The Great Flash and Glass Garage Sale

All around the world, photographers who used to shoot film have put away their fancy SLRs and zoom lenses and rediscovered the joy of photography with sleek little digital point-and-shoots that fit in their shirt pockets.

The image quality of many of these pocket cameras rivals that of pro digital SLR cameras from as little as a year ago. So people are bailing on their heavy, film-based systems in favor of the tiny consumer digital cameras.

Which is a wonderful thing. Why?

The ripple effect is that you almost can't give a film SLR away on eBay these days. In fact, the film-camera albatross hanging around the neck of many sets of photo gear means that the selling price of the gear with the film camera is frequently much less than the selling price of the individual pieces of gear had they been sold without the film camera.

And those sets usually come with a flash you were gonna buy anyway. So here is how to hunt for the flash you want and a bonus set of prime zoom lenses at fire-sale prices.

I'm going with Nikon here, because that's where the good flashes are. Start with an eBay search that includes every model of flash you would be able to use as part of an off-camera lighting setup. Be sure to include "search descriptions," because what you are looking for is a flash you would buy anyway, coupled with a few lenses. And a film camera keeping the buyers away.

Try this link on eBay to start.

(You could do the same thing in the newspaper classifieds, Craigslist.org, or anyplace else.)

No one is buying film cameras anymore. You can't give one away. But that outfit - minus the film camera - is exactly what you need to create a gear bag on the cheap.

I have seen N90's with three Nikkor zooms and a great flash go for less than $250. Take out the money you would have spent on the flash anyway, and the Nikkor zoom lenses are going for about $50 each.

Boo-ya.

What to do with the film camera? Keep it as a conversation piece, bookend, object d'art, whatever. Give it to a kid to take apart just for the experience. No matter. It's worth less than nothing.

Remember - the flash (along with a stand) is the major component in the Starving Student Light Kit. The rest (including the stand) goes for about $115.

Say you come up with a used D100 (or D70 - I'm learning, here) for $300. Now, with the garage sale, you have a semi-pro digital camera, a set of lenses and an off-camera light setup for $665.

Heck, you could set up a day doing headshots of local real estate agents and make more than your whole gear bag cost before lunch. Just shoot 'em, photoshop the best frame on the spot - taking out wrinkles right up to the point that strains credibility, and burn them the disc while they write you a check.

(We're talking paying for a gear bag here, not photojournalism.)

The point is, that thinking creatively on both ends can quickly set you up with the gear you need to do the kind of shooting you want to do. Without the tapped student loan or credit card.

Now, take all of this with the caveat that you may be bidding against each other if you all try to cut in line on eBay. Take it slow and wait for a deal. They are out there.

So, I told you mine. Now you tell me yours. Do you have gear-snagging secrets?

Share the wealth in the comments section.


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