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Sunday, 19 July 2020

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I think most cameras from the last ten years are 'good enough' for most people. It's more down to what feels good in your hand. I like my Canon EOS 5D (Mk I) and Fuji X100s. I also have a Panasonic GF-1 for snaps as well as a collection of even older cameras that I still use.

There are loads of great bargains out there for people who don't need the latest and greatest.

Was seriously thinking of upgrading one of two X-T1's to an X-T2 now that the latter are more affordable used. And although I'd like the slightly better advantages of an X-T2- they're nothing I truly need, and the money saved will definitely be better spent on travel (to actually take pictures), or prints!


Most cameras that came out after 2012 are probably still very good deals. There was a big sensor upgrade at that time led by Sony which impacted Nikon and Pentax as well. Around this time the standard APS-C sensor settled on 24mp, which is a good size for prints. This new sensor was also a high ISO, low noise sensor. Canon soon followed but had some noise issues at the high ISOs. When you buy used cameras or lenses from B&H or KEH, they provide a quality rating for the item and they come with return policies. I shoot Pentax and the older used Pentax prime lenses can offer superb quality at a very reasonable price. I am sure you can say the same about Nikon.
You mentioned the Canon 7D, which I had the pleasure to shoot. It is a very nice camera, nicely appointed and takes beautiful images. The sensor may have a problem with high ISO noise, the sensor has beautiful color quality and renders skin tones beautifully.

I think that repairability and the likely availability of parts in the future should be a big factor.
For example, I gave some Nikon lenses and film cameras to my son who is now wanting a manual focus body with a light meter ‽ I’m an incident metering photographer so naturally none of my Nikon’s have light meters and I offered him a Lunapro. Anyone know what the repairable manual metered Nikon is?

Rant about Nikon USA redacted, EPOI RIP

I love used cameras. I have bought new only twice that I can remember for sure. The rest have been used and I've been the luckier photographer for it.

I'll suggest that the Nikon APS-C cameras are still excellent buys and that most people don't need the extra expense, bulk and weight of full frame.

Over the last six months or so I have put together a kit of:
Nikkormat, N90s, D3200, & D7100 bodies;
24/2.8,28/3.5, 35/2, 50/1.4, 105/2.5 & 135/3.5 originally pre-AI (scalloped focus ring) manual focus lenses;
20/2.8, 28/2.8, 35/1.8 & 50/1.8 autofocus lenses.

All for less than $1000 total, including tax and shipping. Unless you want the film thing, just the D7100 & a couple of great AF primes can be had for under $500 with careful shopping and you'll not notice any real world difference between them and the newest cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Sony, etc.

OTOH, a Leica IIIf and a 50/2 Summitar is one heck of a temptation since several of my all time favorites were shot by that combo :)

I'm sure a wave of lightly used Canon 5D mk IV and 7D II bodies are going to start popping up on the used market as the R5 and R6 start flying off the shelves. I don't know the 7D I/II but the 5D mk IV is a wonderful camera if you don't mind its heft and don't need IBIS. Utterly reliable, brick-like build quality, and Canon's finely honed color rendering is hard to beat.

The "classic" Nikon 12MP D700 is going for $400 +/-$50 these days. It was part of the classic D3, D700, D300 trio that got Nikon back into the forefront of the camera wars. It was my dream camera for many years while I poked around in crop sensor-land with the D90, D7000, D7200. Now I'm orphaned in Olympus m4/3-land. I occasionally run a search on D700's just to charge up my GAS but I know that the sensor on my Oly E-M1.2 is better so I always pull back from the "enter bid" button at the last second.

The IIIf is even better if you don’t mind or replace the ugly wind knob.
Also of course it’s a better party camera ( seersucker suit optional ) with a tiny automatic flash.

"the last revision of anything tends to retain a premium in pricing..."

Better look after my 5D4 for my great-grand kids in half a century :)

To what seems to me an important extent, lenses will drive many/most such decisions.

If one only wants a simple prime or two, choices are wide open. If one prefers a stable of primes and/or one, two, or more high end zooms, and/or s specialty ultra wide lens, the selection becomes much narrower.

If, for example, I bought a Fuji X-T1 for $250, that "savings" would be wiped out by the need to buy several lenses in order to enjoy using it.

I have several friends who have stables of Olympus 4/3 glass, the higher end pieces of which are exceptionally good optically. At least a couple took advantage of the drop in E-M1 prices when the Mk. II came out and now others have bought the II when prices dropped on introduction of the III.

