10 Tips Inspecting a Second Hand (Used) Film Camera

10 Tips Inspecting a Second Hand (Used) Camera

Guides and Tips

10 Tips Inspecting a Second Hand (Used) Film Camera


I have received many questions from film beginners asking me for tips and advice before getting a camera, many of us have been browsing cameras and gears everyday. Some are new to film and some have bought and upgraded their cameras. But what if you don’t know anyone who has experiences dealing with second hand film cameras? Let me show you a few tips you can quickly check if the camera is working properly and detect if there are any issues so that you can send the camera back to the seller. Before you get your first film camera, follow 10 steps below.

Check Shutter Speed

Checking every shutter speed if the camera is firing properly without jamming, the most effective way to check if the camera needs calibration or not is to fire it at 1 second. If the shutter sounds almost at 1 second, not like 1.5 or 2 seconds. It passed our first test.

Check Light Sealing Foam

Except for Leica rangefinder cameras, most SLR film cameras use foam to make sure no light passes through the camera from the back door. Open the film door to see if the foam is deformed, it is an easy fix but if you are new and the best way is to look for another one unless it is something rare that is worth repairing. These foam are normally placed along with the film doors.


Check Shutter Curtain

Open the film door, take off the lens and place a light source in front of the shutter curtain to see if there are any holes.

Check Reflex Mirror

Fire the shutter to see if the mirror flips perfectly without any interruptions.

Check Viewfinder

Fungus, Haze misalignment can easily be spotted in the viewfinder. Make sure it is clean and clear otherwise you need to spend an extra maintenance fee. Comment below or email me if you have any doubt.


Check Focusing Alignment (Rangefinder only)

The best way to check if the rangefinder patch is focusing accurately is to mount any of your lenses on the body and focus at infinity to see if both patches align with each other. Each rangefinder has its own calibration, for example, my Leica MP at infinity doesn’t really match 100%. The best way is to do a test roll at different distances, 1 meter, 1.5 meters, 2 meters to infinity.

Check Camera Buttons

Make sure all buttons are responsive without delay especially when you are buying electronic cameras like Contax T2, T3, Leica M7, Hasselblad Xpan. Just need to make sure all buttons are responsive and work normally. Repairing these cameras can be troublesome.


Bring a Spare Roll to Test

Bring a roll of film or any expired film. Finish the roll, test it with different shutter speed and also at different distances to see if the camera works properly and no shutter blackout.

Test Meter Readings

Most importantly, it is very important to check if the meter is working and showing the correct reading for you. Use any of the free iPhone camera apps to do a test check of the meter.


ISO Dial

Sometimes you check the camera you might miss this part, try to change ISO dial to different speed and make sure the meter responds accurately according to the adjustment.


Need Film Photography Assistance?

If you have any questions related to film photography or you would like to understand more about it, feel free to email me or simply comment below.

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