Tech For Less - Digital Camera Buyers Guide
Buying refurbished cameras can be a rewarding experience as you are cutting the cost and not the quality. Get more for less.
Choosing a digital camera does not have to be a difficult decision. In fact, when you know the type of camera user you are, you will quickly narrow down the choices that best fit your needs. As most of us are not professionals, we do not require sophisticated features in our camera. In fact, we are all most likely casual users and really only need to worry about a few key features to get the camera we need.
The important thing to remember is that when you consider refurbished cameras, you may also be able to upgrade to a more feature rich camera, but without paying for the price of a new one.
Before getting into the value and savings of buying refurbished digital cameras, we should first go over the important features that you should keep in mind no matter what condition camera you are buying.
Quick Reference Camera Specs.
- SLR (Single Lens Reflex) vs. Viewfinder - SLR cameras are more versatile as they can handle switching out components such as their lenses. They use a mirror system to look at the image, are generally higher quality and more expensive. The Viewfinder type is the more common digital camera that displays the image on an LCD screen at the back of the camera, which works just fine for most users.
- Resolution - This is the pixel count of the camera (referred to as Megapixels (i.e. 12 MP cameras).Every camera today has more than enough pixels for any user to enlarge a print to at least an 8x10. If you plan to take a lot of pictures from a large distance, you might want to look for as high a resolution as possible (see digital zoom below)
- Lens - You only need to worry about aperture (size of opening in lens to allow light to pass through, the lower the number the larger the aperture) and focal length (this is your zoom in millimeters (i.e. 10 - 100mm lens).
- Zoom - Most cameras have both Optical and Digital zoom and it's important to know the difference. Optical zoom could be called "true zoom" as it uses the cameras optics like a binocular to bring the image closer without affecting the resolution (a 20x zoom is equivalent to seeing things that are 7.2x farther than you could see with your eyes. Or if someone were standing on the beach a soccer field distance away, the zoom would make it seem like they are right in front of you). Digital zoom does not bring the image any closer, but instead increases the size instead, which means it affects the resolution of the image, the same way as can be done on a computer. Some cameras use special features to reduce the way digital zoom affects the resolution. Be careful when a manufacturer talks about "total zoom" as you might not notice how much of this is true (optical) zoom.
- Sensor - This is what processes the image and determines the image quality. A larger sensor requires a larger camera to house the electronics. Compact cameras are going to have a smaller sensor due to space limitations, which is why a 16 MP compact camera can potentially have a lower quality image than a 10 MP SLR camera. Sensors are defined as either CCD or CMOS; CCD's are going to be more prominent in higher end cameras where image quality and light sensitivity are most important. CMOS sensors are found in most compact cameras because of their size, weight and lower battery use.
- Settings - Besides an "auto" setting, most of the cameras will have multiple pre-sets for specific situations of picture taking, such as sports (which increases the shutter speed and often allows for taking multiple pictures at the same time), portrait mode, night mode, and others. Decide what you need and don't pay extra for pre-sets you won't likely use.
- ISO - This is the sensitivity of the image sensor. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds (for example an indoor sports event when the action is in lower light or an event where you can't use a flash). Higher ISO does cause more grain (less crisp images), so you have to balance this to your preferences. Look for a camera that besides the "auto ISO" setting also allows you to manually pick your setting.
- Image Stabilization - Simply put, this reduces camera shake and helps to minimize motion blur. Most cameras have this feature standard but just like the zoom, there is an optical or digital system. Optical is said to be better as it stabilizes the image projected on the sensor before the sensor converts the image into digital information
- Battery Life - Most cameras use lithium ion batteries, which charge quickly and last considerably longer than other varieties. If having access to charging is an issue, consider a camera that accepts regular AA batteries.
