What Sells: Film Cameras

Modern and vintage film cameras comprise a large percentage of the online sales of cameras on marketplaces such as eBay, and with good reason; most households own at least one camera. The growing popularity of digital photography is taking a bite out of film sales, but there are still legions of photographers who don’t want to go digital. Artists who use photography as their primary medium are often firmly committed to film cameras, and many consumers prefer to continue to own a film camera even if they purchase a digital one.

What Sells

Top-selling brands include:

Film cameras come in many different formats:

  • SLR (Single Lens Reflex) is the standard 35mm format with interchangeable lenses
  • Medium and Large-Format cameras are used by professional photographers
  • Automatic “point-and-shoot” cameras
  • “Instant” cameras (e.g., Polaroid)
  • Kodak Brownie cameras
  • Miniature and “spy” cameras
  • Novelty cameras given away as advertising promotions

Not all of these formats are equally valuable; it’s best to research each camera model online before agreeing to sell it.

Research Resources

Camera Quest has pictures and detailed information about many vintage cameras, as well as a timeline of camera history. Visit the site at http://www.cameraquest.com.

BoxCameras.com contains photos and information about box cameras from the late 1800s through 1950s. Visit the website at http://www.boxcameras.com.

Canon has a camera museum on their website, with pictures and information about many of their products. Visit the website at http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/.


Look for the following signs of use and damage:

  • Scratches and scuffs on the body
  • Scratched or cracked lenses and viewfinders
  • Fogged lenses
  • Discolored patches in lenses (can indicate presence of lens fungus)
  • Worn-off lettering
  • Missing parts (lens caps, straps, carrying case, manuals, etc.)

Ask the owner when the camera was last cleaned and if it was ever serviced. If the camera is valuable, it might be worth it to have a professional repair shop examine it before selling.

Key Details

Include these details in your listing:
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Lenses (if included)
  • Other accessories (flash, tripod, carrying case, extra batteries, software, manuals, etc.)
  • Packaging (e.g., New in Box)

If you don’t know all the specifications, check the manufacturer’s website; they often have product catalogs online that list detailed specifications.

Storage and Shipping

Store the camera in the case designed to protect the item, if provided by the owner. If a case is not available, wrap the items carefully and store them away from children, pets and environmental hazards. All camera components should be kept in a cool, dry place or in a dry box. Cameras are sensitive devices that must be carefully maintained during and after use. Cameras are not waterproof. Store them away from fluctuations in temperature and humidity. If you are transporting a camera from a cold to a warm environment, condensation might form on the lens. If water gets into the camera, turn it off and remove the battery until the moisture evaporates. Let the unit dry for 24-48 hours before turning it on again.

To maintain good image quality, be certain to protect the lens. When not in use, make certain the lens cap is on. This not only protects the lens from the elements but also from accidental knocks during storage and shipment. If the lens gets dirty, you can use a blower brush or a soft cloth to remove the dust. Do not use facial tissue or paper towels as these can scratch the lens. Wipe in circles across the glass surface as this will reduce the risk of scratching the lens. If the camera will not be in use for awhile, remove the battery to prevent battery leaks. The battery should be taken out and recharged occasionally to prevent it from losing its charge permanently.

Use the original packaging whenever possible to store or ship an item. If the original box is missing or too damaged to use, wrap each item separately in bubble wrap and cushion with packing peanuts inside a larger box. Put lens caps on lenses to protect them during shipment.

Now Hiring in Your Area