Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Survey of Used Canon Prices on Craigslist Across the US

This is a rundown of Craigslist asking prices for Nikon bodies and lenses across the US for the month of September 2013. There aren't any surprises, as used prices have held steady through the summer, but overall, prices are trending downward on most of the commonly owned older items. If you are buying or selling used Canon camera equipment, hopefully this will help you to determine your target price.

Note: For a similar sweep of used Nikon equipment on Craigslist, go here.


Craigslist listings of major cities in all 50 states were examined during late August and Early September for 2013. In most cases the listings of major urban centers were aggregated over a two week period, with the exception of New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., which were looked at over two-day periods because of the sheer number of listings in their respective combined areas. This is not meant to be interpreted as a statistically significant sample; however, because of the availability of pricing information via Craigslist and eBay, you can see that used prices usually cluster around a reasonably tight mean value, even when looked on at the national level. If anything, the two largest markets (NY and LA), were underrepresented in this study because of time constraints.

Enthusiast-oriented equipment listings were selected, the list does not include cameras like the EOS T4i and lower; though complete T3i camera kits (body + lens + extras) tend to sell for similar to the price of a 60D body only on Craigslist. All reasonable attempts to eliminate duplicate and scam posts were taken. Camera body-only prices may not exclude extras such as batteries, straps and grips, but in every instance, bundled lenses were excluded. Variations in asking price reflect additional bundling, location of listing, and general age and condition of the equipment. Lens listings reflect some of the more more common listed items, but only represents a small subset of what is available on Craigslist.

Just a word on how these stats are laid out. For the most part, everything is self-explanatory.  Standard deviation is a measure of how closely grouped around the mean (average) the estimated population is. In this case, a smaller standard deviation means that there is less variation in price. For reference, in classical normally distributed populations 68% of the population will lie within one standard deviation of the mean; 95% of the population will lie within two standard deviations. In keeping with the efficient market hypothesis, a smaller standard deviation of average asking prices tends to reflect greater agreement between buyers and sellers.

Note that the sample sizes are not large enough to draw truly statistically significant conclusions; however, some trends can be observed since the used camera market isn't a "classic" sampling population in that the listings aren't truly independent of each other. That is to say, when everybody is watching what everybody else is doing, clumping is to be expected.

It goes with out saying, all prices are in USD.


Camera Bodies

There aren't any surprises in this set, though considering that these are national averages, the variability is understandable. These figures were taken after the 70D announcement, but before retail units started hitting the street. However, since markets are typically forward-looking entities, the discount of the 60D relative to the 70D appears to have been factored into the price. If you only wanted the look of full-frame but with none of its benefits lack lower noise and extra dynamic range (relative to a modern camera), then the 5D is a steal... it's that or it's a warning. Many people think that once they jump to full frame, the camera will be good enough to be their "last camera ever". The reality is that the next generation of crop-frame cameras becomes nearly as good in most areas... even more so once two generations go by. That said, there is a considerable price jump from the 5DmII to the 5DmIII, making the Mark II an expensive, but value-oriented proposition for anybody looking for a serious second-hand camera. Listings of the 6D were too few to be feasible at this time, but considering the availability of good copies of the 5DmII it's not a too hard to see why the category of "entry-level full frame" isn't setting the camera world on fire.

50D 60D 7D 5D 5DmII 5DmIII
n 16 32 66 35 48 20
Average 477 626 886 600 1504 2911
Median 500 600 900 600 1475 2950
Min 375 499 500 450 1000 2299
Max 550 950 1250 850 1900 3500
StDev 63 114 124 89 205 269

And here is a graphical depiction of the spread in asking prices for each camera body:

EF-S Lenses

Not too many surprises again, though most of these lenses are an older design. Standard-zooms like the 15-85 and the 17-85 tend to not get traded as often, as people like to hold on to these lenses as their walk-around option. Not included on this list is the very popular Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, which trades in higher volume on the used market than the EF-S 10-22mm. The 17-85mm's virtues were always about its convenience and not about it's outright image quality; this is reflected in its used asking prices, which is pretty much the lowest there is apart from the kit lenses. Likewise, 18-200mm super-zoom lenses are falling out of favour for all brands, but the Canon version was never quite as popular as Nikon's, and is reflected by the smaller trading volume.

EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM  EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM EF-S 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM
n 9 11 17 15 9
Average 583 566 272 762 412
Median 600 560 240 750 450
Min 500 475 175 650 300
Max 650 740 650 950 599
StDev 54 75 113 86 95

EF Wide-Zooms and 50mm Prime

A popular older lens and it's pricey newer counterpart: these lenses tend to be owned by people who are serious about photography, and as such, the listing prices don't vary much. For fun, the 50mm f/1.2 was thrown into this group (because it didn't fit anywhere else), and as you can see from the spread, even with few listings across the U.S., most sellers tend to agree on it's used price. Because of the draw of a a low f-number, the exceptional cost of the lens and a relatively low number of units in the field, the 50mm f/1.2 is an example of where the secondary value of an undamaged copy does not lose its value appreciably over time.

EF 16-35 II f/2.8 USM L EF 17-40 f/4 USM L 50mm f/1.2 USM L
n 18 20 12
Average 1245 617 1223
Median 1265 602.5 1200
Min 900 500 1000
Max 2000 700 1400
StDev 259 54 95

EF Normal-Zooms

Like the EF wide-zooms, there seems to be general consensus regarding the used value of normal zooms, though version 1 copies of the 24-70mm f/2.8 can vary depending on usage and time on the market. Version II f/2.8's are still relatively young, so most people are asking close to the list retail price. Considering how often it came in bundled form, it's no surprise that the 24-105 f/4L is traded in such high numbers.
EF 24-70mm I f/2.8 USM EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM  EF 24-105mm f/4L  IS USM
n 37 9 63
Average 1233 1913 743
Median 1200 1950 750
Min 1000 1800 525
Max 1699 2000 1000
StDev 155 94 89

EF Working-Zooms

Similar to the 24-70mm's, the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses show a similar pattern of the older lenses being more variable in price than the new ones. Since this is a favourite focal length of working photographers, some copies might have seen some wear and tear. Other copies have been owned by non-paid enthusiasts, so you can find some good condition closet-queens out there. The consumer-grade 70-300mm varies considerably.

EF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II         USM
n 25 32 15
Average 402 1375 2001
Median 390 1377.5 2000
Min 199 1100 1800
Max 600 1700 2300
StDev 104 162 140


Generally, prices tend to be more consistent and lower in major urban areas. The cheapest items tend to come from the suburbs of major cities where you get a bit of a discount for the added trouble of travel time within in the big city. If you live in an area where the trading volume isn't very high (some of the fly-over states), prices can vary considerably, sometimes on the high side of average if there aren't a lot of local camera retail options. Some of the rural areas might not even have a significant selection of enthusiast-level equipment for sale. Tourist areas tend to have weaker used camera markets; the local job market is more service-oriented than professional, and in cases like Miami and Las Vegas, the workforce and population base can be transitory in nature. However, tourist destinations that attract wealthy and mature visitors (Hawaii and Fairbanks, Alaska) have active secondary camera markets, though not as vibrant as the major metropolitan areas.

Just a reminder, these are asking prices only; there is no way of knowing what the actually selling price between buyers and sellers is (unless you ask them. However, items with a small standard deviation in asking price will tend to sell closer to the asking price because of price competition between sellers. Regardless of the fact that averages (especially national averages) rarely apply to people specifically, probably the best way for buyers and sellers to make a deal is for both sides to first acknowledge what the general going rate is, and then decide how much the item being negotiated for differs from the norm.

Craigslist Resources

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