Brace Yourselves: The Used Camera and Lens Market Might Be Ready to Explode

Brace Yourselves: The Used Camera and Lens Market Might Be Ready to Explode

Maybe now, ironically, is the best time of all to be a DSLR user.

With Nikon preparing to disclose all the details of their mirrorless camera, Canon nearing their own announcement, and all the current options that have already done a number on the DSLR industry, we’re on the verge of a huge shakeup in the photography world. While it’s hard to predict how this whole thing is going to go down in history, one facet to these exciting times is the number of items that could hit secondhand marketplaces.

Two companies that are pillars to the industry are both introducing all new camera systems at just about the same time. These aren’t casual introductions either; Canon and Nikon simply cannot bungle these releases whatsoever for the sake of the their digital imaging divisions' future. The full weight of these two companies are and will be firing on all cylinders in order to give them the best position in what most agree is the future of photography. Whether we want it or not, I think almost everyone reading this is going to get a whiff of G.A.S. with not only Canon and Nikon’s marketing going all out, but don’t forget Sony hasn’t shown signs of slowing down either. If you aren’t questioning your current camera system within the next few months, are you even human?

This leads me to the point of this article. The big winners here are going to be beginner photographers and those who rely on buying used equipment to make their photography hobby a little more affordable. The used market for camera gear is fairly healthy these days, but I’m imagining some considerable price drops and even more particularly sought after lenses to be readily found once the transition to the new generation is underway. For every one “Why I Switched Camera Systems” YouTube video uploaded, ten thousand 50mm lenses will hit eBay at a deep discount.

While certainly not every photographer is going to be selling off their lot of Canon EF and Nikon F-mount lenses at first — they may need to get by on mount converters for a little bit while the native mirrorless lens offerings build up — I still think a big wave of used, low-cost DSLR gear is inevitably coming soon.

Log in or register to post comments

56 Comments

Scott Mosley's picture

we started selling off some of our 'outdated' Nikon bodies last month (d800s mostly) before the biggest drops in ebay sell prices start. I'm already on a pre-order list for the mirrorless with NPS, I got G.A.S. real bad, lol. Probably keeping all of my lenses, while I love new stuff I'm also very nostalgic and tend to hang on to extra equipment forever.

"Huge shakeup"? I doubt it. I think there'll be a moderate and then slowing conversion to some unknown ration where it'll settle and then an even slower move to mirrorless when/if development slows in DSLRs. In any case, I'll be happy to snap up lenses from the converts! :-)

Michael Jin's picture

This pretty much happens every time a new body or lens is released. People sell off the older model even though it probably wasn't that much worse (if worse at all) than what they then spend money for.

It would certainly be nice if this happened on a massive scale as you're predicting, though. I could certainly use some new err... old lenses. :)

Rob Davis's picture

Sony came out with the A7 four years ago. The people that just had to have mirrorless have probably mostly switched by now. I don't see their being any mass exodus from Canon or Nikon DSLR shooters right away, especially for a new mount. Maybe they'll consider the mirrorless body when it's time to replace an old camera.

Matthew Saville's picture

Nikon and Canon will collectively take over at least 50% of the FF MILC body sales "pie piece" within 2-3 years, I predict.

John Horwitz's picture

There MIGHT be little green men on Mars, but it's unlikely. Early adopter get burned ~ in other words, A fool and his money...

While you are correct, if it wasn't for the early adopters, there would never be any innovation! Somebody has to finance improvement. If nobody bought new products, they would die on the vine. So let's raise a glass to the early adopters for setting themselves up to get screwed and pave the way for the rest of us to get a more polished product, eventually.

Simon Patterson's picture

I agree with you but let's face it, there are not enough of them to make the used DSLR plummet as this article suggests.

Matthew Saville's picture

Tell that to D3 buyers in 2007, John. ;-)

John Skinner's picture

I can't even begin to imagine where the writer has been sitting for the last 10 years in order to see that this new 'explosion' has, and is, going on everywhere around him. There is barely a few months where one of these makers throws out another dodgy body to all the GAS members, only to have it trashed just months later by the masses.

I've come to find it somewhat offensive as a consumer, that people have raised their expectations to the point of lowering the actual improvement bar met by the manufacturer. It's in large part the reason we get model after model with defects that go past their QC, only to be beta-tested on us -- the paying public. I would not get too worked up about any body being issued by anyone. Nor would I get my VISA card warmed up for any such release.

It's just 'release and catch up' at this point, and seriously.... What more could you possibly want out of a camera? We've surpassed the film days by 10-fold now.. and if you can't create with what's out there now -- there is always stamp collecting.

