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How to Buy a Digital Camera
The best way to buy a digital camera and end up with a great one
I have used this technique for buying digital cameras and equipment many times with success each time.
All of the pictures in this article are from our page New Pictures for 2008
Buying a digital camera can be complicated. If you go to Best Buy or WalMart or some such big box discount store you are confronted with a whole rack of cameras and about the best you can do is maybe choose a name brand and megapixal size and hope for the best. However, there is a much better way of going about this. It is called dpreview.com. This site is hands down the best way to decide how to buy a digital camera and end up with the best in the style/cost class you choose. Click here to go the dpreview home page. Their web address is http://www.dpreview.com
In my opinion and experience, the reviews in this site are 100% honest, non-biased, non partisan and reliable. I believe them, trust them and rely on them. As you know, there are not many places that you can give such wholehearted support to in this day and age.
It is not the whole site I am raving about here. I am talking exclusively about what the site calls their "Full Reviews." There are many cameras listed on the site but not all of them have full reviews; as a matter of fact, only a few of the cameras have "Full Reviews." Don't bother looking at any of the cameras listed if they are not marked as "Full Review".
One way to look for cameras on the site is to start with good reliable brands. The ones I usually start with are Canon, Nikon and Olympus because I have had good luck with all of these brands. Browse all the cameras listed in these brands, looking at cameras in the style and price range you are interested in. All of the cameras that dpreview has done a full review on are labeled "Our full review" in aqua letters at the bottom of the presentation box. These are the ones to look at.
After clicking on the "Our full review" link and the "Full Review" opens, look for the white link near the top of the page that says "Introduction". Click on the drop-down symbol on the right and you will see all the various parts of the review. I usually read the introduction first. This often has a list of various on-line stores where you can buy the camera at an assortment of prices. I often end up buying at Buydig.com. They usually have the best prices and I have had good luck with them. I have bought two cameras from them and have had good service and no problems . This may not be true for everyone in all cases, but they have done well for me.
After reading the introduction, go back to the drop down bar and click it again. I usually go straight to conclusions, which is at the bottom of the list. This is the most important part of the review. Here is how I look at the conclusions page of a dpreview article. So that you can see what I am talking about, click here to see an example of the conclusions page . This will take you to the conclusions page of a full review written for the Canon EOS 1000D, a camera which has earned the "Highly Recommended" seal of approval.
In this section all the Pros and Cons of the camera in question are concisely listed. Don't be terribly put off by the Cons; every camera is going to have Cons, there are no perfect cameras out there. It all depends on what is most important to you.
At the bottom of this section is the "Overall Conclusion." This is the most important part of the review. If this camera is listed as highly recommended, it is absolutely going to be a great camera. Personally, I would never buy any camera that is not listed by dpreview as highly recommended. There is a ton of information on this page to help you make a decision. In the case of the camera on this page, the CanonEOS 1000D, there are some problems but it gets high marks in image quality and tonal response and dynamic range. These are the main things I look for in a good camera. I can do without some of the bells and whistles but I absolutely can't do without first class image quality.
Instead of browsing though all of the cameras that are listed in dpreview, there is a shortcut that gets you to all of the cameras that dpreview has "highly recommended". In the side bar on all of their pages, move your cursor over "Reviews/Previews" and then click on "More." This will get you a list of all cameras dpreview has done a "full review" on. You can sort all of the "full reviews" chronologically, alphabetically or by rating. If you sort by rating you see all of the cameras rated by dpreview sorted by ranking. The "highly recommended" cameras are listed first, arranged chronologically. This is a great way to look at just those cameras that dpreview has "highly recommended". Click here to go to this page.
Back to interpreting the reviews. After you read the conclusions page and if you like what you read, then it's time to go back to the drop down bar and check out a few of the details about the camera: Is it a compact camera or a SLR? What kind of viewfinder does it have? Does it have a flash? How many megapixals does it have? Does it have a dust reduction feature? What is its exposure meter like. How does this camera stack up against other similar cameras. Where can you buy this camera at what price. You can even download high dpi test frames shot with this camera and check them out visually as well as read the review experts analysis of the test frames. You can find all this and more in the body of the review. The "Full Reviews" are chuck full of very complete information on just about everything you could ever want to know about the camera being reviewed.
If all this technical detail is a little overwhelming and you are getting a bit lost in the terminology, there is a good "Digital Camera Glossary" in the introductory section that you may find very useful.
As you will soon discover, there are lots and lots of features and alternatives to think about when you buy a digital camera. In my next newsletter I will go into a little more detail on the most important of these choices: what you really do need, what you don't need and how the various alternatives work in the real world.
Before I quit, a little insight into how I am progressing, or not, on my planned series of articles. I know, I know, I've gotten behind on a number of topics I promised to write about in future newsletters. I need to complete my series of articles on the Wind River Mountains and related subjects like ultra light backpacking, photography on extensive backpacking trips, and off-trail back country route finding. I've also promised articles on using Photoshop and how to print your own pictures like a pro.
Have patience with a poor overworked photographer, I will get there. I am discovering that in a two person business like ours there never seems to be enough time to get everything done that I would like to. In between shooting new pictures, printing pictures, filling orders, updating the web site and keeping up with the basic jobs of a small business there seems to be little time left for the extras like writing articles. But since I do love writing, I will find the time to somehow keep up with the article writing. I'm just a little slow. Your patience is appreciated.
Backwater of the Snake River in Teton National Park, Wyoming
All of the pictures in this article are from our page New Pictures for 2008
You can click the link for more new pictures and information