You can’t be looking. This is my mantra, I will always find deals on gear, I always do, but it’s when I’m not looking for it. You can either pay in time or cash. By that I mean if you want it now, you pay the price. If you’re open to finding a deal, then you might wait until one pops up. You might even find something you weren’t looking for, like that Nikon S4 I wrote about. I wasn’t in the market for a Nikon rangefinder camera.
That can turn out to be a good thing, or you can wind up overbuying on things that you don’t need, only because the deal was good. I am definitely in that camp–I find deals and they influence which direction I’ll go next.
That works for me. It might not work for everyone.
I picked up an Century No. 2 8×10 camera for $300 last summer because it was in an antique store collecting dust–I could see the dust and used it as a bargaining point–and the seller went from $795 to $300 just to move it out of the shop. Good deal. That’s what this photograph was made with and its vintage English-made Taylor Hobsen Cooke 8 1/2″ barrel lens.
I wasn’t in the market for an 8×10 camera, but I wasn’t opposed to finding one when one showed up at a great price. Not when I wanted it, but by chance. Sometime later. Outside of my shopping window.
If you want something now, you pay full price for the convenience of having it now.
If you are willing to pay in time, you can find deals. There’s also the risk though that you will overbuy because the deals are so good that you end up with more gear and spending more on things that you weren’t seeking than if you just got the one item you were initially looking for. It’s a very easy road to go down and fill your house with gear you don’t need because the price was right.
Everything in life is balance.
It’s kind of fun to stumble on that Nikon S4 rangefinder. Or that Century 8×10. Even the Wista 4×5 that I found at a local yard sale for cheap–$400 with lens, film holders, a bag and other accessories–became the impetus for my 4x4x5 project last summer during the height of the pandemic. I had set a goal of making four exposures on 4×5 film every time I went out with the camera. I couldn’t return until I had four exposed sheets. Work resulted that ended up in a local photo gallery in Boulder.
All of these deals are available for anyone who wants to poke through the junk shops, the antique flea markets, local yard sales and the like. Even thrift stores. I have a Rollei 35 tiny camera that was found at my local thrift store on half-price day, so that $150 price became a cool $75.
On my YouTube channel, I mention some of the deals I get and people write comments saying they don’t believe I get so many bargains, saying it’s impossible. I assure them it’s true, and to remember I’m paying in time–I have the ability to peruse those sales and of course there are many days that mine no gold, but the few that do, well those are the ones I talk about.
I never mention the deals that didn’t work out. Those don’t make good stories.
They say there are two kinds of street photographers, hunters and fishers. Hunters go on the lookout for their subjects working while on the move. Fishers wait for elements to come together for them, staying put, not chasing the photograph. I can see a correlation between the two and camera shoppers. Go out and do the leg work? Or sit back and watch for deals that show up in front of you?
Both will achieve your goal, but there is something trusting or serendipitous about seeing what shows up rather than hitting the Buy It Now button when you first get the notion about a new camera.
Just today I stopped by an estate sale and found a minty black body Nikon FM (special to me because I started my photojournalist career in the 1980s with one) with 7 lenses for $180–there are no zeros missing from that price. And seven lenses: a 50mm f1.4 non-AI, a 50mm f2 AI, a 55mm f2.8 Micro-Nikkor AIS, a 50-135mm f3.5 zoom AIS, a 200mm f4 non-AI, a 300mm f4.5 non-AI and a 300mm f4.5 AIS. I’ll get them into other photographers hands, but it was a deal I couldn’t pass up. Oh, it also came with a Vivitar 285 flash, a large Nikon camera bag, a variety of graduated filters, flash sync cords, cable releases and some grip brackets. $180 for it all, yep! What a deal.
You can wait for the magic or make the purchase now. Perhaps do a bit of both. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
But the deals are out there, if you are willing to find them.
I know, I do.