Ignoring price, would you rather have the Nikon D750 or the Nikon D5600? It’s probably no contest. Unless you desperately need the D5600’s lighter weight or tilt-flip screen, the full-frame D750 is ahead in every way. Okay, stop ignoring price. The D750 is cheaper.
Don’t take my word for it. Today, the Nikon D750 sells used in moderate to good condition for less than $700. Here’s a completed listing on Fred Miranda where it sold for $650. The Nikon D5600, on the other hand – thanks to some price increases over the last couple years – costs $700 new.
Sure, I’m comparing a new camera to a used camera. The D5600 used is about $350, which is obviously more reasonable. But that’s not the point. Don’t think about this from your perspective or that of a buyer. Think about it from Nikon’s.
Nikon earns no direct money when someone buys a used camera. They may earn some downstream money if the buyer decides to get lenses or accessories later (or the seller uses their earnings to fund a new camera), but it’s not a given. Nikon needs people to buy the D5600 for $700 new, or the entire low end of their market collapses. If a photographer chooses the D750 used, or the D5600 used, Nikon doesn’t get a cut of the sale.
Of course, even at the same price, some photographers would choose a new D5600 over a used D750. I know a few people who would never consider buying used for various reasons, such as a warranty. Others, depending on where in the world they live, don’t have a great used market in the first place. Still others are first-time photographers who may walk into Best Buy with a $1000 budget and walk out with a new D5600 + kit lens, not knowing about the huge used market that exists. But are those groups so big that Nikon finds it worthwhile to develop new entry-level cameras?
I’ve been talking about Nikon so far, but they’re hardly the only company where this applies. The Canon 5D Mark III sells used these days in good condition for about the same price as the Canon T8i new – $750. Would anyone seriously argue that the T8i is the better camera, except for the most narrow of use cases?
Again, I do think there are a few factors that can keep entry-level cameras selling for a bit longer. But those factors are dwindling. Concerned about a warranty? B&H’s used department has a 90-day warranty; KEH has a 180-day warranty. The used market is small where you live? Still true in some parts of the world, but much less so than before, and most eBay sellers ship worldwide if you’re willing to pay a bit extra.
That basically leaves “a general desire to buy new” (or ignorance that the used market exists) as the biggest reason to buy a new entry-level camera. Maybe in second place is a desire to buy an entry-level camera for a family member as a gift, and not wanting to give them something secondhand.
Powerful though those reasons may be, there’s a point for most photographers at which a good deal on a used camera outweighs the benefits of buying new.
It’s no wonder that we are hardly seeing any new entry-level cameras announced these days, especially DSLRs. The Nikon D5X00 series of DSLRs always had a frequent update schedule – 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 – until it didn’t. The D5600 is the most recent camera in the lineup, and it was released in 2016. Whether there will ever be another is anyone’s guess.
Mirrorless is faring a bit better on the update schedule, but not by much. It’s been about two years since Sony announced an entry-level camera – the a6100 – and it’s at the upper end of “entry-level” anyway. (Arguably, the last Sony camera that truly qualified as entry-level is the a5100, which came out all the way back in 2014!)
I’m not making the quite same argument as Nasim did when he said that aps-c has no future. I think high-end aps-c cameras have a perfectly comfortable place on the market in the future, should camera companies choose to target it. And I’m only talking about the new market; the used market for entry-level cameras is probably never going to die. Today, if I needed a great $250 camera, I’d immediately look for something used in the Nikon D3X00 or D5X00 lineups.
But as time passes, and more high-end cameras of the past sell for the same price as entry-level cameras of the present, increasingly more photographers will choose the older gear. Personally, I’ve bought all but one of my cameras used and plan to keep doing so in the future. I know that many photographers are the same: no real qualms about buying used if the price is good enough and the seller reliable.
What does this mean for camera companies going forward? On one hand, it’s certainly not good news. Most manufacturers have relied on entry-level cameras to bolster their sales for years. By volume – though not always by profit – it’s the biggest market for almost every camera company.
On the other hand, it’s not a total loss. Nikon won’t earn any money directly if you buy a D750 used, but I’m sure they’d rather you do that than buy a Sony or Canon. A Nikon D750 owner will probably buy something new from Nikon eventually.
Camera companies can also make the most of this bad situation by finally adding more features to their entry-level cameras instead of artificially limiting them. If a hypothetical Nikon D5700 had 8 FPS and the 51-point focusing system, it would be worth considering over a used D750, for example. But history suggests this is probably unlikely to happen, as companies don’t want to cannibalize the rest of their lines. An alternative would be to sell entry-level cameras for much less, like $300 or so, but that seems even less likely.