- SD Card (Secure Digital Card) - Most cameras come with a limited amount of storage memory, which means you will need a memory card. The three points to keep in mind are size, capacity and speed. If you are looking at a camera with a high resolution, say 10 to 20 MP, you will want at least a 2GB SD Card. Pay close attention to the size of the SD Card that the camera uses as they can vary from Standard to Mini to Micro. If the camera you are interested in takes higher resolution pictures and video, you will want to make sure the SD Card has a high enough Speed Class Rating (varies from Class 2 to Class 10). DSLR Cameras will require UHS SD Cards (these are ultra high speed memory cards that are capable of keeping up with the speed demands of high end cameras).
- Video - Today's cameras, from point and shoot to dSLR cameras can take HD video (720p to 1080p). In fact, many people use their cameras video capability instead of a camcorder (having an extra SD Card is a good idea if you decide to take video).
- Extras - Many camera makers are trying to compete with smart phones and have GPS (great for people that do geo-caching (a form of "treasure hunting"). Some even have Wi-Fi built into the camera for instant sharing with friends, family or social network sites.
Why Buy Refurbished Digital Cameras?
- Price - When you consider a refurbished digital camera, you can choose to spend less, or instead you can now buy those more expensive brands that maybe were out of your budget before.
- Value - When you buy a new digital camera the average price range is 10-30% higher than an equivalent refurbished digital camera would run you. So you can just pocket the money you just saved, or use it to buy a camera bag or accessory that you couldn't afford had you bought a brand new digital camera. Now that's smart savings!
- Inspected - Compared to a used digital camera, say that you bought on eBay, you can feel confident that the item was inspected and thoroughly tested before it is sold to you.
- Guaranteed - You will find that most reputable sellers of refurbished electronics stand behind their product and will provide a product warranty and money back guarantee. In fact, if they do not, you may want to look elsewhere.
What Type Of Digital Camera Is Right For You?
Did you know that there is no one spec that can tell you whether one camera is better than another? Judging a camera by the number of megapixels is not a good way to tell the overall quality of the camera. In fact, if you are a casual user, anything over 5 megapixels is going to turn out images that you can use for photo albums or sharing with friends and family. More pixels is not necessarily better when you consider file size too.
Point and Shoot (Budget, Compact Camera User)
- Best Fit - Those that want more features than their phone's camera, but still want portability and ease of use.
- Key Features - Fixed lens, zoom less than 10x (Optical), compact/pocket-able design, automatic settings for easy picture taking.
- Image Quality - Image quality good for most snapshots, scrap booking, social media sharing, vacation shots and short video clips (most compact cameras now can take HD Video (just make sure your SD Card is the correct speed and has enough memory) .
Compact with Large Zoom
- Best Fit - Anyone looking for a step up from a smart phone camera with greater than 10x zoom. Those who want a step up from a compact camera that cannot zoom in enough to get the photograph that's wanted.
- Key Features - Still able to fit in your pocket; zoom lens is still fixed to camera body (camera may be thicker than point and shoot with less than 10x zoom). Many refer to this as a bridge camera, because it "bridges" the gap between a compact and a bulky camera, but with the benefit of larger zoom, less the bulkiness. Good for pictures at a distance as many offer 20x zoom (or more).
- Image Quality - Image quality is going to be better than a compact point and shoot and take good action shots. It will typically take better photos in low light, due to the better sensors in the camera. Many now have Wi-Fi and can even sync with your smart phone, allowing you to control the camera from your phone.
- Best Fit - Those that enjoy taking photography, professionally or hobbyists, but still need a compact design without compromising on features.
- Key Features - Still small enough to slip into a coat pocket; the lens will still be fixed to the camera body; zoom range is usually small; contain medium to large sensors; Features are more manual, for those that like to control how their pictures are taken. Some even offer a optical viewfinder; Have many of the same features as a SLR camera, but without the cost and weight.
- Image Quality - Picture quality is good enough for those that take professional photos or want to sell their work, not as good however at taking action photos. Can take short video clips, dependant on SD Card Capacity.
dSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
- Best Fit - Anyone not concerned about size and needs high quality images and speed of shot. Most suited for professionals who demand a high performance camera for almost any photographic scenario; Need zoom capability and interchangeable lens with durable design Most SLR cameras are sold without the lens (body only) and may require a separate flash, pay special attention before purchasing one.
