Digital SLR Camera: How To Get a Good DSLR Camera Cheap
Finding a Cheap Digital SLR Camera
My wife has wanted a digital SLR camera for years. SLR stands for "single lens reflex". SLR cameras allow you to see through the lens using the viewfinder or LCD screen- this way you can see exactly what image will be captured with your camera. SLR cameras also allow you to use interchangeable lenses such as telephoto lenses.
Digital SLR cameras use a digital sensor rather than film to capture the image. The resolution of digital SLR cameras keeps increasing, with sensors over 20 megapixels now available in the consumer digital camera market.
As the capability of digital SLR (DSLR) cameras has increased, the price has also come down significantly. You can buy a new DSLR camera for under $500 that includes a high quality lens and is packed with features.
One thing to watch out for: many digital SLR cameras are sold with no lens included. This is usually listed as a "camera body". If you buy a camera without a lens, you will need to spend $100 or more to get a high quality lens for your camera.
Find Cheap Used Digital SLR Cameras
My first thought on finding a cheap digital SLR camera was to check out used cameras. Lots of people buy expensive cameras or get one for a gift and don't end up using them much. Other people get a new camera and no longer need their previous camera. This creates a supply of used DSLR cameras, many in great condition.
A good thing about buying a used digital SLR camera is that many include lenses, camera bags, extra batteries, and other items along with the camera. Some people want to sell all of their camera stuff all at once. Buying a camera with accessories included can be a good deal.
I read some product reviews for cameras that are 5 to 8 years old- these are the ones likely to be easy to find for sale now. I picked a couple models that seemed promising: the Canon XTi and the Nikon D90. These were state-of-the-art, expensive cameras a few years ago. Used ones are cheap now.
Used Digital SLR Cameras on eBay and Craigslist
I found a supply of used Canon XTi and Nikon D90 digital SLR cameras on eBay. Some were selling for $125 (buy it now price) for the camera body! I found a Canon XTi Digital Rebel camera body with lens, extra battery, and other accessories in an auction. I bid $180 and set a maximum bid at $220. Unfortunately, I was outbid at the last second. The Canon XTi kit sold for $235. There are lots of used cameras for sale on eBay- I could have easily found a good deal had I persisted. The Nikon D90's on eBay were selling for quite a bit more than the Canon XTi's.
I decided to check for any used cameras on Craigslist. I found a Nikon D80 set with lots of accessories selling for $235. This seemed like a great deal, although the D80 lacks some features of a D90, but if it costs $100 less it may be worth some compromise. I also found some newer models like a Nikon D3100 kit with tons of accessories for $430.
Disadvantages of Buying a Used Digital SLR Camera
Before pursuing used digital SLR cameras further, I considered the disadvantages of buying a used camera:
- Some older models do not provide real-time LCD display- you have to look through the optical viewfinder
- Older digital cameras use slower memory and slower media- may cause lag
- Older digital cameras do not support large memory cards
- A used camera may have dust inside, reducing photo quality
- SLR cameras have a fixed life in terms of the number of shutter snaps- they can wear out
My biggest fear was that I would spend a couple hundred dollars on a used camera for my wife and she would not like it because it was not responsive enough or because the LCD display does not show a live preview.
It is very frustrating to push the button and wait for your camera to respond. I once tried to photograph my son in marching band during a parade. They were not moving that fast, but by the time my camera took the picture, he had already gone by! I want a camera that can take several pictures per second and takes pictures right away when I push the shutter button.
I decided that buying a used SLR camera could be a huge waste of money unless you have a chance to try them out before buying one. I would be better off saving for a newer camera than buying an older camera that may not be as useful as we would like.
Cheap New Digital SLR Cameras
Next I focused on newer digital SLR cameras, designed within the past two years. These models support fast type 10 flash memory cards and have high resolution live preview LCD displays. Also, the response time is very fast.
However, money is important. I needed to find a cheap new digital SLR. I found a Nikon D3100 on clearance at Best Buy. Better yet, they were sold out. Why is that better? They still had the display model, and I asked if I could buy that. I figured I could save at least $50 off the clearance price of $450. The store manager said she would need to determine if the camera was provided by Nikon, or if Best Buy owned it and could sell it to me. In the mean time, I continued my research.
The product reviews showed that the Canon EOS Rebel T3i was superior in almost every way to the Nikon D3100. Unfortunately the price of the Canon T3i at Best Buy was $550, and it was not a display model. I checked the price of the Canon T3i with lens on amazon.com. I had to click a button to reveal the price, which was under $450 and included free shipping.
The manager from Best Buy called to let me know that I could buy the Nikon D3100 display model, but I didn't even bargain. I had already ordered the Canon T3i.
Tips for Buying a Digital SLR Camera Cheap
- There are great deals on used digital SLR cameras 5 to 8 years old on eBay and Craigslist. You can get a high quality digital SLR camera with lens for under $250
- When buying an SLR camera make sure you understand whether a lens is included or not, and which lens you are getting
- Try an older camera model in person to make sure it is fast enough and that the LCD display is adequate
- You can find new digital SLR cameras designed within the past 2 years for just over $400
- At stores, watch for open box returns and display models at a big discount
- The extra price of buying a new camera may be worth it- you get a warranty and more features
© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher