Does it always have to be the latest? No, experts say, not even with system cameras and lenses. Material that is a few years old but otherwise in good condition is great to work with. And it is also sustainable. However, you should steer clear of used items from the entry-level class.
"Used system cameras are worthwhile for anyone who wants to save a lot of money and is not necessarily dependent on taking pictures with the latest technology," says Peter Nonhoff-Arps from the specialist magazine "c't Fotografie".
Even cameras that have not been available for purchase for several years still deliver high-quality digital images, says Nonhoff-Arps. With lenses, the price difference to new goods is not that big, but there are good chances of getting almost unused lenses at a reasonable price.
System camera only means that it is a camera with interchangeable lenses - even if the term system camera has been used here and there exclusively for models without a mirror. But: A single-lens reflex camera is also a system camera by definition.
Whether you choose a system camera with or without a mirror is ultimately a question of taste and habit. With a single-lens reflex camera, the light “travels” in an optical viewfinder via a mirror that folds away when the picture is taken, revealing the image sensor.
Mirrorless system cameras, on the other hand, have an electronic viewfinder. With them, the light falls directly on the sensor, which then sends the image to a high-resolution mini display that is in the viewfinder. The cheapest system cameras without a mirror sometimes don't even have a viewfinder. Here the live image control must be carried out via the display on the back of the camera.
An advantage of mirrorless system cameras: Due to the slimmer design without mirror, mirror box and optical viewfinder, they are not only lighter, but usually also much more compact than the housing of SLR cameras.
Nonhoff-Arps recommends buying used cameras and lenses from dealers: "The advantage is that you can test them on site and usually get a guarantee." However, the price is often significantly higher than from private sellers. The online retailer is a compromise between these two poles.
According to Nonhoff-Arps, the online business is in the midfield in terms of price. In addition, online retailers would also have to give a guarantee and take back the goods in case of doubt. "But when it comes to valuable cameras and lenses, it's worth going to the supplier to take a look at the objects of desire."
Buying used cameras and lenses in a shop makes sense not least because there are a few things you should pay attention to and check. A whole series of points, Nonhoff-Arps: "From the sensor to signs of wear on the housing, display, tripod socket or hot shoe to the condition of the battery". With lenses, the condition of the lenses is relevant and you have to check whether there are dust inclusions.
Vincent Meyer regularly buys used cameras for his Berlin photo shop and knows what is important. His first check is the overall condition, the external appearance. "With a camera that's already badly scratched, there's a higher risk that something's going wrong." Point two: In any case, the image sensor should be free of dirt.
According to Meyer, how much money you actually save when buying a used camera depends heavily on the camera model in question. "If you buy a product that is currently still being manufactured and sold, you can save 20 to 30 percent," says the expert.
But up to what age is it worth buying a used system camera? At what point does the lower price no longer outweigh the perhaps outdated technology and, above all, image quality? If you weigh the range of functions and photo quality against the potential price reduction, Vincent Meyer believes that buying used digital cameras is worthwhile up to a camera age of five to six years.
"Otherwise you have to be very familiar with it and really be sure that it still works," says Meyer. "Because the technology has developed so rapidly that with older models you get results that deviate far from today's standard."
According to Peter Nonhoff-Arps, however, there are models that are still worth recommending even after ten years: "These mostly included cameras in the upper middle and upper class of the time." Buying older entry-level cameras and lenses second-hand, on the other hand, is not worthwhile, even if they are available for little money.
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