As photographers, the biggest implication of all this is that we’ll see fewer and fewer entry-level camera announcements in the coming years. It might not be obvious in the mirrorless world right now, since companies like Nikon and Canon still need to fill out their entry-level lineup, but it’s already clear in DSLRs. Within a few years, I expect it to be the norm almost everywhere you look.
I should mention that this isn’t the only thing killing entry-level cameras. High quality smartphones are already encroaching on this territory, and we all saw how that went for point-and-shoots. Also, plenty of photographers who already have existing entry-level cameras feel no need to upgrade – as they may have in the past – because theirs is already good enough. (See the laughably small differences between 2012’s Nikon D5200 and 2016’s Nikon D5600 for an obvious example; few D5200 owners would have any reason to jump to the D5600.)
But the decreasing cost of used gear is surely one of the biggest factors that will kill, or at least severely limit, entry-level cameras. When a Nikon D750 in good condition costs the same as a new Nikon D5600 – itself a camera from 2016, hardly bleeding-edge tech – how many knowledgeable photographers will pick the D5600? And if the answer is “not many,” why would Nikon bother making a D5700 or D5800?
Every day, more high-end cameras from the past will sell for low prices used, and more photographers will realize it. As those trends continue, fewer people will be able to justify buying an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless cameras new – which means camera companies have little reason to invest in updating those lineups.
Fuji do a very reasonable refurbishment deal here in the uk on cameras and lenses. I have bought my last camera and two lenses with the benefit of the items being fully serviced by Fuji technicians. The prices are competitive with the used market.
Spencer, nice discussion.
Half my lenses, or more, have been purchased used. With manual lenses careful inspection for dirt, fungus, scratches can be done. But when it comes to autofocus lenses with VR, we as buyers cannot know if there is subtle damage short of complete failure.
Modern electronic cameras can look clean outside yet have corrosion from moisture exposure hidden inside. One such camera came to me used, a Canon S95 to be carried while bicycling. The battery drained dead unless removed between shoots. I sent it to Canon. It was not repairable. I’d bought it on eBay from a small dealer, no warranty, but it was cheap which was what I’d valued for the intended usage. Another, a Sony Nex-7 I’d bought new in 2012, was exposed to light rain for less than a minute. Weeks later the circuit controlling lens aperture failed. (It’s still in use, with manual lenses, now converted to IR 590nm.)
When buying a used camera body, do so from a reputable dealer offering a decent warranty, as you have advised.
Let this sink in. For the same price as the d5600 with two kit lenses i was able to buy a nikon d600 in great shape with 3750 actuations, the 70-300 g series ed vr kit lens and the tamron 24-70 2.8 g1. I absolutely agree with this article
That’s incredible! Nicely done.
It’s not just low end cameras that are getting killed. I picked-up my used Nikon Z7 + 24-70 f/4 S for $2,400 CAD. Unless a person *really* needs the Z7 upgrades or can write off the depreciation as a business asset, who in their right mind is going to pay twice as much for the new Z7 II?
You nailed it. Great article.
Your argument is interesting but you also have to balance it against the fact that cameras are becoming so good, that fewer people will want to upgrade in the future and hence the future used market will dwindle. There are so many used Sony A9’s only because people found value in upgrading to the A1. There are so many used D750’s because so many people wanted to switch to mirrorless. However, at some point, and that point is coming soon, cameras will be so good that the only reason people will sell them is if they lose interest in photography.
Subscriptions and rentals won’t come to cameras. The only reason why subscriptions work for software is because the software world moves so fast, companies can sell their subscriptions on the promises of upgrades, new features, and cloud storage. But I don’t need to upgrade my camera that much. Five years from now, my D500 will work exactly the same way as it does now and probably won’t even need maintenance.
Instead what will happen is that camera companies will just produce high/medium-end cameras that will last forever. I am not worried at all about the camera industry. They are becoming like the piano industry. There are TONS of amazing used pianos out there, as the piano matured long before the camera has, and yet that industry can still survive. There used to be pianos in way more homes than today. Now only serious people use them and they might cost more.
I think this is generally a good thing. Personally, I like the fact that Nikon is focusing all their energy on quality lenses and not junk. Standards have increased and cameras are the best they have ever been. People who aren’t discerning about quality can use a phone.
I’m glad camera factories invented mirrorless because there is a huge second hand dslr market now and you really need no mirrorless to make great pictures. I’m surprised so many people make the step to a new system so easily. I think buying stuff is easier than using it.
