So now you've had a sleep and a yawn and coffee and you are ready to actually think, so think about buying a good camera.
First let's talk about why you should buy a used camera.
Well, first they are cheaper. Camera equipment has a terrifically short product cycle. Major producers like Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Canon bring out new models before the old model's packing has been completely sealed. Canon produced seven models between 2006 and 2012 and all of them are now obsolete.
Which is very good news for you. Cause obsolete gear has a low resale value. But that doesn't make it bad or useless or even unreliable. In fact with modern electronics, they either work or they don't. So a camera two years old may be four or five hundred less than a new one and just as reliable and capable. Remember manufacturers build for extreme conditions. They don't expect every user to subject their equipment to extreme use but they have to build for it because some user will. And you get the advantage of all that superior construction.
Camera life spans are measured by shutter activations. A moderately priced camera should be good for at least fifty thousand activations: a superior build might do more than a hundred thousand. But no matter what unless you are a working professional, you'll never reach even the fifty thousand mark. That's 1700 pictures a year for thirty years for those who have to have specifics.
So a camera two or three years old will be just as reliable as a new camera, if you buy from a reliable source. Now I know the merchants want you to shop small and buy local and with Craigslist just a click away on every phone the temptation to buy from a local is pretty strong...until you think about the guarantee.
Craigslist may be local but if you buy a turkey it is yours. Besides most Craigslist sellers have a very dear idea of what their items are worth. Now I don't want to cheat anyone out of a dime they deserve but I don't want to make their Mercedes payment either.
A Canon 7D on Craigslist sells for $750 but from Adorama it is $170 body only, B&H has one for $399.95 with a two year no questions guarantee and KEH has one for $349.80 and it has the sterling reputation of KEH cameras to back it up. So for less than half of Craigslist you get the same thing and a money-back guarantee. Just a thought.
But the 7D while a fine camera is a bit of a hill for our purposes. You want to stay away from pro-level or even advanced consumer cameras. Why not go for the best? Because pros and advanced amateurs beat the hell out of their cameras taking thousands of frames a year and dragging them through all sorts of conditions I wouldn't even drag myself through. Sure that perfect image of a snowy owl is great except for the sitting in a freezing blind for twelve hours waiting for the little plucker to show up. And all of that cold and wet in addition to getting into your bones, gets into your camera. Or what about the dunes? All those wild buggies tearing through the sand with spinning tires and boiling exhausts spewing out stuff which will seek out your camera and invade any crack or cranny. No those pro cameras lead exciting lives but when they are done they are done. Think taxi cabs, you wouldn't want your daughter driving one to school in Roseburg, right?
So what you are looking for is that nice entry level camera owned by a little ole lady who only took it to church socials and teas. That puppy has a lot of life and you want some of it.
And giant sensors with a bazillion megapixels just take up space you need for all of those cat videos you downloaded from YouTube.
So how much is enough?
You are in luck, I used to say twelve megapixels but this year the sixteen and eighteen megapixel jobs are cheap enough to consider. All of which makes the twelve megapixel cameras a real steal!
Why just twelve? Because it is enough to make beautiful 11x14 prints with no image degradation. Need even more definition? Shoot in RAW and edit in post production. But that is for the advanced class so I'll just say twelve will do the job and if aunt Behapsabub keels over suddenly and names you heir to the vast hair net fortune she has been hoarding all of these years treat yourself to a sixteen megapixel baby.
Okay so now you know what you want and why you want it what makes it so much better than the cigarette package point and shoot or the camera in your phone? I already mentioned all those big fat megapixels just waiting for you to use them and the faster CMOS sensor instead of the CCD sensor in your phone, and best of all you can change the lens!
Why in the world would you want to change a lens and how would you do it even if you wanted to? First changing lenses offers a whole range of new views. The McCollough Bridge needs a wide angle lens if you want to get it all. Sure you can do that with your phone but what will it look like when it is blown up to 11x14? Maybe you want a perfect image of your daughter before she goes off to school and dyes her hair blue and red and gets a piercing through her nose and eyebrows and tongue and maybe I'll just stop there, You want her to look like you dreamed of her, grown, fresh and oh so beautiful, you can do that with an 85mm lens. And it will stay that way even when she starts dating that thirty-five year old grunge guitarist named Barf with the bleeding heart tattoo on his forehead.
Oh yes, if you can operate a flush toilet or a light switch you can change a lens.
So what does all of this mean? It means you now have to decide, Pentax Kx, Canon Xsi or Nikon D90. (You could also do a Sony A700 but you;d be losing out on a lot of accessory choices)
How to chose? Isn't there a Match.com for DSLRs? No but before you rake in all that Holiday cash I will help you make a decision which will warm your heart, save your 401K and fill your New Year with glorious images.