Q. What about insurance for cameras? I don't have a huge investment, but if something happened I wouldn't be able to take pictures for a while. I have a 35-mm Pentax and an old Instamatic.

A. I spoke at great length to my insurance agent and learned, to my great dismay, that camera insurance is, at best, a chancy thing.

A lot of the work falls on the insured's shoulders, and so it's up to you to prove the value of your claim.

If you just have a camera that you use occasionally and didn't cost more than $200, don't bother to insure it. What you would go through in premiums and claim heartaches makes insurance not worth your while.

However, if you have more invested -- several cameras, related equipment, etc. -- go for the insurance. The best way is to talk to your own insurance agent. That way you get the straight scoop on your own policy.

He probably will recommend that you have a "floater" on your homeowner's or renter's policy.

By "scheduling" your equipment that way you do several things: First, you identify the equipment and state its value.

Second, it covers you in cases of "mysterious loss"; that includes such things as "theft without evidence" -- for example, leaving your camera on an airplane or other such careless action.

Be sure that you have "theft extension," which covers theft of equipment from a car or boat.

When you purchase insurance, be sure that you have a hard understanding with your agent and that it's all spelled out in the policy.

If your camera equipment is ever used for commercial purchase, beware: You have to have an entirely different kind of insurance.

The other big fly in the ointment is depreciation. Insurance companies depreciate camera equipment very rapidly. Most pay claims on the basis of current market value. Usually that's far less than what you paid.

So, it's up to you. Stay in touch with your insurance agent and review your policy and premiums at each renewal period. It could save some unhappy times later.


Q. I have quite a collection of 35-mm cameras, including a Leica 3C with all the lenses and accessories, a Pentax SLR and a Petri, all with flash. I'd like to trade all this for some new and, with luck, the best equipment.

I've been told there's not much of a market for trade-ins on cameras. Is this so? What is your recommendation?

A. Indeed, it is so. People are universally shocked when they try to sell their used equipment. I spoke to several leading dealers in the area, and came up with some interesting information.

You can probably get considerably more money for your equipment by selling it yourself on the open market. But this will cost you in advertising and could bring visits by a number of people you may not want in your home.

Worst of all, you'll find that the stuff won't move very fast, you'll be plagued by endless phone calls and you still won't get what you think the equipment is worth.

On the other hand, if you take your cameras to a reputable dealer to sell, remember that you are wholesaling! That means, first and foremost, you must be prepared to sell for wholesale prices.

The honest retailer will tell you up front that he's not going to pay what you think he should.

He's going to tell you that he will buy for about half of what he thinks he can resell the gear for on the current market.

Remember, he has to have the camera completely checked out (many can do a pretty good check right on the spot); he has to keep it on the shelf for at least two weeks; he has all of the usual overhead expenses, including a second-hand dealer's license.

My recommendation: Keep using that Leica 3C. It's a great camera. You'd never get what it's worth to you in trade or sale.

As for the others, give them to some deserving beginner -- a relative or friend. Many schools have photo classes and would be overjoyed to get such equipment, and often you can deduct school gifts from your taxes.