Five Tips To Get The Best Deal On A Digital Camera
Last updated on 05/24/2010
Our man on the inside offers up a brick-and-mortar perspective on how to find the best deal on a digital camera. Check out these five tips before you walk into the store.
By TJ Donegan
In truth, shopping for a camera at a big-box store in 2010 isn't as much of a battle as many consumers believe, or at least it doesn't have to be. Being overly aggressive and having a rehearsed pitch isn't going to get you very far, but here are five tips to make sure you get the best deal next time you're shopping for a digital camera.
Don't Wait Until The Last Minute
The number one mistake most of my customers make is that they wait until the last minute to shop for a new digital camera. They're likely to buy a camera simply because it's on sale that week and in stock. A better camera for them might be at a warehouse or another store, but the week it might take to arrive is too long to wait.
Buy At The Right Time
Digital cameras are like any other gadget. They have a short life cycle and are replaced by newer models within a year. Our natural instinct as consumers tends to be to go for the latest and greatest, but it's easy to forget less than a year ago the cameras on clearance were the brand new things.
Camera companies pay people large salaries to constantly develop and improve their cameras. There are rarely, if ever, any purely cosmetic updates. They change around the components inside the camera as well. So it's important to understand the differences between the current model and the old one. Canon, for example, just took the viewfinder out of most of their point-and-shoot compact cameras. If you need a viewfinder, the older model might actually suit you better than the update.
The best time is during the spring, before vacation and wedding season (you know, like right now). New cameras are rolling out and the old ones are priced to move. You can pounce on a great sale. By shopping early and timing your purchase around new model roll-outs, you can swing a better deal and have two years' worth of options at your disposal.
Know What You Want, Then Ask For Help To Find It
Know exactly what you want in a camera and what you're going to use the camera for. Do you really need 14 megapixels? A 25x optical zoom? Are you taking mostly pictures of your kids playing sports? Are they indoors or outdoor sports? Daytime or nighttime? Are you shooting your dog? Travel photos? Flowers?
Spend some time online researching what features you'll need in a camera, or ask a knowledgeable salesperson at the store. A good sales associate will ask some questions to guide you to the right camera, but any specific uses you mention will help the associate help you. You might have to spend more than you had planned for the right camera, but at least it will be one that you'll be happy with.
Consider Open-Box Items
Open-box items can be a great way to save money on a camera or accessory. The discounts easily cover the cost of a memory card, case, or some part of an extended protection plan. Open-box items can be displays that have likely seen some significant use, so ask the sales associate to see the item before buying. Inspect it for nicks and dings, especially on the bottom where wear would be most apparent or on the lens where permanent damage can easily take place. Turn the camera on and off and listen for any odd sounds in the motor. Check the accessories as well and make sure everything that should be included is in the box.
Open box items also are sometimes excluded from the restocking fees typically placed on cameras so speak to a manager or customer service associate—anyone who would actually handle your return—to get a firm idea of how many days you have with the camera to make sure there's nothing wonky about it.
Use Price-Matching Guarantees To Your Advantage
Always know as much information about a camera's cost as you can. What is its original price? What is it selling for elsewhere? How often does it go on sale and for what price?
Just about every big box retail store has some sort of price match guarantee and will meet most other retail stores in the area. Check everywhere, and know which stores do and do not fall under that guarantee. Obscure e-commerce sites will almost never be guaranteed, but large stores like Staples, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy almost always will be.