Camera Buying Advice - Technician Guidelines
This is not the usual camera test report, which ends up with a list of camera recommendations to buy. Rather, I would like to give you camera advice and the tools you need to choose your next digital camera today and in five years from now. Let’s face it, there are hundreds of different cameras to choose from and the manufacturers release new models every month. To make matters worse, most retailers stock different models, which makes price comparison almost impossible.
When it comes to choosing a new digital camera, you want to have knowledge on this subject, which can be applied as a foundation, before you start choosing brands and models.
Choose the type of camera first!
It happens all the time – I see it almost every day. People come and see me with faulty point and shoot digital cameras, which have self induced faults. The good news is, that most of these expensive problems could have been avoided, when you had chosen the right camera type, which fits your lifestyle, and had taken the right precautions of course. The bad news is, these faults are not covered under warranty and are often uneconomical to repair!
What is a self induced fault? Sand -, liquid- and shock damage
- Sand damage can easily happen at the beach without realising it straight away. A couple of sand grains in the right spot can malfunction an extendable lens mechanism.
- The most common liquid damaged cameras we have seen are affected by rainwater, beach and swimming pool and believe it or not, drink bottles stored in the camera bag.
- Shock damage is a tricky subject, in particular when the camera is handled by multiple users. Often it is not realised, as there are hardly any signs of damage on the outside housing of the camera, but the damage is done inside.
What is an uneconomical repair?
The most common symptoms, or let us say parts, which brake, are LCD displays and extendable lenses. LCD’s are made of glass and exposed often without any protection. Lenses are in most cases none serviceable items and need to be replaced as a whole unit, which is extremely expensive. Spare part prices can make up to 50% and more of the price you payed, when the camera was new! Given the price decline and the improved performance of new cameras, you can work out by yourself, were you want to spend your money.
What to look out for when choosing your new camera?
To get the most out of your investment, choose the type which suits your lifestyle best. Let’s put the earlier paragraph about self induced faults into consideration and assume we distinguish between 3 types of point and shoot cameras. Cameras with…
- extendable lenses
- inbuilt lenses
- water and shockproof
If you have a personal preference for a camera with an extendable lens, you must take special care of it, to avoid any damage to the lens.
In case you have kids and multiple users, who might be a little rough with the handling of the camera, the best return on the investment is given with a water and shockproof camera. Personally I use a camera with an inbuilt lens, which hasn’t given me any problems whatsoever.
Do you want to upgrade your camera with a newer model of the same brand and hoping to use your old accessories like battery or memory card? In most cases you can’t. Different physical shapes and electrical specifications make it impossible.
Now, we are talking purchase price. More megapixels and optical zoom is not all! Often specifications are pushed to the limit and performance is sacrificed. Let me explain: to take a good shot with a high megapixel and let’s say 10x optical zoom camera without tripod requires a lot computer power. Often it can take a few seconds of shutter lag and the results are still not satisfying. What I am saying is, to have a good performance/specification camera you have to pay the price and go for a semi-professional or DSLR camera. However, the most shots indoors are taken in wide-angle lens setting and outdoors you use the same, most cameras handle these shots without any issues.
The best insurance from disappointments is to test the camera by yourself under different light conditions and zoom settings.
Make sure, the cameras tested are readily available and the test topics make sense and are relevant for you. See it as a guideline only.
What is a good brand?
This is hard to say from a repairer’s point of view, we only see the faulty ones. When looking underneath the brand badge and housing, it is almost impossible to see if a ‘brand name’ stands out with better workmanship. All I can see is, that mechanical components seemed to be done more out of plastics and the way they have been put together looks and feels cheaper as it used to. All the improvements, which lead to better specifications, go into more powerful electronics and computer chips. Therefore manufacturer costs can be reduced to a minimum. Today, it is not as expensive as it used to be to manufacture a relative good new camera or release new models, which explains the ever increasing flood of new cameras.
What the reliability of the different brands concerns, I couldn’t recommend one or the other, as long as you compare cameras in the same price bracket. A lot of spare parts have Chinese writing on the boxes, which makes me wonder, where there are coming from and where the cameras are manufactured.
Here you go – this is an opinion and camera advice from a repairer. I hope, it was helpful and has shed some light on this almost overwhelming task to purchase a new camera. There are certainly a few points above, which should be elaborated on. To get the full picture, visit me on my blog for a few more pieces of the puzzle. At the end of the day you want to educate yourself to be able to apply more common sense to make better decisions.
It is not always the cheapest price what matters, you want to have the right type of camera and value for your money.