10 Best Buys in Used Film & Digital Cameras

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Opting for a used camera in excellent condition can be a great way of acquiring a high-quality, high-performance machine at a very attractive price. To give you a heads-up on some of the best deals out there we’ve carefully selected 10 cameras—five digital and five analog—that will give you a substantial bang for your buck and also fit seamlessly into your present system. There’s always an element of subjectivity in compiling an “A-list” like this, and there are certainly many other fine choices available in both categories.

Because digital cameras have advanced at such a dizzying pace, all the used digital models listed below are relatively recent and most will perform on a par with the latest models. We’ve also favored analog cameras that use AF or manual focus lens mounts that are compatible with current digital models. When buying a used camera make sure it comes with a time-specific guarantee and/or a no-questions-asked return privilege. Buying from a reputable source such as the B&H Used Department is the best way to ensure you’ll be satisfied with your purchase.

Digital Cameras

Olympus OM-D E-M1: This Micro Four Thirds System DSLR-style classic is the predecessor of the current OM-D E-M1 Mark II. It delivers impressive performance thanks to a 16.3MP Live MOS image sensor coupled to a high-spec TruPic VII processor that enhances responsiveness and image quality and provides sensitivity settings of up to ISO 25600. It also has a large, wide-view, high-magnification, 2.36m-dot eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF) that yields a 100% view, a 3.0-inch, 1037k-dot, tilting OLED touchscreen, and a 5-axis sensor-shift image-stabilization system for shake-free handheld stills or Full HD video. It can record full-res bursts with AF at up to 10 fps, has built-in wireless connectivity, offers an enhanced customizable multi-function control array and its rugged magnesium alloy body is dustproof and weather resistant. Used price range: $300-500, body only.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera

Sony Alpha a7R: This handsome compact, first-generation E-mount mirrorless camera incorporates an advanced feature set including a high resolution 36MP full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor coupled to Sony’s highest-tech BIONZ-X Image Processor. It dispenses an optical anti-aliasing filter and incorporates Sony’s proprietary gapless on-chip lens design to deliver impressive image quality. It also provides an ultra-hi-res 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, a tilting 3.0-inch 1,299k-dot TFT LCD monitor, and a Multi-Interface shoe to expand flash options. Other features: Full 1080p video capture at 24p/60i/60p with remote capture capability, built in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, Eye AF control, Quick Navi direct access interface, ISO settings 100-25600 plus an extended mode, and a maximum full-res burst rate of 4 fps. Used price range: $650-850, body only. The Sony Alpha a7S is similar, but with a 12.2MP full-frame sensor, 4K video over HDMI output, and much higher ISO settings for low light (used price range: $700-900, body only). The basic Sony Alpha a7 has a 23.4 MP sensor and a 5 fps burst rate, and a lower price point (used price range: $600-750, body).

Sony Alpha a7R Mirrorless Digital Camera

Canon EOS 5D Mark II: Incorporating a 21.1MP full-frame CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced DIGIC 4 image processor, the 5D Mark II unveiled in 2008 was the first Canon EOS DSLR to provide Full HD 1080p video capture, and established the 5D series as the mainstay of pros and serious enthusiasts. It provides sensitivity settings of ISO 100-6400, expandable to ISO 25600, a full-res burst rate of up to 3.9 fps, and a 3.0-inch, 921k-dot LCD. Its AF system has 9 user points and 6 assist points; its full-aperture auto-exposure (AE) system has 35 zones to enable evaluative, partial, spot, and center-weighted averaging metering; and its electronic focal plane shutter provides speeds of 30-1/8000 sec. Robust and durable it still delivers pro-caliber performance. Used price range: $650-800, body only.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Nikon D7100: Once the flagship of Nikon’s DX-format (APS-C) DSLR line, this rugged, full-featured machine features a 24.1MP CMOS sensor coupled to an EXPEED 3 image processor and eliminates the optical low-pass filter to enhance image sharpness and detail. The D7100 incorporates a big 3.2-inch 1,229k-dot LCD monitor, a Multi-Cam 3500DX 51-point AF sensor for quick, precise autofocus, and a 2,016-pixel RGB exposure-metering sensor for enhanced multi-mode metering accuracy. Other features and capabilities: a native ISO of 6400 expandable to ISO 25600, a full-res burst rate up to 6 fps for 100 shots, Full HD 1080p video at 60i, 50i, 30, 25, and 24 fps, i-TTL flash compatibility, and Wi-Fi via an optional WU-1a mobile wireless adapter. It’s all built into a robust weather- and dust-sealed body. The Nikon D7100 is still available brand new at B&H. Price: $696.95, body only. Used price range: $450-$550, body only.

