Why You Should Never Buy a New DSLR Camera (And Always Buy a Used One)
Here’s why DSLR camera bodies and camera lenses should always be bought used, especially if you’re a newbie.
Unless you’re a full-blown professional, DSLR camera bodies should always be bought used. This is especially the case if you’re a newbie shopping for your first entry-level DSLR or a hobbyist replacing your first DSLR.
The truth is, there are few tangible benefits between a used camera and a new DSLR. The benefits that do exist are pretty much negligible to everyone but the most advanced or specialized.
In our eyes, the decision between used and new is one of the most important decisions you can make when buying a new camera. Is buying a used camera a good idea? Absolutely. Here’s why.
DSLR Cameras Have Insane Lifespans
When it comes to electronic devices, the usual stigma is that “used” means “diminished in quality, reliability, or lifespan.” This may be true in general, as many types of electronics are built to fail, but this isn’t the case for modern cameras.
In fact, most cameras are so robust that their lifespans aren’t measured in time. Instead, life expectancy is measured by something called shutter count. Left alone and undisturbed, a modern DSLR’s lifespan would likely be indefinite, limited only by the availability of a working battery.
The shutter count is a running total of how many shots have been taken by the camera. If you’ve taken 1,000 photos, your camera’s shutter count would be 1,000.
The rule of thumb is as follows:
- Entry-level DSLRs typically last at least 50,000 shots.
- Mid-level DSLRs typically last at least 100,000 shots.
- Professional DSLRs typically last at least 200,000 shots.
Let’s say you take 10 photos every day for the rest of your life; that comes out to 3,650 shots every year. Even if using an average, entry-level camera, you can expect the device to last over 13 years. With a professional camera, the expected lifetime would be somewhere in the ballpark of 55 years.
The moral of the story? There’s nothing wrong with buying used cameras. It’s likely that yours will still be around for quite a while.
There are plenty of tools available to check the shutter count of a used camera for sale, which would give you a rough estimate of how much life it has remaining. These tools aren’t always super accurate, but they’re still nice as a gauge.
The Savings Are Phenomenal
Despite the fact that DSLRs have long lifespans, the value of a used camera tends to depreciate quickly. Mainstream camera brands, like Canon and Nikon, put out new camera models at least once every year. As a result, this drives down the value of older models.
This means that buying a used camera will be markedly cheaper than buying a new camera of the same model. Buying a used camera of an older model will be even cheaper.
That was a mouthful, so allow us to illustrate. Let’s compare the prices of both the new and used versions of Cameras.
Average DSLR Camera Price: $719On average, the cost of DSLR cameras is around $719, however, the price ranges from around $100 to as high as $6,000. A digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR/Digital SLR camera) is a common digital camera type that projects a reflection into the viewfinder and has changeable lenses
Buying this camera new on Amazon would cost around $2,500, which may seem outrageous for just a camera.
However, the same camera can be found used on Amazon for around $5,600. Still steep, but this camera is top-of-the-line and reasonably new. Let’s check out an older model on the lower end of things to compare.
Better Models Aren’t Worth the Price
Is there a downside to buying used cameras? If we’re just talking about one or two generations in the past, then no, there are very few downsides, if any. In fact, I firmly believe that newbies and hobbyists shouldn’t even bother with the newest models of any camera line.
Camera features are slow to become obsolete. We can illustrate this by comparing two Canon cameras, the 5D Mark II, and its older brother, the 5D Mark III.
The price between these two used Canon cameras differs by an average of $800, but the newer model offers little more than an expanded ISO range, an improved burst speed of six photos, and one additional megapixel of resolution.
You should only get a newer model if it has a specific feature that you absolutely cannot live without, like a full-sized sensor. Otherwise, something older will work just as well. Both of th these cameras include a full-frame sensor, so the natural choice will generally be the Mark II. Older cameras are also more likely to have used versions available, and they’re going to be cheaper than used cameras of a more recent generation.
Cosmetic Defects Are Negligible
One thing that hangs people up when talking about used cameras: cosmetic defects. When you buy a new camera, you’re guaranteed that it’s going to be fresh, clean, and unmarked. When buying used cameras, all bets are off.
We definitely recommend getting up-close and personal with a used camera before buying it, if at all possible. Here’s the thing, though: scratches and marks have no impact on the function of the camera body, nor do they affect the final outcome of your photos. The discomfort of a cosmetic defect is merely psychological.
With that being said, there are a few defects and issues that you should be aware of when buying a used DSLR.
For example, scratches on the body are fine, but scratches on the sensor may impact your photos significantly. Fungus and mold anywhere on or inside the body are best avoided for the same reason. Sticky buttons may be an indicator of residue beneath the surface, which might prevent them from working properly. Corroded connection ports are bad for the same reason; so are dented lens mounts.
Anything else? Probably fine and worth ignoring.
Whenever possible, buy in person so you can check for these issues. If that’s not possible, you can still buy online at reputable places like Adorama, B&H Photo, KEH.com, and even Craigslist.
A Few Warnings and Caveats
Hopefully, it’s now clear that used DSLRs are the smarter way to go most of the time. As much as we believe that buying a used camera is usually the best answer, there are a few scenarios where you may be inclined to think twice:
- Used sales are often final. This means that you typically can’t return a used DSLR for any reason, which can be risky if you aren’t too knowledgeable about cameras. If you buy new from a place like Amazon, you’ll usually have a 30-day return policy to fall back on at the very least.
- Shutter counts aren’t always accurate. Some camera brands are more honest about shutter counts than others, and some camera models and shutter-counting programs are better at tracking than others. While shutter counts can theoretically tell you a lot about a used camera’s remaining lifespan, take them with a grain of salt.
- New cameras can sometimes be cheaper. If you have the time, you can usually find seasonal online promo codes and coupons from manufacturers. You can also look through online bargain websites; every once in a while, you’ll find a deal that’s too good to pass up.
Is Buying a Used Camera a Good Idea?
In our eyes, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” At the end of the day, the perfect photo comes from the heart of the artist.
As long as you’re equipped with something functional, little stands between you and your best work.