Beginner Camera Options

nd01b

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Anyone have any recommendation of DSLR / Mirrorless models for under 300 used? Looking at Canon 100D / SL1, Fujifilm X-T20, Canon M100 / M6 / M50. 4K video would be nice but not necessary, and I'll be taking urban shots / landscape / nature as well as some cinematic videos. Beginner by the way.
 

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Anyone have any recommendation of DSLR / Mirrorless models for under 300 used? Looking at Canon 100D / SL1, Fujifilm X-T20, Canon M100 / M6 / M50. 4K video would be nice but not necessary, and I'll be taking urban shots / landscape / nature as well as some cinematic videos. Beginner by the way.

$300 is camera only, or including the lens?
 
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nd01b

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First, I'd start by getting your lens. Seriously--start with the lens. The lens (a good one) will be more expensive than your body. You're probably going to want something like a 25-75mm f2.8. That will be good for portraits, street photography, landscapes, architecture and fast enough for indoor with ambient light. Get a good 25-75mm f2.8 (or something like that: 20-70mm or 27-80mm, f2.8). The f2.8 is important because it produces lovely portraits (by blurring the foreground and background). And it allows you to get good photos even when the sun isn't shining brightly. And then buy a body that fits that.

I know, I know, that sounds bassackwards. But for $300 (or less for your body), your lens will be the most expensive (and critical part) of your shooting gear. Find a lens that will work for your purpose. Finding a body to go with it will be easy, especially since you're looking at "used." Lots of options there.

Also, if you buy from a camera store or someplace like Adorama or BEH, you can pick out the lens and then say "my budget is $300--what is a good DSLR for that lens?" And you can assemble a package (lens, body, maybe an extra battery, maybe a speed light or other stuff). Make sure you buy a battery charger with your camera.

I will give you a hint: the trend these days is to go mirrorless. That is where the camera companies are going. But mirrorless glass tends to be more expensive. And there are many bargains to be had (especially from people seeking to sell their DSLRs as they plunk down $3,000 or more for a mirrorless kit. I can almost guarantee you shouldn't buy mirrorless (because to get a mirrorless body under $300 means you're probably buying one that is very beat up or very early technology with a mediocre sensor).

A few other tips. Since you're a beginner, plan on investing in a manual or a book on your camera (the book is almost always a better read than the manual). If you want to do video, consider a tripod--they're also useful for landscapes. A good one will cost you a couple of hundred bucks. The cheap ones ($30-$40) aren't very stable for anything beyond a camera phone. If you buy mirrorless (especially a first gen mirrorless) you should buy a couple of extra batteries--DSLRs get about 3x-4x the number of shots per battery as a mirrorless. Older mirrorless cameras are even worse in that regard.

Finally, based on your description you made it sound like you are shooting subjects relatively close by. if you get interested in sports (a kid's club team) or wildlife or speciality topics (like macro photography) you're going to need more than one lens to start out with. You'll see general purposes lens (20mm-120mm or 30mm-300mm) available--but they'll be outside of your price range or very "soft" and poor in low light (meaning--any place indoors where you aren't using a flash or speed light). Do not count on the popup flash on your camera to provide good light--it's best for "fill" and not to light a scene (where it's a picture killer--creating flat photos or faces with lots of glare on them). So if you're going to shoot a lot indoors, consider buying a speed light to add on to your camera (you can buy Asian knockoffs like YongNuo on Amazon for $40) or some LED continuous lights to operate off of your camera.
 
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nd01b

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First, I'd start by getting your lens. Seriously--start with the lens. The lens (a good one) will be more expensive than your body. You're probably going to want something like a 25-75mm f2.8. That will be good for portraits, street photography, landscapes, architecture and fast enough for indoor with ambient light. Get a good 25-75mm f2.8 (or something like that: 20-70mm or 27-80mm, f2.8). The f2.8 is important because it produces lovely portraits (by blurring the foreground and background). And it allows you to get good photos even when the sun isn't shining brightly. And then buy a body that fits that.

I know, I know, that sounds bassackwards. But for $300 (or less for your body), your lens will be the most expensive (and critical part) of your shooting gear. Find a lens that will work for your purpose. Finding a body to go with it will be easy, especially since you're looking at "used." Lots of options there.

Also, if you buy from a camera store or someplace like Adorama or BEH, you can pick out the lens and then say "my budget is $300--what is a good DSLR for that lens?" And you can assemble a package (lens, body, maybe an extra battery, maybe a speed light or other stuff). Make sure you buy a battery charger with your camera.