The E-M1 models use PD-AF and focus the old lenses as fast or faster than the old 4/3 DSLRs. As such, they are the only way for these folks to upgrade, without large outlays of $$ for a whole new set of lenses.

I imagine similar things hold for other brands, where the compatibility of old, sometimes beloved, glass with newer, but still not current, bodies drives practical value.

It can be a slippery slope . . .

I imagine my response to such a request might be:

1. What camera and lenses do you have now?

2. In what way do they fall short of what you would like?

3. What would you be looking for in a new camera and lens(es)?

That would surely cut the possibilities way down.

There are a lot of play factors in Leica screw mount cameras. I have a IIIf which nobody takes seriously and is perfect for street photography.

And the film cutting and loading is as fiddly as one can get and quite a bit of thinking goes into the process.

In short, the IIIf (or IIIc or one of the other country cuzzins) is a "smarter" camera than the overpriced P&S digital machine guns set to auto firing mode most of the time.

I almost always buy used cameras and lens. I am likely too obsessive for months reading about (researching) gear. I then decide what next "I can't live without buying." Plus during my research period and my decided-to-buy period I watch used prices for candidate gear. Mostly I watch the BUY/SELL pages on fredmiranda.com and sometimes eBay too. Over the past many years, most of my used gear has come from and been sold on fredmiranda.com. I have never had a bad transaction buying or selling there. I once bought an E-M1 on eBay that never showed up and eBay did refund my purchase price. The only new camera I have bought in my current camera stack is a Pany G9, bought at near to the used price, which I bought specifically to pair with the PL 100-400 bought used on fredmiranda.com. My approach has worked great and that is what I have recommended to others.

Currently, I am trying to decide whether to sell or keep my bought used a7ii, since I find its fit-to-my-hand and the menu system both leave much room for improvement, which Sony has not addressed to most reviewers satisfaction, nor to my examination of later models locally. But, its sensor is pretty darn good, as again demonstrated in my NEOWISE photos from last night. So, my research has started again, but nothing yet convinces me that I need to spend a $1000 or more to upgrade to a marginally better sensor, based on my DXO.com and other of my research sites. Stay tuned. Maybe I will decide in a year or so....

In reply to Hugh's comment on Nikons, I have both the Nikon FE and FM. They are wonderful manual cameras, and the built-in meters in both are spot on to my Sekonic. The best thing is an excellent copy of each camera can be had for $100 to $150. The downside is they led me on a path to buying classic Nikkor lenses, which are also amazing.

Right now various outlets are selling the Panasonic GX 85 with 2 kit lenses new for $498 so you could shop around for a used one for less then buy new like a buddy of mine just did when he couldn't do better!

I pretty much destroyed both a Nikon Fm and a Fe doing night life photography in the 80s. Walking through a door wearing two cameras with potato mashers when a line of people were walking through the door in the other direction seemed to do them in but my F2 could knock the paint off a doorframe without anything to show for it other than some interior latex paint.
Going through boxes of wholesale used cameras at a local camera show I’ve seen a lot of Fe and Fm bodies that look like they spent a hour in a clothes drier or cement mixer. Maybe that’s testimony to how much abuse they can take before they stop working but I’m kind of leery of buying one unless I know that someone can do a complete overhaul.

I trust this theory will be rapidly shot down if it's wrong, but it seems to me that, as far as cameras released in the last 5-6 years, it's not that hard because most of the better cameras have been iterations of a popular series.

So, one could do worse than narrow the choices to still-going long-lived series and work backward from there. (If there's one thing camera reviewers seem very good at is reporting and characterizing every little difference between model upgrades.)

Plus, most cameras popular enough to become series are going to have a pretty good user base and ecosystem.

This approach will miss the one-off gems like the Fuji H-X1, but I think it's a reasonable rule of thumb for the "golden age" we're in.

This is either sad or weird. Or both. My favourite camera that I've bought twice and given away as a gift, twice, was the [cough] Samsung S85. A point/shoot 5x lens that started at 38mm. You can still find them from time to time. I've had and have exquisite high end gear and optics. But even today, it's 8mp images are stunning. Shame it ate batteries so savagely that 60 shots from a set of AA lithiums was not unheard of. Hmm... there's a mint one on ebay for $25. TTFN.

