2014 Camera-Trading-Palooza

If you’re not familiar with my Camera Trading history, I started out about 2 years ago (see a forum thread here here about how I got started, and my post about my $145 Canon 85L here.) At the time, I had a Canon T2i, a 50/1.4, 100/2, and a Tamron 17-50/2.8 with two cheap speedlites. My goal was to get a 5DII solely by trading camera gear.

I surpassed that by far. For the past year, I’ve been shooting with a Nikon D600, 24/2.8D, 50/1.4D, 85/1.8D, 80-200/2.8AF. I’ve increased my speedlite stash from 2 to 18, and picked up three ProFoto monolights – with a room full of modifiers for all the lights… A little better than just a 5DII. And not too shabby for a grand total of $40 of my own money.

This is my current kit, and does not include the $5,000-$7,000 I made on the side buying, trading, and reselling gear I could not particularly use. I decided at the end of the year to sell all the gear that wasn’t part of my kit, and start over, make a thread for people to follow along, and get more people involved in this.

I’m not sure if there’s anyone on the interwebs more vocal than me when it comes to pushing lower end, inexpensive gear to those on tight budgets, and those just getting started who can’t spend much. Learning more about photography, about the gear, will not only make you a better photographer, and can help you build your kit as you go – and if you’re like me, without spending much of your own money.

Like I said above, a couple weeks ago, I put everything on eBay, cleared out everything for a fresh start. I took my wife on a 5 day trip to LA, and put all the rest of the money in my personal savings account. All but one hundred dollars.

$100 to start all over.

I kept better track this year, and want to share the adventure along the way than the previous year. My goal was $10,000 from $100 – just by buying and reselling camera gear (and random electronics I might get along the way) It was a lofty goal, but if I’m going to do a thing, I’m going to do it right.


The first purchase had to get me a good start, so I had to choose right. I ended up finding an Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm lens for $80 on craigslist. I’m a big fan of the camera, its got great IQ for a small mirrorless camera. I’ve even shot a playboy model with one just for shits and giggles once. Good way to start, and I’ve got $20 left. I took it with me on that LA trip, and took a picture on El Matador Beach with it that I ended up loving, even with the color cast from the welding glass put over it for a 1 minute exposure.


I also shot a model with it, side-by-side with my D600 and 80-200. The difference is there once you zoom in 100% but still a great display of how good it can be, even compared to a great, new camera.


Then, I was cruising Facebook, and saw someone posting about 2 dozen Super Nintendo games, with boxes, and asking $120. I recognized a few as valuable (Secret of Mana, Zelda a Link to the Past, Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy III) – I had $20 left, so I offered that for just those 4, leaving him the rest to keep selling, and he accepted.

Sold those for $250 a few hours later on ebay.

So I’ve got a camera, with great sample images, something I can sell for $150-$200, or trade for something $200-$300, and $250 cash – not bad for week 1.


The first part of the year progressed fairly slowly, only having a couple hundred bucks available, and more often than not having that tied up in unsold inventory, but it was moving along. By April I didn’t think I’d make the goal at all. I had some remarkable purchases though. “Old Film Camera” on craigslist, with very terrible quality images. It ended up being a Canon Elan 7e with 28mm f/2.8 – for $60. I became VERY good at deciphering these images, like the one below:


That was from an older listing from the previous year, but I got to the point where I’d scrutinize any and all listings. That above image is an older camera, I think it was an EOS 650, but the lens on it looked like a 50mm 1.8 metal mount, or a 24mm f/2.8 (it ended up being the 24mm) but both would make the purchase worthwhile at $150. I ended up getting $100 for the body, 70-210, and 420ex flash, and trading the 24mm for something in the $250/$300 range.

Most of the first quarter went like this, steadily moving along with some good hits along the way. CL listing of a 75-300 III ($100ish lens) — crappy cellphone shot shows what looks like a green ring… that’s the 70-300 DO (worth a hell of a lot more than $100) – I took him up on his $100 asking price.

