You know me as a travel blogger. A sales and deals blogger. A lifestyles blogger. One thing you might not know about me (though you may already suspect) is I also fashion myself a hobbyist (enthusiast) photographer. I am not a professionally trained photographer, but I love taking photos, documenting my family as we travel through life.
So why am I writing about camera if cameras aren’t my area of expertise? Because I’ve been shopping for a camera upgrade and I wanted to share my experience in this complex and overly saturated digital camera market. Camera shopping was enough to make my head spin – and my family’s heads too! My goal? To save you the same head spinning!
The Camera Shopping Adventure
Our long-awaited family adventure is just around the corner. Time to get my cameras ready. My vacation camera arsenal typically includes three cameras – a Nikon DSLR, a pocket-sized point and shoot camera, and a waterproof camera. Yes, I am a camera junkie! But what better way to remember the day, right?
Sadly, two of my three cameras are “old” and not up to the photographic challenges our pending vacation presents.
Ok, my cameras really aren’t not that old! 🙂 But they are four years old, and in desperate need of replacement before we embark on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
And so began my quest find the “best fit” camera. Was it easy? Not for me. Was it a process worth doing? Absolutely! I want to ensure I purchase exactly what I need to capture all those vacation memories.
Another result of my camera shopping adventure? My ten tips to help you identify your own “best fit” camera the next time you are shopping for a camera. Happy shopping!
Ten Tips To Find Your “Best Fit” Camera
First and foremost, I am not a professional photographer, nor a certified camera specialist. What I am is a camera enthusiast. Someone who enjoys documenting her family’s adventures. These tips are the result of my own recent camera-buying journey, and are intended to help other camera enthusiasts on their own quest for a “best fit” camera.
1. Identify Your Specific Photographic Style
Before heading to your local camera shop, ask yourself the following three questions:
1. What am I most likely to take photos of? Portraits of family and friends? School events and kids’ sports? Landscape and travel adventures?
2. Where will I use this camera the most? Indoors? Outdoors? Harsh environments?
3. Do I want the ability to tweak in-camera settings to optimize the photo? Or do I just want to turn it on, point it, and take awesome photos?
Identifying your own camera “who-what-where” will help you find the camera that best fits your photographic style.
2. Prioritize Camera Features and Wants
Sorting through the myriad of camera features can be overwhelming. Trust me, I know! I’ve been camera hunting for two months now. However, taking the time to identify which features matter the most can help narrow the choices. Ask yourself what features are you willing to pay for? For example: many cameras now come equipped with GPS tracking and/or Wi-Fi connectivity. You’ll pay extra for these features, though.
3. Set a Budget
And do your best to stick to it! You don’t have to spend a small fortune to accomplish your photographic goals. And no matter what your budget is, there just always seems to be “one better” than the one you are considering. So stick with your budget.
4. Megapixels Aren’t Everything
Megapixel count isn’t the only feature that determines how awesome those photos will be. It’s the whole camera package that does! A 12 MP camera paired with a great sensor, processor and lens can provide equally, if not better, images than a camera with 16 MP but lower quality lenses and last year’s sensor and processor designs.
So just remember when camera shopping – bigger isn’t always better.
5. Research Research Research
Do your homework before camera shopping. Read reviews, check out photography blogs, look at images others have taken. Create a short list of cameras you think will work for your needs. My favorite sites for online camera reviews include:
- DP Review
- CNet Digital Camera Reviews
- Photography Blog Camera Reviews
- PC Magazine Digital Cameras Reviews
- Digital Photo Magazine
Use this new-found knowledge to create a short list of cameras up for consideration.
6. Talk With A Trusted Camera Pro
Armed with your short list, camera budget, must-have features, and photo-style, it’s time to talk with the pros at your local camera shops. Ask them what cameras they use, and why. Tell them what you want, and ask them what camera might “best fit” your needs. Talk with more than one camera shop, if possible. Much like clothing, cameras aren’t “one size fits all.” Or at least they aren’t in my budget!
7. Test Drive Several Cameras
It’s amazing how two equally rated cameras can feel oh so different in your hands. But you won’t know that if you don’t pick them up. I recently “test drove” equivalent Nikon and Canon DSLRs. On paper, I preferred the Canon. However, upon “test driving” both cameras at a local store, the Nikon “fit” my hands better. Other features equivalent, the Nikon was my “best fit” choice.
8. Price Comparison Shop and Price Match
Prices often vary between online and brick and mortar stores. Do your price homework first, and don’t rule out buying from a local camera store even if the best price is online. That local store might have better customer service as well as offer one-to-one assistance to ensure you maximize your photographic skills with that new camera.
Found the best price online? Ask for a price match. The store might honor that lower online price, or at least discount their current price. Could be worth the extra service!
Read more about price matching at The Art of The Price Match.
9. This Year’s Latest & Greatest? Or Last Year’s Discounted Deal?
New camera designs are often released between January and March. So should you buy that just-released camera? Or should you snatch up last year’s deeply discounted one, and save a few bucks? Well, that depends! Ask yourself:
1. Does the new design offer a feature on your “must have” list?
2. Has there been a big leap in technology that warrants paying the new model price?
3. Is the new release a repackage of last year’s technology, with minor tweaks?
If you don’t need the latest hi-tech features like Wi-Fi or GPS, last year’s model could save you some significant cash. If the newest digital camera processor technology is a must, then you may want to splurge on that new model.
10. Buy It and Try It
Take the camera home and give it a workout. Make sure it performs how you expect it to. If you don’t like it, return it! Check the seller’s return policy before buying for possible restocking fees and limited return windows.
Happy Camera Shopping!
Are you ready to camera shop? Don’t forget to arm yourself with these ten tips to help you buy only what you need, and to avoid either overspending for features you may never use, or underspending for a camera that doesn’t meet your expectations. You want to buy a camera that fits your budget and photographic style as well as your lifestyle.
Are you shopping for a new camera? Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any camera shopping tips to share? Let us know in the Comments section below.
And The Winner is …
Admit it. You are just a tad bit curious with what camera I bought, aren’t you? I bought the Canon G16 for my day-to-day light adventures where no water is involved. I’ve had it a month now, and I love it! Yes, it’s more than a point and shoot camera, but after much consideration of my photography needs and budget, the G16 was my “best fit” camera.
I have one more camera on my shopping list – a waterproof camera – but I’m holding out. Remember Tip #9? I’m banking on new technology making for a more impressive waterproof camera than what is currently on the market. High on my list is the Ricoh WG4 (formerly Pentax), though the Olympus TG850 is a dark horse contender. Both are due to release later this month or early April. Hope they make it before my trip! Do you have a waterproof camera recommendation for me?
Image credits to C.Biederman (bird) NikonUSA, CanonUSA, OlympusUSA, and Vintage camera via Bill Streeter at Flickr.