If You Had Just £20, Which Camera Would You Buy?

As you probably know, I’m quite a fan of the bargain used camera, and in the last couple of years, for me that’s meant 5-15 year old digital cameras, mostly compacts.

I’ve found at least a dozen that cost me less then a decent meal, which produced photographs I’m happy with, and been fun to use along the way.

While I’m happy with my current arsenal of around 10 cameras, I often think about where I would begin again, if I had to.

To tighten this theoretical challenge further, let’s add a budget limit of £20.

If I had no camera, and tomorrow had to buy something for £20 or less, what would I look for?

Three options come to mind.

A DSLR might be my first choice, but I’d be unlikely to find even an old one with a lens for under £20.

Under £50, yes definitely.

So I’d start looking at a compact.

Those I’ve had best results from, and enjoyed most, fall into three camps – Ricoh, Lumix and Canon IXUS. 

Made with a Ricoh CX1

Our hypothetical £20 budget would easily pick up any one of the dozens of different IXUS models released in the last 20 years (yes, they first came out in 2000!).

I’ve enjoyed the Canon Digital IXUS 870 IS this year, and the (even more) tiny Digital IXUS i from 2003.

Panasonic’s Lumix range has been almost as prolific, but many are more pricey than the more consumer orientated IXUS line.

My rather wonderful LX3 falls outside of this budget (mine cost around £75), but you’ll still have change from £20 with a 6MP Lumix TZ2 (which shares the excellent Resume Zoom function with the LX3), or the even older and cheaper 4MB Lumix LZ1.

Finally, on the Ricoh front, a CX1 from 2011 will get you the brilliant step zoom lens concept  (which stops at 28, 35, 50, 85, 105, 135 and 200mm and back down again each time you zoom), an excellent lens and sensor combo, plus the same kind of user friendly menu logic as its far more expensive siblings like the GX100 and GRD range.

They focus really close too.

You might get a later model CX or the similar R range for your money if you’re patient too.

So where would my £20 go? 

As I write, looking back at the cameras I’ve had and mentioned above, the one I would most like to have again is the TZ2, or a later TZ.

This is inevitably strongly influenced by the fact I’ve been using my Lumix LX3 exclusively for the last 20 days. They’re excellent cameras.

As great as the Canons are (and for a novice I’d give them an IXUS every time – this is the first proper camera we’ve given our 11 year old daughter), they always seem to lack any kind of personality or soul.

So, longer term, I’d go with the more endearing Lumix or the more photographer targeted Ricoh range (as opposed to the travel photographer (TZ = Travel Zoom) those Lumix cameras are aimed at with their crazy zoom ranges).

How about you? If you had just £20, which camera would you buy? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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15 thoughts on “If You Had Just £20, Which Camera Would You Buy?”

  1. My Lumix FX150 is one of the best cameras I’ve used, full-stop. It is small, solid, capable, high quality and has Leica glass. What’s not to like? Mine cost £19. It’s so good I almost don’t need my Lumix LX5 but that is bigger (so handles better) and has a bunch of additional features which I value.

    1. Richard, great to hear from you, you’ve been quiet lately!

      Another vote for Lumix then. I just looked up the FX150, 14MP in a compact in 2008 was quite something. I’m quite surprised it seems to have a CCD sensor too (accordingto DPReview), generally you only hear of CCDs up to about 10MP, then companies started using CMOS sensors at 12MP and above.

      I’ve had a few Lumix cameras now, and they’ve all been really impressive and very likeable. I might have to look into the FX range further…

      1. Hi Dan. Too true – crazy end to the year at work I’m afraid! I bought the FX150 based on that article by Sofi Lee on DP Review. It’s a super little camera and, like the bigger Lumix shoots nice B&W straight out of the camera. I’m trying to shoot a bit more colour at the moment though, and getting some nice results with both cameras.

      2. Well always good to hear from you when you have time Richard. Ah yes I remember previous conversations about Sofi Lee and her love of old digital cameras. I’ve had a browse on eBay for others in the FX range…

  2. Interesting question Dan. I’m not really tuned in to the used camera market, but I did buy a nice Lumix in a thrift shop in it’s box with all paperwork for around $5, which I gave away to a young person. I tried it out, and it way surprisingly nice and took decent pictures. For some reason, I never see cameras in thrift shops around here any more. If I had to buy one online, it would probably be a Lumix of some sort since I am used to Panasonic cameras and I feel like they hold up better than most old cameras. Canon in particular seems to have a bad track record of failure, or so says my repair tech. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from your blog is that although photography can be an expensive hobby, it doesn’t have to be.

    1. Thanks Jon, that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned too! And of course it’s true in other areas of electroncis too, like audio and visual equipment. Decent, well made gear will last and still offer excellent performance and plenty of enjoyment for years after it’s been superceded by a newer “better” model. Don’t get sucked in by the upgrade parade! : )

  3. Hi Dan,
    I’m new in your blog and find it very interesting in the way that we have a similar way of seeing photography. I have order a Coolpix P300 last week, should received soon. I also found in my forgotton stuff my really first camera that started my adventure : a Pentax Optio M30. I just need to find new battery and I will bring it back to life.

  4. You have a better market to pick from over there. Here people often ask more for a used camera than the price of a new one. It’s ridiculous. I’m not saying they get that much, but they ask it.

    1. Yeh I don’t really look in charity shops these days, the vast majority of cameras I’ve bought has been via eBay UK. And there are tens of thousands available!

  5. My Panasonic Lumix ZS60 was a thrift store find for $15. A bit of a unicorn find for sure, but it’s the only digital P&S I use.

    Fuji make excellent digital P&S cameras and you can usually find them for a pittance. There are a few Kodak digitals with Schneider lenses that can be had for very little as well.

      1. Yes, that ZS60. The battery was dead when I found it. That and the fact that thrift stores don’t give point and shoot cameras a lot of scrutiny got me a great deal.

  6. Ah that is entirely too easy. The Sony DSC-P200 – lovely 1/1.8″ CCD sensor (7.2MP) and a Carl Zeiss branded lens.
    In fact, I bought it new back in 2005 and paid, I think, about 450 US dollars for it! And I used it for about 8 years until I bought my first Pentax DSLR in 2013. We are on our third one – after my sons managed to destroy 2 of them, I bought one in top condition this year for my 6yo son for 14 dollars including shipping. He’s been taking very good care of it! Better than his older siblings…
    Another alternative is the Sony H55. It also has a lovely CCD sensor – smaller but 14MP. And a fantastic G lens that makes it a very attractive camera – it really is better than it is supposed to be. It even does video rather well if you need a basic family video!

    1. Chris, thanks for your thoughts.

      I admit I did think about including a Sony Cyber-shot as I have had some great results with them.

      The 4MP DSC-L1 I had earlier in the year was a great example.


      The only downside with older Sony cameras is they usually use a more obscure memory stick/card.

      Those I mentioned above in the post are all just standard SD cards.

      Otherwise, I’m definitely a Sony fan!

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