Why I’ve Only Ever Bought Used Cameras, and Why Maybe You Should Too

Various camera makers have recently released new, pricey flagship models that embrace the full-frame mirrorless wave, while additionally releasing a series of compatible lens lines to complement these cameras.

Whether or not you buy a mirrorless camera, it can be tempting to find out what it is and replace your current system entirely with an upgraded or lighter flagship model.

• Learn more: Best Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

My camera system is long overdue for an upgrade, and I’m definitely one of the photographers considering upgrading from my Canon EOS 5D Mark III to a lightweight, mirrorless alternative offered by Sony and Fuji. Changing systems is never an easy decision, and I’ve been shooting Canon for eight years since buying my Canon EOS 700D in 2014. I even use the same nifty 50mm 1.8 for nearly every shot. I cherish these two models and Canon has never cheated on me so far.

That being said, while my loyalty to the brand of cameras undoubtedly lies with Canon, the very first camera I owned was a Fujifilm Finepix S3300 bridge camera, after researching the type of camera I wanted for school and begged my parents for a birthday present. After this point, every camera body and lens I’ve purchased has been purchased second-hand and in heavily used condition, for several different reasons.

(Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

Being a college and university student photographer meant I barely made it past paying rent, even with a part-time job, so expensive camera equipment was the furthest thing from my mind. Luckily, I was able to swap my Canon 700D for my current 5D Mark III, which brought the price down considerably, and with an added bonus of staff reduction at my employer CeX at the time.

There’s no way I could have afforded this camera if I had bought it directly from the manufacturer, and while the condition wasn’t brilliant, I shot gigs regularly, so it had to earn a few extra scratches and hits over time anyway. A warranty was the most important factor for me when buying used equipment, and as long as the camera was fully functional, had a reasonable shutter count, and the lenses were free of any internal dust, I was thrilled.

Buying used equipment has become a matter of course for me. It brings perfectly usable but unwanted equipment back to life, 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 find out what you like to shoot with. Retailers such as MPB, London Camera Exchange, CeX and other smaller local camera shops usually offer some sort of warranty or guarantee to reassure you when buying fully tested used equipment.

(Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

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

I would absolutely love to continue my career shooting Canon, even though the prices of its latest mirrorless offerings are way out of my budget (and compounding my reluctance to spend exorbitant sums). 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 I like the full frame sensor in my 5D MK III the most. One thing I found great about the M50 was the Bluetooth app and smartphone remote connectivity, which my fossil of a DSLR doesn’t have.

After playing around with other used cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T30, Fujifilm X-T3, Sony A7R, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and more recently the Sony A7R III, I’m still not sure which device should replace and rival my 5D Mark III as my go-to camera for shoots and adventures. Without the ability to try and refund these used cameras to gain hands-on experience, I’d be lost.

Why I've Only Ever Bought Used Equipment and Why Maybe You Should Too

A Sony A7R III “C-grade” bought second-hand (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

I guess the takeaway from this should be to consider buying used equipment whenever possible, not just for yourself or to get a bargain, but to support small high street businesses you might have in your home town (thanks to Clocktower Cameras and Snoopers Paradise in Brighton, UK!).

It’s better for the planet, your wallet, and for those new to photography who don’t have a clue what equipment to start with, to learn by taking pictures. Not to mention, grabbing a second-hand film camera is always fun, and even second-hand instant cameras work perfectly fine, if you can afford films like Impossible.

Read more:

• Cheapest full frame cameras
• Best camera for beginners
• DSLR or mirrorless cameras
• Top 12 camera swaps: These cameras are worth the most money!

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