Camera store honesty?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by surly, Jan 1, 2008.

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  1. surly

    surly New Member

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    Hi, I just joined this forum and I can see there are some very knowledgeable folks here. Here is my question. I have been trying to buy a Canon SLR camera and the prices are all over the map. As I needed (I thought) only the body I found a price of $249.99 as compared to $800. or $900. After I placed my order I found out they were out of stock. After a couple of weeks I cancelled that order and placed a new one that was about $150. more but I figured it would be worth it as the web site had good reviews, The next day I get a call from "Scott" who advises me of all the things I need to buy to make the camera work. This includes a battery charger, Cards, and etc.,etc., etc.,. I had an "old" Canon SLR and after checking with Canon they assured me the lenses I have would work. I guess my question is: Are there honest dealers out there? How do I find out what I need to buy, as opposed to what they want to sell me? Do any of you have reccomendations? After this experience I'm pretty sure I'm ahead to spend more but I can't afford to spend more than I need to. I also need to gain a lot of knowledge and I'm hoping you'll help me get it with your advice. Thanks for listening. Mike:confused:
     
  2. AKAJohnDoe

    AKAJohnDoe News/Review Writer News/Review Writer

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    You will find there are some reputable dealers and some not-so-reputable ones.

    Check out Reseller Ratings.

    And remember the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
     
  3. CalebSchmerge

    CalebSchmerge Super Moderator/Reviewer News/Review Writer

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    I'm pretty certain that if you are finding a reseller with a body for half the price of other people something is wrong. I know its nice to save money where you can, but I prefer to check prices at stores like B&H and Adorama. Prices don't have to match those stores, just be reasonably close. If they aren't, something is wrong. I usually prefer to be safe than sorry.
     
  4. TimothyC

    TimothyC New Member

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    Reseller Ratings is definitely the way to go. When I bought my Canon A650 last month I started checking the cheapest price sellers first and had to check a few stores before I found someone with an acceptable rating. Buydig.com had stellar ratings (nearly 9 out of 10 positives) and after buying from them I found out why. They shipped the camera the next morning and I had it in hand in a matter of days.

    If it weren't for Reseller Ratings though I would have bought from one of the many New York scammers for the sake of saving a few bucks.

    -Timothy

    *FYI, I'm now a lifelong Canon fan after purchasing the A650. It rocks :D !
     
  5. surly

    surly New Member

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    Hi, I want to thank you all for your help. I used reseller and I also ordered a lens form Buy-dig and the service was unbelievable. Thanks again as your advice was right on. Mike
     
  6. darkgoob

    darkgoob New Member

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    Hi. I manage a camera store in Portland, OR (send me a private message if you want to know which one). What you seem to have encountered is what is called the "bait and switch" tactic. It is used by a lot of the gray-market dealers in New Jersey and New York. It's a pretty horrible practice... what they do is, they advertise a camera at far below the normal price. Then when you order it, they call you and try to sell you all the stuff that it normally comes in the box, such as the USB cables, battery, battery charger, sometimes even the manual.

    Also you have to realize that the gray-market guys are usually selling a camera that has not been imported into the United States by the manufacturer. For example, Nikon (a Japanese company) has an American branch called Nikon USA, Inc. Cameras which Nikon intends to sell via its USA dealers are imported into the USA by Nikon USA, Inc. These all include the US-English documentation, US-voltage chargers, US-English software, and *manufacturer USA warranties*. On the other hand, gray-market guys go to China and buy the cameras that Nikon has made for the Chinese market. These gray-market guys then import the cameras themselves.

    Sometimes the foreign-market versions do not include all the same accessories as the USA versions. They NEVER include manufacturer's USA warranties (except possibly in the case of Olympus whose warranties are all international as far as I know). By importing the cameras this way, the gray-market dealers pay less over-all for their cameras than they would if they bought them through the official channels (such as Nikon USA, Canon USA, etc.).

    One downside is, with gray-market, you are getting a camera without an official *manufacturer's* warranty that works in the USA. The gray-market dealers are VERY deceptive about this -- their sites will almost always say "Our products are factory fresh and include manufacturer's USA warranty unless otherwise stated." Then, on the product page, it will say, "US warranty" but not "manufacturer's US warranty." They will even tell you over the phone that it's a manufacturer's warranty -- but they are lying. And, woe be unto you if you ever have to get your camera fixed.

    Another downside with gray-market is that sometimes, manufacturers make cameras to a lower quality standard which are destined for the Chinese market, and/or they include foreign versions of accessories, or do not include as many accessories as the USA version. That's because the average Chinese consumer cannot afford to pay as much as the average USA consumer, so the companies make a cheaper version for China, with lower quality components, etc. This is more rare these days, but you should watch out.

    Well, yes, there are honest dealers. At the store which I manage, I emphasize to all our salespeople that above all, the most important thing is to be straightforward and honest with customers. I have found after working 12 years in camera and computer stores that honesty is super important because that is how you gain long-term customers. Secondarily its important to have extensive product knowledge and be aware of the current going price for things.

    One misconception is that buying it "on the internet" is so much cheaper. First of all, even though my company has a retail store, also, we are "on the internet" too. If you don't count the gray-market dealers, and you just look at the places that sell the official USA versions, such as B&H (bhphotovideo.com), then those are prices that we will actually price-match including overnight shipping (usually $20-40 extra). The thing is, when you buy it at a store, you get it right away. And, you have to realize, it DOES cost the retailer more overhead to provide it to you immediately, since they have to pay rent in a mall, pay their employees who serve you, etc. The advantage to you is, you can open the box and make sure everything is there; you can easily exchange it if there is a defect within 30 days, and you have someone to call or come to for tech support other than the manufacturer.

