Finding the best camera is a balancing act. You need to take into account features, specs, budget and, if you’re buying used, condition ratings and resellers. With so many factors, the opportunities are endless to build a kit bag personalized to your needs.
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With the cost of living crisis affecting so many photographers – from hobbyists to professionals – anything that you can do to save some money while ensuring that you're still getting good quality kit is invaluable. And this is where used camera kit comes in. Because it's not box-fresh, used camera kit is always cheaper than its new equivalent, but that doesn't mean its performance is any less effective. Arguably, used kit is better for the environment, too! Let's find out more.
Gareth is the Warehouse Manager at MPB, the online platform for used photo and video kit.
Budget is king
Most camera specialists will recommend maxing out your budget to get the best model. If you want to get more for your money, purchase an older flagship model. The good news is that camera technology has been around for centuries and buying a 10-year-old camera is not the same as downgrading to an older iPhone.
In fact, older camera models and lenses make better starter kit. Since there are fewer ‘modern’ features, it helps you get to grips with the basics quickly. However, if you want to make the most of your budget, buy your kit second hand. Nowadays you don’t have to buy directly from manufacturers, and there are resellers with teams of technical experts dedicated to testing used cameras.
Previously popular models can be a steal when buying used, since there are so many on the market it drives the price down. A great example is the Canon EOS 5D and Nikon D7XX series, which are well loved by both beginners and professionals across the world.
Cheap body, expensive lens
Building a camera set-up should be viewed in two parts, the lens and the body. The quality of your image is largely dependent on your lens, so make sure to factor this in when splitting your budget.
If budget is an issue, go for a body that allows you to use an interchangeable lens so you can trade up once you can afford something higher quality. Nikon’s F-Mount and Canon’s EF-Mount lens series have been produced for decades giving access to a range of equipment that can be traded in and upgraded.
Can you get everything you need from an older model?
When opting for an older model to save some cash, there are a few things to consider.
For example, content creators might prefer a camera with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capability to easily upload on the go, and videographers may find that older sensors are not up to par and a newer model with better low light performance is a better option.
Zoom or Prime? Choose the right lens
First step to choosing a lens would be deciding to go for a prime or zoom. Prime lenses cannot zoom but generally shoot sharper, brighter images which is ideal for photojournalists or portrait photographers. For a multipurpose lens, it’s better to purchase a zoom which will give more versatility.
Used vs new camera gear: what to look out for
People are often cautious about buying used due to concerns about quality, however, the visible wear and tear on kit rarely affects the performance.
Going for a used camera with a lower condition rating will allow you to get expensive kit for a bargain. Ratings such as “Good” mean the kit is in perfect working order and will typically only have surface-level cosmetic wear. “Well Used” would suggest significant signs of use such as scuffs or scratches, but the kit is still in working order.
However, if you do prefer something fresh out the box, most reseller platforms will stock products rated “Like New”, which are still cheaper than buying new. These products have almost no signs of use and are more likely to come in their original packaging.
Make money on your next trade in
So, you’ve got your first camera, you’ve become photography obsessed, and you now want an upgrade. Trading in your kit for some extra cash is a fantastic option.
If when buying you’re also thinking about return on investment, buy premium kit with craftsmanship and quality. Heritage brands like Leica and Hasselblad are renowned for their strong resale value as they use premium quality materials and are handcrafted in small batches.
Everyone can save money on their kit bag so long as they consider what they’ll be using the camera for and pay attention to the specifications. There are reputable resellers like MPB that make used kit a viable and reliable option for everyone from beginner to pro.
The worst mistake you could make when buying a camera is not getting one at all.