Why I've only ever bought second-hand cameras, and why maybe you should too

Why I've only ever bought second-hand gear and why maybe you should too
(Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

Various camera manufacturers have been releasing new and expensive flagship models lately that embrace the full-frame mirrorless wave, while in addition launching a series of compatible lens ranges to complement these cameras.  

Whether or not you're shopping for a mirrorless camera, it can be tempting to indulge in discovering what all the fuss is about and swap out your current system entirely for an upgraded flagship or more lightweight model. 

• Read more: Best full frame mirrorless camera

My camera system is well overdue an upgrade, and I am certainly one of the photographers that have been considering a switchover from my Canon EOS 5D Mark III to a mirrorless, lightweight alternative offered by the likes of Sony and Fuji. Switching systems is never an easy decision, and I've been shooting Canon for eight years since purchasing my Canon EOS 700D back in 2014. I even use the same nifty fifty 50mm 1.8 for almost every shoot. I cherish both of these models and Canon have never steered me wrong so far.

That being said, while my camera brand loyalties undoubtedly lie with Canon, the first ever camera I owned was a Fujifilm Finepix S3300 bridge camera, having researched what type of camera I wanted for school and begging my parents for it as a birthday present. After this point, every camera body and lenses i've purchased have been bought second-hand and in heavily used condition, for several different reasons. 

(Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

Being a student photographer through college and university meant I was barely scraping by after paying rent, even with a part-time job, so expensive camera equipment was the furthest thing from my mind. Luckily, I was able to trade in my Canon 700D towards my current 5D Mark III which dropped the price significantly, and with an added bonus of staff discount from my employer CeX at the time. 

There's no way I would've been able to afford this camera if I bought it directly from the manufacturer, and while the condition wasn't gleaming, I shot gigs regularly so it was bound to earn a few extra scrapes and knocks over time anyway. A warranty was the most important factor for me when buying second-hand gear, and as long as the camera was fully functional, had a reasonable shutter count and lenses were free of any internal dust, I was over the moon. 

Buying second-hand gear has become a no-brainer for me. It gives life back to perfectly useable but unwanted equipment, saves money, reduces the culture of waste, and the best part is that many retailers and manufacturers offer a trial period, allowing you to try out different brands and discover what you like shooting with. Retailers such as MPB, London Camera Exchange, CeX and other smaller local camera stores will usually offer some sort of guarantee or warranty to put your mind at ease when buying second-hand gear that's fully tested. 

(Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

Many manufacturers and retailers themselves offer try before you buy schemes with discounted, refurbished and second-hand gear. Wex Photo Video sells used gear and offer trade-in bonuses, rentals, cashback and other incentives to help you save on pricey upgrades. Park Cameras offers a six month warranty with the sale of any used gear and MPB offers student discount codes as well as trade-in quotes and prices based on gear quality. 

I would absolutely love to continue my career shooting Canon, though the prices of its newest mirrorless offerings are way out of my budget (and aggravate my reluctance to spend extortionate amounts of money). I recently tried and tested the Canon EOS M50 and while there was nothing particularly wrong with this little mirrorless camera, it didn't offer the same levels of control over depth of field, which is what I love most about the full frame sensor on my 5D MK III. One thing I did find great about the M50 was the bluetooth and smartphone app remote connectivity, which my fossil of a DSLR doesn't have. 

Having had a play around with other second-hand cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T30, Fujifilm X-T3, Sony A7R, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and most recently the Sony A7R III, I'm still unsure which unit should replace and compete with my 5D Mark III as my go-to camera for shoots and adventures. Without the option of trialling and refunding these second-hand cameras to get a hands on experience, I'd be lost. 

Why I've only ever bought second-hand gear and why maybe you should too

A "C-grade" Sony A7R III purchased second-hand (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

I guess the takeaway from this should be to consider buying second-hand gear wherever possible, not just for yourself or to grab a bargain but to support those smaller high-street business you may have in your home town or city (shout out to Clocktower Cameras and Snoopers Paradise in Brighton, UK!). 

It's better for the planet, your wallet, and for those new to photography who haven't the faintest idea what equipment to start with, to learn by shooting. Not to mention, grabbing a used film camera is always fun, and even second-hand instant cameras work perfectly fine, if you can afford to purchase from the likes of Impossible film. 

Read more: 

The cheapest full frame cameras
Best camera for beginners
DSLR vs mirrorless cameras
• Top 12 camera trade-ins: these cameras are worth the most cash!

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.