3 Reasons Not to Buy a New Camera

The Canon 1D Mark II. It’s as old as sin, but it still takes great photos.

Let’s face it. Photography can be expensive. Most of us can’t swing the hundreds or thousands of dollars needed to buy a new camera body, let alone the equally massive costs of lenses. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. For those of us who just want to get into photography and produce great images, buying an older model might be the way to go! Don’t believe me? Well here are three very real reasons to consider buying older camera equipment!

NUMBER 1: LOWER COST.

Like most electronics, cameras depreciate in value. Once the latest and greatest models are released, the current and older models see a drop in demand. Afterall, new is good and old is bad, right? Wrong. Don’t be that guy. Everyone knows the type of person who just has to have the latest iPhone. That type of person is a tool. Don’t be like that. You can buy plenty of older models for a fraction of what the current offerings cost. About a year ago, I bought an Olympus E-PL5 for $175. It was only 2 versions old at the time, and I got it for less than half of what the current model retails for! And it even came with a lens! No, there was nothing wrong with it and it was complete. Heck, sometimes people just want to upgrade their equipment and don’t need the previous one anymore. This is certainly the case for camera bodies, but you can also get many lenses at a significant discount by buying used. In most cases, nothing is wrong with them- they just become redundant once the photographer moves to a faster version of it.

I took this photo with that used E-PL5. Obviously, it’s been processed, but this proved that it would serve my needs adequately. I was definitely happy with it.
Another shot that was taken with the E-PL5.

NUMBER 2: THEY‘RE STILL COMPATIBLE.

Remember that bit earlier about how camera gear costs hundreds and thousands of dollars? I mean jeez! Who do these companies think we are? Well, luckily they have some amount of sense because the industry tends to value compatibility and standards. For example, all Canon EOS cameras can use just about any EF lens from last 30 years. It’s a similar (and better) situation with Nikon, which has kept the same F lens mount for half a century. And if you’re into flashes, there’s good news there too! Just about any flash will work with any camera, as long as it’s in manual mode. And this compatibility extends to the operation of the camera as well. Light sensitivity is measured in ISO numbers, Apertures are measured in f numbers, etc. So functionally, you’re not really losing much by going with older gear. Just weigh the different options and features, and buy accordingly. If you want to shoot low-light, buy something with a high ISO count, or with a full-frame sensor. Or if speed is your thing, buy an old flagship camera with a high frames-per-second (fps) count. You really can get what you want as long as you explore the options.

These are the flashes I’ve been using. Two of them are for Canon systems, one is for Nikon, and the fourth is all-manual. I can use all of them adequately on any of my cameras if I don’t mind losing TTL.

NUMBER 3: GREAT IMAGE QUALITY.

Consider this; you’ve seen plenty of amazing and gorgeous images throughout the years, right? Award-winning National Geographic images, iconic sports achievements, and unforgettable journalistic moments have burned themselves into our collective memories. Well guess what- None of those were taken with the brand-spanking-new camera that was just released last week! That’s because, at their core, all cameras are the same. They’re just a sensor, paired with an aperture. As long as you know what you’re doing, you can make magic with just about any camera. Remember, many of these cameras were built for professionals, despite having specs that we might laugh at today. And all professional photographers, past or current, demand great results from their gear. Take my second camera, for example. It was a Canon 1D Mark II (pictured at the top of this article) that I bought for $300 on eBay. Sure, it was almost 10 years old when I bought it, and only had 8 megapixels… but despite that, it’s still a camera that sold for nearly $5,000 when it was first released! A fact that isn’t so hard to believe when you see the quality of the images it produces.

Taken with my old Canon 1D Mk II.
Even at a measly 8 megapixels, the images produced by a 1D Mk II are just stellar! And remember, this camera is from 2005!
Just look at that creamy bokeh! Even though the camera isn’t full-frame, it’s APS-H sensor is still relatively large, and it shows.

So what does this all mean? Should you go out and peruse the bargain bins at your local second-hand store? Well, not quite. Like I said before, it’s a great option for someone who’s only priority is to take great photos. If you’re a working professional, or you need more modern features and performance, then perhaps this isn’t the best way to go (although you might still benefit from it). For working photographers, other considerations come into play, such as reliability, advantageous features, and warranties. Additionally, some things, like lenses, don’t depreciate as much and carry their own set of buying challenges. With all the different options, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of any camera or accessory you consider.

But the bottom line is the same, no matter which way you go, new or old. The quality of any image you take will depend mostly on you as a photographer, and less on the camera you buy. So if you’re just getting into photography, start small and focus on your skills first. And no matter what you see on YouTube, you don’t have to break the bank if you don’t want to.