What is the Best Used DSLR?
- Desired Features of Best Used DSLR Cameras
- Best Used DSLR - Good: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Best Used DSLR - Better: Sony Alpha SLT-A99 II
- Best Used DSLR - Best: Nikon D5 (XQD)
- Final Thoughts
- larger image buffer
- using dual cards for memory
- exposure bracketing
- advanced flash controls
- faster shutter speeds
- rapid sequencing
- more AF points
- better white balance and color management
- easy-to-access manual settings
- 4 Reasons Why You Need a Flash Gun
- Nikon D6 Review
Photo by MarioGuti via iStock
Anyone searching the internet for advice about choosing the best used DSLR camera, with best emphasized, probably isn’t a first-time user of digital cameras and likely wouldn’t be interested in entry-level photography gear.
Since you found Photography Talk, I’m assuming you’re an avid photographer, perhaps even a professional or involved as a side hustle, and that you’re looking for ideas and advice on how to maximize your spending power to get the camera you really want and need. Used cameras represent one of the most cost-effective methods for upgrading your photography gear, whether pre-owned cameras or used lenses.
The place I go first when thinking about new-to-me equipment is the online platform MPB. Not only does MPB have an amazing selection of used DSLR cameras and other gear, but they also warranty almost everything they sell. Plus, MPB lists each camera with an accurate description of the condition since they thoroughly inspect every item they offer for sale. What’s not to like?!
Table of Contents:
Desired Features of Best Used DSLR Cameras
Photo by Jerry Ballard via iStock
What type of features might we be looking for when contemplating the best used DSLR cameras? As an advanced rather than beginner-level photographer, you have no doubt noticed the limitations of entry-level gear. It’s never about lens or sensor quality, since those are outstanding in virtually all modern cameras.
What more advanced photographers like yourself probably want are features and durability. The durability and ruggedness of cameras designated as prosumer or full-fledged professional are on a higher order than the cameras meant for casual use or for an entry-level price point. Added protection such as weather and dust sealing, more metal construction, and stronger motors and gears make these levels of cameras more capable as extended use tools.
Added features can make a huge difference when comparing the best used DSLR cameras. Things like the following can help ease your workflow and make certain techniques possible:
To keep this list of best used DSLR cameras short, I’m taking the approach of Good, Better, and Best. I’m also listing only Full Frame format DSLRs, though there are also excellent APS-C cameras we could use these ideas presented to compare models. If you want to change formats or adopt mirrorless technology, please look over our many articles discussing those topics.
Best Used DSLR - Good: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a fully professional-level camera that takes the Good slot in our best used DSLR cameras list. The Full Frame sensor is 30.4MP and has an extended ISO range of 50 - 102,400. There are heavier duty and higher pixel count cameras in Canon’s DSLR lineup, but this is a fantastic camera for use either as a primary camera or second body to one of those higher-cost DSLRs.
Some of the advanced features are the 61 AF points, continuous servo AF in Live mode for AF during video, and 7fps still image sequencing. This camera also has Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity (eases tethering workflow), an interval timer for the shutter, and two card slots (CF and SD). Add seven frame bracketing and a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body to the mix as well.
A couple of other fantastic features that make this an easy addition to the best used DSLR list are 4K video and Dual Pixel Raw.
The 4K video is in a cropped mode, so you’ll need to keep that in mind when planning videography. Dual Pixel Raw utilizes Canon’s own post-processing software for image microadjustment, bokeh shift, and ghosting reduction.
Canon EF lenses from the mid-1980s up to current will fit and function well on this camera, meaning it will fit nicely into your existing Canon EOS system. Lenses designed for APS-C DSLRs also work, putting the camera into a cropped format recording mode.
Best Used DSLR - Better: Sony Alpha SLT-A99 II
Sony DSLR users may feel a bit left out because of all of the attention given to Sony’s amazing series of Full Frame mirrorless cameras. Photographers with an investment in DSLR lenses can either use them on mirrorless cameras with an adapter or find one of Sony’s best used DSLRs, the Sony Alpha SLT-A99 II.
Sony Alpha SLT-A99 II is an interesting type of DSLR in that the mirror doesn’t actually move. It is a special translucent construction that passes through some light to the sensor and reflects some to the internal sensors. This involves a ½ f-stop reduction in effective lens speed, so that needs to be considered.
A translucent, non-moving mirror allows for some rapid sequencing and also takes advantage of the imaging sensor for advanced AF accuracy and speed. It uses a 42.4MP sensor with ISO range of 50 - 102,400. Though it has a mirror, it is a hybrid camera design. There is no prism, it uses an electronic eye-level viewfinder, and it has an articulated rear view screen.
A-mount lenses, going all the way back to Minolta Maxxum lenses from the 1980s, can mount and work on this camera, making it a great choice as the next DSLR camera for Sony Full Frame DSLR users. The large MP count Full Frame sensor captures huge RAW still files and also allows for 4K video with no crop or as an oversampled (5K down to 4K) Super 35 format.
Best Used DSLR - Best: Nikon D5 (XQD)
I actually had to do a virtual coin flip to decide what camera would go into the Best slot in this best used DSLR cameras list. In other words, there are a lot of cameras available that could be your personal best used DSLR choice.
The Nikon D5 is an amazingly tough and fully capable professional imaging device for pros and advanced enthusiasts using Nikon F-mount lenses. Almost any lens you can find that is F-mount will fit and function as they should on this camera, even many of the lenses made in 1959 for the original Nikon F pro series 35mm film camera if updated to the 1977 standard AI controls.
Inside is a 20.8MP Full Frame sensor with an ISO range of 100 - 102,400 that can be expanded all the way up to 3,276,800 with the Hi+5 setting. It can cycle at 12 fps or 14 fps with the mirror up for super-rapid image capture sequencing. It also records 4K video with no cropping.
Most of the Nikon D5 cameras use the XQD card system though some were made with CF cards. Either way, you get two card slots. The XQD cameras can also accept CFE cards. The XQD and CFE cards add to the overall professional status of this camera since these cards are virtually indestructible, within reason, of course.
This is a full-fledged professional system camera, able to withstand hard use and with virtually every feature you could think of that a working pro might need or desire. It was supplanted by the Nikon D6 and the mirrorless Nikon Z9, but is a camera that will probably last until you simply don't want it anymore.
Photo by Antonio_Diaz via iStock
What camera brand you already have will be a huge influence on what camera you see as the best used DSLR for your needs, but this small list gives you an idea of the range of fine used cameras out there.
Whatever you decide, MPB likely has it as pre-owned stock. Give their site a look and shop with confidence of getting the best used DSLR to use for your fine imaging. This includes many other DSLRs you might deem as being a better fit for your needs.
Of course, MPB also has a large selection of pre-owned lenses for each of the camera systems featured in this article. And since MPB prices their gear so well, there’s a good chance you can get the camera you want plus a lens or two without breaking the bank!