I have been teaching photography for nine years, and the most common question I receive from my students is, “What kind of camera should I buy?”
That is a loaded question, so I’ve decided to break up a blog into five different posts to address this question. This is Part 4 in the series on purchasing a new camera. To read Parts I, 2 and 3, please view the blog.
Below are the five questions you should ask yourself:
- What is my budget?
- Should I buy a DSLR or a mirrorless camera?
- Should I buy a full-frame camera or one with a cropped sensor?
- Should I buy a new or used camera?
- What type of photography am I interested in?
This blog post will cover the 4th question: Should I buy a new or used camera?
Purchasing a pre-owned camera is a very practical alternative
for those who want to get their feet wet in photography. Many aspiring photographers choose a used camera for the following reasons:
- Low budget
- Indecisiveness on brand selection
- Wanting to learn the basics of photography before making a large investment
I usually recommend purchasing a used camera to students who are on a low budget and for new students who want to learn the manual modes on a camera. You don’t need an expensive or new camera to learn photography. If you think you would like to buy a used camera, research the brands and models and go back a few years to discover what was the most popular camera then.
Below is some guidance on negotiating the purchase of a used camera:
- Find out the current shutter actuations. You can refer to this site to find out the shutter count on most cameras. Shutter actuations are important because camera manufacturers publicize the shutter rating of the camera. Most entry-level DSLR cameras are only rated at 100,000 shutter actuations. Mid and high-end cameras have more durable shutters that are rated between 150,000 and 300,000 actuations.
- Test the camera prior to use, even if it is just a quick trip outside. This, of course, would only be possible with a local seller.
- Ask if the camera has ever been damaged. The same question would apply if a lens is included.
If it has been damaged, make sure you know the extent of the damage, i.e., body damage, and use this as a negotiating tool.
- Ask what accessories are included in the sale. Accessories typically included: a battery, charger, and at least one lens.
- Ask for the manufacturer’s warranty card if a camera is less than one year old. If the camera is older than one year, ask the seller to provide a warranty of at least 30 days.
I can offer advice on the camera-buying process because
I have bought and sold many cameras online in the past fifteen years. My recommendation is to avoid sites that do not provide seller reviews. Craigslist is the first site that comes to my mind as one to avoid; e-Bay and Amazon are better online choices because seller and camera reviews are provided. Each company also offers some buyer protection.
Online camera stores could also be a great place to consider buying a used camera. I often recommend KEH Camera, located in Smyrna, Georgia, as a good choice to buy a pre-owned camera. They offer many incentives to a buyer, including a 180-day warranty. KEH promotes its company as the world’s largest pre-owned camera store, so it is certain they will have a large selection of used cameras. Their staff is very knowledgeable and you can pick their brain to help you make a buying decision.
Cameras depreciate in value just like a car;
therefore, buying a used camera can be a wise choice. Updated cameras with more bells and whistles replace older camera models every year. It is a good idea to research the leading-edge cameras from a couple years ago. I often recommend the outdated Canon Rebels (T3, T4, T5i) as options for a used camera. Often times, the money saved on a used camera can go toward a new lens. A good lens, such as a prime lens, can make all the difference in the world in making a good picture.
Whether or not you purchase a new or used camera is a personal decision based on your budget, knowledge and aspirations. You can learn photography and take great pictures with a new or a used camera. I highly recommend you research a camera brand online before deciding on one and that you read my recent blog posts on the Five Questions You Should Ask Yourself before You Buy a Camera, Parts 1-3. An educated decision can help back-up your personal decision.
I hope this blog has been helpful for those of you who are considering buying a used camera. If you need help learning how to use a used or new DSLR camera, check out my online courses, private lessons or immersion workshops.