Photography / Tips and Solutions

What to Do With Your Old Camera? Here Are Six Ideas

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Somehow, an older digital or film camera is occupying space on a shelf in your closet, or taking up room in a drawer somewhere. Or, maybe a loved one has died and his or her photography gear has been entrusted to you. Or, maybe you just decided to hang on to that early-model 6-megapixel DSLR that you used 10 years ago.

People often ask me, "Todd, what can I do with old photo equipment?”

Well, besides the obvious, there are some interesting options that can give your camera gear new life, help others, or maybe even reinvigorate your own love for photography.

Here is a quick list, followed by a more comprehensive look at each option:

1. Sell

2. Donate to Schools

3. Donate to Charities

4. Repurpose

5. Backup

6. Use

Sell

If you need some cash to buy more photo gear, you can sell your camera equipment.

Locally, you could drop it off at a consignment shop in the hopes that a collector or hoarder comes across your once-loved camera and lenses and decides they cannot live without all of it. You could also list your gear on an auction website and see if you can stir up a bidding war among strangers. Additionally, you can put an ad in the local newspaper classified section or website.

If you want to maximize convenience, you can easily sell your gear to B&H and let us resell it. The B&H Used Department will tell you exactly how much you will get for your gear, and we will even pay to ship the gear to our SuperStore in New York City. You can get a check in the mail or a store credit with which you can then feed your current camera or electronics buying habits.

A word of caution: if you are passionate about photography, your chance of regretting selling your very first camera is approximately 100%. Regardless of the make or model, you might want to hold onto that camera. I know many photographers who still have their first camera and I know many who regret no longer having that bit of personal history.

Donate to schools

An often overlooked option is donating your gear to a good cause.

You can likely find a local charity or thrift store that would have no hesitation about taking gear off your hands, but dig a bit deeper and you might find some, arguably, more deserving outlets. Check with your local high school to see if they teach photography as part of their art program. Likely, they would love to be able to give or loan your film camera gear to a student who might not have the financial means to acquire his or her own. They might also warmly embrace your dusty darkroom equipment.

In fact, any educational institution—from grade schools to community colleges to art schools—may accept your donated camera gear.

Donate to charities

There are several photography-related charities that accept used gear.

The Film Photography Project donates film cameras to school and student programs around the world.

Recycling for Charities recycles electronics and gives the value of what you send them to a charity of your choice.

PhotoVoice builds participatory photography and storytelling self-advocacy projects for socially excluded groups in the UK and internationally.

The One Shot Project provides cameras to young disadvantaged children in Iraq.

Josephine Herrick Project (formerly Rehabilitation Through Photography) provides free photographic education programs to children, teens, adults, and seniors.

NYC Salt engages students through professionally led volunteer instruction in photography and digital technology.

Definitely do some Internet searching to find other charities that might want your gear. Non-profit organizations are sometimes very happy to have donated camera equipment at their disposal. And your donation will very likely be tax deductible.

Regardless of the value of your gear, you cannot put a price on the act of giving your photo equipment to a worthy cause. You never know; your camera could end up in the hands of the world's next great photographic artist.

Repurpose

Having something newer, faster, or shinier might be just what you need in order to use your older camera and lenses for something fun.

Have you ever wanted to experiment with infrared photography? Or, have you thought about making your own homemade lens mount to affix random old lenses to your camera? This might be a great time to try something outside of the box. What about converting your old film camera into a pinhole camera? That might be a fun thing to try.

You can get cheap imported knick-knacks from your local home accessory store, or you can put your cool cameras on the living room shelf. I've decorated with a few cameras, but sometimes I take them out to go get some exercise.

Backup

Of course, an older, slower digital camera can be put into duty as a trusty backup for that new digital camera. Electronics and mechanicals are not infallible, and your trusty new steed might not be so trusty one day. Having a backup camera within reach might save the day, be it on a commercial shoot or remote vacation. Or, on occasion, you might have the opportunity to do a photo shoot in which your camera could be subject to bodily harm—photographing on a boat, at the beach, against a rock wall, wing-suit flying, parasailing, etc. Shoots of this type might be best reserved for your older gear, rather than putting your newer, more expensive gear at risk.

