Useful Tips

How to check a film camera


Cameras have long crossed the limits of professional workshops. Now a digital camera is available to everyone. And if the popularity of film cameras has faded away, then digital ones are experiencing a real boom. This is due to the fact that using a digital camera it is easy to take a photo, it can accommodate a lot of photos, and most importantly - the result is visible immediately.

Now there are cameras in a wide price range and with a different set of characteristics. Therefore, choosing one of them that you need is often very difficult. Some tips on what to look at first and what to check when buying a digital camera will not hurt you.

Lens check

The lens is undoubtedly the main element of the camera. The first thing you need to pay attention to is the cleanliness of the lenses. Check for scratches and abrasions on the surface of the front and rear lenses, heavy dust inside. Open the diaphragm and look inside the lens, remove it from the camera and look at the clearance, as well as on the surface of the lenses at an angle. Ideally, all lenses should be clean and transparent without clouding and any inclusions and formations.

Lens clearance test

Then check the lens mechanics - does the diaphragm work correctly, if there is a jumper - does it work? When switching the aperture values ​​2 - 2,8 - 4 - 5,6 - 8, the opening should decrease.

Check shutter operation

Open the back cover of the camera. First you need to check the film rewinding unit. When cocking the trigger, the receiving coil must rotate, as well as the film winding rollers with teeth for perforation.

Next - you need to visually examine the curtains. Are they whole, are there any noticeable scuffs or holes? If you check the SLR camera, look through the peephole and press the shutter button. In SLR cameras, for the time of descent, the eye is darkened - a mirror rises.

Checking the operation of the shutter, curtains.

Then you can check the development of all excerpts. Open the lens cover, or remove it altogether. Raise the camera to eye level with the back cover open so that when you open the curtains, you can see something bright in front of the camera. Testing can begin with an excerpt "by hand" "B". When you press the shutter button, the shutter curtains should open and remain open until you release the button.

Shutter speed B. The shutter remains open while holding the button.

Then you can set the maximum shutter speed with which the row starts, for example, 30, which corresponds to 1/30 sec. Cock the shutter and press the shutter. You should see how it opens completely and then the shutter shaft closes quickly.

Reduce the shutter speed to the next value. The shutter should work faster. Then the next value is even faster.

Of course, you will not measure by eye how accurately the shutter speeds are worked out, but you will get a general impression of the camera. It often happens that at a minimum shutter speed the shutter behaves like a “by hand” shutter speed - it remains open as long as the shutter button is pressed, which indicates a malfunction of the camera. It may be that the first curtain passed quickly, and the second is in no hurry to catch it - it remains in its place - the camera is faulty.

Checking other mechanics

Look through the viewfinder peephole, try to aim at the nearest subject. Does the lens aim, does it show reliable values ​​on the distance scale? Is the focusing screen clean?

Rewind. This mode is activated when the film is over, and it must be rewound back into the feed reel. At the same time, the film winding rollers should be released and freely rotate in the opposite direction, allowing the film to be freely rewound into the feed coil.

If the camera has a self-timer, then you should check it out - suddenly you want to take a selfie. Self-timer slows shutter release. It is necessary to start the shutter, start the self-timer lever and press the self-timer button. There will be a buzzing sound and after 10 seconds the shutter will release.

Can I buy used photo equipment?

When you buy a new camera and unpack the box, it immediately loses 20-30% in price, because no one will buy it from you at the price of the store. Consequently, for those who are looking for a camera in the secondary market, it is possible to buy almost new photo equipment cheaper than in a store.

If you have not decided on a camera model yet, read our guide on choosing a camera for different requirements.

In fact, many photographers do not recommend buying a camera with your hands, if you do not know how to check it before buying. After all, the reasons why people sell a camera are different. And here the main thing is not to run into a problem copy.

Exposure Meter Check

Exposure meter - a device for measuring the level of illumination. If you are a beginner amateur photographer, then you just need to get some objective data about the illumination of the objects in order to properly set the exposure. Although over time, you can gain enough experience and determine the brightness "by eye".

Camera with selenium exposure meter and self-timer on the front panel

In mechanical cameras, mainly two types of exposure meters are used selenium or photoresistor. For a selenium exposure meter, additional power is not needed - the photocell itself generates voltage under the influence of light and rejects the meter’s arrow by a value proportional to the illumination. A photoresistor needs external batteries. So make sure to insert them in the appropriate place.

The first level of checking the exposure meter is whether it works at all. Aim the camera at subjects with different lighting conditions and observe the readings of the exposure meter. They should change, for example, the arrow should deviate more when directed towards a more illuminated object. In most cases, such a check is enough before buying a camera - you will make sure that the exposure meter performs its main function - the response to illumination.

