Monday, December 13, 2010

Used Camera

I've been selling junk (not all junk) on craigslist to 'make' enough money to offset purchasing a new camera. And to help offset the cost, I figured I'd also buy the camera used off of craigslist. The camera in question being the Canon 5D mark II (hereafter referred to as a 5D). Retails for $2500. Yes, that is a lot. A lot lot. Roughly 2 years ago I'd call someone either insane or a pro photographer for spending that much on a camera. My now 2.5 year old $650 camera (with lens) has served me (mostly) well. The backed-up-by-looking-closely-at-photos significant complaints I have about it are: The generally noisy sensor. The poor shadow detail. The not always adequate auto focus. And, the terrible amount of noise, and hot pixels, on long shutter time pics. The close to nit pick complaints are: The poor ISO range and performance (not that much of a nit). The inability to get truly ultra wide pictures due to it's APS-C sensor size. And, the fastest shutter speed is 1/4000 (well qualified as a nit).

The camera worked well for a large percentage of photography situations, as can (hopefully) be seen from many of the posts here. It does fine in well lit and high shutter speed situations. Even those have slight graininess due to noise and sensor quality. Slight graininess isn't the end of the world, and is much better than the vast majority of point and shoot cameras - which use heavy handed noise reduction logic.

Anyway, the new camera has a higher quality sensor - which, I'm sure still has noise and some graininess, but should be significantly better. Especially in low light situations. And, I would expect no pixels that were as hot as the ones in the 450, and way fewer of them (about 100 in the worst shooting conditions).

The 450's max ISO was 1600, but you would not want to use it. It was bad. 800 wasn't even good in most cases. 100 to 400 were reasonable. The 5D goes to 25600. I tested 6400, and that appeared to look as good as ISO 400 on the other one.

The 5D has a full frame sensor, meaning that the wide angle lenses are wide angle. The down side being that the telephoto lenses are no longer extra-telephoto. a 400mm lens on the old one behaves like a 640mm lens. To compensate somewhat for this, the total number of pixels is increased (12mp to 21mp), keeping the pixels per cm^2 in the same ball park. So, cropping a 12mp photo from the middle of the 21mp image would still provide a telephoto boost. Just not quite as much.

As for the 1/4000 max (min?) shutter? The 5D goes to 1/8000. As a significant bonus, the 5D also captures video. HD 1080 video to boot. No clue how much I'd use it. But I find myself somewhat excited about the prospect.

So, back to the concept of purchasing a used one. How much would I expect to save? Well, I'd like to save 20% or more. I sold my like new condition 70-300mm IS USM lens for nearly 40% off. So, 20% off does not seem unreasonable. So, over the past two or three months, I've been keeping an eye out for a used 5D. I've seen several over that time. Going rate - $2200. Just over a 10% savings. I was really hoping for more, but since the prices aren't discounted much, I figured that the cameras on offer are in pristine condition.

So, I went to see/buy one this weekend in Boulder. Oh, my. This camera looked like it rode around in the back seat (or floor) of a car for the majority of the year that it has been in existence. The textured rubber focus ring on the lens had almost all of it's texture worn off. The thumb joystick on the back of the camera had a dent in it. Like it had been dropped, or something dropped on it. The pretty LCD screen had some of it's protective anti-glare coating worn off (no visible scratches in it though). On the top, in front of the flash mount, was some white paint that was acquired from bumping into something painted white. Neither attractive nor an indication that the camera was babied.

Add to that the fact that there is no warranty, the battery performance is reduced, and there may be some other glitch with the camera that has not been disclosed (and is the reason the camera is up for sale).

In my great desire to acquire a 5D, I looked past that (though uncomfortably), and went to the car for the payment. While there, I took a deep breath. No. I would not be proud to pull this camera from my bag.

I went back and said that, due to the wear and tear on the camera, I was not going to buy it. He offered to lower the price $50 more, to $2150. Nope. The camera has been abused. He seemed puzzled by my new tact. I think he thought I was just trying to get the price down a few more dollars to satisfy my craigslist-esque desire to get a rock bottom sweet deal. Honestly, I would have paid $1500 for it, but felt that he could find someone else that was not as concerned about the condition. Though, I doubt they would pay $2200.

I left, disappointed that I was not leaving with a 5D, but very very happy that I had not caved to the purpose of the evening's trip and dumped a load of cash for an object that I would regret owning pretty much immediately.

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