bit-tech.net

Guide to Digital Photography Part 1

Purchasing a Digital Camera Online – If the Price is Too Good to be True,
You’re Probably Talking to Someone in a Low-Lit Room in Brooklyn.


Guide to Digital Photography Part 1 Introduction

Over the last year or so, we at bit-tech have been on a mission to increase the quality of the product we provide to you on all fronts. One of those aspects is photo quality. Think about how different the experience of Orac3 would’ve been if our own Pete “G-Gnome” Dickison wasn’t able to capture such great pics. This has inspired me to write a series of articles dedicated to digital photography from a geek’s perspective. If you have been a visitor of our forums, you will surely realize that a big part of it is our project logs section (if not, where the hell have you been?). They allow our talented members to share their modding creations with their fellow readers. From time to time a project comes along that blows us away, and so we push the best ones to our front page - cases like Piloux’s BlackMesa and Joungne’s Hypercube2. It would’ve been a shame if they had created such masterpieces and we couldn’t fully enjoy them due to the fact that they were unaware of how to maximize their camera’s capability.

Based on reader feedback, I think it’s safe to say that most of us own digital cameras of some level or another. Yet we, myself included, are not taking the time to make sure we had the right camera for us nor to learn how to use certain functions and photographic principles which would allow us to get the most of our digital image toys. This series will cover the basics, starting with where you should consider buying your camera and ending with some cool, cheap and easy tricks to getting the most of your camera.

As veteran of geek toy consumerism, I have rendered the practice of purchasing consumer electronics and paying the best price down to an art. Years of shopping at local and online stores, comparing prices, carefully reading other people\'s experiences has developed a tight list of trusted sources for my hardware habit, and I suspect you all have your own coveted list of suppliers for your purchases too.

Then I found myself in the market for a new digital camera. I did tireless research online at respected websites dedicated to this mystifying niche and I finally decided the correct camera for my needs. The camera I selected turned out to be on the upper end of the “prosumer” market that is comprised of a set of specific features that falls in line with the visual quality agenda we have here on bit-tech.net. In other words, a pricey bit of kit. So I set about to find the best bargain and my adventure into the rabbit hole took a nasty turn.

I know what you are probably saying - “Man, I know where you can buy a good camera for a good price, that’s a no-brainer.” Do you… do you really? When I realized that I couldn’t buy the model I desired at one of my trusted consumer electronics online retailers, I started looking at all the online price websites for finding the best deal for my camera and then my simple trip down buy-a-new-digicam-street took an unplanned turn into a bad part of town full of shysters and con artists. I got that horrible feeling in my stomach that I used to get when making my first PC with parts purchases from a retailer I had no experience with yet. I thought I had evolved out of consumer amateurism a long time ago. Whilst hardened buyers like us tend to weed out the losers online pretty quick, the average Mom and Pop out there looking for a cheap means of recording baby’s first steps are not so savvy, and so they make for some fertile ground for guys twisting their mustaches to make a quick buck at their expense. That said, here I was in the same position.

Could I get my camera at my local electronics store? Yes, but at full retail price. Could I buy one for hundreds of dollars less online? Sure, but then something horrible is likely to happen, as I’ve found out from reseller feedback websites and digital photography forums.

The computer component online retail market has its share of notoriously bad players. But, usually their sins consist of poor customer service and unfortunate return policies. The digital camera (and camcorder for that matter) market is composed of a wide range of new tactics that verge on out-and-out fraud with lure of low prices on expensive equipment. The ironic thing is that the tactics employed by the less scrupulous retailers are just an electronic, 21st century version of a craft that has been around since the dawn of time, the art of the con - with you as the victim.

I want to share what I have discovered to educate you, so you don’t end up as one of the “one out of five star” contributors to a retailer’s feedback telling your own story of woe. This includes our European readers as well because a lot of online camera retailers cater heavily to a European audience, since you guys have the potential to save a mint buying from an American retailer. How did I come to compile a short list of trustworthy retailers? I’ll give you the agenda and some of the tricks used by the not-so-trustworthy so you too will be able to buy with confidence. Some are elementary, others are not.