Considerations for buying & selling secondhand converted cameras
Buying second hand converted cameras may look appealing on paper but in the long run may end up costing you more than you bargained for. Please review the information outlined below as it could save you much money and frustration.
Along with the usual pitfalls of used gear like unknown internal wear and tear, damage/repair history, exposure to poor weather/water damage, malfunctions, stuck buttons, dead/hot sensor pixels, shutter actuations and so forth there are additional things to take into account specific to converted cameras.
If at all possible please require physical proof, like a conversion order receipt to verify:
- Conversion company
- Order date
- Conversion type
- Installed filter wavelength
- Focus calibration type
- Security seal status
Without knowing ALL of the above information you would be taking a risky gamble if you continue through with the purchase. Lets now address each item:
1. Conversion company – The reputation of the company should have a strong influence on market value of the converted camera as it will dictate the quality of workmanship, reliability of the conversion and filter used and not the least of which is focus calibration accuracy.
2. Order date – The age of the camera and conversion should be a factor in the decision making process. Everything tends to move towards entropy with time and cameras are no exception, shutters fail, components get loose, focus calibration shifts and so forth.
3. Conversion type – Make sure the type of conversion the camera received is the type you actually want. Is it full spectrum, is it IR only and if so which kind? You should know this as it will have a great effect on your workflow and what you can achieve with your camera.
4. Installed filter type -The type and quality of installed filter could have a huge effect on your image quality. The type of filter or it’s transmission wavelength will directly affect the look of your images so you need to make sure that the look you are after can be achieved by the installed filter type.
The reputation of the conversion company should settle the quality of the optical glass material, its manufacture quality like flatness, impurities, polish, etc and workmanship of installation onto the sensor were issues such as trapped dust, hermetic seal, hot weather resistance and cleanliness all come into play.
Quick example: An individual leaves their converted camera in a black car on a very hot summer day, then takes a photo with the now very hot camera and hears a crunching sound. Turns out, the adhesive used to attach the IR filter to the sensor lost its adhesion properties due to the hot weather and fell in the path of the shutter as it was closing, causing it to permanently fail. Unfortunately we hear of such stories all too frequently from understandably upset photographers who have decided to turn to us after a poor experience with another company, or just from a poor secondhand purchase.
5. Focus calibration type – If the focus is no good then everything else is also no good, right? When cameras are used for applications not intended by the original manufacturer new issues could arise that are completely non-existent under normal circumstances. Such is the case with infrared converted cameras.
Normal cameras and lenses were designed for visible light photography and when used in infrared light tend to take on new characteristics in focus and other aspects. Every lens focuses IR light differently and therefore requires a unique calibration, period – don’t trust anyone that tells you otherwise. Not all conversion companies offer custom lens calibration services, with most just picking a single default lens to which they calibrate every camera that comes through their shop. This is fine from a standardization point for the company but does nothing to serve the customer and creates a cookie cutter situation that just doesn’t produce good results for everyone.
What if you have a different lens or set of lenses you are planning to use than to which the camera was originally calibrated? What if the camera was calibrated to a lens that required an extreme degree of adjustment, throwing most other lenses hopelessly out of focus? Well, then that is exactly what will happen, you attach your lens and NOTHING is in focus, what do you do then?
Our approach is different and more complex. Along with the standard default lens calibration options we also have custom calibration were we calibrate the camera to ONE SPECIFIC lens supplied by the customer. So unless you have this specific lens chances are good the focus with your DIFFERENT lens will be off at least a little if not unattainable entirely. For this reason please be certain of the lens the camera was originally calibrated to and if at all possible ask to take some sample photos yourself, with this very lens attached to verify said focus. If you plan on using a different lens it would be a good idea to try it first on this camera so you know how much shift there is and if it is acceptable to you or if you’d require a re-calibration service.
Our calibration service price is $125 and can only be ordered for cameras we originally converted.
6. Warranty seal status – Not sure about other conversion companies doing anything similar (with some taking it to the extreme by epoxying the camera shut) but it’s still worth mentioning for our own conversions. We apply a small holographic numbered sticker to the base of the camera covering at least one access screw. This is in an attempt to expose customer tampering or dis-assembly of the camera for conversion warranty purposes. If the seller claims the conversion is from Life Pixel it will have one of these, otherwise it’s either not ours or has been tampered or otherwise worked on by someone other than Life Pixel. Note: On some cameras the seal may be underneath a rubber grip material, this is due to how the camera is designed to be assembled. If the seal is not visible feel free to contact us to ask if this model is also affected.
Recently, with concerns of fraud/counterfeit seals we are revising our warranty seals with more security features so the above description may not describe our seals exactly.
Final thoughts – If you made it through this entire text, cheers to you! You’re now armed with the knowledge you need to be a sophisticated secondhand consumer. If you are a seller, please be kind and inform your buyer of all of the above so that you both walk away satisfied with the transaction.