Well, let’s start with a big question. One that photographers get asked a lot and the answer isn’t easy. Like everything in photography, it depends.
When anyone asks me this, my first question is how much money do you want to spend? That is the starting point for any real answer.
My second question is what do you want a camera for? Once I have that basic information I can give you my opinion.
What Camera Sensor Size?
The best camera sensor size depends on various factors and the specific needs of the photographer. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, as different sensor sizes have their own advantages and limitations. These are the common sensor sizes and their characteristics:
- Full Frame (35mm): Full-frame sensors are considered the largest among consumer-grade cameras. They provide excellent image quality, especially in low light, and offer a shallower depth of field. Full-frame cameras are often preferred by professional photographers and those who prioritise image quality.
- APS-C (Crop Sensor): APS-C sensors are smaller than full-frame sensors but still larger than Micro Four Thirds and compact camera sensors. They are commonly found in many mid-range DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. APS-C sensors provide a good balance between image quality and camera size, making them popular among enthusiasts and professionals.
- Micro Four Thirds: These sensors are smaller than both full-frame and APS-C sensors. Cameras with Micro Four Thirds sensors are often more compact and lightweight, making them a good choice for travel and casual photography. However, they may not perform as well in low-light conditions compared to larger sensors.
- Medium Format: Medium format sensors are larger than full-frame sensors and are typically found in high-end cameras designed for professional photographers. They offer superior image quality, dynamic range, and detail, making them suitable for commercial and studio work. However, medium-format cameras tend to be larger, heavier, and more expensive.
The “best” sensor size depends on your specific needs. If you prioritise portability and versatility, a camera with a smaller sensor may be suitable. If image quality and low-light performance are crucial, a larger sensor like full-frame or medium format may be more appropriate.
Mirrorless or DSLR?
The choice between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR depends on various factors, including your preferences, shooting style, and specific needs. Both types of cameras have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a breakdown to help you make an informed decision:
- Compact and Lightweight: Mirrorless cameras are generally more compact and lighter than DSLRs. This makes them more portable and suitable for travel or situations where size and weight matter.
- Electronic Viewfinder (EVF): Mirrorless cameras often feature electronic viewfinders that provide a real-time preview of your exposure. This can be beneficial for composing shots and adjusting settings.
- Video Capabilities: Many mirrorless cameras excel in video recording, offering features like 4K recording, advanced autofocus during video, and more. They are popular among videographers and content creators.
- Faster Autofocus: Mirrorless cameras can achieve fast and accurate autofocus, especially in continuous or tracking modes. Some systems utilise on-sensor phase detection, enhancing performance.
- In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS): Some mirrorless cameras have built-in image stabilisation in the camera body, allowing for stabilised shots even with lenses that lack optical stabilisation.
- Battery Life: Mirrorless cameras tend to have shorter battery life compared to DSLRs. This is partly due to the power demands of electronic viewfinders and constant sensor operation.
- Lens Variety: While lens selections are increasing, some mirrorless systems may have fewer native lenses compared to well-established DSLR systems.
- Durability: Generally, DSLRs are built with more robust and durable bodies. Mirrorless cameras, being smaller and lighter, may not be as rugged in some cases. Mirrorless cameras have more to go wrong.
- Optical Viewfinder: DSLRs use an optical viewfinder, which some photographers prefer for its direct and lag-free view of the scene. This can be advantageous in certain shooting conditions.
- Battery Life: DSLRs typically have longer battery life compared to mirrorless cameras. The optical viewfinder consumes less power than electronic viewfinders.
- Lens Compatibility: DSLRs often have a wide selection of native lenses and are compatible with a variety of third-party lenses. This can be beneficial for finding lenses that suit your specific needs.
- Durability: DSLRs are often built with sturdy and weather-sealed bodies, making them more durable in challenging conditions. Check out Pentax build quality.
- Size and Weight: DSLRs are generally larger and heavier than mirrorless cameras. This can be a drawback if portability is a significant concern.
- Autofocus in Live View: While DSLRs offer fast phase-detection autofocus through the optical viewfinder, their contrast-detection autofocus in live view mode may be slower than the on-sensor phase-detection used by many mirrorless cameras.
- Limited Video Features: While modern DSLRs have improved video capabilities, they may not match the advanced video features found in some mirrorless models.
