Refurbished cameras: good or bad idea?
October 31, 2005
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I'm thinking about buying a factory-refurbished, non-SLR 7.1-megapixel digital camera. The refurbished camera price is considerably less than the new camera price. Are there negative factors to be aware of in buying a refurbished digital camera? Note that an extended two- or five-year warranty is available for the refurbished camera at a reasonable price. I would appreciate your comments on this.
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My knee-jerk response to this question is usually "Stop! No! Don't!" The market has been going through a period where a newer-better-faster-cheaper model arriving next month renders even the cheapest used models obsolete. But looking down at my motionless knee, I realize that we're slowly coming out of that cycle, at least for the better, solidly made, midrange cameras. So ask yourself: is it a really good or a so-so product in general? Mediocre products usually aren't worth the cost and are even less of a good deal if they're used. Unless you've been jonesing for that particular model, you're probably better off with a new version of a really good but lower-resolution (or less full-featured in some way) and less-expensive alternative.
In all cameras, the parts most likely to fail from regular wear and tear are the buttons, the switches, the connectors, the zoom-lens mechanism, the electrical system (it can't charge the battery). The LCD is sensitive to large swings in temperature and humidity as well as unusual stresses. If the camera has a hinged LCD, the hinge will have a relatively high chance of failing as well. Unless any or all of these get replaced during the refurbishing process--which generally consists of checking to make sure parts and systems are still up to spec--then they're more likely (in the probabilistic sense) to fail sooner under your ownership than a comparable new model. Search the Web for user complaints about the camera to see if any of these parts fail more frequently than others. Then find out how much the extended warranty will cost. You definitely want to add that to the purchase price and make sure that the total is still considerably less than a new model. And check the terms of the warranty to make sure it covers the parts most likely to fail from normal use.
has been an avid photographer for almost 30 years. Her digital-imaging coverage has been referenced by academic journals and Web sites and published in all forms of media.