Summary at the end of Q1:

  • $710 cash (after spending $450 on a new TV for my office – so my paperwork says $1,160 just for my final count)
    Canon D30 with holga lens
    Canon 50/1.8 II
    Nikon D50
    Nikon 55-200
    Nikon 50 1.8D with box/paperwork
    Canon 28-135 IS
    Canon XSi w/ 18-55 IS
    Sigma 50 2.8 macro for nikon
    Epson Stylus Photo 1400 (14×19)
    Still have that original Olympus Pen, but it’s being picked up this afternoon ($175)

All in all, a little over $2,200 pricing the stock moderately. My goal of $100 into $10,000 in a year doesn’t seem so insurmountable.


Quarter two went ahead like the first, but steadily picking up steam. There was one hiccup though… I decided to buy a house. I had money in savings for closing costs and whatnot, but it made more sense to break my little experiment and use those funds. All in all during Q2/3 $5,000 of my camera funds went towards the house, building a deck, etc. Still counting the amount towards my goal, but at the close of September, I had $0.00, two cameras, two lenses – could I make up the rest with just that in one quarter? The hustle was on.

Best flip of Q2: Sony 70-300G for $200 at a pawnshop. That was a good and easy $550 profit.


Best deal of Q3: T3i for $300. Not a bad deal, in and of itself. He’s agreed to $250, should be able to flip that nicely.

But wait… $250 is a good deal for a T3i and a 18-55mm lens. That doesn’t look like an 18-55 lens though… looks like a 15-85 to me (confirming with him now) $250 for a T3i body and an EF-S 15-85? That’s a good damn deal.



The year wound down with nothing special, nothing fancy, just more of the same. .Buy low, sell high, get lucky, keep your eyes peeled. Last night, January First… I went through my spreadsheets, checked my numbers and tried to see how I did. At the moment, I have a few assets left usold (could have listed them on eBay a week ago and had them sell by now, but wanted to give local post-holiday hype a try) — I’ll be factoring in a low-estimate for those into my calculations, listing them on eBay this weekend. Current assets: Canon XT with box, Canon T2i kit (got for only $150!!), Two Canon T3i kits, Canon 28/2.8, Canon 75-300 IS USM, Nikon D40 kit, Sigma 18-35/1.8 ART, Photogenic PL1250 studio flash.

Factoring in a low estimate (and eBay fees) for current stock brings my total amount to…


I did it. I didn’t think I would…. but I simply kept at it day in and day out. Always kept FB and CL open in a tab wherever I was and checked whenever I  had a free moment. It’s nice to meet this goal, and I’m super stoked to see what I can do starting a new year with $5,000 instead of $100?

This article has 7 comments

  1. greg Reply

    Good job! Hunting deals is much more fun than to own the stuff.
    Now you need to count the hours you spent and multiply by a very low hour rate.
    What’s left? 😛

    • Shooting on A Budget Reply

      I did a breakdown last year. $11,000 profit…. with about 60 hours spent (not counting perusing craigslist while watching reruns)

  2. Josiah Reply

    I’ve enjoyed your articles and have given the trading thing a shot but find very few people who are willing to trade (smaller town, less listings). At what point do you decide to sell on eBay vs. waiting for a trade? Thanks!

    • Shooting on A Budget Reply

      I usually do local for 2-3 weeks, then unload on ebay once it hits a month or so.

  3. Ben M. Reply

    Ive been bartering stuff for years, trying my hand at bartering photography gear (inspired by your adventures). Picked up a bunch of Hoyarex filters and holders for a price I could not refuse, trying to offload them now….reminding myself that patience pays off. Good read!

    • Shooting on A Budget Reply

      Patience is a virtue. I picked up a speedotron pack and head system months ago for $400… have them listed at $1000 with nothing until yesterday. That’s a nice return.

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