, and some students and their families may not be able to afford gear either.
By donating to an educational facility there’s a good chance you’re helping a youngster on the path to bettering themselves.
Donate your old cameras and lenses to a charity shop
High street charity shops are always looking for new stock that will sell quickly.
Few people want clothes that went out of fashion a couple of years ago, books that everyone has read, or CDs from flash-in-the-pan pop stars, so they take up valuable space in charity shops everywhere.
However, those who collect old photography gear will often horde as much as they can, no matter how outdated you think it is, meaning some quick turnover for the shop you donate to.
Whichever charity has a shop on your high street deserves your help, and your old cameras and lenses could bring them some much-needed revenue.
Donate your old cameras and lenses to a photography charity
While high street charity shops will use the income from selling your gear to fund whatever work it is they do, donating your old cameras and lenses to a photography charity will likely mean it being used by people being helped by the charity.
There are plenty of organisations who operate in different ways.
All are as equally deserving of your old cameras and lenses so do some research and decide which you most want to donate to based on your own feelings towards them.
In no particular order, suggestions include:
- Cameras for Kids Foundation
- One Shot Project
- Film Photography Project
- Josephine Herrick Project
- Disabled Photographers’ Society
- NYC Salt
Sell your old cameras and lenses
If your old cameras and lenses are worth a lot of money and you want or need to get some of that back, you’ll probably be looking to sell rather than donate.
Some things to consider are whether to sell them to private individuals or to businesses, to do it online or in person, and through which channels.
Sell your old cameras and lenses on eBay
If you want to go down the route of selling privately, the best way to reach as many potential buyers as possible is by listing your cameras and lenses online.
For this, I’d focus on eBay.
Craigslist and second-hand Facebook groups are options too but all they really do is facilitate private sales. I’d recommend listing on eBay as you get a level of protection from the platform should anything go wrong.
Craigslist and Facebook give you none.
I also believe eBay is where more serious buyers of old cameras and lenses search. It’s where I’ve always looked. I’ve never searched for anything on craigslist, ever, much less bought anything.
Sell your old cameras and lenses in local print publications
While listing your old cameras and lenses on eBay will help you reach as many potential buyers as possible, you may prefer to handle any transactions in person.
What’s perhaps more important is that any given person looking to buy your gear may prefer this too.
Some people still don’t like buying things from strangers on the internet, and your gear only being available online may put them off.
So if you really want to reach as many people as possible, listing what you have in local newspapers and other publications can still have value too.
Sell your old cameras and lenses to high street businesses
Another option for selling your old cameras and lenses is in a high street second-hand, thrift, or pawn shop, or at a flea market.
Bear in mind that these places are buying your gear to sell it on again and whoever you negotiate a price with will be a professional. You might not be, so be careful you get a fair price for what you’re selling.
Check the value on eBay, go in with a minimum acceptable price, and don’t agree to anything less than that.
Sell your old cameras and lenses to online businesses
If you want the security of selling your old cameras and lenses to a registered business but don’t want to negotiate a price in-store, there are a number of websites that will take them off your hands.
These can be divided into two groups: actual camera shops who buy to resell in their ‘Used’ section, and websites who will accept any and all electronic gadgets.
Examples of the former include:
Examples of the latter include:
Again, all of these are buying your gear to make money from it, so you may find yourself getting a better price selling directly to someone who is going to actually use it.
If you were to go down this route though, my advice would be to try the first group.
As camera specialists, they’ll likely know the real value of your gear, and you’ll know it’ll be going straight back into the camera owner eco-system as it’ll be targeted at photographers when being resold.
Give away your old cameras and lenses
Although we talked earlier about donating your old cameras and lenses to schools and charities, giving them away to individuals is slightly different.
If you don’t need the money you’d get for selling your gear, giving them away can mean getting other things that may well be worth more to you, depending on your values.
Give your old cameras and lenses to youngsters
Interviews with photographers always include the question how did you get into photography?
