i’m starting a new category on my blog, Buying Tips. the one thing that i’ve come to realize is that i know more about camera gear then anyone else i know. i’ve been working at a local camera store for 5 years now (soon to be ending, YaHoo!), and i absorb information on camera gear like sports fans absorb stats. it’s kind of an odd thing to have, really it has no use outside of a store, but i thought i’d start to share what i’ve learnt about buying cameras, lenses, flashes, studio equipment and such, with everyone so that hopefully your buying experience might be easier.
buying tip #1: don’t buy from best buy
buying a digital camera these days isn’t as easy as it use to be. back 4-5 years ago film cameras still dominated the shelves. people who wanted to buy a digital camera really only had a hand full of cameras to choose from. did you want the canon that had 3x zoom or the olympus that had 2 megapixels? but now there are too many to even try to comprehend. even companies that traditionally make dishwashers and light bulbs are starting to enter the market. the feature sets are also out of this world; super high megapixels, zoom ranges, scene modes, macro capabilities, ISO rating… shall i go on. if you are looking to invest in a camera, point & shoot or digital SLR, how do you choose? most customers that i have helped rarely know even how to begin. and that is why you shouldn’t buy from best buy, or any other big box store. most of their sales staff are juggling the entire electronic department. would you like 1080i with your iPod?… (ok that was a bit geeky) not to say that the sales staff is bad, just that they don’t know nearly as much as about cameras as they need to, to help you make an informed decision. most will just hand you what they like most, or has the best sales spiffs. search out a local camera store, more than likely the sales staff eat and breath cameras, and only cameras, so they are equipped with the information you need to buy the right camera. try to find a sales associate that has a broad amount of knowledge on an array of camera manufacturers. yes, there is the canon vs nikon war. but as much as their bias works for them, it might not work for you. their job, if they are doing it right, is to find the best camera they have to suit your needs. here are a couple of things to keep in mind if you are fresh at the buying game.
1. keep your budget in mind. the industry is vast, and no sales associate likes hearing “i don’t have a budget.” you do, and it’s better that they know; most can smell the BS and will blow you out of the water with numbers. point & shoot cameras range from $50 to $700, digital SLRs range from $500 to well over $10,000, and lenses (which seem to be the biggest misconception) range from $200 to $10,000 as well. so the number game, just like buying anything else, is very important.
2. tell them how and what you are using the camera for. this is probably the best way to narrow down the huge number of cameras on the market to a few that you can start comparing. do you like to take pictures of wild life far away? butterflies and ladybugs? is your dream to be the next Ansel Adams or how about Annie Liebowitz? is the main use of the digital SLR going to be photographing your kids playing hockey in an arena? answers to questions like those will help you along your search a lot. and be as specific as you can.
3. ask the stupid questions. really do. like, “where do i put the film in my new digital camera?” or “what does the flower symbol mean?” it might sound stupid in your head, but we’ve heard them all before. it’s ok. that’s why the sales staff is there, and asking lets them know that you’re interested in learning.
4. play with the cameras as much as possible. the worst is buying a camera that has all of the features you like, but you hate using it. you’ll never pull it out if you don’t enjoy using your camera. i’ve had customers stay for hours (no joke) playing with every single camera they can think of. but really it’s the only way you’ll know if you’ll enjoy using it. just like test driving a car.
hopefully with those four points in mind you can march right into your local camera store and have the sales staff wrapped around your finger. support your local shop. most of the staff there are photographers themselves so they know what works and what doesn’t. create relationships with them and they’ll usually also have no problem finding the best prices they can offer you.
this is just the beginning of the tips. i’ll be getting more specific as time goes on. if you have a specific question about buying, using or comparing gear please feel free to fire an email off to me.