Some things defy common sense and expectation. Yesterday I took my Nikon Df, Nikon d600 and Leica M9 each with a 50mm lens, and the Nikon also with a Voigtlander 20mm, to shoot the comet NEOWISE. Unfortunately, I didn't choose the vantage point right...the light pollution from a small town was awful. The two Nikons fared terribly, but the 37-year-old Summicron 50 on an archaic digital body cut through the glare like a knife through butter. All that talk about Df sensor being made for low light, d600 having a higher resolution and more modern sensor than M9, were left in the dust.

My D3 (2008) is still going strong - I've worn out one battery but that's it in 12 years. I have obtained saleable "fine art" A2 prints from its 12 mp sensor but wouldn't rely on it if printing that large was a priority; any larger is really marginal and depends on the subject matter, etc.; but A3+ is no sweat. I have friends using D4s to like effect, and I really love the way the 16 mp sensor draws. (The Df has the same 16 mp sensor and is still available from new stock, at least in Oz - not cheap though.) My usual advice for bargain-hunting friends looking for their first "serious" camera is to try to locate a working pro's top of the line second or third back-up body that is one or two generations behind the latest when new releases come out. The sports and newspaper pro's I know (whose livelihood depends upon the reliability of their equipment) have at least three bodies, two of the latest top-of-the line-CaNikon models (being a primary and secondary back-up) plus an older generation third emergency back-up (usually the prior secondary back-up). Because the top end pro SLR cameras are built like the proverbial old brick - um, let's say - outhouse, the back-ups are often not used much at all. Hence, "low-milage" older generation top of the line bodies in perfect working order and with years of hard work left in them often appear on the second-hand market just after the latest bodies are released to the working pro's - generally, just prior to each Olympic games (e.g. quite a number of good D4s hit the second-hand market at very good prices when the D6 was released, and a few D5s.).

Although an improvement on the IIIa/b, the early post war IIIc had a problem with the chrome plating, leading to pitting, etc..

I picked up a re-shuttered D600 for $450. My Pentax lenses cried as I packed them up for a reseller (who gave me more than $450), but a K-1 would not be within financial reach for a long time. I get a 36×24 sensor, decent HD video in case I ever get around to it, access to a large boatload of lenses, and a new way of doing things. That and my similarly-ancient GX7 and a few good m4:3 lenses.. I'm in a good place for being me.

Five years from now, a camera that came out this year and was considered stellar will still be a good camera...

So when the question is posed, I tell people to look for an "older" camera that was considered an "excellent" camera when it came out. You get to decide how much "older" you can deal with.

Reviews at places like DPReview that go back many years are a gold mine for this exercise.

Hugh: A year or so ago I bought a Nikon FE with 50/1.8 for as I recall something like $40 or $45. Off Craigslist. Excellent cond. with no signs of abuse and it works perfectly.
Be patient. They do show up as a result of someone cleaning out a closet.

I'll have a well-used (but not abused) X-T1 going up for sale within the next few weeks: Three batteries, MHG-XT grip (needs electrical repair, but works if you're just looking for extra grip real estate), half leather case. Plenty of hip brassing on the on/off switch and various edges.

As opposed to the apparent backup body you mentioned, mine has been my daily driver for 6+ years, so is pushing likely 80k+ frames (including plenty of electronic shutter, not all mechanical).

All in all, it's still a very fine camera. One big reason for me to move on is that I *used to* do a lot of live music photography, so autofocus speed and accuracy in low light has always been a hindrance in dank clubs with the X-T1. Really looking forward to getting back into all of that once whatever new "normal" happens to arrive. Outside of that, it falls well to hand, the whole dial-focused interface is wonderful, 16MP is fine for 95% of the time, etc. Truly a landmark camera in my personal timeline and I will miss it.

And funnily enough, my camera previous to the X-T1 was the Canon 7D that you also mentioned. The headline would be: fantastically fast and responsive. Certainly something you could drop into most any situation and come away with the shot with little fuss. But I just never cottoned to the interface (hold this button while spinning the front dial does one thing, holding down the same button but spinning the back dial does something completely different), so it never "disappeared" in my hand. Even after four solid years with it, it still felt strange. Contrast that with the X-T1, which felt immediately like home.

My experience has been that outside the serious enthusiasts most cameras are not very heavily used. If they are reasonably stored they can be in good shape. For what it is worth, if you want to buy a camera to use and admire (as opposed to simply admire) go with one that had a good production run and reviewed well at the time. There will be lots of them, good parts availability and a better chance you can find a good one.

Among my second-hand buys:

I have two Nikon F100s that are so good to use they bring happiness to my little photographer heart. They receive a lot of use.

