Yesterday, while thinking about the upcoming wedding that I have to shoot, I glanced at my trusty old D700. The rubber is coming off in places and needs to be glued back on, nothing serious. Two of the batteries that I have need replacing. The plastic screen protector has a few minor scratches on it, but would you expect anything else? No. Those are just minor signs of careful use. In every single way, it’s a damn good camera.
Then I wondered, would I recommend it to a beginner looking for an affordable entry into the full-frame world? Oh yes, definitely. And it’s not the only one. So if you are a beginner and you want to improve the quality of your family pictures, there are a lot of used, older cameras you could go for and not regret it. Let us glance through some of them.
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Where is This Coming From?
Although new cameras are still being released and they are undeniably better than their predecessors, it may be in only in one or two areas. The truth is, however, not everyone needs or can afford the “latest and greatest”. The good thing is, so many new cameras released means that there are some amazing used models out there. And so when done with care, purchasing a used camera is very much a viable option, and you know what? There are plenty of choices, too.
In this article, I will talk about a few full-frame cameras from different manufacturers that I can recommend to a beginner on a budget looking for his first full-frame camera.
Used Full-Frame Mirrorless
By now, all major manufacturers have released several iterations of mirrorless cameras, and that means there are great deals to be had on many earlier models that are around three to five years old.
Should you get a used mirrorless or used DSLR? For most people looking to expand their camera system later, I would recommend a mirrorless camera, especially since there are some amazing used models out there.
On the other hand, if you’d be happy with a few existing lenses and don’t plan to upgrade any time soon, a DSLR can be cheaper and just as good for most types of photography.
With the latest firmware, the Nikon Z6 has almost identical capabilities as the newer Z6 II. The Z6 is a very capable full-frame camera with eye-AF and excellent video capabilities also. If you are fine with just one memory card, then a used Z6 is my number one recommendation for an affordable, used Nikon Z full-frame camera. You should be able to find a used model for around $1000.
Personally, I love my Nikon Z6 and find it handles almost every sort of situation except fast action.
Another camera roughly in the same price range as a used Nikon Z6 is the Sony A7III. Although the Sony A7III is five years old now, its autofocus system is still more than enough for most shooters. Moreover, the selection of third-party lenses is the biggest for Sony, so you can save even more on lenses.
Although Canon’s RP is actually their cheapest full-frame mirrorless camera, I would recommend the R to most people looking for a budget camera. You can get a used Canon R for about $800, which is cheaper than the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A7III, and yet it has the highest resolution at 30MP.
The Panasonic S5 is also a moderately priced camera, with used copies around $800. Although it uses a less popular mount than the Nikon, Sony, and Canon models, the S5 is more of a hybrid photo/video model compared to the other cameras.
Used Full-Frame DSLRs
Although there are some good deals on used mirrorless cameras, there are even better deals on used full-frame DSLRs, because so many people have switched to mirrorless! Is it still a good idea to get a DSLR? As long as you know the disadvantages, then the following DSLRs can handle almost every kind of photographic situation. The only case where I would really recommend avoiding DSLRs is if you want to shoot a lot of video.
Most people say the Nikon D850 is the best full-frame DSLR every made. And unlike the specialized D6, the D850 with it’s 45.7MP sensor can handle almost anything. Its autofocus system is nearly that of the D500, with a slightly lower framerate. If I had to pick any Nikon full-frame DSLR to shoot with, I’d go right for the D850.
Although it is still a little more expensive at around $1800 used, it is one of the best value cameras for the money out there and should last a very long time.
I am listing two Nikon DSLRs here, with the D750 as the second one, because Nikon’s DSLR line does not have a more rounded model like the Canon 5DIV. The D750 is sort of like the Nikon Z6. It’s autofocus is not as good, but it’s still very capable.
Moreover, the D750 is one of the cheapest cameras you can get used, with copies in excellent condition going for about $600! In fact, the D750 is the cheapest camera on this entire list and it is still a great camera.
The Canon 5DIV is one of my favourite DSLRs on this list. Its original retail price was $2700 but you can get decent used copies for around $1400. If you’ve got some Canon L glass, it would be hard to beat the 5DIV, and it has better video capabilities than the D850.
Pentax K1 / K1 II
The Pentax K1 and it’s K1 II upgrade is an amazing alternative to the Nikon and Canon models at an even lower price. You can find near-mint used models for around $1000, which is a great price for a 36MP full-frame camera. The Pentax camera is very rugged, and would be an amazing landscape camera.
The only area where it lags compared to Canon and Nikon DSLRs is autofocus.
We could not possibly hope to have enough time to review older camera models, especially with so many new ones coming out. But the truth is, a lot of “old” models are still very much worth the attention, especially considering how much less expensive they are than their newer siblings.