Use

You might already be on your fourth or fifth generation of digital camera. If that were the case, you'd be hard pressed for a reason to take your old digital camera out for a stroll. Why would you go out to shoot a 6-megapixel Nikon D100 when your D500's battery is fully charged?

But, a film camera might be another story. Film is film and not subject to the ridiculously short half-life of digital technology. Therefore, as long as the camera's shutter and/or the lens's aperture diaphragm are working, you can go out and shoot a roll of film. There is something liberating about not having to worry about histograms, batteries, checking your LCD after every shot, or spending hours in front of your computer downloading and processing images after a day of shooting.

Here is a bold idea: take your film camera on your next vacation and leave your digital stuff behind. Do you remember vacation photo albums that you could show your friends?

Film still has a place in the world so, just because you have been shooting digitally for months or years, don't think that your film camera is suddenly a doorstop or a paperweight. Get out and shoot some film!

Pass it on

The last place your camera should end up is: the rubbish pile. Sell it, give it to someone who could really use it, experiment, or just keep using it. A good camera can be passed from one generation to the next.

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camerasforkidsfoundation.org/donate is mentioned in your piece as a possible place to donate film cameras.  Please note that their website now indicates they can't take them

Thanks, Janet!

We appreciate the update and will edit the article.

Hi Dear Doner's

I am From India ,I am photography enthusiast and partly working on photography from last 4 years , but not promising result in my photography i need camera or Dslr Or camcorder if anyone want to make Donation to me . i have some projects in mind that can sell to channels in India .Project details will share to time of donation . I have no Gear apart from D200 But its No use its Broken in very catasrtofic conditions an accendent. I can recover from debth . I Will very pleased to him/Her if some one will donate me working condition camera .     

Thank you

Vikrant Gajre.

I have an old camera I want to sell it n get a new one if u can help me of that thank u 

Hi Ebenezer,

To sell your camera, head to the B&H Used Store!

Good luck!

Hi, my name is Tony. I live in Accra-Ghana, and i'm 21years old. I love editing pictures but i do not have a single camera to call my own to take pictures. i'm going ti study digital and visual communications in school soon. And i think i'm going to need one. I don't want to say much, but can you help me out even if its an old camera. Pleeeaassseee help me out. Thank you

Hi Tony,

I hope someone reaches out! Cheers!

Hi Tony, I have a Cannon Power Shot S50 that I would be happy to send you. It's digital, 

has a charger for the battery, an extra battery and a case . Would you be interested ?

Sincerely,

Deborah  Maine,USA

I am a high school yearbook teacher in desperate need of camera equipment. The only 2 cameras we have are over 10 years old and we're purchased with my own money.  We only have kit lenses and would appreciate any donations of digital equipment. Thank you!

Hi Danielle, feel free to post a way for folks to find your school here...

Thanks!

Hi Do you still need cameras and if so what kind

Hi All, Evolving Arts of America is looking for anyone who can donate camera(s) for our Film program here in NYC The Film and Production Program targets scholars with the passion for learning cinematography and may include filming with live cameras, editing, and assisting with film projects.

Evolving Arts of America (EAA) encourages youth ages 10-17 to develop their creative potentials through the arts. We provide an environment in which children can feel free to imagine, create, and welcome the arts into their lives. 

If anyone is willing to help us with resources on getting cameras that would be Awesome 

Hey Ramel! I hope you get some good stuff! Thanks for stopping by!

I have  prosumer Panasonic PV-GS400 SD video camera with a wide angle lens adaptor, extra batteries and charger. i=With Auto and manual controls  is a great camera but shoots video only to digital mini tapes and only 4:3 ratio. Excellent condion and it will shoot stills to an SD card. Let me know if you woulkd ike it! 

Hey Jeff,

Ramel posted 5 months ago...I doubt he will be checking back, but you never know. You might want to Google-stalk him and his program to see if you can connect.

Thanks!

