Digital Camera Deals Tips

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Finding True Deals on Digital Cameras

The first question most salespeople ask a digital camera shopper is, “How much do you want to spend?” Responding to this approach will almost always cost you the price you quote, but may not get all the camera you want or need.

Instead, make a list of features that are important to you, and then determine if they're within your budget. You may have to give up a feature or two, but you'll be getting the most camera for your money. And you may find that you can get what you want for much less than you thought.

The best place to start with your list of features is the manufacturers' websites. They'll tell you what models are available, the features and specs of each model, and – usually – the suggested price (MSRP). And many of them make comparisons easy. Once you've armed yourself with this information, you can search for the best prices on the cameras that best fit your shooting style, and choose the one that's right for you.


Get a Good Digital Camera Deal with “Last Year's Model”

With advances in imaging technology coming so fast, manufacturers of digital cameras are constantly offering new models. One way you can sometimes get a good digital camera deal is to buy a recently replaced model.

The key feature change is often resolution… and you may well be able to do quite well with the lower resolution of the old model. For example, if you don't print (or order prints) larger than 5” x 7”, a 3 or 4 MP (megapixel) model will provide ample resolution for your needs.

While not all retailers offer discounts on discontinued models, some do… especially those who sell online. When their stock of a discontinued model gets low, it often winds up in the clearance section at a substantial discount.


Where to Find a Digital Camera “Sale” Every Day

You can often find very good prices on current and recently discontinued digital cameras, as well as “classic” models that might do the trick if you're on a budget, on retailer websites and on auction sites.

There are, however, a few things you should be aware of when buying from an auction site:

* Know the current average retail price. Some retailers offer cameras at prices well above retail, preying on consumers who naturally assume that auction sites always offer bargains.
* Check the seller's rating. Some sellers are more reliable than others.
* When you're buying a high-ticket item like a digital camera, it's best to shy away from brand-new sellers, who don't have a track record. While they're probably honest, they might not be.
*Know all the hidden costs. Besides the item itself, will you also be charged for shipping, handling and insurance?

By and large, the main auction sites are fairly safe places to buy, and there are often good deals to be had.


Three Questions to Ask Before Buying “Discount”

Sometimes a deal is a deal, and sometimes it's not. Mail order and online retailers often have details hidden in the “fine print” that can make a seeming bargain not much of one. However, you'll almost always get a true deal if you ask the following three questions before you buy a discount digital camera:

1. Does it come with the manufacturer's full US warranty?

If the answer to this first question is “no,” consider the added cost should something go wrong. Without the manufacturer's US warranty, you're not covered for repairs – even if the camera is defective.

2. Does it come exactly as packaged from the manufacturer?

Don't laugh. Some “discounters” actually sell the battery, strap, memory card and other items the manufacturer includes in the box as “extras.”

3. What is your return policy?

Return policies vary widely, but a 15% “restocking fee” is not uncommon. Be sure you understand the true cost, should you decide to return the item for any reason.

If the camera comes with the full US warranty, exactly as packaged by the manufacturer and there's no restocking fee for returns, you've probably found a genuine bargain. But ask to see it in writing.


Be Aware of “Parallel Imports”

When you buy a digital camera that's been imported by the manufacturer's US subsidiary or authorized US distributor, part of the price you pay is for the US warranty.

Sometimes, large-volume retailers purchase the same digital cameras through other sources. When they purchase these “parallel imports,” the price they pay is significantly lower – because only products imported through the manufacturer's subsidiary or authorized US distributor carry the US warranty. But the lower cost of parallel imports allows these retailers to offer substantial “discounts.”

The truth is that the discounts on these so-called “gray market” cameras come at a potential cost to the consumer. The “savings” are really the price of the camera's warranty coverage.

If that cheap digital camera is defective or fails, it won't qualify for warranty repair or replacement. The bottom line is that a parallel import might make sense for lower-priced digital cameras, but it's a gamble if you're spending several hundred dollars or more.


Beware of “Free” Digital Camera Offers

While the Internet is an incomparable tool for research, communication and shopping, it also hosts its share of scams and deceptions. Counted among these are many “free” digital camera offers. Here are two common practices:

A digital camera is offered “free” for participating in a program that may be called “consumer research,” an “advertising test” or some other innocent-sounding name.

However, look closely at the terms and conditions, and you'll discover that the “free” camera is anything but. These programs require participants to complete a specified number (often six or eight) of advertisers' offers – some of which require making a purchase or applying for, obtaining and using a credit card. Fulfilling the additional requirements for redemption is usually a fairly complex process. And at least some sites have a strict time limit for redemption.


Used Equipment Can Be a Good Deal

Good used and demo digital camera equipment is often available from reliable dealers at very reasonable prices. Often, this equipment is in like-new or nearly new condition.

Find dealers that buy and sell from professionals and serious photo enthusiasts. You can seek these dealers out through consumer reports guides and online message boards. These dealers take in quite a bit of used equipment as their customers trade up. It's a good way to pick up an inexpensive digital camera that is perfect for you, but too simple for a growing professional photographer. A bonus to buying used cameras from a dealer is that most likely that dealer will have camera accessories and equipment at a bargain price.


Shopping Comparison Sites and Marketplace Affiliate Programs

Two sources for a decent digital camera bargain are Internet shopping comparison sites and online retailers with marketplace affiliate programs.

Comparison sites offer a variety of sources for thousands of items – including digital cameras. Some online retailers have affiliated “marketplace” retailers. This gives you the option of buying direct, or buying from an affiliate. This can be handy when an item you're seeking is out of stock at their site.

It also provides customers with a degree of security, since the purchase is made directly through a trusted retailer, and not the affiliate. That way, you don't have to give your credit card information an unknown online affiliate.


BBB Provides Online Buyers with Assurance

You can quickly provide yourself with an extra measure of security when you're looking to buy a digital camera. The Better Business Bureau offers a list of more than 29,300 websites that are Better Business Bureau (BBB) members, meet the BBB's online standards for reliability and ethics and have agreed to submit to the BBB's – or similar – arbitration program if complaints arise.

If you're nervous about doing business with a company, you can see if they meet the BBB's standards at

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Susan Sayour