Guide to Selecting the Right Camera
If you’re feeling limited by what your point-and-shoot camera can do, there are plenty of reasons to consider a D-SLR.
These advanced shooters feature:
- larger image sensors
- superior optics
- robust manual controls
- faster performance
- versatility of changeable lenses
The cost of a D-SLR can add up, especially when you start buying lenses; and the cameras are understandably larger and heavier than their compact and mirrorless interchangeable lens counterparts are.
If your first D-SLR is a Canon, chances are that your next one will be as well, simply for the fact that you will be able to make use of existing lenses and accessories. Guide to Selecting the Right Camera
The Steps in Buying a New Camera and Other Equipment
There are many aspects to consider when buying a camera, especially a D-SLR. Do your research on the internet, then visit a few camera shops and see the cameras firsts hand, getting a feel for it.
Guide to Selecting the Right Camera
Think About Your Interests
Before looking at specifics, you should think through how you want to use the camera and its photos.
- Will you be shooting indoors?
- This will determine the quality of the flash you need.
- Will you be photographing static scenes such as home interiors, or action shots such as sports?
- This will determine the best viewfinder and lens.
- Will you be photographing wide-angle scenes such as landscapes and home interiors, telephoto scenes such as portraits, or close-ups such as flowers, stamps and coins?
- This will determine the focal length of the lens you need and whether you need a zoom lens, auxiliary lenses, or macro mode.
- Are you a casual user, or a serious amateur or professional photographer? What kind of camera do you want?
- This will help you determine how many manual controls you’ll want.
- Will you print the photos as snapshots, enlargements, or embed them in word-processed or desktop published documents? Or will you publish the images on a Web page, e-mail them to others, or include them in a presentation?
- This will determine the best resolution for your situation.
Guide to Selecting the Right Camera – Size does Matter
One way to think about cameras is to divide them into those that fit in your pocket and those that do not.
This is really a key decision because those that do not fit in your pocket hang around your neck. The larger cameras may offer more features but will you want to carry them with you? There are a few cameras that fall somewhere between the extremes and will fit in a coat pocket or purse, so you may want to consider one of those if you remain undecided. If you’re looking for a home security camera for apartment this also requires thorough research before you buy it!
Decide About Lens
Most digital cameras come with a zoom lens that is built into the camera and can’t be changed. The optical zoom ranges on these lenses are between 3x and 12x but ranges will increase over time. (Remember to ignore digital zoom except for movies). If these zoom ranges are good enough for what you plan to do, a fixed lens camera might be perfect for you. If you think you may have special needs or want the best possible optics, an SLR with interchangeable lenses might be more appropriate.
Download the Manual
Nothing explains the features of a camera better than the user manual that comes with it. Many camera companies also post these on their Web sites in the PDF format. Look for the manual in the site’s Support section or Google it. If you can’t understand the manual, go to http://www.shortcourses.com/to see if they have a guide to the camera. They are much clearer.
Check New Model Plans
Digital cameras generally go through model changes or upgrades every 18 months or so, being renamed something like 10D, 20D, 30D and so on. It helps in two ways to know when the next upgrade is expected.
- First, prices on the current model usually drop just before a new models comes out as stores clear out inventory. This is an opportunity to save some money, especially since the industry is maturing and changes from model to model are not as great as they once were.
- Second, some dealers sell old models at full price right up to and past the date new models are introduced. It is helpful if you know the facts when negotiating a purchase. You can find information about new models on camera company Web sites in their News and Press sections and on Web sites devoted to digital camera news and reviews.
Check Camera Sites
Because digital cameras draw on two worlds—photography and computing;the market is crowded and the competition is fierce.
Check camera company Web site news sections. That is where you will find press releases for new cameras that are not yet listed on their Web site.
- Canon (www.powershot.com)
- Casio (www.casio-usa.com)
- Epson (www.epson.com)
- Fuji (www.fujifilm.com)
- Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com)
- Kodak (www.kodak.com)
- Leica (www.leica-camera.com)
- Minox (www.minox.com)
- Nikon (www.nikon.com)
- Olympus (www.olympus.com)
- Panasonic (www.panasonic.com)
- Pentax (www.pentax.com)
- Ricoh (www.ricoh.co.jp/r_dc)
- Rollei (www.rollei.de)
- Samsung (www.simplyamazing.com)
- Sharp (www.sharp-usa.com)
- Sony (www.mavica.com)
- Vivitar (www.vivitar.com)
Check Discussion Forums
- Photo.Net has been around for years and has gracefully made the transition from film to digital.