Nikon D7100

Sony NEX 6: This classic high-performance APS-C mirrorless compact is still a versatile, high-performance everyday shooter and it’s optically compatible with current Sony E-mount cameras. It features a 16.1MP Exmor sensor coupled to an advanced BIONZ processor to deliver impressive image quality, full-res bursts at up to 10 fps, Full HD 1080p video at 60p, 60i, and 24p, plus ISO settings of 100-3200 extendable to ISO 25600. The NEX 6 has a tilting 3.0-inch 921k-dot LCD plus an eye-level XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF, provides fast, precise Hybrid AF with Phase-Detection AF, has a built-in pop-up flash, and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. Unique features: Clear Image 2x Digital Zoom, 11 picture effect modes, auto portrait framing, face and smile detection, Auto HDR, and 6-image layering. The standard 16-50mm Sony OSS lens delivers outstanding image quality and has built-in optical image stabilization to minimize the effects of camera shake. Used price range: $300-$350 with 16-50mm lens.

Sony NEX 6 with 16-50mm OSS lens

Film Cameras

Canon EOS 3: Introduced in 1998 and discontinued in 2007, this 35mm AF SLR was one of Canon’s last great film cameras and it’s optically compatible with all current Canon EF-mount DSLRs. It has comprehensive weather sealing, and it pioneered the 45-zone AF system used on subsequent Canon pro-level DSLRs. Other features: user-programmable Eye-Control Focus, 21-zone metering, Depth-of-Field AE, E-TTL flash, Predictive and Servo AF, a burst rate up to 4 fps (7 fps with PB-E2 booster), and a 100,000-cycle electronically controlled focal plane shutter with speeds of 30-1/8000 sec and X-sync at 1/200 sec. The EOS 3 a great choice for crossover analog/digital Canon fans. Used price range: $200-350, body only.

Canon EOS 3 with Cann EF 28-135mm lens

Pentax K1000: The Volkswagen Bug of 35mm SLRs, this elegant, straightforward, and reliable manual match needle SLR was in production for over 20 years and established Pentax K-type bayonet mount. First made in Japan, then in Hong Kong, and finally in mainland China, it was produced in huge numbers with minor variations (e.g. the K1000 SE with split-image rangefinder screen), and still appeals to film fans. Its K-mount lenses that will generally work (with some exceptions) on the latest Pentax DSLRs. Features include: Single-stroke film-wind lever, fixed eye-level pentaprism, cloth focal-plane shutter with speeds from 1-1/1000 sec plus B, two-CDS-cell, through-the-lens, centerweighted metering at maximum aperture. Standard lenses: 55mm f/2, 50mm f/2, and 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax, all excellent performers. Used price range: $125-200 with 50mm lens.

Pentax K1000 with j50mm f/2 SMX Peentax A lens

Nikon F100: Unveiled in 1999, this sophisticated model was one of the last full-featured upper-tier autofocus Nikon 35mm SLRs, and is considered a scaled-down version of the hefty pro-level Nikon F5. The F100 incorporates a version of Nikon’s Matrix Metering System that uses a 10-segment light sensor and factors in distance information to provide more accurate exposures. Its AE system also offers standard center-weighted and spot-metering modes, and its Dynamic Autofocus system is still very effective. It provides a burst rate up to 4.5 fps (up to 5 fps with optional MB-15 battery pack) and has many high-end features including auto bracketing, DX auto film-speed setting, shutter speeds 30-1/8000 sec, and 22 custom function settings. Best of all, it accepts every Nikon AF Nikkor and most manual AI and AI-S Nikkor lenses. Used price range: $125-250, body only.

