Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Buying tips for a digital camera

Every now and then I receive emails and Facebook messages from my friends asking "can you suggest me a good camera?". Some are little more specific in their question - like "can you suggest me a good DSLR camera for traveling?". I guess, these queries are the results of my habit of adding photos to my Facebook albums, Flickr and Blogs very often.

My humble opinion is that these questions are very difficult to answer unless some basic details are provided. Furnishing the following details would be helpful for others to give some useful suggestions in the selecting a camera:
  • Your budget,

  • Area of interest in photography, e.g., family portraits, general portraits, events, travel, wildlife, sports, etc (If more than one, give a priority order),

  • Your knowledge and exposure with photography,

  • Brand and models in your mind, and

  • Reason for a new camera: E.g., upgrade, first-camera.
A question with lesser ambiguity always gets a better answer, and in this case some good suggestions.

Here are some tips that might be useful when buying a camera:
  1. Figure out your specific interests within photography and the technical features required to fulfill them.

  2. Select the right type of digital camera suiting your requirements and the models having the features of your interest. Also, think about future upgrade options, re-usability of lenses, short and long term costs involved, etc, if you are choosing a DSLR.

  3. Read the online reviews and compare them.

  4. If any of your friends have the same or similar model of your choice ask for his/her feedback on the camera, and if they allow, try few test shots. Otherwise try the camera(s) at a professional camera shop. It would be great if you can see your trial photos in full size on a PC monitor. Check whether the camera is handy, and you feel comfortable and confident with it.

  5. Decide one or two models and the accessories of your choice (extra batteries, memory of right capacity and speed, etc).

  6. Find a genuine shop offering a reasonable price for your selected digital camera, and check for warranty conditions. Compare the prices of items sold as individual items and as a bundle. Note that in some shops accessories are sold at unreasonably high prices as many buyers only compare the prices of cameras and do not pay much attention on prices of accessories. In some places a little bargain is necessary to bring down the prices. Let the sales person understand that you have some understanding about cameras and accessories, and have already done some study on prices.

  7. Once you buy the camera, do not forget to save your receipt, the camera's box, and any other documents related to warranty. And, do not forget to register your purchase with the manufacturer whenever required. It is also a good idea to scan the receipt and keep a soft copy as thermally printed receipts fadeout with time.
NB: Buying cameras and accessories online has got both pros and cons, and I have experienced both. So, I would neither recommend nor reject the idea of shopping in the grey market.

For those who are considering an upgrade, the following tips might be helpful:
  1.   Improve your knowledge on composition, full use of range of controls available on your existing camera, and post processing. And, then en-sharpen your skills through practice, practice, and some more practice. The statement - 'it’s the photographer who takes photo not the camera' - is true for a great extent.

  2.   May consider buying supporting devices, and other basic accessories that would take you few steps forward in photography (E.g., external flash, tripod)

  3. If you already own a DSLR and only have slow lenses, then upgrade your lenses to faster lenses, for example, a prime lens and/or f/2.8 zoom lens.

  4. If the above have reached a saturation point and you still look for some improvement, then go for the next level of camera like a full frame DSLR.
Manufacturers release new models every now and then. Unless we are into professional photography frequent upgrades are not necessary. I am using the same DSLR for the last 5+ years and am generally satisfied with the outcome.

Disclaimer: A person who plans to buy a camera should take the responsibility of putting some effort to search for information, to verify the suggestions, and to make the final decision.

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