If you’re looking to get into boudoir photography in any kind of serious long-term way, buying a brand new latest and greatest camera is going to cost you thousands of dollars (yes, thousands) and we haven’t even started talking about lenses yet — those can get expensive too.
However, one can still acquire a great camera that is full-frame and will get the job done and start earning you money faster if you’re willing to buy a camera that is used. You can save thousands (yes, thousands) if equipped with the right knowledge of what camera to buy and where to buy it.
So, what’s the best camera value for boudoir photography and where should I buy it in 2020? I would pick up a used Nikon D800 or D800e from either KEH, UsedProPhoto, or the official Nikon website. Right now, these are the best camera value buys for the buck and picking up one of these models will save you a ton of money over buying a model that’s brand new — money that can go towards the purchase of a new lens or two.
But first, two caveats…
The first is, I’ve already written extensively on the difference between the D800 and D800e in an article entitled, “Is Nikon’s D800 or D800e Better For Boudoir Photography?”.
So, if you want to learn about all the differences you can read about them from the linked title above. This article is more about the why and where on buying the best value used camera bodies than on their differences.
The second caveat is, when buying used cameras you have to be careful where you buy from. You can buy from a private seller but you’re taking a greater risk because they’re probably not going to give you any kind of money-back guarantee or warranty.
Once the deal is made, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever problems may arise afterwards.
The first part of this article we’ll talk about “the why”. Why do I recommend Nikon’s D800 and D800e as being the best value buys for a boudoir photographer in 2020? — if you’re looking for a great quality full-frame camera that will save you money!
Because these two models are older (the D800 debuted in 2012, the D800e in 2014) and been replaced by the D810 and then the D850, their prices have dropped significantly. In fact, Nikon does not make either the D800 or D800e anymore, so your only option is to buy them used… or as Nikon likes to say, “refurbished”.
And that’s fine, since this article is about recognizing the best value buy camera body.
Features That Make The D800/D800e Great For Boudoir
Since the only difference between the two models is that the D800e has no optical low pass filter (making its images marginally sharper), everything else about the two cameras is the same. So I’ll just list all the features I consider them to be great for boudoir photography.
36.3 megapixels — more megapixels contributes to higher resolution for cropping in and enlarging images for wall art
Full-frame sensor — ideal for shooting portraiture, like boudoir
Dual Cards Slots — it’s great having a backup card if one fails (and it saved my butt on a shoot once when my data card failed, fortunately I had the compact flash backup)
51 Point AF — 51 point auto focus with 11 points sensitive up to f/8
Lens options — supported by a wide array of great glass by Nikon and other third party manufactures
Durability — shutter rated for 200,000 compared to Canon’s 5D Mark III at 150,000
USB 3 — as opposed to the older USB 2
4 fps — 4 frames per second in continuous mode for capturing a fleeting moment
Magnesium alloy weathered sealed body — sturdy and strong
Price — both can be had for well under a thousand dollars ($700 to $900 range depending on condition).
Compared to its Canon equivalent, the 5D Mark III, it’s more camera bang for the buck (and I compare the two in greater detail further down).
Where To Buy
We’re going to talk now about where to get a good price with a warranty and limited money-back guarantee on your new purchase. Which is important because buying a used camera body is not like buying a used lens.
Lenses tend to not only hold their value more but are also not as prone to as many problems that a used camera body might encounter.
KEH, UsedPhotoPro, Nikon
If you buy from a reputable source, from Nikon’s official website, where they offer refurbished camera bodies and lenses, or from a reputable used camera store like KEH or UsedPhotoPro that have a ratings systems along with a warranty and money-back guarantee if something goes wrong, then you’re taking the safer path with your money.
*(Please note that Nikon only has a warranty period and not a 14 day money-back guarantee like KEH or UsedPhotoPro.)
If you buy used from a private party on eBay or Amazon, you’ll be taking more of a risk if something goes wrong. You’re also less likely to get any help with a problem or get your money back if you encounter issues shortly afterwards.
Buying from Nikon, KEH, or UsedPhotoPro, their names and reputations are at stake, along with their businesses, so in this world of online reviews and where word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire, these companies want positive things said about them. So, they’re in the business of providing good working used cameras at a reasonable price that their customers will be happy with.
They also all compete against each other for your business and loyalty and don’t want anything to screw that up for them.
Now, both KEH and UsedPhotoPro also have a presence on Amazon and eBay that they sell their used cameras and lenses on along with their main store’s websites, and buying on either one of these two platforms will come with some type of warranty and/or money-back guarantee as well.
So, that’s something to look for if you go through Amazon or eBay in your search for a great deal on a used camera.
