Camera Buyers’ Guide

It really pays to get down to your local camera store in order to get a feel for the particular camera you’re after, or indeed to compare all of the individual models that have made it on to your shortlist.
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Once you’re in the shop, don’t be slow to ask for some assistance and to get the sales person to show you all of the cameras you are interested in. If you’re looking to part with a fair wedge of cash then it’s only right that you’ve had a proper look at all the options. Be open to alternative recommendations from the sales staff, especially if they offer the same kind of features you’re looking for, but remember that ultimately you’re in charge. By the time you step foot in the shop you should already have an idea of what you’re looking for.

While most camera shops employ knowledgeable staff who’ll be happy to assist you even without the guarantee of a sale at the end of it, you will still encounter the odd pushy salesperson who’s more interested in their end-of-month figures than helping you to walk away with the right camera. If you suspect someone is trying to bamboozle you with a pre-rehearsed sales-pitch (they’re usually pretty easy to spot), stop them in their tracks and tell them to slow down or simply walk away. Likewise, you can sometimes find that some shops employ extra staff on a Saturday to help out with the weekend rush. Without wishing to lapse into stereotypes, Saturday-only staff can often be far less knowledgeable than the core staff who work there all week. Plan your visit accordingly.
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It’s pretty rare these days (although not entirely unheard of) to be allowed to leave a deposit and take a camera out of the shop for a test drive, so you’ll need to get a proper feel for it inside the store. Of course, having already swotted up on everything your chosen camera offers in advance you’ll already know what it is that you want to have a closer look at first-hand.

The most obvious things to look for are how well the camera sits in your hand, and whether you can reach the buttons comfortably. You aren’t going to be able to make any solid judgements about image quality at this point (although naturally you will have read what our reviews have to say), but you should open up the in-camera menu to get a feel for it. Is it something you feel you can work with? How about the rear LCD – is it sharp and bright enough for you? If you’re interested in a model with a 3inch, 460k-dot display you should try and compare it directly to one with a 2.8inch, 230k-dot display so you can actually see the difference in quality. In short, use your time wisely to make direct comparisons.

When you’ve had a good look at your camera(s) it’s often a good idea to go away and have a little think, even if you think you’re certain which one is right for you. If you’re in a shop then the old “going to go and have a coffee and a think” line usually works pretty well. Once you’re away you can then work through what you’ve

Of course, if you’d rather just buy there and then, then it’s time to put on your best negotiating hat and try to strike a good deal. Is the item already discounted? Will the shop give you a cash discount? At the very least, it’s always worth asking if they’ll throw in a memory card and/or a bag for your camera. Don’t be afraid to talk tough – remember these are tough times and you are the customer.

If in doubt, remember the six-point buyer checklist:

  1. RESEARCH all of the models that match your budget and are worth a look before committing to one in particular.
  2. SHOP AROUND for the best price, but make sure you are buying from a reputable dealer.
  3. CASHBACK deals are always worth looking out for – the money you save can be spent on useful accessories.
  4. HAGGLE for a good deal. If you can’t get a cash discount, ask for a memory card or even a bag to be thrown in.
  5. GREY IMPORTS can have potential warranty issues – ask where your model is sourced from and what’s inside the box.
  6. DON’T let pushy sales staff bamboozle you with jargon – ask them to explain things in plain English if you need to.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor

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