Comparison of the exposure meters of two cameras.

The second level is checking the accuracy of the exposure meter. To do this, it must be compared with another reference exposure meter. There are built-in exposure meters in any modern digital camera, so you can compare it with its readings. There are also programs for the smartphone that determine the level of illumination using the built-in light sensor of the smartphone, but I could not get a good reliable result from them. So I'm inclined to use the exposure meter of another camera.

Set the two cameras to the same ISO, switch the reference camera to aperture priority mode and set some average aperture, for example 8. Point two cameras at subjects with different lighting conditions and compare the readings of exposure meters. If they differ only slightly, then the exposure meter of your camera shows the correct values.

The exposure-shutter-aperture values ​​are the same on both exposure meters.

If the device under test constantly gives too high shutter speeds, for example, one stop, then the exposure meter element is a little hooked, but you can enter a correction, for example, increase the ISO sensitivity by one stop.


Of course, the final check of the camera can be done only by charging the film, shooting it, and in different modes of operation with different shutter speeds and apertures, and then looking at the result. However, by following the simple verification steps above, you can identify most camera malfunctions in order to make a purchase decision.

If you want to enjoy the shooting process, then you should check the camera before buying. I would not recommend taking a camera if something in it does not work. Repair of used cameras does not justify itself. You will spend a lot of effort if you want to repair it yourself, and not the fact that you can do it - the mechanics of cameras are quite complicated, there are a lot of small details. Repair by a specialist will also be expensive. It is best to find a working copy of a mechanical camera, especially since now their choice is very large.

What to look for when buying a used camera?

Here, almost everything is the same as when buying a car:

  • "Not a bit, not beautiful?" That is, if the camera didn’t fall off the cliff and was it not under repair after some kind of breakdown.
  • Not a drowned man? That is, whether the camera was dropped in water. And also, didn’t they use it in the rain, snow and in conditions of temperature difference, after which condensate forms, from which the contacts rust and oxidize.
  • "And what is the mileage?" That is, what is its resource, how much was it in use, and how many frames were made for it.

Why do people sell cameras?

  • The camera is out of date, a new model has come out. In the pursuit of new products and top models, some users sell their existing camera in order to keep up with the trends of the photo industry.
  • The camera was presented, the gift did not fit. Even such expensive gifts as cameras may not be pleasant: too heavy, too massive, too simple, too tricked out.
  • The camera is gathering dust on the shelf, almost never used. Photographers sometimes switch to mirrorless mirrors or even to a mobile phone, and sometimes, they completely cease to be interested in photography.
  • The camera began to junk, urgently needed to sell. If the camera has fallen, drowned, or malfunctioned, the owner will immediately understand that it is time to change it for a new one, selling the old one to some newcomer.
  • The camera is stolen, it is urgent to get it out of hand. If the camera has a dark history, then the owner will hurry to get rid of the stolen camera.

Of course, you can buy a camera with your hands in the first three cases. But the owner does not always state the true reason for the sale, therefore, before buying, you must not only clarify the reason, but also check the general condition of the camera.

When is it better to buy a used camera, and in which cases is it worth buying a new camera?

It is best to buy used cameras after the New Year holidays and the release of a new model of the popular brand camera. After the holidays, the probability of catching a good camera on the secondary is higher than anything, as photographers who get a new camera as a gift get rid of old copies. And those who received an unwanted gift also sell their cameras.

You can buy a used camera in several cases:

  • When you have a limited budget and buy a new camera is simply not affordable.
  • When you have a need for a backup camera, which will lie in a backpack for safety reasons.
  • When you are not sure that the photograph is yours, and just want to try yourself in this matter.

In other cases, it is better to purchase a new camera.

Cons of buying a camera with hands:

  • Unpredictability of the result: one camera can work for half a year and break, and the second can plow even more than its working resource.
  • Inability to verify 100%: even at a photo service, experts do not give a 100 percent guarantee that the camera is serviceable and will serve you faithfully for life.
  • The risk of buying stolen photo equipment: if you buy a camera without a box and other accessories, you risk purchasing a stolen camera.

Weigh all the pros and cons for yourself and make informed choices.

Who should not buy a used DSLR?

  • At professional photographers. The fact is that commercial photographers shoot a lot, and, accordingly, the equipment wears out very quickly. Even if the camera is still under warranty, its resource may already be almost exhausted.
  • At persons offering to buy a camera right on the street. If you are offered to buy a camera right in the parking lot, most likely this is a stolen camera. Pass right by.

How to check the mileage of a used DSLR?

Each camera has an ultimate resource - the number of shutter releases, after which the shutter may fail. For example, it can be 100-200 thousand frames. Therefore, even before meeting with the seller, ask what is the resource of this camera and how many frames have already been made by it. If the camera has worked out its resource for half or more, it is better to look for another camera.

