Monday is the day I veer off topic and muse about something other than wholefood...
Ever since I was a child I have loved taking photos. At about age nine I was given my first camera, a red hanimex slimline instamatic. I then graduated to an automatic point and shoot zoom lens Pentax which saw me through my teens. In my early twenties my dad sent me a birthday gift my first SLR, made by Minolta. I loved the feel of this camera, it felt like a real camera and I felt like a real photographer. I had that camera for about ten years before it jammed up and stopped working. I'm grateful to have taken photos of River as a baby on real black and white film using the Minolta. Once that camera was broken, it was time for me to enter the world of digital photography.
Fortunately Pete, my professional photographer husbo, did the camera shopping for me. The guys at the camera shop Pete regularly deals with for his work sold him a basic Canon Ixus point and shoot number quite a step down in size from my Minolta SLR but a very simple way to step into digital. Fast forward seven years and on this last trip to Byron I managed to get sand inside the Canon and the lens jammed. "Sand is the worst", were the words of the assistant at the camera repair shop, "$60 just to look at it. At least $200 if you need a new lens".
The best part about a camera breaking are the upgrade possibilities. Fortunately the expense part was covered by some gifted birthday money - good timing!
That was a very long introduction to my guide for buying a new camera...
1. Consider what you need your camera for, and your level of interest in learning about photography.
In my case I need a camera to take photos for my blog and to photograph my children. Yes a point and shoot would suffice (in fact many people get by nowadays using their mobile phone camera) but I am ready to immerse myself back into understanding a bit more about the art of photography and want a camera that allows me to switch from auto to manual exposure. This means having control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO.
2. Ask some friends for their recommendations both for camera make and model and for where to buy.
I had it in my mind that an SLR was definitely what I wanted but after talking to Pete and another professional photographer friend I decided I really didn't need to spend a heap of money to get a camera that would give me quality shots and some creative freedom. As my photographer friend pointed out "You pay a lot of money to make that little mirror go up and down", he has a point!
I was considering the most basic Canon SLR EOS 1100D and I asked Jay where she had recently purchased her camera. Jay gave me some great advice and that was that the lens that comes with a 'kit' camera is often not that great so it can be best to buy the body and lens separately, and directed me to e-global digital cameras.
I also asked Jodi what type of camera she uses, Jodi loves her camera and highly recommended the Panasonic gf1 with 20mm 1.7 lens. It was while researching the gf1 that I learnt about bridge cameras. For those like me who have no idea what a bridge camera is, basically it is a camera that is not an SLR but offers more capabilities than a point and shoot camera meaning you have the option to have control over exposure and on some bridge cameras you have the option to change lenses. Here is a buying guide to bridge cameras.
This led me to think that Pete and my other photographer friend were right that I probably didn't really need an SLR camera so after a bit more searching online I decided that before any purchasing happened I needed to actually hold some of the cameras I was considering so I headed off to Ted's cameras and got some old-fashioned face to face customer service. Some very good customer service I might add! This helped me to narrow my options down and I was choosing between a Canon Powershot SX 510 and a Fuji Finepix S4000.
More trawling on the internet followed and this is potentially where I have made a mistake. I stumbled upon a site with cameras at prices that well, seemed too good to be true. I ordered a Fuji Finepix S4300 for $98...I placed the order 9 days ago and I haven't received the camera yet. I am sceptical because the day after I ordered the camera I received an email from the company saying that they had received my order but not my payment (my bank account showed payment was out of my account) and would I like to cancel my order or when would I be sending payment? Hmmm. I emailed and let them know that payment had been sent but perhaps we needed to allow another 24 hours before it hit their bank account. Mid last week they confirmed payment had been received and that I would receive a tracking number and my camera would be on the way. I haven't received the tracking number, the camera nor a reply to my email asking where the tracking number is. And there is no phone number on their website. So friends watch this space!
3. Purchase the camera from a reputable dealer or one that at least has a phone number on their website.
I hate to think I have been had so I am holding out hope that my camera will arrive. I am counting my golden dollars that I decided not to spend $500 or more on an SLR. I hope there is something useful within this long post for those of you who are looking to buy a new camera. Good luck and please share your camera buying stories in the comments, it is a fairly overwhelming task sifting through so many options!