In summary, both mirrorless cameras and DSLRs have their strengths and weaknesses. Mirrorless cameras are often preferred for their portability, advanced features, and video capabilities. DSLRs, on the other hand, may be favoured for their optical viewfinders, longer battery life, and extensive lens compatibility. Your decision should be based on your specific needs, preferences, and the type of photography you plan to pursue. If possible, try out both types of cameras in a store or borrow from friends to get a feel for the user experience before making a decision.
Buy New or Secondhand?
Whether to buy a new camera or a secondhand one depends on several factors, and both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some considerations to help you decide:
Buying a New Camera:
- Warranty and Support: New cameras typically come with a manufacturer’s warranty, providing you with protection against defects and malfunctions. You also have access to customer support from the manufacturer or retailer.
- Latest Technology: When buying new, you get access to the latest camera technology, including advancements in sensor technology, autofocus systems, and other features.
- Shutter Count: A new camera will have a shutter count of zero (not a consideration if you buy the new Sony A9 MkIII as it doesn’t have a shutter), ensuring that you are starting with a fresh and unused shutter mechanism. Shutter count is a consideration for the lifespan of a camera.
- Peace of Mind: There is a sense of security and peace of mind that comes with owning a brand-new camera. You know its entire history, and it hasn’t been subjected to wear and tear.
- Cost: New cameras are generally more expensive than their secondhand counterparts. If budget is a significant consideration, buying new might be less feasible.
Buying a Secondhand Camera:
- Cost Savings: One of the most significant advantages of buying secondhand is the potential cost savings. You can often find cameras in excellent condition at a significantly lower price than their new counterparts. There are hundreds of nearly new cameras available from camera dealers that have hardly been used.
- Access to Higher-End Models: With a limited budget, buying secondhand may allow you to afford a higher-end or more advanced camera model than if you were buying new.
- Diverse Options: The secondhand market offers a wide variety of camera models, including some older or discontinued ones that may still be perfectly suitable for your needs.
- Included Accessories: Many secondhand camera listings include additional accessories, such as extra lenses, camera bags, or memory cards, which can add value to your purchase.
- No Warranty: Secondhand cameras may not come with a warranty (I’ll come back to that), or the warranty may have expired. This means you won’t have the same level of protection against potential issues.
- Uncertain History: You may not know the full history of a secondhand camera, including how it has been used if it has been dropped, or if it has experienced any issues in the past.
- Limited Availability: The specific model you’re looking for may not be readily available in the secondhand market, especially if you have specific requirements or preferences.
Tips for Buying Secondhand:
- Check the Shutter Count: If possible, find out the shutter count of the camera, especially if it’s a feature you’re concerned about. Shutter count indicates how many photos the camera has taken and can be a factor in its expected lifespan.
- Inspect Carefully: When buying secondhand, thoroughly inspect the camera for any signs of damage, wear, or malfunction. Check the lens mount, buttons, dials, and LCD screen.
- Buy from Reputable Sellers: If purchasing from an individual, ask questions about the camera’s history. If buying from a secondhand retailer or online platform, check reviews and reputation to ensure a reliable transaction.
In conclusion, the decision to buy a new or secondhand camera depends on your budget, specific needs, and comfort level with potential risks. Both options can be viable, so weigh the advantages and disadvantages based on your individual circumstances. If possible, consider buying from reputable sources, whether new or secondhand, to minimise potential issues and ensure a positive buying experience.
Where To Buy a Secondhand Camera From?
I’m glad you asked. Firstly, I am not linked in any way to the company I am going to recommend. Nor am I paid to say this. Living in Norwich I live next to one of the biggest online retailers in the UK if not the biggest. WEX or Wharehouse Express as it was known is always my first port of call. Quite simply if you want to buy a secondhand camera check there. There are two golden rules to follow.
- Only ever buy secondhand items that are marked as being in condition 9 or 9+. That’s my personal rule.
- Always read what is included in the purchase. Make sure you get all the accessories that come with the camera. I have noticed on some listings that battery chargers are missing or third-party batteries are supplied. I avoid those. I always try to go for items with their original boxes but that isn’t an issue to me but it does make selling on easier.
Lastly. unless stated the camera includes a 12-month warranty. I am not aware of any other secondhand camera supplier to do that. All the others have a 6-month warranty.