In this article, I shared my recommendations for older full-frame cameras. If you were looking at older models or even thinking if it’s worth it, I hope this article was of some use to you.
In the end, remember this – the best camera is not just the one you have with you, but also that one that feels right in your hand, so make sure to try them out if at all possible before purchase. Also, I would strongly recommend reading our article on buying used DSLR cameras before you make your purchase so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Just as important is to remember a camera is only part of a system, so before you make up your mind be sure you are satisfied with the lens selection.
As I work on a similar article on older APS-C cameras, you are very much welcome to share your own personal experience with these and other models that you might have in the comments section below!
All fair enough but you don’t mention the colour balance of the respective chips. Canon and Pentax deliver a much richer image to my eye; I find Nikon and (especially) Sony to be sallow and unrewarding. Obviously you can play around with this in camera settings for jpegs and much more so in Raw mode – but even with the latter you hit a kind of depletion as you mess around with the various parameters. It’s horses for courses but the difference is worth mentioning, surely?
You forgot to mention the Pentax K1 and K1-II which have the benefits of a built in astrotracer, pixel shift, sensor shift and superb weatherproofing. They also take superb pictures and are worth considering if you only plan on taking stills as they offer superb colour rendition and image quality for a fraction of the price of their nearest competitors.
Why does everyone forget to mention the Pentax K1 and K1-Ii. They are great camera’s with terrific weatherproofing, solid build quality and many features not found in other top camera’s such as astrotracing, pixel shift and also sensor shift. For landscape photography they are superb and colour rendition is amongst the best out there. Pentax aim to produce the best quality photos possible so don’t expect great video capabilities, but expect your love of taking pictures to improve.
Just browsed the first 275 pages of the Canon 6D forum Photos section. I then looked at the first 25 pages of D700 photos. Reading reviews here and on Amazon, I was tempted to buy a used D700, but no longer. The real-life results on Flickr showed me beyond any doubt that the 6D gives much better low-light quality and a 20mpx sensor, for not a lot more money. Studying the photos, I get the sense that it’s also fun to use like the D700 – people seem to use it with enthusiasm.
For low light I’d recommend the K1 or K1-Ii from Pentax. Both highly underrated cameras but definitely worth considering if you only plan on taking stills.
great article, check ours out at
I’ve been considering upgrading to a FF DSLR for the past couple months and I’ve come to 2 cameras that I found myself liking a lot. One is the Canon 5D, and Sony a900. Which would you refer me to as a Hobbyist photographer looking to go into full frame?
Suggestions for other cameras would be greatly appreciated if any others besides those two come to mind.
Canon 5D MKII should be similar in used price to the A900 if you hunt for one. There are a ton of used lenses and accessories for Canon and many users to help online. Easier to hire lenses and lots of places to send of for repair too.
Other than that the Sony A7 is comparable in cost and gives excellent IQ if you aren’t into fast action, but full frame E-mount lenses are relatively few and silly prices. You don’t want to have to use adapters either.
Canon Biased? Nope, I am Sony SLT shooter and *I* would buy a used A900, indeed I am waiting from the A99II so that the A900 used price drops!
But as a NEW full frame dSLR user I would get a Canon/Nikon and buy a bunch of quality glass off the forums/eBay.
This article has a very narrow outlook. How can you say what is “worth it” on the second hand DSLR market when you do not even seem to know about much that is out there? Are Canon’s 1-series DSLRs not worth a mention? The 1-Ds, 1-Ds mark ii, 1-Ds mark iii and (with the appearance of the 1-Dx mark ii) the 1-Dx are all available second hand. And what about Nikon’s own professional line?
Those bodies are intended for sports (among other things) and are more expensive then other bodies that produce similar image quality. You have to stay focused to get somewhere.
Did you want to say something constructive about any of those bodies or just point out that the article is worthless?
It’s 2016 now, and I’m still doing great photos with my trustworthy 8 y.o. D700.
Who needs new technology when the one that you have is already perfect for what you do?
The biggest disadvantage of the D300 and D700 is the first generation software. Has anyone ever “hacked” a later version of the processing software into one of these bodies successfully?
Glad to read this article as I am looking at purchasing used not new for now, budgets you know! I was hoping to read your opinion about the 7D which is the camera I was looking at acquiring…. I want it for event photography which I seem to be asked to do more and more, and for which I want to increase the quality of images that my rebel just can’t handle anymore. And… landscape which I just love to do for relaxation!
When events are outside you will be fine. But as soon as they move indoors you will be in trouble. Go for a full frame. If you want to stay with Canon look into a used 6D. They are going for around 1K now.
Also consider switching to nikon. There are better cheaper options there.