    Also, if you buy it at a local store, then if you end up not needing something which you were sold, then you can always take it back. That kind of solves your worry about being sold stuff you don't need, now doesn't it?

    The thing is, however, the question of "what do I actually NEED" is a very personal question. It's different for everyone. What I always do, is that I ask people what they are actually going to be using the camera for. Often, this question is not easy to answer; people don't always know everything they might want to do with the camera, since maybe, they might discover new things to do with it later. But at the same time, there are general things like: "Are you going to take pictures outside a lot? Are you going to take close-ups of people? Babies? Toddlers? Animals? Are you going to take the camera into the elements? Do you want to do night photography? Are you going abroad with the camera?" There are many scenarios that would affect what accessories, extra lenses, filters, etc. that you would need in order to do a certain type of photography... then there are what you would need to do it WELL.

    One thing you should do is to set your expectation level properly. Photography is an expensive hobby. A lot of people want to get into digital SLRs but they do not really want to pay what it takes to get into it.

    Cameras are not like computers. The march of technology, with megapixels now at 10-14 for the nicer consumer-level SLRs, and prices now as low as $600 including a basic lens, people have started to get the idea that photography is like computers, where it's all about the technology.

    But photography is not based on microchips, it is based on light -- light that must be gathered and focused by a lens. Lenses are made of glass. There is crappy glass, there is decent glass, there is great glass, and then there is stupendously amazing glass. Have you ever shopped for diamonds? It's kind of like that. There are different grades, and you CAN see a difference, if you know what to look for. However, lenses have an inverse relationship to diamonds: with diamonds, the higher the quality, the happier your wife will be; with lenses, the higher the quality, the angrier your wife will be.

    So, there is no harm in just getting the most basic kit, and then adding items on later as you find you need them. If you value your marriage, this may be your best option. All sub-$1000 Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, and Olympus SLRs come with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, basic software, a USB cable, manuals, and a basic "kit lens" (usually 18-55, 18-70, or equivalent). All you NEED is a memory card, to take pictures. A case is highly recommended. A UV filter to protect the lens is a very good idea. Extra warranty is usually worth it if just to keep your resale value high later.

    Digital cameras are one of the few categories of consumer products for which extended warranties are actually a good idea. Put it to you like this: a digital SLR has the following easy-to break components: a mirror that moves up and down as often as 6 or 8 times per second, an LCD screen, very thin shutter blades that move extremely fast and are controlled by tiny motors, a circuit board, a memory card slot, an internal power supply, lots of buttons, and a pop-up flash with a light-bulb inside it. Ask yourself: how hard is it for tiny motors to wear out? For paper-thin shutter blades to get bent or slightly out of alignment? For a tiny mirror to break or be damaged? For precision-timing to get slightly out of calibration? For a light bulb to burn out? For a mass-produced circuit board to develop a problem?

    The average repair I see on low-end DSLRs runs about $250. The warranty we have is $90 for three years ($30/year), and it's transferrable. It seems like a no-brainer to me, but people are highly resistant to buying warranties because they think the only reason we sell them is for our own profit, and that it is some kind of a scam. While it's true that we do profit off of selling warranties (just like we profit off of anything we sell), that does not change the fact that it's totally worth it to buy the warranty. Hopefully you never need to use it, but even then, if you sell your camera before it expires, you get a lot better resale value towards upgrading to the next body. And it could end up saving you a couple of hundred bucks.

    Anyway, if you are unmarried, or you are good at persuading your spouse about things, or it's your birthday or something, then take note. The glass in say, a Canon 18-55 kit lens, does not take full advantage of what the camera can do, and does not give much in the way of long-distance telephoto range. Also, the built-in flash is good for about 10-15 feet, and does not work in rapid-fire mode. Having a better lens and a decent flash will improve the quality of your pictures dramatically. I tend to think the flash is the FIRST thing you should upgrade, since LIGHT is the most important thing (a decent flash is $210-280). I can tell you, we cannot keep flashes in stock, since they sell out so fast -- yet, almost always, people just buy the flash by itself, with no camera. That is because they almost NEVER get the flash at the time of purchase, even though it's almost a must-have.

    The other most common add-ons are a telephoto zoom (55-200, 55-250, 75-300 are all common telephotos that can be had for $200-300), or a wide-aperture lens that lets you shoot in low light without a flash, and get super-blurry backgrounds for pro-look portraits (like a 50mm 1.8, only $100-135 for Canon or Nikon). With any of these lenses, if you're going to shoot outdoors in the daytime, GET A POLARIZER and a LENS HOOD (if it does not come with it). I cannot emphasize this enough. Would you go outside on a bright day without sunglasses or a baseball cap? No. And, cameras are MUCH more light-sensitive that the human eye... even if it's overcast, use that polarizer.

    Last but not least, get Adobe Photoshop Elements, or CS3 if you can swing it. Take a class if you need to, but there are a lot of forums like this one for Photoshop and for general photography where you can get your education for free ;D Because nerds like me have no life.

    Anyway that's my essay on the topic.

    -=DG=-
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2008
  7. CalebSchmerge

    CalebSchmerge Super Moderator/Reviewer News/Review Writer

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    Very nice read. Thanks for the info, and hopefully you will stick around!
     
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