- Digital Photography Review is another very popular site with forums on a wide variety of topics.
Check Camera News & Review Sites
There are a number of very good news and reviews sites on the Internet.
- Steve’s DigiCams is an outstanding news and reviews site
- Digital Review is also a very reputable site.
Explore On-Line Auctions
There are people who swear by Web auctions, specifically eBay, as a way to get the lowest possible price. The problem is that sellers put together packages that benefit themselves more than you. They toss in cheap bags, lenses, filters, tripods and what all to drive up the price. If you can isolate out a private party you might get a good deal on a used camera but for new cameras stick with established dealers. If you do buy always check the seller’s rating.
Visit Trustworthy Stores
When buying camera equipment, it’s usually a big mistake to go for the lowest price. This is where the scam artists operate. They achieve exceptionally low prices only through deceptive or consumer unfriendly practices.
Reputable dealers are grouped in a very narrow price range, perhaps within $10 of each other the same brand/style of cameras. This is because the margins are so low that most are selling at just above cost to be competitive. Here are two of the top-rated places to buy a camera:
- Amazon provides user reviews and rank sales of all camera equipment.
- B&H Photo and Video is the store for professionals and they take their reputation very seriously. In the small circle of professionals, bad business practices will kill a company very quickly as word gets around. It is in this discriminating market where B&H thrives.
Watch Out for Unbundling
When you buy a digital camera, the basic package almost always includes extras such as a battery charger, lens cap, batteries, and software. One of the more disreputable practices a dealer can engage in is called unbundling.
These dealers remove items from the package and sell them separately. To find out what should be included in the package, visit the camera manufacturer’s Web site and check their specifications page. The included items are almost always listed. The user’s guide that comes with the camera will also list the items that should be included as part of the camera’s price.
Avoid Grey Market Products
When camera companies introduce new cameras, they frequently use different product numbers, names, and prices in different markets around the world. Some dealers buy cameras in countries with the lowest prices and then sell them in another country. Since these cameras are bought and sold outside of the manufacturer’s normal distribution channels, prices may be lower but you usually lose warranty coverage and technical support.
Check Postage Rates and Sales Taxes
When purchasing a camera you have three components of the price to consider— the camera price, postage and handling, and taxes. When you purchase over the Web or by mail order from an out-of-state-company, the buyer is responsible for paying state and local sales taxes. Most people are not aware of this responsibility, or choose to ignore it.
When it comes to the price, postage, and handling, however, the dealer is in control. Many dealers lower the price to make the camera more attractive, and then increase the postage and handling to boost their profits. With the popularity of Internet sites and low margins, the temptation to do this is even stronger. Be sure you check and compare these additional costs and consider them when comparing prices. Most companies have deals with firms such as Federal Express so their costs are $10–15 or so for second day shipments. Anything over and above that is pure profit to the dealer.
Avoid Extended Warranties
Hesitate before accepting extended warranties. Most of a company’s profit is in the sale of these warranties so they press, and press hard. Your job is to resist, and resist hard. The only thing to keep in mind is that digital cameras can be horribly expensive to repair. The cost of a repair can equal or exceed the original purchase price. If you want peace of mind, you may want the warranty, even though it is probably overpriced.
Check Return Policies, Restocking Fees
When you buy a camera from a reputable dealer, you expect to be able to return it if you are not satisfied. Some dealers try to discourage this by requiring a restocking fee for returned merchandise. This is always explained as a way to recover their costs of checking the merchandise and restoring the packaging you may have opened. If a dealer requires a restocking fee, my advice is to find another dealer.
Buy No Extras
Buy no extras without doing research. A few dealers low-ball camera prices and make their profit on the other, higher margin things they include in the “package”. I can assure you that the lens cleaner, cheap camera bag, and poorly made tripod will not be worth what you are asked to pay for them.