Warranties and Money-Back Guarantees
KEH offers a 14 day no-questions-asked return policy, So, if you’re not happy with what you bought, you can return it for any reason and get your money back. Sweet!
Within 30 days you can exchange it for something of equal value or more and just pay the difference. So, let’s say you purchased a used Nikon D800 but within 30 days you decide you really want the D800e. Well, you can exchange it and pay the difference (if any).
They also have a 6 month warranty on everything they sell. This covers things that might go wrong with your item from normal use. It does not cover damage from you dropping it on the sidewalk or having it accidentally fall into the water when you were snapping shots of your friend water-skiing.
This warranty holds true for every camera rated higher than “as is”. So, if you buy “as is” there are no warranties.
Their rating system is as follows:
|LN-||like new minus|
The Difference Buying Through KEH’s Website Verses on eBay or Amazon
The difference in buying through KEH’s website is that they sell items based on type and grade. In other words, they may have 30 Nikon D800s with an excellent rating. You could end up with any one of those models from that batch.
As opposed to buying from KEH on eBay or Amazon…
When buying a camera on eBay or Amazon from KEH you’re buying a specific individual item as opposed to buying from a batch. Details will be listed for that particular item that are unique to it.
Also note, items sold through KEH on eBay will say “kehoutlet” as opposed to just KEH. So, be on the lookout for that as well.
Buying used on Amazon from KEH is easier to spot, it’ll say “KEH Camera”. Amazon also has a different rating system but below is an equivalent comparison chart.
|LN||like new||Like New|
|LN-||like new minus||Like New|
|EX+||excellent plus||Very Good|
UsedPhotoPro is based in Indianapolis with two store locations. They’re also a division of Roberts Camera.
Roberts Camera is where new retail items are sold and it’s the UsedPhotoPro part of the operation that deals in buying and selling used camera equipment.
Family owned for several generations, they take pride in their customer service and in helping you in any way they can with all things photography related.
They also boast having the best prices on used cameras and lenses anywhere so definitely check them out if you’re shopping around for the best deal. All cameras rated “Good” or better ship for free too 🙂 — except for those to P.O. Boxes. 🙁
Warranties and Money-Back Guarantees
Like KEH, UsedPhotoPro offers a 14 day no-hassle return policy, along with a six month warranty on items sold with the option of purchasing an extended warranty — exceptions are items rated “Fair” and “Inoperable”.
They have a presence on both Amazon and eBay as well and can be identified as Roberts Camera (remember, UsedPhotoPro is the used division of Roberts Camera).
Their rating system is as follows:
|Mint||97 – 99% of original condition|
|Excellent||90 – 96% of original condition|
|Very Good||80 – 89% of original condition|
|Good||70 – 79% of original condition|
|Fair||Very rough looking|
|Inoperable||As is, all sales are final|
Comparing all three rating systems side by side looks like this:
|Mint||Like New & Like New-||Like New|
|Very Good||Excellent||Very Good|
Buying From Nikon
Another option is buying used (or rather “refurbished”) from the official Nikon website.
The only drawback to this is that you might end up paying a lot more than you would purchasing from one of the other two options mentioned above.
First off, they’re really not in the “used” camera business. They’d much rather sell you a new one, so maybe that’s why their prices are so much higher… on some of their models.
Two examples of how wonky their pricing can be…
On a used Nikon D800e, they have it listed on their site at $2500!
KEH sells one in excellent condition for $890.
And on UsedPhotoPro, in excellent condition as well goes for $704
(As of Dec. 2019)
That’s quite a difference, but with a Nikon D750 the gap is much more narrow.
On Nikon’s site a D750 sells for $999
On KEH in excellent condition, it sells for $999
And on UsedPhotoPro one in excellent condition sells for $823
Nikon’s not even in the same ballpark with pricing with the D800e, but is definitely competitive with the D750.
So be careful and really compare prices from all the different options you have to buy from.
It appears that Nikon doesn’t really discount their higher end models all that much when selling them refurbished. Another example of this happens with Nikon’s D810. All three gave similar results to the higher pricing of the D800e in the first example.
On Nike’s site a refurbished D810 was listed at $2400 (Yikes!)
On KEH in excellent condition, it’s listed for $1279
And on UsedPhotoPro, in very good condition it goes for $966
Now, Nikon does offer a 90 day warranty on refurbished DSLRs but not a 14 day no-questions-asked money-back guarantee like KEH or UsedPhotoPro does. Something to think about.
And once again, I was disappointed in Nikon’s customer service. I called them to ask their opinion of the best valued full-frame DSLR (just to see what their answer would be). And lo and behold, after being put on for a rather lengthy bit, the answer they finally gave me was the “D56”.
Okay, two things wrong with this, one is that it’s not the “D56” it’s the D5600. And the second is that it’s not a full-frame camera, it’s a crop sensor.