A Pentax 645nii. A joy to use and utterly gorgeous results

A Nikon FE2. Such a pleasure to hold and use. Lots of scuffs and bangs and this makes it even more attractive. My lovely lady says the same about me so maybe there is something on another layer here...

A Yashica Mat 124G. It's so perfect.

A Nikon D800, because I wanted a large file full-frame camera and it was this or a Canon 5 series. I landed this one because it had a frame count of 2,300. Which is insanely low. Yes, in digital terms it is old. But it is like new, has 36 perfect megapixels and being a major brand I can get any combination of lenses I might need.

The thing is, newer cameras are of course wonders to use. But unless an older camera can't help you be better (for example being able to hammer through a bunch of shots very quickly to catch action, or lots of room for very big prints) then older cameras can be an awesome buy.

Sometime in the next year I'll try and grab a Z6 or Z7 being sold by someone who simply must have the latest machine to leave on their shelf.

I am waiting for Olympus users to abandon their cameras in droves. I have an OM-D E-M5 Mark I, love it, but would prefer a securer grip, and wouldn't mind mind a newer sensor and newer processors.

No warranty, no support, no problem. Cameras 4 generations back, they are so cheap that it is cheaper to buy replacements than to buy a warranted camera.

In the UK and elsewhere a reputable source of prices for all used bodies and lenses is ;-

https://www.camerapricebuster.co.uk/?gclid=COKgqd-5qdQCFYQaGwoduCYEZw

Click on an item and at the bottom they have latest used prices with links to the sellers.

I would think there would be another profound distinction regarding the purchase of a used camera - is it to become the primary camera or a useful "cheap" backup. This struck me when you said your XT-1 now stays in your car where it will always be handy away from home but means it's also vulnerable to theft and less than ideal storage conditions. It also likely carries the implied statement, "I don't too much care what happens to it". Maybe not in your case and even mine, but your idea has caught my fancy and I intend to leave my X-Pro 1 in my car too for the same good reason. I do have a custom locked cabinet so it can't be fetched without some time & effort.

I bought my "new" FFM camera for such a low price it could already be considered a "used bargain" but I watch over it like it's a mountain of pure gold and would be "ruined" if something happened to it.

If, on the other hand, I was in the market for a good used camera to be my sole primary tool, after selecting which sensor size and key features I wanted, my search would most likely be for models made by the company I had the most previous good experience with.

If you're in the market for a used digital camera, the world is your oyster.

If you're in the market for a used film camera.... well, brace yourself. I was thinking of unloading my (purchased new) Canon EOS 3 about 7 years ago or so. I believe the going price was $50. I didn't sell it and I'm having fun running TRI-X through it right now with adapted Leica R lenses. I checked current prices right now: $350-400. Look at the prices of used M6s: $2500-3500. If I were a camera manufacturer staring down the barrel of destructing by camera phones, I'd restart a small line of classic film cameras.

I have bought and sold several lenses and cameras via Craigslist. Living in SoCal, there are plenty of choices. I'll play with the camera and if it doesn't appeal to me then I resell, sooner. The price is one that will get me a quick sale. Having played golf, I equate value and costs in terms of green's fees or what I would have paid to rent the kit. If one does not shoot in low light, then stabilization isn't a real issue; that makes for many good options in both camera and lenses as does not being particular about video capabilities.

The Olympus E-P5 is my favourite camera at any price. At £200 it's a home run. Together with a compact 14mm and 45mm, it's been my everyday carry for years. If anyone knows of a better camera this small with excellent IBIS and 90 degree tilt viewfinder, then let me know. Otherwise I will rest with my conclusion that the industry no longer makes cameras for me.

It's pretty difficult to buy a bad, used, interchangeable lens camera from the last ten years or so, assuming it's not been abused. Sure they all vary in marginal ways in user experience and the way they make images, but none from any of the big brands can fairly be called "bad", or even "not all that good". Outside of specialist edge cases, with each new iteration, the advances seem ever more marginal. For what this comment is worth (what you paid for it), to anyone contemplating a used camera, I'd recommend they get anything in good condition that they can comfortably afford and meets any fundamental needs, then stop worrying about minor variations, get to know it, and go make pictures. Sometimes making a decision is more important than the decision made.

The Lensrentals folks have a podcast about how to evaluate and buy a used lens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWLLrxpDvuU


They are planning a similar episode about buying a used camera -- might be worth waiting for this before spending $$$.

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