Our Photography Courses Blog

Ten best second hand cameras and lenses

We are sometimes asked to recommend kit on on photography courses, so here we go in no particular order.  You won’t go wrong with any of this kit:


Camera bodies:

The Nikon D50 one of the two Nikon cameras we recommend for beginners and A level photography students. It’s small, inexpensive and light, and can autofocus almost any Nikon lens. We’ve had work published and in exhibition that we’ve taken with our D50 that we bought as a spare body years ago.  Look on ebay and you can find it for under £150 these days.

The equally obsolete Nikon D70/D70s is internally virtually identical to the D50, but in a larger, tougher body that has more visible switches. It is also a great camera that wins competitions all the time and can now be picked up for little money. As with the D50 it can take most nikon autofocus lenses, which will not autofocus on newer cameras like the D3100 and D5100.  Again, around £150 on ebay.

Feeling like a camera made by Fisher Price, the Nikon D100 is incredibly robust, being built originally as a press camera. It’s really hard to break, and although it has a smaller screen this just means the battery life is longer!
Back when the Nikon D2X was introduced they were the top of the range, costing about £3500. As used extensively by the British Army, they are build like tanks and produce fantastic skin tones. These days they can be picked up for £700, which is a steal. Their weakness is they are noisy at high ISOs but if you don’t work in low light, don’t worry about it! Impress your friends with the solidity of the best camera from 2004.

Canon G9 – the little Canon G series cameras pack a lot of technology in a small body, and are even able to shoot raw files. Often used as unobtrusive and cheap high-quality cameras by sneaky journalists. We use ours on top of a telescopic pole to photograph houses (see www.allyoursphotography.co.uk), controlling it with a PC at ground level.

Canon 1000D – lovely little started camera recently replaced by 1100D, so therefore inexpensive. It’s a great way to get started, and will take autofocus all Canon EF and EF-S lenses, and there are loads of those.

Canon 550D – made obsolete (and therefore cheaper) by the tilt-and-swivel screen of the 600D, a great mid-range buy. Superb in low light, but we think the Nikon D90 has the edge in picture quality.




The very best lens that absolutely everyone should have:  50mm f1.8 – quite simply, if you don’t have one of these you should get one! This lens lets in ten times as much light as the kit 18-55mm lens, so can be used in really dark conditions, and to take really fast shots. It takes fantastic blurry-background professional looking pictures and it even makes a decent lens for macro-style work, like photographing bugs and beetles at very high shutter speeds. There are loads on eay, and even new ones are only about £100. Ours was £34, but the record among our students was £22, so get shopping. Our favourite lens by a very long way.  We have recommended this to hundreds of people, and we don’t know anyone who has been disappointed with it!

28-105mm nikkor (macro) For Nikon owners it’s worth shopping around for this gem of a lens, which can often be found for £100 or so on ebay. It is a great short zoom, making it superb for people pictures, and it even has a macro facility that enables you to get in to a a couple of inches from the subject. We use ours as a portrait lens on our Nikon D3 – that’s how good it is!
10-24mm Tamron for Nikon or Canon – it may be that your lens is just not really wide enough for landscape shots that are involving. The standard kit 18-55 lens that many cameras use actually takes pictures at 27-29mm on a Nikon or Canon crop-sensor camera (that’s everything except the really expensive Nikon D3 or Canon 5D cameras with huge sensors).  This lens gives a view that approximates what you saw at the time, which is the idea of landscape shots, after all!



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