As I mentioned in the first Learning To Master: Photography video, I planned on buying a camera this year. I have now bought the camera and opened it up. I am very pleased with my purchase, and I thought I should say a bit about why I got what I got and how much it cost.

Over the last month, I have agonized over what camera to get. I am lucky to have a friend who loves photography. He lent me some cameras and lenses to help make up my mind on what I wanted to look for in a camera.

The hardest choice was whether I wanted to buy a micro 4/3 or a full frame. The reason this decision was so difficult was I like the size and weight of the micro 4/3, but I wanted the inherent benefits that come with a full frame, such as higher resolution and less noise at higher ISOs.

I settled on the full frame because of the benefits I stated before and the possible physics limitations in the future. I wasn’t sure if I would be doing photography for the long term, and if I did, I didn’t want to change up to a full frame in the future to deal with the physics issues later on. Let me explain.

Cameras sensors have arrays of photosensors that collect light and convert that to a voltage signal. These photosensors detect ranges of light but can’t detect the full spectrum. So to solve this, they use multiple different photosensors close together tuned to different ranges of light and call this collective group a pixel. If these photosensors have a physical limit on size, then eventually the micro 4/3 would not be able to fit more resolution into that size sensor. We may already be near this limit, I don’t know. But the full frame would be able to fit almost 4 micro 4/3 sensors inside it. And the pixel sizes are larger at the moment because of bandwidth restrictions in the electronics. So the full frame would still have room to grow, essentially. And lenses last longer than bodies.

After making that decision, the next was slightly easier. Brands of lenses match brands of bodies, mostly. There are adapters and third-party manufacturers, but where is the longevity and how do I decide what lenses to get? Again, looking at the sensor provides a little insight here. Sony makes the mirrorless sensors for almost everyone. So if supplies run low (as we have all experienced these last 3 years), they will support their brand first.

Then I had to consider my budget. And that budget wasn’t super high for the camera body. I wanted to save as much money as I could for the lenses. But I also wanted a camera that would sustain me for a good while before I needed to buy a new one. So after a little searching and reflection, I settled on the Alpha 7. But which mark? I, II, III, IV, or V? And do I buy used or new? Used, of course. My budget wasn’t up to a new camera.

I looked first at the II. It had some image stabilization which the I didn’t, but it lacked some of the improvements of III which made III a powerhouse. And what about the R (high resolution) versions.

I spent a day looking up, and up, and up the ladder of newness. I almost convinced myself to save more and get the nearly $2K used IV. Then in a wonderful moment of clarity I asked myself “Why?” If budget was a consideration, why am I even looking at the newer models. Just go back to considering the Mark II.

So that’s what I did. But then I needed to find a deal on a used Sony A7 II. My first place to look was MPB. Then used store fronts on Adorama, B&H, etc. These were much more expensive than other sites, but they had guarantees that some of the other sites didn’t have. Did I want those assurances? Eventually I decided no, I could live without them.

So then it was a bit of a waiting game. I checked Mercari, eBay, and MPB daily for this camera. A few sellers looked promising on Mercari and I reached out to ask questions. One had a slightly more inclusive bundle of batteries and a bag, which I thought justified the higher price. It appeared like a good deal, so I pounced.

The seller almost sold the camera to someone else, but that buyer didn’t respond to the counteroffer. So I came in under the counteroffer by $10 and took the sale right then.

And I waited for UPS to bring me my camera.

I got it today and promptly evaluated the body, sensor, lens, and functionality. There were a few hot pixels at long exposures, but that is okay and common. There were only 1 or 2 out of 24 million after all. At faster exposures they didn’t show up at all. The sensor is good.

The lens is a kit lens, but it does the job until I can get better lenses. The only issues I found were 1 out of the 4 batteries was completely dead and a small crack in the plastic of a part. That part is only $8 and not an immediate concern, but it should be easy to replace. I can buy another battery.

I completed the sale and took a breath. I have finally got my own camera. Now to go crazy and learn how to master my own style of photography. Happy shooting to me!

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