But it’s better not to believe the owner in words, but ask to send you the last raw frame. Information about the number of frames taken is recorded in the EXIF ​​of each photo, so you can easily check this by uploading the image to the ShowExif program (Total number of shutter releases parameter) or to IrfanView (Total pictures parameter).

For mirrorless cameras, the number of frames taken is not so critical, since the electronic shutter works mainly there, but the mileage indicates the intensity of use of the camera, which is also useful to know when buying mirrorless hands.

How to check the camera for hot and broken pixels?

The most important and expensive thing in the camera is the matrix. Therefore, it must be checked necessarily.

Damaged pixels are of two types:

  • Dead pixels do not glow. You can check the camera for broken pixels by opening the aperture to the maximum and photographing a bright glowing object out of focus (for example, the sunny sky or the light of a lamp). The frame will turn out to be bright, but the broken pixels will remain black.
  • Hot pixels always glow in the same color. You can check the camera for hot pixels by closing the lens cap and taking a picture at a slow shutter speed. The image will be black and the hot pixels will glow.

You can also check the matrix of the camera in the Deadpixeltest program.

How to check the camera for mechanical damage?

  • Chips, cracks, scratches. Inspect the camera for various scratches and chips. If there are only light abrasions on the camera from mechanical damage, you can take it. And if there are cracks on the case, but something is booming inside, do not mess with this camera.
  • Cogs and bolts. Check that all cogs are black with no scuffs. If you find traces of unwinding, specify what kind of repair the camera went through. But, despite the seller’s response, it’s better not to buy this camera.
  • Bayonet mount. Unscrew the lens and check that the lens is attached to the camera. If the device supports the Compact Flash format, carefully examine the legs of the contacts: if at least one of them is bent, then do not waste your time and proceed to consider another camera. Check also the bayonet socket for a tripod; if it does not have scuffs, then the camera was used without a tripod.

  • Battery and flash drive. Drowned camera or not, you can check the status of contacts in the battery and flash drive bays. Check that all contacts are clean, free of rust, electrolyte oxidation and smudges. Also, ask you to charge the camera to the maximum before buying, and during the check, watch how quickly the battery runs out. If the camera has a cheap Chinese battery, ask what happened to the original one. The original battery must have a hologram from the manufacturer.
  • Hot shoe. Check that there is no rust on the runners of the hot shoe (fastening the flash and the synchronizer), take a picture with the flash to check its operation. Also, by the runners of the hot shoe, you can understand how actively the seller used the camera. If they are wiped to holes, then the camera has been operated intensively, which means you better look for another instance.

How to check camera electronics?

Check all levers and wheels. Shoot in various shooting modes, adjust exposure, white balance and flash. Check if focus is working in Live View.

In order to fully appreciate the quality of the camera or lens before buying, bring a laptop with you. On a large screen, it is much more convenient to evaluate the quality of photographs for sharpness, vignetting, color reproduction, the presence of chromatic aberration and distortion, etc.

How to check the lens before buying?

Often the camera is sold along with a lens, usually a whale lens, which came with the camera. However, still more often you can find lenses sold separately. And if photographers are usually skeptical about buying a camera from their hands, then buying lenses on the secondary market is considered quite reasonable spending of money, since it is much easier to check the lens’s operation than a camera.

Compatible with camera. Just in case, check if the lens fits your camera, or check with the seller before meeting. At the meeting, check the mount - the place where the lens is attached to the camera, attach the lens and try to take a picture. If the picture is obtained and the lens is held securely, there should be no problems.

Lenses. Examine the lens, make sure that there are no scratches or cracks on the lenses. A little dust maybe this is normal. If there are no strong backlash, mold and scratches on the glass, you can take it.

Autofocus Test the focus in different modes and look at the result. If the photos are high-quality, not blurred, with a focus on the lens on which you focused, you can take the lens.

Если вы пока не определились с моделью объектива, почитайте наш гайд по выбору линзы под разные требования.

Как проверить, не ворованный ли фотоаппарат?

  • Проверьте совпадение серийного номера на камере с номером на коробке от фотоаппарата.
  • Проверьте комплектность фотоаппарата: помимо коробки, это обычно USB-кабель и инструкция.
  • Пробейте серийный номер камеры по базам украденной фототехники.
  • Посмотрите, не затерт ли серийный номер специально. If the area of ​​the room is older than the camera itself, it is better not to buy it.

If you buy a camera with your hands, discuss the possibility of returning at least within a few days. During this time, you will have time to shoot and understand whether the camera is suitable for you or not. When buying a camera with your hands, it is better to sign a receipt and indicate in it the conditions of sale, the possibility of a refund and the period of moneyback.

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