My Experiences as a KEH Camera Customer: An Inside Look

As an amateur photographer for over 15 years obsessed with constantly upgrading my gear, I‘ve grown quite familiar with KEH Camera – one of the largest used photography equipment retailers in the world. If you‘re not yet aware, KEH is an Atlanta-based company founded back in 1979 that buys & sells a mind-boggling selection of used camera gear.

I personally have purchased from them dozens of times over the past decade. My KEH order receipts add up to over $8,000 spent across digital cameras, vintage film bodies, and enough lenses to fill an entire camera bag. Suffice to say, I know the KEH buying experience inside and out by now.

And over years of repeat business, I‘ve come to consider KEH a uniquely reliable resource for scoring affordable used gear in verified working order. However like with any retailer, they have their own quirks and downsides customers should understand before spending substantial money there.

This article shares my first-hand account of shopping KEH Camera extensively as a real paying customer. Consider it an inside look at what to expect buying from KEH in 2024 and whether this used gear source deserves your business. Let‘s dive in!

Overview of KEH Camera

For readers unfamiliar, KEH is an industry leader dealing exclusively in used cameras and accessories. They stock over 20,000 unique products at any given time according to their website, spanning:

  • Digital cameras from today‘s top brands
  • Vintage 35mm film SLR cameras
  • Analog medium format systems
  • Lenses covering all major camera mounts
  • Support equipment like tripods, flashes, bags
  • Film scanners, cables, batteries, etc

Unlike a peer marketplace purely matching buyers to user-sellers, KEH takes direct possession of all gear they resell. They have over 200 employees inspecting, testing, repairing, grading and setting prices for the torrent of used items constantly flowing through their warehouse.

This centralized model allows KEH unmatched consistency and scale most smaller used gear sellers cannot match. It also earns them a reputation as one of the most trustworthy used sources industry-wide.

Now let‘s get into the details of why KEH stands apart, along with downsides customers should keep in mind, through the lens of my own stories dealing with them for many years…

My Journey Buying Cameras from KEH

My obsession with upgrading cameras started back in college when I purchased a used Canon 40D DSLR kit from KEH to step up from the entry-level Rebel XSi I started on. I spent weeks browsing their site to find a pristine "Like New" 40D body and 17-55mm f/2.8 lens bundle within my student budget.

And I still remember unboxing that shiny white 40D kit as if it were yesterday! The camera truly lived up to its condition rating, with barely a hint of use besides a faint rub mark along one edge. A perfect initiation into buying from KEH. Little did I know then I‘d go on to order many more cameras and lenses from them in future years…

But looking back, those early KEH purchases spoiled me. I wrongly assumed every used item they sold would arrive looking virtually untouched. So when I later bought a bargain Canon 5D Mark II body rated only "Good" condition, you can imagine my dismay unboxing a camera with heavy brassing along multiple edges and scraped paint to boot!

Now over time and many more KEH orders though, I‘ve come to better understand the nuances between their condition grades:

  • NIB or Mint means absolutely flawless – these are rare unicorns so expect sky-high pricing
  • Like New allows for subtle use marks but remains a premium grade only for gear indistinguishable from new functionally
  • Excellent Plus offers the best blend of condition vs affordability in my experience – light signs of use are expected but nothing affecting visual quality or performance
  • Excellent means more obvious use present – finish wear, dust inside lenses, etc – but overall solid working condition still
  • Bargain or Ugly conditions admit more heavy use often with external damage – expect full functionality but know cosmetics will be very rough

I share this to underscore the need of understanding KEH‘s grading system intricacies before just seeing an attractive price then overlooking the condition details. Dig into those details to set proper expectations!

Four Standout KEH Purchases From My Vault

Now onto the gear itself! Here are four favorite pieces of kit I‘ve bought from KEH over the years that delivered tremendous value:

1. Sony RX100 Mk III

My first ever point & shoot camera purchase and still my favorite jacket pocket camera 5 years later. This little Sony shoots images that put cell phones to shame along with 4K video, WiFi/NFC connectivity, and superb low light capability from its 1" sensor and fast 24-70mm f/1.8 lens.

KEH had it Bargain rated at $379 but I swear it looked untouched when it arrived. They did note slightly noisy zoom operation which I‘ve never found intrusive. At nearly 60% off retail cost (it released just a year prior!), I felt like I‘d robbed a bank buying this Sony…

2. Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX

Every Nikon DX shooter needs one of these economical primes. Up until buying this lens, I only ever used zooms. But after seeing firsthand the IQ bump prime lenses offer thanks to wider apertures, I became obsessed with collecting more!

