Is This the Best Used Camera Your Money Can Buy?

With rapidly developing technology and new releases happening often, you can find a lot of good deals on used cameras. Today I'll introduce you to one that might just be the best your money can buy.

In this 9 minute video from the guys at The School of Photography, you're introduced to what they think is the best used camera you can get. What is it? The Canon 5D Mark II. Some of the reasons they offer include its quality magnesium alloy construction, the fact it's a full-frame camera that works well in low light, and its high quality video.

They also consider some of the possible negatives such as storage device issues and lens compatibility problems. The price they give is roughly USD $600. My searches here in Japan came up with about $700 so you should be looking in that range. However, I was unable to find a used body on popular sites such as Amazon and B&H Photo Video, so you might have to do a little bit of searching online if you want to get your hands on one.

The one thing that I agreed with the most from the video and wished I’d been told when I first started out with photography was that getting a good quality full-frame used camera at a low(ish) price is a much, much better option than getting a brand new crop sensor APS-C format camera at a similar price.

That's exactly what I did and almost all my peers did too but every single one of us then moved on to a full-frame camera because of the limitations that an APS-C format camera has. It would have been much better to buy a used full-frame camera such as the Canon 5d Mark II or similar and then kept that as a backup should anything ever go wrong with my current Canon 5D Mark IV. As it is, my original APS-C camera is currently sitting in my bedroom gathering dust and hasn't been used in years.

What do you think? Firstly, about the choice of camera and secondly, about the idea of going straight to a used full-frame camera instead of getting a brand new low-end APS-C format camera and then upgrading to full-frame down the track? Let me know in the comments below.

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Iain Stanley's picture

Yes my pairing is the 5DIV and the 7DII

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

Iain, the video and this post leave me wondering how much experience you and the guy in the video have with current non-full frame cameras.

Let me start by saying that I was exclusively a Canon shooter until two years ago when I got a Fuji X-T2 because the 5d4 did not deliver the value of the Fuji and it cost twice as much. I started out with Canon Rebels, then got a 5D3, which I still have, along with a shelf full of Canon L glass.

I thought I was getting the X-T2 to have something smaller to have as a fun camera. For the last two years, except for occasions where I need my 70-200, I've shot exclusively with the X-T2 and the 24-84mm equivalent lens because the X-T2 outperformed my 5D3.

When I was primarily doing event photography, the X-T2 did as well or better than my 5d3 in low-light conditions. And by low light, I mean conditions that require ISO 5000 to 6400. With my 5d3, that's as high as I was interested in going before deciding just use a flash and a lower ISO. The X-T2 allowed me to maintain those same guidelines.

The APS-C cameras that came out at the time of the 5d3 couldn't shoot at those ISO levels and maintain IQ, but the current APS-C cameras can.

As far as video quality goes, the guy in the video says you can't tell the difference between the video in the 5d2 and the 5d4. That may be true due to how much Canon hobbled the video in the 5d4, but the 5d2 does not compete with any other current generation full frame, aps-c, or m4/3 camera. I don't think anyone would argue that you can definitely tell the difference between a 4K video shot with a Panasonic GH5 and a 1080p video shot on a 5d2.

As far as "the limitations that an aps-c format camera has", again, I wonder if you've used any of the current crop sensor cameras on the market. What limitations are you talking about? My X-T2 has a feature set that surpasses the 5d4 across the board, except for sensor size. It certainly beats the hell out of a 5d2...autofocus, focus peaking, remote control via smartphone, frames per second, incredible jpeg quality (option to shoot raw and still create Fuji jpegs later by plugging the camera into the computer), tilt screen (HUGE feature...saves so much wear and tear on your body when you do low angle stuff...I can lower the camera instead of kneeling).

My X-T2 does so much stuff my 5d3 can't do, it's ridiculous. And there's nothing my 5d3 can do that my X-T2 can't, including deliver quality images within the full range of ISOs that I shoot at (6400 and below).

And I'm not saying this because I'm a Fuji snob. I use the best tool for the job, which is why I'll be getting a Sony body to use with my Canon glass and I'll probably pick up a GH5 for video, at some point, unless the forthcoming Sony a7s3 matches the GH5 with some specific features I'm looking for.

Olympus is also doing some great things with m4/3.

APS-C is no longer low-end and full frame is no longer an upgrade anymore than medium format is an upgrade. When you go from aps-c to full frame, you get a bigger sensor and lose features. When you go from full frame to medium format, you get a bigger sensor and lose features. If you need a bigger sensor for a particular kind of photography, that's why you go with a bigger sensor, but sensor technology has advanced to the point that full frame is no longer better just because.

I'm going to upgrade to an X-T3 as soon as I can because Fuji put everything and the kitchen sink into that camera. It has a feature set that surpasses every Canon and Nikon full frame camera, including their new mirrorless releases. If you objectively go feature by feature and put a total score at the end, the X-T3 wins.

