Too good to be true

When I was in IT people would always ask me advice on buying a new computer so it’s no surprise that know I get asked all the time about buying a new camera.

As for Canon vs. Nikon vs. Olympus etc.  anymore it’s largely a matter of choice.  Figure out which features you really want and find the best current body that fits the bill.  The quality of sensors of current models by most major manufacturers is so high any of them will give you excellent results.
What’s more important is WHERE to buy that new camera – or more importantly where not to buy it.
First of all do your research online. is a great resource for reviews on most new digital cameras.  If you’re looking for just 35mm gear the review boards at Fred Miranda’s site is also an excellent resource.
When you need it now and it’s something basic places like Best Buy and Circuit city are good when you just need to pick up the new Rebel or similar purchase.   I’m not a huge fan of the pro-sumer camera stores – Wolf camera (in my opinion they went downhill from when they used to be Waxman’s) or Mikes Camera.
I’ve dealt with salespeople at Wolf who didn’t know anything about aspect ratio for prints.  If you don’t know the fact that there is a difference in the cropping of a 4×6 versus and 8×10 I sure don’t need your advice on a camera purchase.
At Mike’s I was talking with a salesman and when he realized I’d been researching the cameras online and prices at other stores he actually turned his back to me and walked away.   I guess he figured if he didn’t have much chance to upsell me that I wasn’t worth his time.
Now I realize those are two isolated incidents and others have probably had great service – this is just my opinion.
Two local pro stores I do like, Camren and Denver Pro Photo.    Camren is great if you need to rent some equipment (or a studio) and Denver Pro Photo is the biggest camera toy store I’ve ever personally been in.
Of course for good pricing everybody goes online these days, and here’s where you have to be VERY careful and remember the title of this post.  If the price seems too good to be true, it’s most likely a scam.
The margin on cameras and gear is usually low enough that no dealer can afford to sell for much below the competition.  Most of these 1-800 and internet stores offer fantastic prices, hundreds of dollars below retail but specialize in high pressure add on sales and bait and switch deals.   They might sell you the body for 20% less than elsewhere, but you’ll be pressured to buy the “kit” which will bring your total well over the normal cost.   What’s in the “kit” – usually the caps, batteries, and charger that come with the camera, a cheap lens that isn’t worth anything, and the cheapest plastic accessories money can buy.
And if you stick to your guns and don’t get the kit, well then the item is usually on back order but they’ll still charge your card right away.  Eventually they’ll cancel the order and refund the card.
A lot of these stores are moving to eBay these days.  If buying there watch out for anything offered as a kit price.
Who do I buy from?   B&H Photo Video.  I’ve probably spent $50,000 or so there in the last 8 years and have never had a problem.  Never received the high pressure sales confirmation call, and the few times the order has been incorrect their customer service was quick and painless.
Whichever online store you use I do have one good piece of advice.  Check first.   Stores are rated by individuals.  No granted nothing will make a person give their opinion as much as the chance to complain so there’s few perfect scores, although from 0-10 B&H usually is top rated at 9.6 or better while some stores are rated less than one.
So remember, if the offer seems too good to be true…………