Should You Buy Discontinued Gear?

With more evidence that Samsung is leaving the photo market (as reported by DP Review), it raises the question about buying discontinued gear. What are the pros and cons?


The pros are obvious. Quality merchandise at a reduced price. As time goes on, discontinued items become more affordable. This is particularly attractive to photographers who already have an investment in compatible lenses and accessories. They can hedge their bets by purchasing backup bodies and additional glass without breaking the budget.

There is some risk to this strategy, however. Repair work might become more difficult to find over time. And essentially, your toolbox is frozen in time with no future developments to the product line. If you're an amateur shooting just for the love of it, this shouldn't be a problem. But if you're in a competitive situation, it may be harder to compete over the coming months and years.

The other problem with this situation is that the used market takes a hit too. Suddenly others are looking to dump their kits for as much money as they can recover, hoping to start over with another brand. So the equipment you have at home decreases in value, at least for the time being.

And if you're new to the product line, I would be cautious about jumping in. Yes, the prices are tempting. But digital gear is different than analog. Film cameras have interchangeable sensors (in a sense, right?), but a digital camera is truly locked in time. At the current rate in change with electronics, buying discontinued could be fun for an exceptional piece, but not so much for a system.

So, what do you do? If you like the camera system, there's really no harm in continuing to use it. If you want to sell, you need to so quickly before the used market becomes saturated with this particular brand. If it's quality gear, the prices should climb back upward over time.

What a lot of photographers do is hang on to the few items they cherish and want to continue to use, even if casually. Then sell the remainder of the inventory on the used market before it declines in value. They can begin the transition to new equipment using the capital generated by sales.

I have a lot of discontinued items in my inventory. Most of them are cameras that I still like shooting with, though not for my professional work. But I'm also diligent about selling the stuff that I don't use. It's better to have that revenue for new endeavors.

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