The Spending Sweet Spot – How Much To Pay For Your Next Camera

Some might say Frugal is one of my middle names, and whilst I’ve bought two or three used cameras at around £150, and my only new camera, a Nikon Coolpix P300, was around £300 back in 2011, most of my purchases have required a small fraction of this outlay.

The danger though with such a tightly budgeted approach, is that if you keep buying cameras (and/or lenses), however cheap they are, it soon adds up.

Laying out £15 here, and £20 there, can soon mount to hundreds.

That’s not what this thread is about though.

A further potential problem I’ve found is that if something costs too little, you’re not emotionally invested in it so much.

It becomes a disposable purchase almost, something so negligible it can be written off and forgotten with next to no consequence, financially or otherwise.

I think this is a key factor in why the digital compacts I’ve had the longest, and enjoy the most, haven’t been true pocket money machines.

Take the three cameras that keep rising to the top of my favourites.

My Ricoh GRD III was around £150, the Pentax Q £120, and my Lumix LX3 in the region of £75.

To me, none of these figures are low enough to be considered throwaway.

If any of these cameras had broken within the first month or two of me acquiring them, I’d have not only been disappointed, but felt I’d wasted a significant amount of money.

Your own personal income and concept of money and value will be different of course.

I often come across threads in forums where someone posts something like – “I’m looking for a second camera, and I’m on a very strict budget – nothing over £1000.”

If that’s a strict budget camera, how much do they spend on their main camera?

So wherever it falls for you personally, there needs to be a point that is considered a large enough value that you care about what you do with the camera after you’ve bought it.

For me, anything under about £30 can easily fall into the “disposable and forgettable” category.

Even if the camera gets put in a shoe box under a bed and forgotten, it was little enough outlay that it makes no impression on me.

The camera I bought most recently (a couple of months back) was a Panasonic Lumix FZ38.

After a bit of looking around, I landed one for £35.

Not the cheapest – I could have probably paid less if I’d have followed a dozen eBay listings over a couple of months and been patient and lucky – but something I was happy to outlay on a camera unknown to me, but that looked promising on paper.

And it turns out that price was very much within my spending sweet spot.

It was enough that I didn’t want to forget about the camera – I wanted to use it right from the outset, and start to see what I guess you would call some return on my investment.

But it wasn’t so expensive that I would have been distraught if I’d dropped it and cracked the lens on the first outing.

I have no plans for any other camera purchases in the foreseeable future, and feel there’s a huge amount yet to explore with the FZ38.

It’s perhaps unfortunate that it took me so long to reach this point of understanding of my spending sweet spot.

Instead of buying literally dozens of cameras in recent years for £10 and less and using them very little, or often not at all, because I had no urgency to, nothing invested in the venture to compel me to see some return.

I remember some years ago when I trained to be a coach, studying various marketing sources about the pros and cons of offering free sessions when you were starting out.

The consensus was, that if you gave someone a free session or two, they would be far less committed to it and emotionally invested in that if they’d paid for it. Even of that payment was only say a negligible £10 a session.

So neither of you benefit, because the client won’t be fully committed to the venture.

Many other sources of marketing advice will say the sooner you can encourage someone to buy something of yours, even if very cheap, it sets them off on a path, it breaks the ice, it starts a pattern.

It’s like you’re the owner of a castle surrounded by beautiful gardens, all within a three metre high wall.

There are many people on the outside, waiting at the gate, trying to peer in.

But once they pay you the entrance fee to simply open the gate and let them step inside, it sets them on their journey.

They become hugely more likely to pay a little more to get into the inner gardens, and then the castle itself, because they’ve already set in motion that pattern of paying to see something they want to see.

My spending sweet spot for cameras then begins about £35, and maxes out at perhaps £150, the limit I’ve paid for any used camera.

Any less and I don’t have the emotional investment as we’ve talked about.

Any more and I’d be too nervous about the camera getting broken or being dropped, to be able to use it freely and enjoy it.

How about you? Do you have a spending sweet spot? You don’t have to tell us what it is, it would just be interesting to know if you consciously have a figure in mind when you buy a camera.

As always, 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).

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11 thoughts on “The Spending Sweet Spot – How Much To Pay For Your Next Camera”

  1. Cost is definitely an issue with anything, particularly when you’re on a fixed income. The professional can justify greater expense (which hopefully equates to better quality and/or more features) because it will make money. We amateurs have other rat holes to pour our limited quantities of sand down, however.
    Curiously my next post (for tomorrow) touches on this issue a bit too. Specifically my never-ending struggle to refrain from buying cameras just because they are interesting or a good deal.

    1. I always smile when I see an advert for something at a reduced price,and the headline is “Save £50!” or however much the difference is between the full price and sale price. But 95%of the time it’s not something we need anyway, so if we don’t buy at all we save even more! People seem to overlook this, and the advertising machine keeps pumping out the same old trick…

  2. I’m on a very strict budget – nothing over £1000.


    I’m not sure I’ve figured out my used camera spending sweets spot. I know that some of my purchases this year have left me feeling “anxious”. In retrospect, my Pentax Spotmatic II (US$80) and ES II (US$158) purchases seem ill-considered. I have used both cameras only a few times, with weight and ease of use being detractors.

