Digital Camera Prices
Buying a camera or any digital product can be confusing at best. In this section we explore some of the rules of the game and point you to some places where you can do your homework right from your desktop. Why drive from store to store or fight the crowds at photo shows when you can just click your way around the digital-imaging world?
One site you might want to look into is the Active Buyers Guide. When you select digital cameras, you can list your priorities and the features you are looking for. The program then does a search for you and lists the cameras that match your criteria.
Due to consumer confusion over the way some manufacturers were describing and advertising their cameras, the Japan Camera Industry Association published "Guideline for Noting Digital Camera Specifications in Catalogs" (JCIA GLA03). When a digital camera is described anyplace that can be easily seen by consumers, these guidelines should apply.
Number of effective pixels is the number of pixels on the image sensor that receive input light through the optical lens and which are effectively reflected in the final output data of the still image. This number should be mentioned first. This number may not be the number of pixels in the image area because it can also include a reasonable number of ring pixels surrounding the image area which are used for filtering processes. If the camera uses a linear sensor that captures an image by spatial or optical movement, the number of effective pixels on the image sensor and the number of sampling positions should be noted.
Number of total pixels indicates the number of pixels on the image sensor. These include image area pixels, ring pixels, and the optical black area pixels.
Number of recorded pixels is the number of pixels comprising one picture frame which is recorded on the digital recording media. The number of horizontal and vertical pixels of the brightness signal shall be reported, for example 640 x 480. The term "resolution" shall not be used for the number of recorded pixels.
Number of output pixels, "number of pixels communicated," or "number of transmitted pixels" all refer to the number of picxels in one picture frame provided by the camera through output transmission means.
Lens focal lengths expressed as 35mm equivalents shall be calculated by the formula "Diagonal of 35mm image area/ Diagonal of image sensor image area x Digital camera’s lens focal length."
Shutter speeds should be listed as follows: For speeds less than 1, both the denominator and numerator are integers and the numerator is 1. 1/30. 1/60, 1/250 and so on. For speeds great than 1, expressed as integer or decimal fraction. For example, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 and so on.
Reseller Ranking's purpose is to evaluate companies who sell computer products (e.g. hardware, software, etc.) so you can know which ones are good, trustworthy companies and which ones to avoid. At present, there are 1868 companies evaluated in this survey. The survey covers nationally advertised mail-order companies, and/or companies who do business on the Internet. All of the evaluations on the site were submitted by your fellow Internet users. Find out what they think, where they shop, and where they've been burned, so you won't be.
News groups are where people ask questions and get answers. There is no better place to find out what others are saying and thinking. Before selecting a camera or a dealer, you might want to see what people are saying about them at Deja News (Now Google Groups). This site allows you to enter a name to search for and it then lists all of the postings containing that word. For example, to find out what people are saying about the Mavica cameras, just enter Mavica and you'll find all postings about this camera. To find out what people think of an on-line retailer such as PC Connection, just enter PC Connection. This gives you a chance to hear what other people's experiences have been. Every company has dissatisfied customers so don't let one or two put you off. What you want to know is how a company handles complaints and if there is a pattern to them?
Digital Camera Prices
Price comparison sites, sometimes called shopping agents, scan other Web outlets for products and prices. If you're looking for a specific item, these sites are a good place to start. Just be aware that payments or other favors may be being exchanged behind the scenes that affect listings and rankings. Use these sites as a guide, not as the last word. Here are some of the better known sites:
There are people who swear by Web auctions as a way to get the lowest possible price. There are even people addicted to these sites. The best thing about them is that you can enter low bids and maybe get a real deal. Before beginning, be aware that the National Consumers League, in a United States Senate hearing, listed Web auctions as the No. 1 fraudulent scheme on the Internet, based on the number of complaints they and state attorneys general received. According to the League, common complaints are that items bid for are never delivered by the sellers, the value of items is inflated, shills are suspected of driving up bids, and prices are hiked after the highest bids are accepted. Here are some of the better-known on-line auction sites.
When you buy a digital camera, the basic package almost always includes extras such as a battery charger, lens cap, batteries, flash memory card, and software. One of the more disreputable practices a dealer can engage in is called unbundling. These dealers remove items from the package that are normally included in the price and price them separately. To find out what should be included in the package, visit the camera manufacturer's Web site and check their specifications page. The included items are almost always listed. The user's guide that comes with the camera will also list the items that should be included as part of the camera price.
When camera companies introduce new cameras, they frequently use different product numbers, names, and prices in different markets around the world. Some dealers buy cameras in countries with the lowest prices and then sell them in another country. Since these cameras are bought and sold outside of the manufacturer's normal distribution channels, prices may be lower but you almost always lose warranty coverage and technical support.
When purchasing a camera you have three components of the price to consider-the camera price, postage and handling, and taxes. When you purchase over the Web or by mail order from an out-of-state-company, you and not the dealer are responsible for paying state and local sales taxes. Most people aren't aware of this responsibility, or choose to ignore it. (Now that you're aware of it, you have to make the moral judgement.) When it comes to the price and postage and handling, however, the dealer is in control. Many dealers lower the price to make the camera more attractive, then increase the postage and handling to boost their profits. With the popularity of price comparison sites such as PriceScan, the temptation to do this is even stronger. Be sure you ask about these additional costs and take them into account when comparing prices. Most companies have deals with firms such as Federal Express so their costs are $5 or so for second day shipments. Anything over and above that is pure profit to the dealer.
Hesitate before accepting extended warranties. Every knowledgeable consumer expert says it's better to gamble. Most of a company's profit is in the sale of these warranties so they press, and press hard. Your job is to resist, and resist hard. The only thing to keep in mind is that digital cameras can be horribly expensive to repair. If you want peace of mind, you may want the warranty, even though it's probably overpriced. The cost of a repair can approach, or even exceed, the original purchase price.
When you buy a camera from a reputable dealer, you expect to be able to return it if you aren't satisfied. Some dealers try to discourage this by requiring a restocking fee for returned merchandise. This is always explained as a way to recover their costs of checking the merchandise and restoring the packaging you may have opened. If a dealer requires a restocking fee, my advice is to find another dealer.
Buy no extras without doing research. A few dealers low-ball camera prices and make their profit on the other things their high-pressure sales people can stick you with.
There's no question that you can save a little money by shopping by mail order or over the Internet. However, keep in mind that the dealers in your local community also deserve your support. Their prices aren't always higher because they are more profitable. More likely, they are higher because their costs are higher. As often as possible, it makes sense to support your local merchants. They are part of the community you live in and your dollars circulate locally, not in a distant place you care nothing about.
Digital Camera Prices
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