Tôi thích Nikon,hiện mới vừa mua 1 body Nikon d300s
My D750 has a tilt screen and is my backup to my D850. I kept the D750 rather than trade it in. Cameras are like cars. Used cars are a main part of the market. If nobody buys the used then new sales are affected. Maybe one of the big camera companies needs to lease. I do agree the “smart phone” is changing entry level cameras but also photography as a whole.
I’ve wondered if we’ll start to see a leasing/rental model become the norm. I’d hate it personally, but so many other industries are going that direction now…
Spencer, good take on the market, but your only giving us part of the story. Your example, a D5600 vs a D750. You mention that the D750 used purchaser would give Nikon some downstream money from lens sales – but don’t forget, like for like, in general terms, FX lenses are twice the price or more of DX lenses – and the revenue from those until recently was pretty amazing. A new element is now in the mix. Mirrorless. This means Nikon abandoning it’s customer base with not only a mirrorless system but also the need to swap out all your lenses. This will inevitably lead to a glut of FX lenses hitting the market and putting a downward pressure on value – the opposite of what we were experiencing until the Z series appeared. Prior to that, the old adage, get good glass, was sound, in that lenses held their value if looked after properly. Now, all those who spent a fortune on FX lenses will see their investment tumble dramatically as the Z series continues to grow. Nikon will be happy, the new generation of photographers, and those of us who choose to upgrade, ,won’t be in the DSLR market if no new products are on the drawing board.
I regret the financial loss I and tens of thousands of us will experience due to the impact of Mirrorless, in time if not right now – But the Z5 is there for the DX shooters and Nikon will have to address the cost / benefit ratios to entice new photographers into buying them. There is a price point which cannot be exceeded for people who are mostly hobbyists and DX shooters – certainly if it is their first camera. They’ll not be blowing ten grand on three lenses and a body on the first visit to the camera store.
The way I see it, the DSLR development is over – Nikon won’t tell us that until remaining stocks are all sold, but trust me, it is over. The D850 ‘replacement’ (dubbed the D880) which was rumoured to be due to show up in spring this year? That’s all gone a bit quiet. There is a reason for that.
As for me, the quality of product and images, and features on my D850 will see me out. Let’s face it, You can make prints four metres wide from a D850 image properly exposed and processed, especially if you use the new Camera Raw 13.2 enhance feature, turning it into a monster size image.
Those like me, who own and use high end DSLR’s with the attendant lenses,, would do well to stick to them. I will only put my hand in my pocket for a new camera now if my D850 decides to explode one day – or it gets stolen or dropped in the water. Even then, I’ll try to source a used one first. We didn’t see the impact of the Z mirrorless cameras in time – If I was at the point where I got my D850, then I would probably have got the Z7 – but already the Z7II is out, and everyone in the trade is sayig it fixes all the problems of the original (problems I don’t recall reading anything about). So it looks like the Nikon conveyor belt is starting up again, but this time they want to keep a range of mirrorless and frequently upgraded bodies coming at us, and a range of lenses designed to kill the F mount models – how sad, but that, as they say, is business. By the way – this also applies to all the major manufacurers, Nikon are not alone in doing this – they are just trying to survive, and loyalty to cusomers comes last, because they need NEW customers too.
I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said. And I think Nikon’s switch to mirrorless will help them push this problem down the road, because suddenly there is a reason to get an entry-level camera again (the Z50 for its lighter weight, among other features) that the DSLRs didn’t have. Or new lenses again.
As you say, the D850 is already about as good as a DSLR could possibly get. How could they convince D850 users to jump to anything else on the DSLR side of things? It wouldn’t be easy. But suddenly a Z9 or something like it can appear on the mirrorless side of things, and maybe it’s tempting to get a new camera again. But that trick only works one time, and once the photographer has jumped to mirrorless, they’re in the same situation again.
From the perspective of a photographer, I can’t complain, but I don’t envy the camera manufacturers right now.
Sorry, but when I buy a used camera, the person who sold it has very likely just bought a new one, from which sale Nikon takes its cut. And the dearer the camera they bought because they could sell their old one, the bigger that cut.
Besides, if entry level cameras get rarer, used cameras will become more in demand and their price will rise, thus allowing those who stayed in the entry level market to make some decent money.
As an aside, every time I pick up my D7500 I just love how it handles. My (used) D610 is such a tank in comparison. I do therefore hope that Nasim is dead wrong about aps-c DSLRs.
What you’re describing is often true, but keep in mind that nowhere in the process you outline does Nikon sell a new entry-level DSLR.
I’m not saying Nikon is dying or camera sales are dying. It’s just the entry-level side of the market that looks bad to me right now.