KEH had a Like New copy for only $149. Paired with my D7100, this 35mm tack sharp lens taught me so much about nailing focus, manipulating depth of field, and pushing my creativity in camera. And it fully convinced me to keep adding to my prime lens collection.

3. Canon FD 50mm f/1.4

I bought this vintage Canon lens mainly for novelty value to experiment shooting some film with. But in playing with it, I was blown away by the unique rendering its vintage glass and metal construction gave – creamy bokeh with distinctive edge vignetting and colors.

Soon I was adapted this lens to all of my Canon DSLRs too! It paired beautifully with my classic Canon AE-1 film body that I also bought from KEH later on. Definitely one of my most cherished lenses revealing magic these new ultra-sharp modern optics seem to miss out on.

4. Sony A7RIII Digital Camera Body

The Sony A7RIII was a huge splurge for me 3 years ago as I invested $1900 into a Like New body. But with its 42 megapixel sensor, 10 FPS shooting, and 5-axis stabilization, this camera represented my dream kit at the time.

And investing in mirrorless gear through KEH proved wise as I likely saved $600-800 buying used over new. The Sony arrived in flawless shape meeting KEH‘s Near Mint grade. And it continues cranking out gorgeous high-res images for me today across both stills and video work with no functional issues.

Now if that‘s not value – scoring a high end camera body for nearly half off retail thanks to the robust used market KEH supports – then I don‘t know what is!

KEH Lenses, Flashes, Bags & More

Beyond cameras, KEH became my go-to resource for lenses, supports, and accessories for expanding my kit over the years while sticking to a budget. I‘ve had great experiences buying:

  • Used Sony/Sigma/Tamron primes and zooms for my A7RIII
  • A Manfrotto BeFree Advanced Travel Tripod saving 50% over new
  • Yongnuo and Godox off-brand flashes that work great for 1/3rd name brand pricing
  • Domke camera straps and bags for securely trekking gear around on travels
  • Mount adapters, cables, filters, batteries
  • Vintage film lenses to use with modern mirrorless cameras!

Pretty much anything photographic I‘ve needed, I start my search at KEH before considering buying new. And their consistency grading gear along with item condition details has allowed me to score fantastic used gear every time that fits my budget.

That said, buying from KEH still poses some unique quirks and risks…

KEH Camera Review: The Not So Good

Thus far this review probably seems pretty glowing about my experiences as a KEH customer. And while their grading system, affordable pricing and inventory depth keep me coming back, even after years of repeat business some nagging issues sour the experience a bit:

1. Outdated Website Design

Let‘s just say KEH won‘t be winning design awards anytime soon for their site UI. The recent "upgrade" did try to modernize things. But inventory searchability still lags way behind slick sites like B&H and Adorama. Basic usability frustrations like inconsistent image galleries drive me crazy to this day!

2. Spotty Inventory Accuracy

One of my biggest gripes is just how common it still is to place items in your cart only to see them sell out by checkout. And KEH‘s backorder waitlisting feature lacks cameras and lenses I‘ve found. Improving site inventory accuracy would really bolster trust and satisfaction.

3. Extended Shipping Times

KEH often takes a full week+ to ship routine orders even with their weekly sales volume. Coupled with economy shipping that drags delivery to 2+ weeks, the entire purchase process lacks the snap and speed expected when buying online today.

4. Mediocre Customer Service

Finally, KEH‘s support staff are quite hit or miss from my experience. Simple inquiries often waste away days before receiving responses. And complex issues like warranty claims or returns get transferred endlessly between departments with minimal accountability to drive resolution.

I recognize much of this likely owes to their scale more than negligence or apathy. But customers expect more in 2024.

Final Verdict After Years of KEH Orders

If it‘s not obvious yet, I‘ll certainly continue buying from KEH for years to come as an invaluable used gear source for value-focused shoppers. Warts and all, their grading system, pricing, and selection provide a baseline of trust simply unmatched elsewhere.

But I always caution friends who ask about KEH to walk in eyes fully open about the downsides mentioned in this review too. Manage expectations around ship times, study condition grading intricacies, and brush up patience before contacting their support staff.

If you can adapt to KEH‘s unique quirks as a used retailer at scale, and focus on the unparalleled value used products offer, I bet you‘ll walk away thrilled as I have in most all my dozens of transactions with them since 2008.

Here‘s to many more years of affordable used gear finds thanks to KEH Camera! Let me know in the comments your own KEH experiences as well – would love to hear other real customer perspectives.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4.3 / 5. Vote count: 6

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.