Cameras and lenses are expensive. Really expensive. Even the cheapest entry-level DSLR kit today costs $500 or more. But what if you buy the cheapest possible used DSLR? A camera that’s over 10 years old? How would it stack up against today’s modern cameras? I was curious about this, so I decided to find out for myself.
After two weeks of watching classified ads closely, and missing a couple of good bargains because I wasn’t fast enough, I finally managed to purchase a Canon 400D (also known as Rebel XTi) with a battery grip and a Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens on it. All this for only $80. It seemed like a great deal to me. It even came with a 2GB CF card!
I took the camera for a long walk the same day I bought it, and to summarize my experience: I was amazed by how good it was!
The sensor outputs 10-megapixel photos, meaning that they measure roughly 3900×2600 pixels. This is more than enough for posting on social media or viewing photos on a computer screen. And what amazed me even more was that with a fairly good lens, which the Canon 50mm f/1.8 is, these pixels get utilized very well.
A 100% crop looks very crisp and sharp in most cases.
The only major downside with using an 11-year-old camera is that the dynamic range in the sensor is bad compared to my modern Sony A7. If you do not nail the exposure really well when you take the photo, you have fewer options to correct it later. With my modern cameras, I just shoot everything slightly underexposed and lift the exposure later in Lightroom. That would not be a good idea with the Canon 400D.
This camera’s weak dynamic range also makes it hard to capture scenes with strong light and deep shadows in the same frame. But other than that, this camera kit has already after a couple of days given me a lot of photography joy for the money. I will definitely keep this camera, it is a fun tool to take out once in a while to add some variation to my photo walks.
This little experiment taught me that if you just want a good camera to take nice looking photos in your everyday life and you don’t have professional needs (e.g. 50-megapixel files) $80 will get you surprisingly far. An added benefit is that 10-megapixel files give you such a fast editing experience in Lightroom.
About the author: Micael Widell is a photography enthusiast based in Stockholm, Sweden. He loves photography, and runs a YouTube channel with tutorials, lens reviews and photography inspiration. You can also find him on Instagram and 500px where his username is @mwroll.