We’re all taken in by headline-grabbing specifications whenever new cameras are announced, and it’s hard not to lust after new gear.
But the truth is, cameras are so good these days, and cameras are refreshed so often that you no longer need the latest model to achieve what you want to do behind the lens.
Ten years ago technology was changing so rapidly and you did get a significant leap up in specification with each camera, but these days you can find plenty of powerful cameras on the second-hand market simply because they’ve been replaced in the official lineup.
Below are six cameras in particular that we think demonstrate why you don’t always need the latest model to have the best tool for the job.
01 Canon EOS 70D
The Canon EOS 70D was relegated to the annals of history earlier this year, when the EOS 80D replaced it in January. The thing is, the EOS 70D was – and remains – an exceptionally powerful, versatile camera that offers plenty of spec for a new photographer to grow with, or a more experienced photographer to experiment with their creativity.
For about £600-£700 these days you can get the EOS 70D’s combination of cutting-edge 20.2-megapixel sensor, Dual Pixel AF, 7fps continuous shooting speed, articulating LCD display and built-in Wi-Fi, making it one of the best all-rounders there ever was.
If you’re a keen photographer looking to try your hand at all sorts of different photography in search of your own photographic style, this might be the right camera for you!
02 Fuji X-E2
Over the past five years or so Fujifilm has successfully re-invented itself as a high-end compact system camera manufacturer, with its popular X-series cameras coming to define the style and inventiveness that has seen the mirrorless camera market cut into the market share of the traditional SLR.
While cameras like the Fuji X100, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X-Pro1, Fuji X-T2 and the soon-to-come mirrorless medium format GFX system have garnered most of the attention, the Fuji cameras at the bottom rung of this X system have quietly chugged on, performing their roles admirably for beginner photographers new to using interchangeable lens cameras.
Introduced in October 2013, the Fuji X-E2 may have been a just-above-entry-level model lost behind its bigger siblings, but this mid-range X-series camera epitomises everything Fuji has done so well in recent years.
The Fuji X-E2 offers superb build quality, compatibility with X-mount lenses, Fuji’s innovative X-Trans CMOS II sensor with 16.3 megapixels of resolution and a wide range of shooting options and controls.
What’s more, it incorporates a 2.360K-dot OLED color viewfinder, a 3-inch 1,040K-dot screen and built-in Wi-Fi, along with a surprisingly good kit lens.
Think that all sounds good? You can get all that for around £350 these days.
Fuji replaced the X-E2 in January of this year with a minor update in the X-E2s, but for our money the X-E2 is incredible value.
03 Olympus OM-D E-M10
Anyone who used Olympus OM film SLRs will understand the appeal of a small, precision-made body, top-quality lenses and intelligently designed controls aimed at photographers, not just gadget-fans.
Olympus has managed to recapture – brilliantly – the look and feel of its OM-series SLRs with its digital versions, which is has built around the Micro Four Thirds format.
The OM-D E-M5 kicked off this new series, and it was a great camera but quite pricey. The E-M1 took it a step further with its Dual Fast AF, a big, high-resolution viewfinder, 5-axis image stabilisation and environmental. But features like these, of course, only increase the cost.
Enter the OM-D E-M10. It’s less ambitious than its siblings, but it’s a lot cheaper, and it still recaptures the feel of old-school Olympus SLRs.
It uses an EVF rather than an optical viewfinder, but its design, style and handling make the E-M10 feel more like a traditional SLR than today’s big and bulky DSLR designs do.
04 Nikon D3300
Nikon’s powerhouse of an entry-level DSLR was so great that it existed without much of a challenge for three-and-a-half years. Nikon finally replaced it in August 2016, but the camera that took its place, the D3400, if we’re being honest, is pretty much the same thing.
A slightly wider native sensitivity range and Nikon’s SnapBridge functionality (which you can’t fully utilise due to the D3400 not having built-in WiFi), and that’s about it.
But let’s not take a cynical view. Let’s take that as a compliment to how phenomenal the D3300 was (and still is) in its budget class.
For around £300 these days you can get a camera that boasts a 24.2-megapixel sensor, Nikon’s Expeed 4 processing engine, a powerful contrast detection AF system, 11 AF points with 1 cross type point, 5fps burst shooting and a 3in LCD screen on the back with 921K dot resolution.
People often ask us, What’s the best camera for beginners? Without question: the Nikon D3300.
05 Pentax K-500
While most budget cameras are designed with simplified cut-down features to make them easier to understand for beginners, Pentax has taken a different route with the K-500.
It may not have all the features of the Pentax models higher up the range, but compared to other entry-level cameras it’s a regular powerhouse, with 6fps continuous shooting, 11-point AF with 9 superior cross-type sensors, twin-dial controls for faster manual control, and a good-sized pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage – which is unusual in a camera at this price.
It might not suit novices moving up from the slick sophistication of a compact digital camera, but the K-500 is a terrific DSLR for more experienced photographers who have to work to a budget.
06 Sony RX10
What is every photographer’s dream? How about a large sensor for the best possible image quality, a wide zoom range for versatility, and a fast, constant maximum aperture?
What about both a tilting LCD display and an electronic viewfinder, plus built-in Wi-Fi?
As you’ve probably guessed, Sony’s innovative RX10 boasts all of these things – but you might not have considered in the past because it has a 1-inch sensor (slightly smaller than those in compact system cameras and DSLRs) and a fixed lens.
But what a lens it is! It’s equivalent to a 24-200mm superzoom, but one that can shoot at f/2.8 across the whole zoom range – yes, you read that correctly!
And that 1-inch sensor still delivers 20 megapixels and a level of image quality you simply won’t get from any regular superzoom camera.
The RX10 is expensive and odd, and bridge cameras like this are slightly out of fashion today – but its specifications are exceptional.