But the used market is and always has been very healthy for those that made the choice to look there for their image-dietary needs.

stir photos's picture

good article, well written. pretty much wherever the chips fall, and like anything else, there will be people that will fall into the woulda, coulda, shoulda category. myself included at times, and it's not that big of a deal almost every time. every new car i've bought, i've noticed there's always a sweet spot in terms of liquidating it and purchasing a new again, and if i do that's cool, but if i don't, i'm into it for a longer haul with less real return and that's cool too. just whatever i decide, that's pretty much how i treat my camera equipment, as well. however, it's noted that as an amateur my investments are strictly focus based on a hobby and some household rules though, so you know... haha! my .02 cents is just think of your camera gear as an investment or as disposable income. after that's settled, get to some shooting! ;)

Studio 403's picture

Sounds to me someone has hype disease.....satire of the day

Simon Patterson's picture

Yeah right. I'm still waiting for the Nikon D3X to come down to a few hundred bucks here in Australia, but that "big wave" hasn't hit here yet, by a long shot. And that's after multiple iterations over the 10 years since it was released.

But somehow the first Canikon FF mirrorless releases will cause the used market to be swamped with perfectly good DSLRs at rock bottom prices? Pull the other one!

Simon Patterson's picture

"If you aren’t questioning your current camera system within the next few months, are you even human?"

Let me get this straight. Two new camera systems are about come out that are not at all compatible with anyone's existing systems, without an adaptor. Just like Sony's full frame mirrorless system wasn't compatible with anyone's existing systems, without an adaptor. But this time, people will flock to change over to the new systems, and dump their existing DSLRs on the used market at low prices.

We know that about 14% of humans are "early adopters". This was borne out when Sony released their mirrorless systems; the early adopters picked up the early releases, and the Sony market has grown gradually and steadily over time as Sony improves its system and lens options. The 86% of people who aren't early adopters are steadily catching on, to the point where mirrorless ILC camera sales have just recently caught back up to 2012 levels for the first time.

But we're meant to believe that a substantial proportion of the 86% of photographers who are not early adopters will suddenly become early adopters in coming months. This will generate the "big wave" of DSLRs flooding the market, as all those photographers who magically become early adopters will buy Canikon's mirrorless cameras.

Looks like you've swallowed a bit too much of the marketing hype to me. New cameras get released all the time, but most humans don't spend thousands of dollars to change their whole camera system over simply because of hype. No matter how good the new system is.

Most humans (about 86% of us) are not early adopters, and the fact that the latest new system is branded "Nikon" or "Canon" won't change human nature.

Samuel Masini's picture

Finally some common sense... I’ve seen people upgrading with every camera cycle (D800, D810 to D850 etc). Funnily enough every photo looks the same, the usual blown out HDR, maxed out clarity, halos etc.

New camera bodies/systems are just tools. If your current tools do the job and do it well, they will still perform the same regardless of the new Nikon mirrorless or not (unless a suspicious patch is released following the new camera announcement ;) )

Personally I shoot with any camera/format that makes sense for the job. For my own personal projects I like to shoot with cameras much older than myself and they perform brilliantly. People should just work with the camera that inspires them and works for them (given the task they wish to accomplish).

I don’t care if anyone thinks that their gear is superior. All I care about is improving my photography one shot at a time (doesn’t matter if there’s a mirror in between the lens or not).

Interesting article. I just sold three Canon bodies and half a dozen lenses. Replacing most with Olympus MFT.

Franky, I hope the author is right for my own reasons. I don't think it's too far fetched to think that once the 2 largest camera manufacturers release their full frame mirrorless offerings, people will start selling their DSLR gear to fund the latest stuff. Not everyone will jump onboard, but I think a lot of photographers will. The one catch is, Canon and Nikon have to get mirrorless right and that won't be easy.

It aught to be a lot easier for Canon and Nikon to get it right than it was for Sony.

I actually noticed that the used market prices have gone up in the latest years. Since the gains of newer cameras are not that important and people realise that the lenses are many times more important - and even older lenses can give great results. Especially if you are not on 45MP. Prices for older Nikon lenses almost doubled here in Europe the last 3-4 years.