They then put me on hold again two more times and the person came back with “The D750… because it has a full size sensor.” Okay, so maybe they redeemed themselves some, but I realized they were just looking at the refurbished cameras available on their site, and I was asking in general.
Just to be fair, when I called Canon and asked the same question, the rep recommended the EOS RP for $999.
(Do these people even listen?)
Again, I asked them what they thought their best valued full-framed DSLR camera was that “was not from this current year”, and the person recommended a mirrorless camera that came out earlier this year! (2019)
My point here is that you’re not going to get reliable quality information that goes too in-depth when you call Nikon (or Canon) about cameras and probably lenses too (I’m assuming).
(In all fairness, it can be hit or miss depending on the rep you talk to.)
You’ll get much better assistance from KEH or UsedPhotoPro because these people live, eat, and breath photography… or just do your own research. That’s what I did.
Nikon D800/D800e vs. Canon 5D Mark III
If you’ve read any of my previous articles on cameras, you’ve probably noticed that I’m rather biased towards Nikon, at least when it comes to comparing them to their Canon equivalent.
Here’s a perfect example of why that is.
Since we’re talking about buying the best value quality full-frame used DSLR in this article (for boudoir photography), we want the best camera our money can buy, right? The most bang for our hard-earned buck!
I’m going to compare Nikon’s D800/D800e to Canon’s 5D Mark III here and show you that you’ll get more camera for about the same price when buying used.
Since these two cameras are on the same level and similar in a lot of ways, I’m only going to compare them in areas where they differ significantly.
Advantages Nikon’s D800(e) Has Over Canon’s 5D Mark III
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Nikon’s D800(e) sensor has 36.3 megapixels while Canon’s 5D Mark III has 22.3.
The D800’s shutter durability is rated at 200,000 actuations while the 5D is rated at 150,000.
Auto Focus detection on the D800(e) is effective up to f/8 while on the 5D it’s up to f/5.6
The D800 uses USB 3 while the 5D uses USB 2.
Oh, and when the 5D came out it was priced $500 more than the D800(e)… this is where I’d drop the mic, but just to be fair, I’ll quickly go over some advantages the Canon has over the Nikon.
Advantages the Canon 5D Mark III Has Over Nikon’s D800(e)
The 5D is 40 grams lighter than the D800(e) (so there’s that).
You can get about 100 more shots per battery life on the Canon than on the Nikon (950 shots verse 850 shots). (Yeah… okay.)
You get about 2 more stops of native ISO at the high end with the 5D at 25,600 verses the D800’s 6,400 (if you really want to shoot with that much noise… I guess that’s an advantage?).
In continuous shooting mode, the Canon is capable of 6 fps while the Nikon is 4 fps. (If you like shooting boudoir in continuous mode this could be a factor.)
And the Canon has a slightly better LCD resolution at 1,040,000 dots compared to Nikon’s 921,000 (but are you really gonna’ be able to notice the difference?).
And the Winner Is…
As one can see, in the features that really matter, Nikon’s D800(e) is just a better camera than Canon’s 5D Mark III. Especially in a genre of photography where we’re going to be enlarging prints to hang as wall art, those extra megapixels of resolution come in handy.
That’s why in this particular weight class of “best current value for a full-frame DSLR camera” (2020) I only mentioned Nikon’s D800 and D800e. Models that don’t have a major jump in technology from one another.
The biggest difference being the D800e has no low pass filter which makes its images a bit sharper than the D800’s, but that’s more of a preference feature because you may also experience more of the moire` effect. So, you have to decide if the tradeoff is worth it.
But I digress. To read more about this difference just refer to my article, “Is Nikon’s D800 or D800e Better For Boudoir Photography”.
The Most Important Thing To Think About
The most important thing to think about with this article, other than finding a great camera at a great price and encouraging people to save their money, is this… it’s not about buying the best camera and lens money can buy but about creating incredible images with what you can afford… simply because you can.
It’s learning about light and using light and composing your frame and your use of color (or black and white) and striving for your images to have an emotional impact on the viewer.
We photographers can get caught up in the latest and greatest lens, camera, light, modifier, etc. and we can sometimes forget what it is we’re trying to achieve. Are we trying to produce the best image technically? Or are we trying to create a great image that delivers an emotional impact?
We want to make people “feel” something worth feeling when they view one of our images.
It’s about being a conduit to connect people to that part of themselves that is human, that is an inspiration that transcends the daily routine of everyday life.
Thanks for your time!
If you found this article helpful, be sure to pass it along to someone else who it may benefit.
And if you’re interested in checking out what KEH or UsedPhotoPro has to offer, just click on the links below.
Founder / Lounge Boudoir