When purchasing anything I look to buy secondhand before buying new. There’s just so much hardly used equipment out there. I have in the past spent a fortune on camera equipment. I have only ever had one issue buying from WEX that was sorted out when an over-eager sales manager wanted to charge me £100 when I returned a new camera calling it a return fee that I didn’t want. That was quickly sorted out. That was over 14 years ago and I still go to WEX when I want something.
Buying privately can be a minefield and end in tears but there are some absolute bargains to be had. Just remember “buyer beware”.
My Current Camera
For the last two years, I’ve been using a Panasonic S5 with my favourite focal length a Panasonic 50mm f1.8 prime lens. Why did I get that? Well it was really great value when I purchased it as it come with another lens, a spare battery and a video plastic grip that I’ve never used. It’s a very good video camera and I wanted to start adding video to my skill set. I don’t have any regrets about having purchased it.
So it that my recommendation. Not so fast buddy!
My Personal Camera Recommendations
Buying New and Money No Object
If buying new and money isn’t an issue, I’d recommend you purchase a 35mm full-frame mirrorless camera. I say that as if you buy a smaller sensor you’ll always be wondering whether you did the right thing. Buy 35mm and skip that issue. Not that I’m against smaller sensors at all.
Sony has risen in popularity and their lens choice is huge. I can’t add any more than that as I’ve never used one. People think they’re great. I suspect they are.
You can’t go wrong buying Canon or Nikon. If you want to go big buy a medium format Fuji or Pentax. £10,000 will get you some great image quality. With medium format, you’ll be the sort of person who enjoys a slower pace of life. Think more portrait than formula one. Unless the cars are stationary.
If wildlife and fast-moving objects are your thing then think about an APS-C or micro four-thirds camera. They’re fast to focus and longer focal length lenses are even longer on them due to the crop factor.
As in everything photography, there are compromises. No camera fits all. There isn’t a perfect camera. The best you can do is get something that does most of what you need. That comes in the shape of a modern full frame 35mm it appears to me in 2023.
I can recommend Panasonic 35mm cameras.
Want to Learn Photography Budget Up To £650 (Secondhand)
£650 is the sweet spot for me. Buy a DSLR. Today in Wex there’s a Nikon D800 condition 9+ with a shutter count of 3000 for just £480, bargain! Just add a Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens. For a bit less get a Nikon D600 or a D610.
Else a Canon 6D. Then add the Canon 50mm f1.8 (or the Canon 35 f2 IS). The Canon 6D would in fact be my choice. It’s cheap and has great colours.
Both manufacturers offer their own RAW converters to download in the shape of Nikon Studio and Canon DPP. Both are free.
Amateur Wanting a Camera for Holidays and Family Budget Up to £500 (Secondhand)
You can’t go wrong with a Fuji X-E2 with an 18 to 55 f2.8 to f4. Pictures straight from the camera look great. No need to do lots of editing. Just click away.
Else an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II with an Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II.
Or a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80 and a Panasonic 12-60mm f3.5-5.6
Bargains Under £250
Nikon D80 or D60 and a Nikon 35mm f1.8 G DX. Today in WEX there is a Nikon D60 condition 9 and a Nikon 35mm f1.8 condition 9+ for just £153.
If you can stretch to a bit more get the Nikon D300 or D300s.
If Canon is your preference find a 40D and pair it with a Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM Pancake Lens. Pay no more than £160.
The free RAW converters work with these cameras too.
A Take Anywhere, Secondhand Camera That Fits in a Pocket in 2023
My final recommendation will set you back about £500 with the lens I recommend, but it’s a camera you can literally take anywhere with you and you’ll not be noticed.
The camera is the Panasonic GX7 with a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake lens. All the photographs below were taken with this lens. It’ll fit in a pocket and go anywhere. The best camera to have is the one you have with you. This can always be with you,
The GX7 can be hard to find but for a bit more money you could get a Panasonic GX80 or the Panasonic GX9. Or something a little bigger but weatherproof in the shape of the Panasonic GX8.
In Conclusion – What Camera to Buy in 2023
In conclusion, it turns out there isn’t an easy answer. I’m just one person and this is just my opinion, my choices. Other photographers will give you different answers. But to begin to get an answer, one thing stands true every time. How much do you want to spend, that drives the answer. Finally, if you want the top camera as of today the 17th of November 2023. Order a £6000 Sony A9 MkIII. You’ll also need money for lenses.
Be warned, there’ll be another top camera in the months to come.
Finally, I think buying secondhand photography equipment is the best option.