It won’t be long now until Christmas and as is usual in the lead up to Christmas everywhere we go clients, friends and family members ask us for advice on camera’s they are looking to buy either for themselves or for presents. Our normal response when asked by anyone looking to purchase a new camera is to consider what would be available on the used market especially if you are considering buying a Digital SLR type camera. However at Christmas as people tend to be buying as a gift they are more reluctant to purchase used.
BUYING USED CAMERA EQUIPMENT
Buying used can make a lot of sense though as that is where the real savings are to be had. This is partly because a lot of people buy a DSLR because they believed that it was the only way to get great photographs, they then realise later that there photographs either haven’t improved or get worse from there new DSLR and put the camera up for sale at vastly reduced prices. This is great if you are looking to buy as you will get a hardly used camera at a much lower price than buying new from a local retailer. Be careful not to fall into this same trap yourself though. The photographs you will take will only improve after spending the time needed to learn lighting, composition and improving your technique. Another reason why there are so much entry level little used camera equipment available at great prices is because you will find as you improve your photography skills you will demand more and more from your equipment and want quicker, easier ways to access the manual settings of your camera. That just isn’t as easy on entry level kit so many upgrade quickly into higher end equipment, where they can access and change settings without having to delve into numerous on screen menus. For these reasons it’s relatively easy to find entry level used DSLR’s at great prices. You will find a huge range of barely used equipment on websites like eBay, Gumtree and basically anywhere else where used items are available for sale. If you are concerned about buying used due to a lack of warranty have a look at what is available from used equipment retailers like MPB Photographic who provide a 6 month warranty on all used equipment.
BUYING GREY MARKET CAMERA EQUIPMENT
This is a bit of a hot potato in the photography community as a whole and has been for some time. In the last few years especially there has been a large increase in Grey Market retailers for all technology items and for camera equipment in particular. There are different types of Grey Market retailers some sell there items via their own websites and eBay and it’s not always obvious that they are not a normal legitimate U.K retailer until you find out that your item is being delivered from outside of the U.K. The advantage of buying from this type of retailer largely comes down to cost, they will always be cheaper than there U.K based equivalent. However there are disadvantages for example you may find that the manufacturer will not offer any warranty for the product, some manufacturers have even been known to refuse repairs, even when you are willing to pay the cost of the repair yourself. There is also the chance the item will be brought into the U.K without the necessary import fee’s being paid which you as the buyer are legally responsible for. This could mean that your new camera is held by customs until you pay the relevant fees. The fees could potentially make your camera more expensive than if you have purchased from a normal U.K retailer. There are always exceptions to the rule though. For example HDEW Camera's are a company based in the U.K who sell “Grey Market” camera equipment but ship direct to you from the U.K they also provide 12 months warranty on all items, on a lot of camera’s they actually provide a third party 3 year warranty.
BUYING CAMERA EQUIPMENT FROM A U.K RETAILER
I worked in retail for many years for a large U.K electrical retailer, while it seems like a life time ago now, I still have a good understanding of how a lot of the U.K retailers do business. The profit margin on camera hardware for U.K retailers is low, they make profit by selling add-ons and consumable items at much higher profit margins. With this in mind it’s unlikely to find a huge variance in price between retailers as discounted offers need to be funded by the manufacturers. So when one U.K retailer is able to discount a price that option will also be made available by the manufacturers to the rest of the major players. There can however be small variances and the Camera Price Buster website will help keep you up to date with the small price increases and decreases by the various retailers. We have purchased equipment from the majority of the U.K retailers and have found that we prefer to deal with Calumet, they only have the one branch in Northern Ireland but we have found them to offer a good level of customer service and they have a pretty good price matching policy, if you find a camera you want to buy available cheaper at another U.K retailer, they will match it. You can find them online at www.calphoto.co.uk.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR BUYING A DSLR CAMERA
Do your homework online and don’t fall into the trap of buying a supposedly discounted item due to a sale or Black Friday discount. Black Friday is a tool used by retailers to shift older discontinued ranges and may not always offer real value to you.
Don’t allow yourself to be talked into buying extra’s that you don’t need by an overzealous sales person. Bear in mind that this is how their business makes a profit. Do your homework online into the costs of any accessories you might need, you will usually find that www.amazon.co.uk and www.mymemory.co.uk are much cheaper for memory cards for example than your local retailer.
Do you need a spare camera battery or battery grip, check out the options available from third party manufacturers. For example we have found the EX-PRO third party batteries available on Amazon and eBay to be excellent as are the battery grips made by another third party company called Meike.
Set yourself a budget and stick to it. Work out exactly what you need based on what you are going to use your camera for and write yourself a little shopping list. For example If you want to shoot Landscapes, yes you are going to need a tripod, you won’t really need one however if you are going to shoot portraits or plan on using your camera for the odd family holiday and photographing family and friends.
If you need a flashgun check out the Shanny SN600 range available for Canon and Nikon mounts it does pretty much everything that the Nikon and Canon versions do, but at around a quarter of the price.
RECOMMENDED ACCESORIES FOR SOMEONE NEW TO USING A DSLR CAMERA
Memory cards – Yes of course you are going to need them. Try and resist the urge to by large capacity cards as at some point the card will corrupt and you will lose everything. Using numerous smaller cards means that if one card fails not all is lost. We like the cards made by Lexar and SanDisk.
External Hard Drive – Simply a must have. All electronic devices will fail at some point and if you don’t want to run the risk of losing all your precious photographs you are going to need back them up. If possible buy at least two, keep one at home to back up the photographs on your computer and back it up again to the other drives and store somewhere else. We prefer drives made by Western Digital, but all drives can fail.
Understanding exposure by Bryan Peterson – this is a great book for the newbie photographer. If you read this book it will give you a great start on your journey towards taking great photographs.
Lens Pen’s and Rocket Blowers – We use these all the time. They are great for cleaning your camera lenses and keeping them in great condition without the worry of scratching your lens that you get from using any type of cloth.
Low self-discharge rechargeable batteries – These are a must have for any photographer, use them in your flash guns and even your battery grips if you have the option to use AA’s. We have found the best ones to be made by a company called eneloop. Because they lose charge very slowly they are ideal for using with your flashguns etc.
5 in 1 Reflector – These are great for making the most of available light for portrait sessions and can be purchased online for less than £10. We use these a lot but bear in mind that you will need someone to hold it for you while you are shooting.
We hope this blog post helps you with your camera shopping this Christmas, we have purposely not went down the route of recommending any particular camera as everyone’s needs and wants will be different and there are numerous places online where you can find reviews on particular models.