Nikon F100 with 50mm f/1

Minolta Maxxum 9xi: A cutting-edge AF SLRs when it was released in 1992, the futuristic, smoothly contoured 9xi had the world’s fastest AF system, a top shutter speed of 1/12000 sec made possible with carbon-reinforced shutter blades, and a 14-zone, honeycomb-pattern, evaluative metering system. Its pentaprism uses transparent LCD technology to project complete information (albeit unlit) into the viewing area, and it provides TTL phase-detection AF system using a 4-sensor system. Its Minolta A-Mount lens system was adopted by Sony and it’s fully compatible with Sony’s current A-mount cameras. The 9xi can shoot bursts at up to 4.5 fps, has an Eye-Start system that activates the camera when you bring it to eyelevel, and provides 3-frame auto-bracketing. Though somewhat idiosyncratic it’s a formidable picture taker, and integrates very well with current pro-caliber Sony offerings. Indeed, many of the lenses Minolta offered to complement the 9xi and its stable mates are outstanding performers now coveted by Sony users. Used price range: $75-200 with or without lens.

Minolta Maxxum 9xi

Hasselblad 500 C/M: This timeless modular 2-1/4 x 2-1/4-inch roll film SLR from Sweden was the mainstay of pros in the film era and it’s still a superb and durable machine capable of the outstanding results. It has a Synchro-Compur 1-1/500 sec plus B leaf shutter in each providing full flash sync at any speed, interchangeable viewing screens, and uses reliable A-series film magazines. The classic bundle includes the basic body, the waist-level viewfinder, the superlative 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Planar normal lens, and the A12 magazine. Other features: hinged film-wind crank, dark slides for removing magazines, and visible signals to ensure that the magazine and camera body are in mechanical sync. The Hasselblad 500 C/M is exquisitely made and finished, surprisingly compact for a 2-1/4 SLR, and excepts a range of exquisite Carl Zeiss lenses from ultra-wide to telephoto. Used price range: $1,000-1,500 with waist-level finder, 80mm lens, and A12 film magazine.

Hasselblad 500C/M with A12 back and 80mm f/2

Are there any used cameras you think deserve a mention? Let us know in the comments below!

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5 Comments

After so many years of the NIKON F3 of use  I shall never forget this camera's use as my main "go to"camera. The lenses it functioned with provide me the ability to do anything. It deserves an credible spot on the list!!!!

After so many years, I'm still impressed with the quality of the pictures that come out of my Contax G2 and its superb Zeiss lenses. When my survivors eventually go to sell it, they will be saddened by its relatively low price in the used market. Surely, it deserves a place on a list like this.

No love for the Canon F1 ?

Another GREAT camera was the CANON 1V, as it was the last of the "Pro" 1 Series in the film era.  Additionally, although in some areas, they were fragile, one should not overlook the T90, the last of the FD-style cameras, and the direct precursor to the EOS line.  Even a clean 1N body is NOT a bad choice for a workhorse film camera.  It's interesting to note that one can mount a 600RT Flash onto a T90 body, and it will work.  When I had my T90 bodies, along side my 1V bodies, I also used the 540EZ Flash very successfully on the T90 due to the fact that the 300TL dedicated Flash was very limited.

Good choices but for manual focus 35mm I'd add the Canon AE-1 and AE-1Program, as well as the Minolta X-700. For affordable 35mm film rangefinders I recommend the Yashica Electro GSN and Konica Auto S2. And, for medium format film cameras I recommend the Mamiya 7 rangefinder--superb lenses that can produce razor-sharp images, portability and reliability. 

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