Posted by & filed under Travel Photography.

I don’t usually tell you to buy new equipment like this. In fact, I usually say the opposite – learn with what you have and upgrade later.

But I was researching some cameras for a friend online this weekend and I found that many of my favorite brands are selling used for HALF of what they were last November. Some are as low as $200.

Here’s what you need to know about where camera technology is going…

  • Pretty soon, every camera on the market is going to be mirrorless, light in weight, smaller in size, and have the ability to shoot in the dark (and I mean real dark).  
  • Soon after that, you’ll be able to choose the focus point in your photograph AFTER you snap the shutter, making it even easier to get the creative effects you want.  
  • Every two years we see BIG jumps in technology. What you buy today will be old news in two years’ time (still useful but something better will be out there).  

But here’s what’s happening right now that’s driving the prices down…

  • More and more companies are coming out with full-frame mirrorless cameras, and this means pros who make a full-time living from their photos can now get all the image quality they need out of much smaller cameras.
  • They’re selling their big, bulky equipment on sites like eBay and B&H Photo Video, and you can get fantastic deals on it.
  • They’re also selling their smaller, mirrorless cameras which they were using for smaller projects (or just when they were tired of carrying their heavy equipment around), and these are the cameras I’m going to tell you to buy below. They’re great!

Here’s my philosophy on camera buying – a quick reminder…

  • The only camera you’re ever going to use is the camera you don’t mind carrying. A simple Google search will result in hundreds of makes, models, and types, but my opinion has always been that it needs to be good enough to create saleable images and that it needs to be light enough that you’ll feel comfortable carrying it and taking pictures in the street when you travel.
  • Camera bodies come and go but your lenses stay with you forever and are likely the most important part of creating the kinds of images you want. I don’t ever recommend investing in a camera line that doesn’t make good lenses even if they have the best deals on the market.  Why bother?  When the camera body becomes obsolete, you’ll be left with a bunch of inferior lenses.
  • Better to buy a used body and put your money into a good lens than buy a brand new body and skimp on the lens.
  • Rarely do I ever recommend a kit lens. Always buy the body only and splurge on a better lens.

Here’s what I think you should do…

  • If you own an expensive SLR that isn’t mirrorless, do some research online and see if it makes sense to sell your current gear and buy a mirrorless system. The longer you wait, the less money you’re going to get for your current gear (my two cents), and I think you’ll be thrilled with the weight and size of a mirrorless system. Search for full-frame options if that’s what you need.
  • If you don’t own anything, go with one of the used cameras I recommend below.
  • If you just bought something in November – don’t panic! These are still the same cameras I’m recommending today.
  • Even if you don’t sell your current gear, now might be the best time to buy a second body you can play with. At these prices, you can afford to…

What to buy…

  • A quick search on eBay shows four Fuji X-T10 bodies (new and used) under $500… one Olympus EM1… five Olympus EM5… and six Olympus EM5II. All of these were selling in November for over (or close to) $1,000 and can now be found on eBay for under $500. Check there. Check B&H Photo Video. And check Adorama, KEH, and Amazon. All of these stores offer new and used models. Buy used if you’re new to photography and you want to save money. You can upgrade in a few years when those mega machines are out.
  • FULL-FRAME: Reviewers love the new Leica 601. It’s a hefty $6,500 – $7,000 but older models are as low as $2,000. Do your research, as most of our readers don’t need full-frame cameras so I didn’t look too far into these.
  • And, of course, people love talking about the Sony a7’s. But I, personally, don’t like Sony lenses or these cameras and I’ve never read anything that changes my mind. People come to our workshops with them and there’s always an issue – the batteries drain quickly, they have problems importing the files into Lightroom, and all kinds of stuff. These cameras are also relatively new, so there’s not a lot of extra gear for them yet. That said, Steve Huff reviewed the Sony a7ii and he likes it. He says you can attach lenses from other brands (using an adaptor), and that after shooting for weeks with it, he likes it even more. I trust this guy and look to him for all my camera reviews, so buy with confidence if you think it’s a good fit for you.

When you’re buying a lens, consider…

  • Compatibility – Not all lenses physically fit all cameras. Once you pick a model, look through Steve’s site for a good lens or see lenses I’ve recommended in the past.
  • Focal length – Most travel photographers want a zoom lens in the 70mm-200mm range.  Cropped sensors (which are all the cameras I recommend above except the Leica and the Sony) change the ability of the lens by what’s called a “crop factor.” It means a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor will act like a 70mm lens (or thereabout) on a full frame sensor. Google the math if you need it or just look for lenses in the 40mm-150mm range if you’re buying for one of these cameras.
  • Aperture (f-stop) – Every lens will dictate a length (40mm-140mm) and an f-stop (f3.5). The lower the f-stop number on the lens, the more expensive the lens will be (typically). Lower f-stop numbers can offer faster exposures in low-light. It means you can shoot indoors without a flash and capture moving objects at dusk or dawn. It also allows you to blur more of the background in your shots. Low typically means under f2.8. F3.5-5.6 is standard.

The added bonus is that your lens will retain its value. Your equipment will depreciate but your lenses will stay largely the same price unless they’re damaged.

Happy shopping!

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