Hi

If you steel have or anyone has a video camera they wish to donate it shall be be greatly appreciated.  BfSC-Zambia is a not for profit company which is starting to make video for development a reality in Zambia.  We have acquired pop-up cinema equipment but we would like communities to make their own videos on development issues.  We shall appreciate aby donation of cameras.

Best regards.

Oliver

Hi guys.. if anyone out there has an EF lens to give it away, please do add me to your list.. really need one, preferably less than 50mm, well if you ask me if I can buy it or not.. than to be frankly, I cant afford it at this moment.. hope I will someday. Im not joking.. seriously need one. 

Thanks..

Add me to the list for "free lens giveaways" as well!

I found this post in a Google search for people, organizations, and companies who donate cameras. I am looking for a camera for my 501(c) nonprofit.  I work for the Tulsa Debate League in Tulsa, OK.  TDL needs a digital camera for pictures of students during class, after school practice, debate tournaments, teacher professional development, and more.  Photos help our Facebook posts, website, and crowdfunding pages stand out.  Our donors and sponsors also love to see photos on our websites, in our print newsletter, in emails, and in our email newsletters.  If anyone knows of any person, organization, or company that has a digital camera to donate, I would appreciate it!

If this comment isn't appropriate for this post, I apologize.  I am having a hard time finding donation organisations that donate single cameras. Most camera donation sites donate to students who want to pursue photography, photographers supporting causes, or schools who have photography courses, so TDL's need does not fulfill their donation requirements.

Hi Julie,

I hope one of our readers can help you out! Also, for your needs, an older digital camera will be perfectly suitable. You can find some really inexpensive options at our Used Store....I just looked up a 6MP camera for $100.

Good luck, Julie!

hi julie did u find a camera? i have a digital im looking to donate

Hi chrystal,

Hopefully Julie will come back and see your post...

Hi Chrystal,

If Julie never came back to take you up on your offer, I'd humbly like to throw my hat in the ring to have it donated to our school (Innovation Academy Charter School -72 Tyng Road, Tyngsboro MA)  We are having a silent auction and I'm tasked with finding items to be auctioned off. If you are looking for a place to donate a new or slighly loved camera, we would be thrilled to accept it.  We are a 501c3 charity and would be happy to supply you with our tax id info if you'd like it.   My email is Hlandis@innovationcharter.org if I can answer any questions for you. Thanks for considering, ~Heather

Hi, my name is Tony. I live in Accra-Ghana, and i'm 21years old. I love editing pictures but i do not have a single camera to call my own to take pictures. i'm going ti study digital and visual communications in school soon. I don't want to say much, but can you help me out even if its an old camera. Pleeeaassseee help me out. Thank you.

A lot of good ideas Todd.  I particularly like the idea of passing it down to your kids if you have that option.  My daughter took possession of my last DSLR and just entered high school photography class.  We get to spend some quality time together as an "excuse" to go do her homework :)  Thanks for sharing the ideas.

Great story, Jerry! We are very quick to discard older digital cameras, but the truth is that they all can take pretty good photos and, as you have found, can be a great gift to the up-and-coming photographer in the family!

Thanks for taking the time to share!

Nice article, and an interesting point made about keeping the first camera. So now a question for you. Recently while clearing out old boxes from a storage unit, I came across my first Nikkormat FTN that I used in 1970. (I was shocked when I took my first picture: the viewfinder went black for a split second while the mirror flipped up!!!) Unfortunately, the batteries in the camera leaked and corroded the battery compartment. Is the camera now dead, or is it possible to clean the corrosion and get the camera working again? Sadly, a lesson learned the hard way about removing batteries from cameras not in use.

Hey Steve,

My guess it that you might have an awesome new Nikkormat FTN paperweight or book shelf decor accessory (not the worst possible fate for the FTN), but only a camera repair professional can answer that for certain. Also, if they can fix it, you'll likely have to pay a fair amount to get it back in service.

Before you turn it into a shop, you might want to scour the internet and/or YouTube to see what folks say about cleaning up leaking batteries and electrical contacts. Please use the proper personal protective equipment as the stuff inside batteries is usually hazardous!

Let me know what you find out!

