Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Camera

Our camera has been on a slow decline this year and we've been limping along with it, not really wanting to spend the money on a new camera. The camera was a gift from my parents and it was very nice. It has served us well. However, I'm realizing it is time to purchase a new camera.

With three children playing sports, we would like to upgrade a bit. We need to be able to get a shot from a decent distance and we definitely need to be able to get the action shot. While we will not be getting the $1,200 Sony camera that we previewed at the soccer tournament last spring, we do want an amazing camera for a low price.

So, I research. Any suggestions on the best way to get a great camera and save money at the same time. I figure I've been saving pennies on groceries (which certainly add up to big-time savings over the long haul), so I should apply the same principles I'm learning with groceries.

These are my specific questions:

Where is the best place to get a camera? When do they go on sale? Does anyone know if they offer rebates? What cameras are the best while also are reasonably priced. I'm not looking to go professional here, but I am hoping to improve my picture taking capability. Is a camera worth purchasing used or should I go for a new camera?


Meredith said...

Hi Diane! My dad told me about this website (www.bhphotovideo.com) and I've always found excellent camera deals there. I have the Canon Rebel XTi (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/457541-REG/Canon_1236B001_EOS_Digital_Rebel_XTi.html) and have be VERY happy with the photo quality. But, it is very expensive and definitely zapped my present money for several holidays to come. :)

P.S.- I recently made Will's blog private, but I'd love for the Smith family to be able to read about our adventures. If you would like to be added, please e-mail me at merbrewer@gmail.com. :) :)

Live In Contrast said...

Ah! Here's a topic with which I can help. Let me compose my thoughts, and I'll get back to you shortly! -Adam

Live In Contrast said...

Where is the best place to get a camera?
I begin my shopping at stores like Best Buy or Circuit City because nothing can replace looking over a camera in person and playing around with the features. Realistically, you're only going to use the features of the camera that you can find without having to look in the manual, so make sure that you can operate the camera intuitively. When you find a few cameras you like, write down the exact model numbers and look them up online at Amazon.com, CircuitCity.com, and BestBuy.com. Read the customer ratings for the cameras, both the good AND BAD, to find the strengths and weaknesses of each camera. This will help you uncover any hidden problems. Things like battery life and problems taking pictures in certain conditions will be known by their current owners even if they are not apparent while you are looking them in the store.

When do they go on sale?
You'll have to be patient and keep your eyes open, but your best deals will probably be found in "end of season" and clearance sales, where stores begin to discount last year's models before adding new product lines. These sales typically aren't advertised, but are your best sale options. There's nothing wrong with these cameras- they're just the old model number. I've also seen one COLOR of a camera go on sale because it is not popular enough to sell at full price. (One of the guys I work with bought a pink camera on sale that was otherwise identical to the black models that were at full price.) Discounts can be significant, as much as $50-100, just because it's being discontinued or it's the wrong color. I find that stores like Wal-Mart and Target do this somewhat frequently. If you can wait until Thanksgiving, try shopping ONLINE on Thanksgiving Day. Many stores begin their pre-Christmas sales that Thursday with great electronics deals. Research and patience will serve you well if you can wait to buy the camera you want at your price when it is discounted rather than at the store's price right now.

Does anyone know if they offer rebates?
I have occasionally seen rebate offers on cameras, but typically only on new products. I've seen more rebates available for higher-end products, usually if you buy a camera, lens, and flash as part of an SLR system. Keep an eye on sale papers from electronics or office supply stores to see if they mention anything in their advertisements.

What cameras are the best while also are reasonably priced?
I've known people who have done very well with reasonably priced Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Kodak digital cameras. My personal cameras are Kodak and Pentax, but the Pentax was a costly SLR.

PENTAX: I love my SLR, but I don't have any experience with their point and shoot cameras.

KODAK: From experience, Kodak cameras take EXCELLENT outdoor pictures, but they sometimes have difficulty focusing indoors or after dusk in low light. Basically, if you need a flash, there's a good chance the picture won't turn out, or will at least be a little blurry. However, in terms of features, the Kodak is the easiest to use from all of the cameras I have seen.

SONY: Sony cameras tend to do a great job all around, as you saw with the one you tried out. The biggest issue for Sony is that they usually only accept their own types of memory cards (Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick DUO), which are not compatible with other types of cards or cameras, and they tend to cost a little more. There are also different types of memory sticks, so they don't always fit from one Sony camera to the next.

CANON: Canons also take good all around pictures, but I usually find them lacking in "ease of use". I use several versions of Canon's Powershot at work (from 3MP up to 7MP) and while the end results are usually good, it is difficult to navigate their features. I have trouble reviewing pictures I have just taken, turning the flash on and off, and deleting pictures, all of which seem like fairly basic operations. Because of this difficulty, I also find that while the END results are good, I usually don't get the picture I want on the first try, and need to take several after remembering to make a few adjustments.

NIKON: Honestly, I don't have much experience with Nikon. I gave one to my sister as a Christmas present a few years ago. It came well-recommended and I haven't heard her complain about it except that the battery seems to die quickly.

Is a camera worth purchasing used or should I go for a new camera?
I *tend* to prefer new electronics for two reasons: I can try it out in the store to see how well I like it, and I have the comfort of having the store's return policy if I find that something doesn't work right after I get it home. Having said that, I bought my last camera on eBay because it was the current model, it was hardly used, and I already knew that it was what I was looking for. It was also $150 cheaper than any advertised or discounted price I could find before or since (about a 15% savings). I still visited several stores to try one out in person, and read lots of reviews and compared prices online over the course of 6 months to make sure I didn't miss anything.

