There are tons of pages out there of advice on how to save money on camera equipment. If you are looking for Get Cheap Quick schemes, look elsewhere.
Here is my 2 cents.
- Buy used when you don’t need pristine equipment or won’t be using that piece of equipment frequently
- Save to buy the best you can get rather than go the upgrade path (explanation below)
- Research if there are reward programs or refurbished options (Canon is famous for these two)
- Price match – but be prepared with multiple websites. Best Buy and other retailers only honor certain websites.
- Don’t count on being able to sell your old gear for big bucks — cameras lose resale value quickly especially non-pro cameras (plus, for many of us, selling old gear is a pain and our gear often has accumulated quirks that lower resale value.)
Why buy the best one time*?
*instead of upgrading a little by little?
You will save money in the long run – but don’t take my word for it.
If you upgrade your equipment in this order:
- $500 – Canon t5 w/18-55mm kit lens
- +1500 – Canon 6D
- +1000 – Canon 24-70mm f/4
- +2000 – Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 (total of $5000 so far)
- +2500 – Canon 5D Mark III
You would have spent a grand total of $8500.
But if you just bought the 5D Mark III + 24-70mm f/2.8 to begin with, you would have only spent $4500.
By the time you got to $4500 using the upgrade path, you would not have the 5D, but instead only have the 6D (and still needed to spend an additional $500 to get the 6D).
Go ahead. Do the math with the equipment you want to get vs what you have spent or planned to spend over the next several years. See what you end up with.
Selling old equipment may help, but remember:
- Camera equipment depreciates very quickly
- Selling your old equipment also creates additional time and labor costs to you
I know this isn’t possible for many situations (I feel the pain, too), but being an informed buyer is still the best way.
Some mirrorless systems are a slight exception. With DSLRS, if you wanted a bigger handle or a faster buffer, you had to get a whole different body. With my Fuji bodiess, I could start out with a basic body and then later get whatever bigger handle that I wanted , or a faster UHS-II SD card. Fuji is also great about releasing features in their firmware (stuff that Canon and Nikon would require you to buy another body to get).
This doesn’t work for everything as you can’t add an EVF or a tilt screen to most bodies or swap out their sensors, but it is something to research and consider if you are evaluating camera systems to go into.
Why buy used?
If you are still learning, this is a great way to spend less money and get the experience you need to understand what you REALLY need to get the photos you want. Plus, with less invested (sunk cost), you will hopefully be less invested and more willing to move to another camera system rather than stick to your starter system.
Used equipment also make great backup cameras and less frequently used lenses and accessories to your existing system especially if they don’t have to perform as well as your primary camera.