Justin Powers's picture

Please keep on switching to mirrorless, everyone! Those of us who are happy with our DSLRs are loving the cheap gear. Just bought a barely-used, mint condition Canon 70-200 f4 L with Hoya protector ($60), Canon collar ($150), hood and pouch for $500 cash (Canadian price is close to $800 with tax for a new copy). In the last year, i've picked up a mint Canon 50mm f1.4 for $200 (a very underrated lens, in my opinion), a mint Sigma 10-20mm f3.5-5.6 for $200, a beautiful Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art for $400, and am always looking at Kijiji for great deals on lenses. There are hundreds of them available at any given time and I bought every one of my used lenses from someone switching to Sony.
I love my Canon 80D (bought new at a considerable discount) and don't feel the need to switch to mirrorless or FF. I might buy a Sony RX100 for a pocket-size camera I can bring anywhere, but my DSLR and kit gives me all the performamce, image quality and creative freedom I need.
Tech companies thrive on GAS, and on making people feel that what they own is inadequate. Digital cameras are the gift that keeps on giving. More megapixels! 1000 AF points! 1,000,000 ISO! Eye, lip, and hair tracking! Looks like your dad's film camera (which he bought in 1965 and never needed to upgrade) — so retro!
Savvy marketing makes people feel that they need to switch. Not just pros and advanced hobbyists, but even amateurs, and folks who use their digis to take pics of their kids and family vacations. It's consumption for the sake of consumption, and when Sony or Canon or Nikon rolls out the next "revolution" in digital photography, many will put their A7IIIs, A7RIIIs, A9s, D850s on Kijiji or ebay for a fraction of its value to buy into the revolution.
Personally, I don't care if hobbyists and enthusiasts have the kind of $ that allows them to drop $10K or even $20K+ for a new system and the best lenses to go with it. Their GAS has allowed me to put together a kit of great lenses that I love, and a DSLR that may not be the newest, sexiest body, but is still one of the best crop sensor cameras on the market and never leaves me feeling like I'm missing out on some feature that would allow me to take better photos or give me creative freedom I'm currently lacking.
While it may pay for professionals to upgrade their digital camera bodies regularly and even switch systems, their videos and reviews encourage thousands of hobbyists, enthusiasts, and amateurs to upgrade because a full-frame Sony mirrorless with lenses to match is going to make them better photographers. It is mostly these folks, sold on the hype generated by their favourite photogs, who are really driving this mass defection from excellent DSLRs to mirrorless systems and creating a glut of high-quality, bargain-bin used gear.
And that's fine with me. After all, L and Art lenses are selling for a fraction of their price on Kijiji and eBay, and from what I hear, L lenses are just so much better than the mid-range lenses I own, so why not spend a few thousand dollars to take better photos? Then I can sell off my APS-C lenses and go full-frame, because everyone knows you gotta go FF if you want to be a serious photographer....right?

Samuel Masini's picture

I’m praying that people start throwing away their Nikon 58mm F1.4 to buy the rumored Noct lens.

Gerardo D. Duran Jr.'s picture

liked your comment; it was instructional when reading in between the lines. Very clever righting!.....(Vincent Willem van Gogh; Should I keep making my own color paint or should I buy the cool new, squeeze tubes with pre mixed colors? )

I'm a semi pro photographer. For me that means I've got a main job,but also do paid works at events and for companies. Not as much to afford my GAS, but it's always a reason for me to buy stuff xD

I've invested lots of money in the Canon system, I could sell some lenses and would still have enough points in the new CPS program for platinum. Additional I have Sigma Art lenses as well. I love the rendering of my lenses, I love my 135 f2, my 35 1.4 Art, the 24-70 f2.8 II;70-200 2.8L IS II, all the good stuff.

So, when the 5d iv was released, everyone was shittalking about "old" tech used. I love this cam. All together this is solid package from where I have the options for all my activities; I can take a combination around the world, one to go hiking, one to shoot weddings, one to take portraits. It just works damn fine.

So, there's a new mirrorless coming? Why should I drop everything and jump a new train when the "old" stuff works pretty fine? Most people who consider switching may sell their 60D, 18-135mm lens, 50 1.8, ... but imho many people who started to invest 4 digit sums on EF lenses won't jump the ship.

Canon will bring a ML cam on the market; but I think it will not be the EF-M mount they currently sell. EF-M will be like EF-S, but less compatible. A Canon ML has to use the EF Mount, only this way they can take the market and swallow it. Otherwise it will be always a runner-up to Sony, because nobody with even 1 L lens will ditch it with loss just for the hype...IMHO

Christoph, I agree with almost everything you said apart from the last sentence. I think there will be some people who ditch their L lenses at a loss to get the new system, but they will be the folks who are poor at the business side of their photography business. Hopefully not too many of them.

There was a nice saying about Windows OS, which is so far applicable to camera market: each 3rd version of Windows is good. 3,95,98,7,10...

So, first two generations of Sony 7 series seem like alfa and beta versions and current one is a release. And only this release could be advised to anyone who needs at least some reliability.

Not sure how it will go with CaNikon in reality, but I expect a lot of hiccups.

Simon Patterson's picture

So any of you suckers wanna sell me a good used Nikon F mount lens or full frame DSLR that's about 2 to 4 years old for say 15% of its new price? No? Reckon you'll be up for it in say 6 months, then?

No? I didn't think so. Me neither.

Simon, I am here if you would like to sell for that price though. Keep it in mind :-D

Simon Patterson's picture

James Barton if I change my mind, you'll certainly be the first person I contact! 😂

Phil Bautista's picture

Nikon has the Nikon 1 system while Canon has the EOS-M. These full frame offerings will not be their first foray into mirrorless so unless they change their mindset of coming out with better bells and whistles in their mid and entry level offerings, they will continue to lose ground to the other companies who are more aggressive with their products.

completely different markets.

More comments