A few other notes for your consideration, and potential hidden costs:
- MEMORY CARDS: If possible, try to find a camera that takes the same kind of memory cards that you currently use. New cards start at about $15 each, and memory card readers/adapters can cost another $15-20, so using your old cards can be an easy way to save 10-20% of your total cost because of what you DON'T have to purchase.
- RESOLUTION: Truthfully, as little as 4 or 5 megapixels (MP) will make excellent prints up to at least 8x10", and 3-4 MP is plenty for computer monitors because they require lower resolution than printers to achieve the same appearance. Higher resolution really only offers additional flexibility if you do a lot of photo editing on your computer. Otherwise, lower resolution is usually sufficient. Shooting at lower resolution also saves space on your computer because all of your pictures take up less space. You potentially save money by purchasing a less powerful camera, and also by not having to buy a bigger hard drive. Determine what your actual need is (where do most of your pictures end up) and then aim for within 1-2 megapixels of that unless a MUCH better deal comes along with higher resolution.
- BATTERIES: Whether they're Lithium-Ion, special photo batteries, AA, AAA, or rechargeable, batteries may be an additional expense. See what kind of replacement batteries are required so you can consider the costs of keeping the camera powered and avoiding a dead battery situation.
- OPTICAL ZOOM: 10-12x optical (not digital) zoom is available on several cameras, and I have found it to be worth any additional cost because of the photographs you are able to take.
- EASE OF USE: Make sure that the camera has the features that you need and that you can find and switch to them quickly and without having to think about it. It can be very frustrating if you see the perfect moment to take a picture but can't navigate from one camera mode to the next. Remember, if you can't find or use a feature without the manual, you probably won't ever use it no matter what it says on the box. Memories are priceless, so it may be worth spending the money needed to get a camera that works the way you need it to.

I realize that's probably far more than you expected to get, but I hope its at least helpful. Best of luck on your savings adventure!

jeremy fenelon said...

Canon PowerShot SD870IS
I like this camera because, it has the anti-shake feature, Will work better in low light without a flash, or with for that matter, face detection and a 3inch screen on the back!

Its like $245.
I roll a Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd
Its fairly nice butI am sure the canon is better.

Shooting a the 7-8 MP is overkill in my opinion. All photos from my fuji are 2mp mode.

1. WE don't print hardly anything.
2.when we do 8x10's look just fine.

Great quality photos come from top notch glass (lens) and a top notch processor in the camera.
This has a great processor, and canon glass is very good.

Stacie@HobbitDoor said...

We like the advice we see here. Our personal cameras are the Canon PowerShot SD750 and the Nikon D50. The Canon is great for a point and shoot. It is a 7.1 MP. It does a nice job with video too for a small camera. We like the navigation on the SD750. I, personally, like our Nikon better, but it is an SLR (considered an entry level DSLR--can be point and shoot or SLR) and therefore more expensive.
Ralph's favorite place to go for reviews is http://www.cnet.com. He recommends start off with a budget set--how much can you really afford to spend? Then figure out what features are really important to you guys. He agrees with Adam and you should start with a dedicated camera store (here we go to Cord Camera) so you can see, touch, etc the actual camera. Then start your price shopping and comparing within your budget.
Now our Nikon D50 is no longer available. The D40 has replaced it.
The most important thing is to find one that is comfortable to you. The more comfortable you are with it, the better shots you will take. There are a lot of blogs, etc out there helping teach you how to take the best shots. A fun book I got for Ralph for Father's Day this year was "Photographing Your Family" by Joel Sartore put out by National Geographic. It has some GREAT tips, etc. Have fun!

Amber said...

loving the comments! i like the pictures my little cannon powershot takes, but i would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a nice camera...it's my dream :) until i looked at them at they're $800-$900+. yikes. let me know what you land on and if you like it!

Jill Willeke said...

Hey Smith Family,
I absolutely LOVE my Cannon Rebel EOS SLR -- i also bought a 70 to 300 mm lense to go with the kit lense that came. It takes about 3 pics a second. I also looked at the camera that was one step ahead of it -- main difference i could see was that it was a lot heavier and took 6 pics per second and about 1000 more expensive. I did not like the way it felt in my hand. If you buy it on line, make sure you go to a store to hold the camera in your hand before buying it and play around with it a bit. That made a big difference for me.

Love you guys,

Daniel said...

I have a couple different deal sites I like.

This is a great deals site. It has promotional deals and also rebate and coupon type deals. If you want something specific it might take a while for a deal on it to come around but there are typically great deals available for general things, e.g., DSLR cameras.

Similar to fatwallet, but less deals and in list form. Typically under 10 deals/day and usually tech focused.

pricegrabber.com, dealtime.com, froggle.com
Good price searching tools. Beware of some of the smaller name places. They can have sketchy customer service. For instance, one has been known to never have the amazingly priced product-only deal in-stock, but you can order the product with their overpriced package. Just be sure to check reviews of smaller websites first.

newegg.com, buy.com, amazon.com
Online tech resellers. They have good prices on products. Will often beat BestBuy and Circuit City, especially on accessories.

Recently or soon to be discontinued models can go on incredible clearance sometimes at retail stores. However, this will not be advertised and will be very retail store specific.

Hope that helps, and isn't too late.

I might start posting again, maybe.