Here’s an interesting thought exercise: Given the same amount of money, is it better to buy a low-end new camera, or a high-end old camera?
Photographer and YouTuber Hyun Ralph Jeong takes the thought out of the exercise by answering that question for viewers, comparing a 2020-era entry level camera, the Canon EOS M50 Mark II, with another Mark II model, the 5D Mark II from 2008.
Right off the bat, it’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. The newer camera is a mirrorless, APS-C sensor camera, while the 5D Mark II is a classic DSLR form factor with a full frame sensor. But at the end of the day, both of these are image-making machines. So, which one offers better bang for the buck? It depends on what kind of shooter you are, Jeong says.
While sheer image quality of the full-frame sensor is “better” in that it has less noise and retains better highlight detail than its newer APS-C counterpart, the shadows are harder to work with and dynamic range isn’t up to modern standards. Basically, if you need some margin of error or latitude of editing, you’ll get much more of that from a modern sensor than the one in the 5D Mark II.
But beyond that, you’ll also get some of the modern creature comforts that are often overlooked when purchasing older cameras. The M50 Mark II nets you a touchscreen, (incredibly fast) autofocus, Wi-Fi capability, 4K video, and an overall smaller form factor.
I really notice these ease-of-use features when I’m teaching, especially with autofocus. Teaching students how to track a subject with non-touch screen older DSLRs, where you set it to servo mode, pick a point, and hang on for dear life is a vastly different experience than say, an EOS R, where you can just tap the subject and let the camera do all the work — same results, just made much easier by modern technology.
So, is it better to buy the old camera and get the higher-end body and pro features from back in the day or get a modern camera that on paper might not have the specs of a higher-end body but in practice will make the job easier?
I guess that depends on whether you like driving the sports car of yesteryear that doesn’t have air conditioning or Apple Carplay versus a new compact car that has both of those things and more; both approaches have their own merits.
Which one would you choose? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.