I will give you a hint: the trend these days is to go mirrorless. That is where the camera companies are going. But mirrorless glass tends to be more expensive. And there are many bargains to be had (especially from people seeking to sell their DSLRs as they plunk down $3,000 or more for a mirrorless kit. I can almost guarantee you shouldn't buy mirrorless (because to get a mirrorless body under $300 means you're probably buying one that is very beat up or very early technology with a mediocre sensor).

A few other tips. Since you're a beginner, plan on investing in a manual or a book on your camera (the book is almost always a better read than the manual). If you want to do video, consider a tripod--they're also useful for landscapes. A good one will cost you a couple of hundred bucks. The cheap ones ($30-$40) aren't very stable for anything beyond a camera phone. If you buy mirrorless (especially a first gen mirrorless) you should buy a couple of extra batteries--DSLRs get about 3x-4x the number of shots per battery as a mirrorless. Older mirrorless cameras are even worse in that regard.

Finally, based on your description you made it sound like you are shooting subjects relatively close by. if you get interested in sports (a kid's club team) or wildlife or speciality topics (like macro photography) you're going to need more than one lens to start out with. You'll see general purposes lens (20mm-120mm or 30mm-300mm) available--but they'll be outside of your price range or very "soft" and poor in low light (meaning--any place indoors where you aren't using a flash or speed light). Do not count on the popup flash on your camera to provide good light--it's best for "fill" and not to light a scene (where it's a picture killer--creating flat photos or faces with lots of glare on them). So if you're going to shoot a lot indoors, consider buying a speed light to add on to your camera (you can buy Asian knockoffs like YongNuo on Amazon for $40) or some LED continuous lights to operate off of your camera.
Thanks for all of the information! Really helpful, and I'll be sure to buy a nice lens before anything else. I'll be shooting more far things than close, like landscapes, buildings, and such. I guess I might also do some wildlife photography but definitely not anything too far or too intensive, especially as I'm transitioning from a phone. I'm thinking more like a few animals here and there 10-15 ft away. I'm currently looking at Canon and Fujifilm for brands, are there any used camera models in my price range that you'd recommend? I'm fine with both DSLR and Mirrorless cameras from either brand. I'd prefer not to get a Nikon due to bad autofocus for videos, as well as Panasonic. I'm also not sure if I can get 4k in that price range, and many DSLRs only record up to 1080 30 while Mirrorlesses record 1080 60. Would the quality between these be similar? I've seen countless reports of Mirorless videos being better than DSLR for the entry level. Also are there any specific lenses you'd recommend for the two brands?
 

JoeW

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Thanks for all of the information! Really helpful, and I'll be sure to buy a nice lens before anything else. I'll be shooting more far things than close, like landscapes, buildings, and such. I guess I might also do some wildlife photography but definitely not anything too far or too intensive, especially as I'm transitioning from a phone. I'm thinking more like a few animals here and there 10-15 ft away. I'm currently looking at Canon and Fujifilm for brands, are there any used camera models in my price range that you'd recommend? I'm fine with both DSLR and Mirrorless cameras from either brand. I'd prefer not to get a Nikon due to bad autofocus for videos, as well as Panasonic. I'm also not sure if I can get 4k in that price range, and many DSLRs only record up to 1080 30 while Mirrorlesses record 1080 60. Would the quality between these be similar? I've seen countless reports of Mirorless videos being better than DSLR for the entry level. Also are there any specific lenses you'd recommend for the two brands?
First, the word you were given about Nikon focus being bad is false. Second, you kind find a wide range of cameras (including some professional bodies) for under a couple hundred dollars--but they'll likely have a lot of use.

Start by finding a good 25-75mm f2.8 lens you can afford that is in good shape and has autofocus. Then look for a camera body that works with it in your price range.

It sounds like video is very important to you. Mirrorless tends to be better at video. But the catch is--it will be more expensive. It will be very hard to find a mirrorless camera for under $300 (even used) unless it has had some really hard wear. Or it has minimal battery life. Or it's one of the first mirrorless (which means video capability may not be very good). Remember, when you say "within my price range"--you can find a camera body for $150--but it may be in bad shape or very worn out. Your best chance of getting good video but under $300 will be a body that is relatively recent, a DSLR, and what is called a crop sensor (a small sensor as opposed to a "full frame"). For instance, you can get a Nikon D7000 (crop body) that does video in good shape for under $300. It will record at: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. My point is not to push Nikon, it's to say that there are probably 120 different camera bodies that you can buy used for under $300 that do video--but some of them will be so used you shouldn't buy them. And the same body could sell for anywhere from $120 to $500 depending upon the shape it's in.
 

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