Thanks for reading!

If the corrosion is not terrible, try a little WD40. 

Try white vinegar on a cotton swab I used this on a flash and it came back to life. This works if nothing is corrode off.

 

Thanks for helping a fellow reader, John!

Schools. Definitely donate to a school.

Sometimes that older camera is quite sufficient for a student who might otherwise not be able to engage in a photography or art program. It's kinda nice if it works however; I'm thinking about the time I was given two big boxes of film cameras: everything from SLRs to Compacts, Rangefinders and a Polaroid. It turned out, however, that grandma's old cameras were unceremoniously dumped into the chicken barn. The cameras were all (literally) full of chicken dung and worth nothing at all, even after the cleanup. Nonetheless, we spent a week looking at all the old stuff and it was fun! On the same note, that ancient digital with the dead and obsolete battery? There isn't much point spending money on a new battery, if you can find it, just so you can use the blistering slow 2 MP beauty with the 1" screen that stopped working a while back but that was 'top of the line' in a former century; it makes a good conversation piece, though.

If in doubt don't chuck it out: give it to a school.

Thanks for sharing, Warren!

Yes, donating the camera can be rewarding and highly worthwhile. 

I have taken TWO Nikon N2000s and made a frame which keeps them aligned and allows me to shoot STEREO.  The N2000 has an electric triggering input so the two cameras are reasonably well synchronised. I am using two early AF 24-120 Nikon zooms with the zooms synchronised with fine stainless steel wires (bead stringing wire).

  Stereo is a blast -flat pictures are boring by comparison!

Very cool idea, Dave! How do you combine the images?

Thanks for sharing!

Todd,

 N2000s are loaded with slide film. Output after E6 development is a left and a right slide of the scene.  Slides are placed in a homemade viewer consisting of two loupes in a support frame on a small lightbox. Think Viewmaster on steroids. Or slides can be placed in 2 matched Ektagraphic projectors with polarizers on lenses. Slides are viewed on a silver screen (white beaded screen scrambles polarization) and viewer wears polarized glasses. This system is basically the same as was popular in the 1950s. Kodak and others made stereo cameras, but they were slow and awkward by modern standards.(No autoexposure, manual film wind with a knob, no zoom). My twin N2000 rig has motor film advance, autoexposure, and synchronised zoom.

Dave,

Sounds like an awesome rig! Thanks for sharing the secrets!

Very nice article, Todd! Weeks ago I went to a vintage market (here in Milan - Italy), and there was a shop that was selling cameras transformed into lamps. I thought it was a nice idea... 

Thanks again Todd for your inspiring article!

Great shots, Bernardo! Thanks for reading and sharing the link to the image!

Hey Todd...No greater use of old gear exists than donating it to a school or to a youngster with a strong interest in photography, especially a kid whose family doesn't have the means to purchase such a luxury. I know of a couple of kids here in China who well may end up with one of my older DSLR's. Imagine the thrill! And eventually all my leftover gear will end up with my son as well. A good mark we can leave in the world is the promotion of photography.

Awesome, Tom! Giving is, indeed, an underrated art form!

Thanks for reading!

Are you donating any camera equipment at this time or do you know someone who is? I began photography a little over a year ago by accident. I received my first smartphone upon signing up for phone service. The camera on the phone only had 7 megapixels. I began taking picures simply for a little fun.  At approxiamately the same time I  accidentally discovered a photography website where for the first time I began trying my hand at photography.  I was very surprised and pleased to find I did very well even with a very limited camera.  I would enter daily challengrs on the photography site where sometimes there were thousands of entries.  Every few weeks my photography would receive recognition.  This boosted my confidence.  I then entered 10 pictures in a state competition and received 7 ribbons out of 10 pictures.  I received the highest award in the amateur division as well.  The pictures I entered again were done on my phone. I was very pleased with the results.  I spent 10 hours a day (anywhere from 50-60 hours per week during the 9 months prior learning how to use the photography site I was on to edit photos and try other things).   I poured over hundreds of thousands of pictures during that time to also try to learn what makes good photography.  Unfortunately I have not been able to advance in this field as I long to because of the limited abilities of my equipment which consists of my phone only.   I simply do not have the money to purchase equipment.  I truly long to become a great photographer.  I want to take pictures that uplift, edify and bring hope to the human heart.  I have great passion.  If you or someone else you know would be willing to help I would be more than elated and I can absolutely promise the donation would go to very good use as I continue growing as a photographer.  I am not sure of the proper way to have you reach me and vice versa, I am not technologically savvy.  I will leave my email below.  I am hoping for equipment that will be be adequate to sustain my learning for a few years while I continue developing my talent. Sincerely, Kristi Jo  

Hi Kristi Jo,

Thank you for the email! I sense your passion for photography and hope that you continue on this path!

A few things to share with you…

My first digital camera had 5MP. National Geographic used to require 6MP for submissions to the magazine. So, your phone with 7MP is pretty good!

Congratulations on the recognition you have received!

The smart phone camera is inherently limiting, but, as you have seen, it does not stop you from making great images. I assist at the New York City National Geographic Smart Phone Photography Workshops with a renowned photographer. He actually does full blown professional assignments with just his iPhone—nothing else. He will fly to the other side of the world for clients and does not bring a camera with him…only his phone.

So, before I go on, know that you have an amazingly capable camera already. Also know that the gear does not make the photographer great—it is the photos. As my coworker says, “It is not the wand that makes the magician.”

I assume you long for a DSLR camera to improve your craft. Correct? Well, there are great ways to get started with DSLR photography on the cheap by shopping (excuse the shamless plug) at the B&H Photo Used Store.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/browse/Used-Equipment/ci/2870/N/4294247188

DSLR cameras start at under $100. These are older cameras, but they are still fantastic. I used to have a Nikon D100 and I took many award-winning photos with it. I got my masters degree in photography using a Nikon D200. There is nothing wrong with an older digital camera. Less megapixels? Sure. Less bells and whistles? Yep. Great pictures? Of course!

For lenses, I would start with a 50mm f/1.8 lens for whatever type of camera you decide on. Again, these are inexpensive—starting around $50. So, for $150 you can get yourself into the world of digital SLR photography.

Alternatively, you could see if there are any camera clubs or meet-up groups in your area that you can join. Someone there might have an extra camera, or they could be borrowing or renting gear from a local camera store. Or, if you want to study photography more formally, you could look into taking classes at a local college, community college, or learning center. Oftentimes they have gear that they loan out to students.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/44-tips-improve-your-photography

I hope this helps and please feel free to follow up with any questions.

Best,

Todd

I am definitely in the "use" category.  I have retained my first camera, a Nikon EL2 which still takes great pictures and I use primarily now with black and white film. Have upgraded twice to an F3 HP and F4 but will not be going further.  These older film cameras are a joy to use as there are dials and controls rather than menus to cycle through.  Fuji has plenty of film choices now and hopefully will continue indefinitely.

Hey servocharge,

Thanks for keeping film alive! Great cameras in your quiver there!

Thanks for reading!

I have my Father's SLR "ICA" from the 1920s that I used until 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 film packs were discontinued in the 1970s. Are there any other backs for this camera or other way to continue to use it?

Hey Mike,

I would start Googling it and check the Impossible Film Project. They might have something that works. Off the top of my head, I have no idea if you can still get film for that camera.

Good luck and let us know what you find!

Do you also take in and resell old computers? Our 2001 Power Mac G4 w/studio display is yet in working order. :)

Hi Judy,

Yes, we do sell used computers. Please contact our Used Department by phone or email!

Thanks!

Film cameras still have a place but so so the left behind 5 MP-8-12MP and others. Make a stand for an older 5/8 MP camera and shoot old documants/old photos or even copy a book. WHile page by page is time consuming-Do it before giving the book away or yard selling it.  Or. keep the camera in the glove box for an accident or other emergency. Lots of ways to use an older camera .

Great points, charles!

You are correct, there is nothing wrong with a lower-megapixel camera. It wasn't very long ago that pros were shooting 6MP cameras and making large prints from them!

Thanks for reading!

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