To me, the most common answer has always seemed to be I was given an old camera by my [insert family member here] and…
So could you become that family member now by giving away your gear to your child, grandchild, or nephew or niece? If there’s nobody in your family that fits the bill, how about a neighbour with children? Or someone at work?
The younger generations love taking pictures. They do it on their phones all the time.
There will be someone, somewhere in your network, with children who would love to learn how to use your old cameras and lenses.
Set them on the path.
Give your old cameras and lenses to your blog readers
This one is a little bit niche as not every photographer has a blog. If you do though, you’d probably like a quick and easy way to increase your traffic.
Running a giveaway, where a lucky reader will win your old camera or lens, can do this. Simply include sharing the giveaway or your blog on social media as a condition of entry to the competition, which you can set up on Rafflecopter.
If your prize is worth winning, it could well snowball and get your blog discovered by people who have never seen it before.
Whether this is worth it to you depends on the value of your gear and how well monetised your blog is.
If the numbers add up though, you could get more long term value from giving away your gear than you would from selling it.
Keep your old cameras and lenses
Everything on this list so far has talked about getting rid of your old cameras and lenses, and you may well be reading it specifically for ways to do that.
However, the title of the piece is concerned with what you can do with them, and that can also include keeping hold of them.
If you’ve just got some new gear though, why would you want to keep the old?
Keep your old cameras and lenses as backups
If you’ve bought new gear to replace perfectly good older cameras and lenses, I’m going to guess it’s worth a decent amount of money – purely because when people replace working equipment, it’s going to be an upgrade.
So how would you feel if you dropped your new camera or lens off the side of a boat, or if it got full of dust in a Saharan sandstorm, or if it was irreversibly damaged by freezing temperatures on a polar trip?
Wouldn’t you rather take your older yet perfectly serviceable gear instead?
If there’s any chance you might go somewhere your new gear may not survive, it might be wise to keep your older gear as a backup you don’t mind sacrificing.
Start shooting again with vintage cameras and lenses
As mentioned at the top of this piece, some cameras are pretty much obsolete now.
The early generation digital ones, with their 2-megapixel resolutions, certainly fall into that category. However, it’s the cameras that these were designed to replace that could still be worth keeping.
Film cameras are enjoying a huge resurgence, with a big, active community of shooters posting their work online.
If you gave up film to shoot digital but still have your vintage cameras and lenses, it’s not hard to find film for sale. So instead of getting rid of your gear, you could buy some rolls and rediscover the joy of shooting analogue.
You never know when something like this challenge might crop up in the film photography world.
Alternatively, you could pick up an adapter and simply shoot with your old lenses on your current digital camera.
Recycle your old cameras and lenses
With all the opportunities laid out above for you to get your old cameras and lenses back into the hands of someone who will use them, I believe recycling should be your last option.
You may think throwing them away would be the last option, but I disagree. Throwing them away is not an option.
Do not throw them away. Do not read this whole article and then just throw them away.
Old digital cameras need to be recycled as a last option thanks to a few of the materials used to make them.
Some, like copper, platinum and aluminium, are valuable and can be used again. Others, especially those found in the batteries, can be harmful and need to be properly processed.
Fortunately, finding a place who can recycle your old cameras, lenses and batteries isn’t difficult.
In my opinion, the most important thing to do with old cameras and lenses you no longer want is to get them into the hands of someone who will use them.
That may come from donating them to a charity, selling them for some cash for yourself, or giving them to an individual you know. It may even come from re-evaluating your own views on your old gear and beginning to use them again yourself.
Choose which avenue works best for you and your circumstances and go down it.
The chances of all the avenues being closed must be very, very small. If they really are, then don’t throw out. Recycle.
In most cases, there’ll be someone who does want your old cameras and lenses and will put them to good use.
Do them and your gear a favour, because it really won’t take much effort to get the latter into the former’s hands.
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