Those of us who make media tend to have something of a love/hate relationship with advances in video production technology. The techie geeky side of our personalities causes us to eagerly await news releases announcing higher-than-ever-before-possible resolutions and the subsequent release of better-than-ever-before-available cameras and new-and-advanced-feature-packed editing applications. Developments like 360-degree video technology that enable us to capture footage in new and revolutionary ways enthrall our creative side and spark our imaginations.
In both cases, advances in video production technology invoke an insatiable craving to seek, buy and possess new gear. The most thrilling and simultaneously discouraging thing about it is that there will always be a next new thing to want, and ultimately, buy. All of this new gear comes with a hefty price tag. Those who want the latest and greatest are often willing to pay a pretty penny to acquire the newest and bestest whatever-it-is as soon as it is released, and this pattern of behavior is not limited to videophiles; we see this play out every time Apple releases a new iPhone. The desire to have whatever new thing the world puts before us is rooted deeply in the human psyche.
While many are driven by a need to have the newest and best hardware on the market and are willing to pay for that privilege, there is another cohort of people who capitalize on upgrades by buying used gear from early adopters. With every new release, a new generation of second-hand equipment goes up for sale at discounted prices. So which is best, buying new equipment or buying used gear? I believe the answer is — it depends. As with any situation, each option has its pros and cons.
New equipment typically comes with a warranty, so the purchaser is protected if something were to go wrong with the product. Since the equipment comes new in the box, you will know the entire history of the item’s usage. Every scuff and scratch will be your own.
New gear also brings some downsides. The initial cost is a big one. New equipment always costs more than used, but there can be some not-so-easily-seen additional costs as well. New equipment will include only items that you purchase intentionally. So, if you want additional storage media, or an extra lens or any other upgrade to the basic package, you will pay for it. New gear also brings with it the reality of depreciation. As soon as you open the box on your new piece of equipment, its resale value plummets. This may not be a major concern, as we typically purchase things to keep, not resell, but it is a reality that comes with buying anything new.
On the high side of the positive is this: the stuff you have will be brand spanking new. There’s just something special about the smell of new sneakers or the interior of a new car that makes brand new things extra special. The same is true of unboxing a new camera, attaching the lens, charging a brand new battery and seeing a camera come to life for the very first time. It is a rare and exciting experience.
For many people, owning the newest and most cutting edge technology is not a necessity. For them, it’s not having new gear but newer gear that matters. And the money saved by buying used can be used to buy more ancillary gear.
For many people, owning the newest and most cutting edge technology is not a necessity.
Buying used gear also has pros and cons. While there is no warranty, most of the depreciation will have already been absorbed by the original owner, so used equipment tends to hold its value longer than items purchased new. With that comes the reality that you will never know the full history of the item. Every scratch and scuff was put there by someone else. While minor flaws are not a major issue, you will never know how carefully or carelessly previously owned equipment was handled. It is important to ask good questions about use, storage and damage before buying.
On the upside, used equipment often includes bonus “upgrade” items in the mix that add a lot of extra value, without additional expense. A used camera, for instance, may come with multiple, extra-capacity battery packs and additional chargers, or with a collection of lens filters, or with a larger-than-standard supply of media storage cards or audio adapters. Items like these add real value beyond just the cost savings of buying a used camera.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong approach to buying production equipment. Whether you choose to buy new or used equipment, you need to do market research to know the going rate for the items you are interested in buying and ask good questions to clarify the condition of the items and what all is included in the package you are purchasing. An informed buyer is a wise one, regardless of whether the product is new or pre-owned.