Should I buy an older used DSLR at a bargain price or a more expensive brand-new model?

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October 31, 2014 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in News & Events, Q&A, Tips & Techniques by  •  0 Comments

Although I already own a full-frame Nikon D610, I want a second body in the DX format. A friend who shoots a few weddings each year is willing to sell me his professional camera, the Nikon D300s for $750. This DSLR has gotten rave reviews, but others suggest I buy a brand-new D7100 instead, at $1100. What would be the best bet?
—Harold H.

Many photo enthusiasts are attracted by great prices on gently used DSLRs—of all brands—and that’s understandable especially when it’s a semi-pro camera like the D300s. And you’re right, Harold, it was rated very highly in hundreds of reviews (including mine). When developed in 2009, its technology was state of the art. However, even more sophisticated technology has been developed in the intervening years, and the D7100 tops the D300s in most specification aspects of specifications.

The larger, more rugged D300s does offer benefits, particularly in terms of speed and burst depth, but the new D7100 provides higher resolution; some entirely new features; and a superior, more versatile Movie mode. Photos courtesy of Nikon Canada

The larger, more rugged D300s does offer benefits, particularly in terms of speed and burst depth, but the new D7100 provides higher resolution; some entirely new features; and a superior, more versatile Movie mode. Photos courtesy of Nikon Canada

The newer DSLR boasts 24.1- vs. 12.3-megapixel resolution, extra features such as HDR, a more sophisticated EXPEED 3 processor, a larger 3.2″ LCD with higher resolution, more advanced light metering, as well as greater resolution in Movie mode (1080/30p vs. 780/24p) plus full-time autofocus. It also omits the optical low-pass filter to produce greater per-pixel sharpness. (See “Should I buy a camera without a low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter?“) Granted the D300s is a more rugged body, but it’s also larger and 165 g heavier. As a bonus, its continuous burst mode is faster and the D300s can shoot more photos in a single sequence, particularly RAW captures (45 frames in a burst vs. 9).

In addition to 11.8 megapixels of higher resolution, the D7100 employs a sensor without the optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter. Eliminating the blurring effect produced by that device provides superior definition of intricate details. While the risk of moiré pattern is increased, that effect very rarely occurred during my tests and was easy to remove with software. Photo courtesy of Nikon Canada

In addition to 11.8 megapixels of higher resolution, the D7100 employs a sensor without the optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter. Eliminating the blurring effect produced by that device provides superior definition of intricate details. While the risk of moiré pattern is increased, that effect very rarely occurred during my tests and was easy to remove with software. Photo courtesy of Nikon Canada

In my estimation, the D7100 is a fabulous camera in all respects, with more than 24-megapixel resolution—like your D610—plus incredible versatility and all of the latest, most valuable technology. For the full comparative list of specifications and additional insights, you might want to read “Nikon D7100 vs. D300s,” published by a photographer with extensive experience in Nikon equipment. I have also tested both cameras, and my own recommendation mirrors his: buy the D7100 unless you want to shoot numerous RAW photos in a burst and/or need the faster framing rate. But if you do decide on the D300s, remember this: for 8-fps capability instead of 7 fps, you would also need to buy the optional MB-D10 battery grip ($370).

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