The market in second-hand cameras is well and truly booming, as regular readers of the magazine and visitors to this site will know. Don’t assume, however, that buying used is only for older DSLRs and film cameras, as there is a lively trade in mirrorless models too. Just because a mirrorless device lacks flapping mirrors doesn’t mean it is any less well-built than its mirrored brethren. If you are looking for a cheaper, but still high-quality, mirrorless camera, maybe as a back-up or spare (or just because you are economising in these uncertain times), this article is for you. While you can chance your arm on eBay or Gumtree, we recommend buying from a reputable used dealer, as you’ll get better customer service and usually a decent warranty.
Fujifilm X-T10: typical price £189 body only
The baby brother of the X-T1 arrived on the scene in 2015, just as Fujifilm’s X series was really starting to take off. The idea of creating a camera that used a sensible subset of the X-T1’s features in a body that offers a similar handling experience at a lower price always seemed like a recipe for success. The Fujifilm X-T10 received high praise from reviewers and was quick to gain an excellent reputation among amateur and enthusiast photographers. Key features include a 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, a centrally mounted 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder, 3in 920k-dot tilting screen and continuous shooting with autofocus at a healthy 8fps. Colours are rich and vibrant and if you can live without weather-sealing, you have another highly attractive and compact mirrorless camera for a wide range of shooting scenarios. Even better you should be able to snaffle a decent used model for around £200 body only. Add in a decent lens, such as the 16-50mm, and you still will have change from £500.
Canon EOS M50: typical price £400
As seen in our recent guide to the best mirrorless cameras you can buy, this is still a very likeable mirrorless camera, despite being overshadowed by the more powerful (and much more expensive) EOS R series. In terms of design philosophy, the EOS M50 is very close to the firm’s entry-level DSLRs, with a single electronic dial for changing exposure settings and small set of buttons giving direct access to key functions. But this is all complemented by Canon’s superb touch interface, which should feel familiar to new users graduating up from smartphone cameras. The polycarbonate body feels robust enough and fits quite nicely in your hand, too. Key features include a 24.1-million-pixel Dual Pixel CMOS sensor, 10fps continuous shooting. 2.36-million-dot 120fps OLED viewfinder, 3in fully-articulated touchscreen
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Olympus OM-D E-M10: typical price £160
If you really are determined to keep the bill low, you can also snap up (groan) the Olympus OM-D E-M10 for under £200. We would recommend buying it with the superb 45mm f/1.8 lens, however, as this will give you a wonderfully light and compact combo, particularly for portrait, travel and street photography. This will cost you another £150 or so but is well worth it. Returning to the camera, yes the 16Mp Micro Four Thirds sensor is easily outgunned these days, and the ISO performance reasonable rather than outstanding, this is still very capable – 8fps continuous shooting, Full HD video at 30fps, 3in rear display, 1.04-million-dot tilting LCD and an excellent image stabilisation system. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 is quite simply one of our favourite budget short-telephoto portrait lenses. It’s small, lightweight, sharp wide open (but not too sharp), and gives attractive background blur. Crucially it’s also very affordable; used examples sell for as little as £159 in excellent condition on mpb.com.
As well as a flattering focal length, the f/1.8 aperture allows you to shoot indoors in relatively low levels of natural light without having to raise the ISO too far, and delivers a decent degree of background blur. Equally important for portrait shooting is the fast, silent and consistently accurate autofocus. It’s easy to forget that Olympus cameras have long featured face- and eye-detection AF that work effectively in single AF mode with static subjects, since well before Sony expanded and popularised its own Eye AF function. So you shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting your subject’s eyes sharp. The minimum focus distance of 0.5m allows for striking close-ups. The 45mm f/1.8 is also tiny, measuring just 46mm long and tipping the scales at a featherweight 116g. If you can cough up another few hundred quid, you should also consider the excellent Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, which you can get new for £700 body only.
Sony A7R: typical price £615 body only
Costing around £620 in decent condition, this sturdy full-camera offers a 36.4MP full-frame sensor, an ISO 50-25,600, continuous shooting at 4fps and Full HD video recording at 60p. So you get a lot for your money. The A7R hit the shelves at the same time as Sony released the A7 and it became the manufacturer’s first full-frame mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras to use the E mount. With that high-resolution 36.4MP sensor, it quickly made a reputation for delivering high-res images from a small, light and conveniently sized body. Sony’s line-up of full-frame E-mount lenses has expanded hugely since 2014, and now that it has been superseded by the A7R II, A7R III and A7R IV, the original A7R has become one of the most affordable high-resolution mirrorless cameras you can buy on the used market.
Best Buy mirrorless cameras