So a used 5d2 is not a better purchase than even a used current generation aps-c camera, in my opinion. It's definitely not a better purchase than a newly released aps-c camera. A used Fuji X-T2 is a superior camera to a used 5d2 or even a 5d3, unless you work for National Geographic and you need to subject your camera to the antarctic, the desert, and the jungle. Fuji is not built like Canon or Nikon, but for most people, a sport-utility vehicle is sufficient and a humvee is unnecessary.

The only way I can understand the perspective offered by you and the guy in the video is if you haven't spent time with the current generation aps-c and m4/3 cameras. When I started using my X-T2, I had no idea all the stuff I'd been missing out on because all I'd ever used was my 5d3. I'm not talking about bells and whistles, I mean features that had a substantive impact on my creative process. I lost nothing by using a smaller sensor and I've gained a ton of benefits.

And given how Canon insists on being dead freaking last when it comes to innovation, I don't know how you can recommend that someone just starting out go with Canon. Whether you buy used or brand new, you get old tech from Canon. I suspect most Canon shooters would not recommend Canon to someone just getting into photography. Innovation comes from everywhere, except Canon.

Michael Jin's picture

Depends somewhat on your company of choice. Fuji makes excellent APS-C lenses because they don't have a full frame system. For most of the companies doing both APS-C and full frame, choosing APS-C also means getting lower quality optics than their full-frame counterparts because those companies tend to view APS-C as a consumer format.

I generally agree about the ISO issue, though. Today's APS-C sensors perform so well that it's really a non-issue unless you're running around regularly shooting in extremely low light situations handheld.

Iain Stanley's picture

Great post full of highly valuable info. Of course everything is subjective depending on the type of photography you do. My 2 main earners are sports/surfing and landscapes. Low light and the crop factor were issues for me. I still have my Rebels, my 7DII and my 5D IV. I use my 7D for surfing only when the light is good. At sunrise/sunset and in-water, it’s not the best. Especially, for example, when you pair it with the Tokina 10-20mm fisheye in dark, early morning waves

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

It would be interesting to see what your experience would be from a week of using an X-T3 and the 12-24, 24-84, and 70-200 equivalent lenses that Fuji offers. They’re all weather sealed. The 12-24 is rectilinear, though. I don’t know if Fuji offers a fisheye.

Iain Stanley's picture

I’d love to give that setup a try. I’m always open to new avenues and opportunities but money and a mortgage dictate I remain loyal to Canon for the time being! As for fisheyes, they’re only really useful for inside waves and closeup underwater shots. Needless to say, often low light so I need a camera that handles that well

Gian Luca Corriero's picture

Nice review and nice camera, but isn't it a little bit too old? For the same price you can find a used 6D, or even a new one for 900 bucks ( at least in Japan in the online shop you can find it). I know the series 5 it's awesome but the original 6d too wasn't so bad...

Iain Stanley's picture

I don’t have a lot of experience with the 6D but many of my friends love the original

Terry Poe's picture

Used camera comes with history and associated risks. I'd rather go for a new camera but an aged model, like Canon 6D. Also sensor technology in new APS-C cameras has improved greatly that somewhat negates advantages of used old model full frame. Recently released Nikon D5300, with no low pass filter, is a great starter at very affordable price.

Iain Stanley's picture

That’s also an option but I guess the ballpark figure has to be in the $600-700 range. That’s one premise of the video here. Not sure you can get a new 6D at that price?

The 6D has better low light quality and is the same price range on the used market.
For lower ISO images nothing today beats the Canon 1DsMkIII. Solid as a rock, battery gives me 2,000 and more images before recharging and the images are excellent.

But, if you are willing to put up with slow working try the Sigma DP1, DP3 and DP3 MERRILL bodies. Image quality to die for. Check Digilloyd site to see just how good they are. If you think "View Camera" style mentality when using them the slow write and clunky use is easy to live with. The image quality makes them worth the effort.

I bought a used 5D mkii with 20k clicks for $650. I've been able to produce really nice images with it, but the auto focus is garbage on wheels.
I tried using it for photojournalism. I walked away with almost nothing every time.

Iain Stanley's picture

Why is the AF crap do you think? Are you using BBF?

Pedro Quintela's picture

I bought a Canon 5ds at 50% of the selling price on last year. It had around a year, 10.000 counter actuations and was pristine. A stunning camera, excellent build quality, amazing detail. Many dislike this model though in reality is far better then some may think.
So it was no brainer to me. I simply would not pay the double for a 5d mk IV. It retain most of the value and has been one of my workhorses since then.

Iain Stanley's picture

Excellent deal. They produce fantastic images and at 50% off, that’s a no-brainer. Great find!