    I’ve had real joy using my Minolta X-700. Found on Facebook Marketplace and sold by the original owner who was excited to find out that we lived just minutes apart and hiked the same nature trials, I paid US$70 for the body, two lenses, a camera bag, and two Minolta flash units. I feel quite pleased with this purchase, and I use this camera often.

    This month I bought a Pentax P3n ($35) and a Minolta XD-11 ($245). I’m already regretting both purchases; the P3n because I’m concerned I won’t use the camera as much, and the XD-11 feels like an indulgence. I’m hoping the XD-11 is even more fun to use than the X-700 but if it isn’t I’m prepared to shoot a few rolls and resell it. And I’ll probably shoot a few rolls in the P3n and sell that too.

    I guess I know that I’ve fallen in love with the X-700 but we’re not yet exclusive and I’m dating other cameras, looking for the one.

    1. Khurt, what do you think makes you anxious about those recent examples of spending? That you paid too much in some way for what they give you, or they’re just not as compatible with your needs as you thought they would be? In other words, the amount you spend, or perhaps a misjudgement of how suitable the cameras would be for you?

      I really didn’t like when I was in a phase of constantly buying something new, then debating what to sell to keep my overall kit down. I don’t want to be spending time and energy thinking about my camera dealings, just want to get on with enjoying them!

      1. I tend to be anxious and we have been (are) living in anxious times globally but especially here in the USA. People are dying and we are still debating who will lead our nation for the next four years. 🤷🏽‍♂️

        I am a planner and I think a certain level of uncertainty makes me anxious. I am told by my physician that my Type 1 diabetes (2006), hyperthyroidism (2019), and Graves Eye Disease are all related to extremely low Vitamin D and a predisposition to anxiety. My Xanax pill bottle only has two pills left. I should probably move back to the Commonwealth Caribbean and start a marijuana farm. Some island governments have now made medical marijuana legal. 🤪

        But I think am anxious that I may have spent money I could be saving for a macro or telephoto lens for bird photograph for my X-T2. That I could have been more patient and spent more time understanding what I wanted to do with film before making any purchases. But I think I let emotions get in the way of more rational thought and I bought all these camera bodies and I am realising that I will likely just use one.

        To paraphrase you:

        I really [don’t want to be] in a phase of constantly buying something new, then debating what to sell to keep my overall kit down. I don’t want to be spending time and energy thinking about my camera dealings, just want to get on with enjoying them!

      2. It’s been a year of tremendous uncertainty. I think sometimes this encourages more buying – whatever it may be you enjoy buying. It’s something we largely can control, and give us a way of experiencing something new – but again in a controlled and measure way, not an unexpected event sprung upon us.

  3. Don’t think I’ve ever bought a camera that’s been over about £150. But then I don’t collect cameras and only buy a new camera to replace one that’s dying… and this year, with all that’s been going on, even though my current one is not working brilliantly, it seems so low down my ‘needed’ list that a new one will have to wait longer. Home and food, over photos, at present.

    1. I haven’t photographed so much lately, I haven’t quite put my finger on why yet, but it’s been a year of change and adapting and focusing on what’s most important for so many of us.

  4. I think I come from a totally different perspective these days…
    I did, at one point, have two systems (Pentax and Minolta) and a couple of point and shoots… but I realized I could have one good system, or several so-so systems… and everything I have is now centered on the Pentax K mount. In the last year I’ve been fortunate that finances have improved, and now I don’t really have anything that I truly need – only a couple of “nice to have” lenses (the 21mm and 70mm pancakes) that will probably wait a little bit. I’ve also dusted off and did a bit of lubrication on my P30T and would have already been shooting some film if I hadn’t come down to Brazil for a couple of months (I was afraid of what the x-ray machines would do to film, so I didn’t bring the P30T).
    So I mostly buy and sell bodies and lenses to keep improving the system I have… yes I paid $350 on my K20D almost 8 years ago, but that was paid off by selling a guitar… and the $400 dollar Sigma 30 1.4 Art was paid off by selling a bass… only my recent K-3 was more than half paid with actual money from the bank.
    So I’m basically happy with my kit now, and can for the first time think about spending a couple hundred dollars a year in film and development… because I built a system to the point that I feel I have everything I really need, and can’t really afford the time and money involved in selling what I have and jumping to a different system.
    Hopefully that makes sense…

    1. Yes that makes sense, as in I understand what you’re saying, and it seems like a very logical approach.

      I’m in a similar place really, the only DSLR kit I have is Pentax K (plus an M42 adapter). I do have a bit more variety with the compacts, but it’s still mostly Ricoh and Panasonic Lumix.

      I think I realised some years ago that most 50mm lenses are pretty good, and unless you want all kinds of specialist lenses that are only available from certain brands, then it makes little difference which mount/system you go for. Pentax just have something extra from me, more personality somehow than Nikon, Canon, Olympus etc. They just feel right in my hands.

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