Used DSLR Camera Buying Guide

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Used DSLR Camera Buying Guide

Digital single lens reflex cameras, more commonly known as digital SLRs or DSLRs, are an increasingly attractive option to amateur photographs wanting to take better quality images.

About DSLRs

DSLRs are the camera of choice for photographers who want to take high-quality images. They have interchangeable lenses which gives the camera far greater versatility than compact or even bridge digital cameras. Photographers can choose to purchase additional lenses besides the standard ones included in the kit, such as wide angle lenses, telephoto lenses, and macro lenses.

DSLRs also give greater control when it comes to camera settings. While compact digital cameras tend to rely on automatic controls, making them convenient point and shoot cameras, digital SLRs have far more manual controls, giving the ability to customise shots in a greater way.

As well as greater versatility when it comes to lenses and greater manual control, DSLRs also typically have larger image sensors, higher quality lenses, and better resolution.

DSLRs are used by professionals in a range of fields, from travel, landscape, and wildlife photography to sports photography and press photography. They are recommended for serious amateur photographers who want more options to control their camera manually and produce high-quality images.

Choosing a Used DSLR

Used DSLRs can be an excellent option for photographers who want the benefits of a DSLR but are on a limited budget.

There are a number of features to consider when purchasing a used DSLR. These include the camera’s lenses, ISO settings, and shutter speed. Keep in mind that it is a second hand camera, and look out for any indication of damage or wear as well as missing components.

DSLR lenses are interchangeable, so specialised lenses offering more versatile and better quality shots can be used. Lenses are described by their focal length, which designates how far away the subject appears. Focal length may be either a fixed number, as in prime lenses, or a range, as in zoom lenses. 50 mm is a standard focal length, approximating what the human eye naturally sees. To either side of this is still considered a standard focal range, from about 30 mm to 70 mm. Less than 30 mm is considered wide angle, giving a wide panorama, and more than 70 mm will give a telephoto effect, magnifying in on distant objects. Both wide angle and telephoto ranges are sub-divided further, so there are wide angle, ultra wide angle, short telephoto, medium telephoto, and long telephoto lenses.


DSLRs typically come with a kit lens, which is usually a basic general purpose zoom lens. This is designed for entry level photographers, and while usually producing decent quality shots, it doesn’t compare to the same quality obtainable from a dedicated lens. Part of the reason, after all, for choosing a DSLR is to get the best possible shots. While the kit lens is acceptable for everyday shooting, it is a waste of the DSLRs potential not to experiment with specialist lenses.

Buying a used DSLR over a new DSLR may be an advantage here. The seller may have already upgraded their lens collection and be selling the DSLR not just with the kit lens but also additional lenses. Lenses offered with the camera may include common additional lenses, such as a wide angle lens, telephoto lens, and macro lens. Other types of lenses include soft focus lenses, used to produce softened images, and fisheye lenses, a type of ultra-wide angle lens used to produce fascinating distorted pictures. Building up a lens collection can be expensive, so the inclusion of any additional lenses is a bonus.

However, it is worth checking the product description carefully here as lenses that have not been carefully looked after may be damaged. Damage could include scratches or dust on the optics. To keep lenses clean and free from scratches or dust, they should always be fitted with their end caps, so check that these are included. Also check that there are no stated problems with operating the lens. Features to look out for are the type of focus and whether they have image stabilisation or vibration reduction. Image stabilisation and vibration reduction are especially important for telephoto lenses, which are more susceptible to the effects of camera shake.


ISO is a measure of the sensitivity of the camera’s image sensor to light. Altering the ISO can make the sensor more receptive to light, allowing more light to be used to capture an image in low light conditions. In high light conditions, altering the ISO can make the sensor less sensitive, so overexposure can be avoided.

ISO can range from 100 to 3200, with ISO 100 used for high light conditions and ISO 3200 used for very low light conditions. High ISO settings enable pictures to be taken without a flash, but they can also produce grainy images.

Check the camera’s ISO range as this does give an indication as to how well the camera can perform in varying light conditions.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed refers to how quickly the shutter opens and closes. It is therefore linked to ISO as it is another measure of how much light can enter the lens and be captured by the sensor. Shutter speed can be used creatively in variously ways. High shutter speeds enable clear, sharp images of fast moving objects to be taken, for example of a cheetah running. Low shutter speeds enable a sense of movement to be portrayed, as in shots of running water. Shutter speed can also be altered to take into account light conditions, with darker conditions needing slower shutter speeds. Slow shutter speeds may require use of a tripod to avoid blurring the picture.

Standard shutter speeds range from around 1/16000 s to 1 s. The next speed down from 1 s is 1/2 s, which is about twice the speed of 1 s and so on.

Check the camera’s shutter speed, as a greater range will allow for more versatile use. When it comes to taking pictures of fast moving objects, speeds of 1/4000 and above will give very decent images.

General Considerations for Used DSLRs

When buying a used DSLR, check the product description carefully to check for any stated damage or wear to the camera, lenses or other components. All the controls should be fully functional unless stated otherwise. The sensor should be free of dust, as this will result in dark spots on images. It’s worth doing a bit of research on the camera model to check it isn’t prone to any particular problems. Product reviews and photography forums are helpful here. Ask the seller to confirm there are no problems with the camera if anything is flagged up.

Also check for any missing parts. The product description should state what is included and any standard components that are missing. Standard components include the original kit lens (or a replacement), charger, and manual. Having the box is also a good selling point, especially if the camera is ever resold. A receipt will give solid information as to when and where the camera was purchased.

Used DSLRs may come with various accessories, such as a camera bag, tripod, spare batteries or charger, and memory cards. This can all make buying a used DSLR a very attractive option with regards to expense and convenience.

Lastly, check seller feedback and reviews.


DSLRs are the best type of camera for producing high-quality images. The key to their versatility and ability to produce superb images is interchangeable lenses. Specialist lenses available include wide angle, telephoto, and macro lenses. DSLRs also give greater manual control, allowing for more optimised settings, and they generally have better quality components and better resolution. Buying a used DSLR is an excellent option for beginners and those on a budget. General features to look out for include the type and quality of lenses, ISO settings, and shutter speed. Used DSLRs may come with upgraded additional lenses, as well as accessories such as chargers and camera bags. ISO range gives an indication as to how the camera performs in low light conditions, and faster shutter speeds will allow sharper images of fast moving objects. When buying a used DSLR, always check the product description carefully for any stated wear, damage, or missing parts. The item should be fully functional and not faulty. Check seller feedback and reviews, and ask if there are any queries. Reading product reviews and visiting photography forums can be helpful for further information on the particular camera model.

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