- Key Features - Large form factor; interchangeable lenses to accommodate different photo opportunities; TTL (through the lens) optical viewfinder (means you view through the lens). Many are now electronic and eliminate the mirrors found with older SLR cameras, reducing the size of the camera; SLR's are sold as either manual or automatic feature cameras, giving the user complete control over how the camera takes pictures.
- Image Quality - dSLR cameras offer the best image quality (barring prosumer dSLR cameras). They take better pictures, due to large sensors and are excellent for action photos. Almost all take HD (1080p) video, but will require special UHS SD cards to keep up with the camera speed.
What Should You Look For When Buying a Refurbished Digital Camera?
- Condition Clearly Defined - You will find many definitions for "Refurbished". Pay special attention to how a site defines the condition of their product, even contact the company to ask for clarification. Most often you can expect the refurbished camera to be packaged in a brown box. It might have limited signs of use and it may be missing some accessories that are not needed for the functionality of the camera.
- Refurbished Is - A digital camera (in this case) that is returned by a customer, sidelined due to a defect, has a software issue or an overstock item. Whatever the reason, every camera should have been thoroughly tested, repaired as needed to function as new, but may show signs of cosmetic wear.
- Trusted Retailer - Take the time to research the company selling refurbished product. How long have they been in business, do they specialize in selling refurbished product? Do they have customer testimonials to back them up, do they offer a satisfaction guarantee in addition to a product warranty? Do they have any trusted seller ratings such as being accredited with the Better Business Bureau? Buying refurbished is different than buying new and you should feel confident in who you buy from.
- Support - Does the retailer provide you with help after the sale? Do they have a customer service department and are extended warranties offered? Do they even allow you to return the product if it has an issue, or if it ended up not what you wanted after all?
Where Can You Buy Refurbished Cameras?
- Local Stores - Some stores sell refurbished equipment, but they do not specialize in it and their definition of refurbished may have been a floor demonstration unit that could have major defects.
- Big Box Online Retailers -Many online sources will have a combination of new, used and refurbished. You must pay special attention to the description of the condition, sometimes it may seem like refurbished, but it really is a used item, which means it might not have been thoroughly tested and could possibly be damaged. Make sure they define what their conditions mean and even check out their customer testimonials. The bottom line though, is they do not specialize in this type of product.
- Direct from Manufacturer - Manufacturers can offer refurbished digital cameras as well, this source is certainly more trusted, however, the selection and availability of digital cameras can be severely limited, and sometimes the discount is not a big savings.
- Specialty Retailers like Tech For Less - This is our main business, we specialize in this stuff. When you buy refurbished digital cameras from us, you know you are getting exactly that. Our large inventory also gives you the freedom to select the right camera to fit your needs.
Why Buy Refurbished Digital Cameras From Tech For Less?
- Quality Control - We test and inspect every camera that comes to our warehouse. Each digital camera is tested by one of our expert technicians to ensure it is in working order before it is shipped to you.
- Wide Selection - You will find hundreds of top name brand cameras on our site, and we make the search process easy. You can narrow your search easily by brand, condition, megapixels, price and more.
- Price - You'll find our prices are always low and we keep them there by buying our inventory in large quantities and passing the savings on to you.
- Guarantee - Your purchase is backed by a 30 Day Money Back Guarantee. When you purchase a refurbished camera from Tech For Less, you are buying with confidence that your purchase is guaranteed.
- Customer Service - Our knowledgeable staff can help you with questions or concern you may have with your purchase or if you want to ask questions about our products before you buy.
- Return Policy - In the unlikely event that there is an issue with your product, we make it easy to return the item. All products carry a 90 Day Tech For Less Warranty, with a full refund or product replacement.
Buying Refurbished Digital Cameras puts those brands in reach that you may have put off because of their price or your current budget. When you consider refurbished, you can experience those brands without breaking the bank. What's not to like? When you buy refurbished cameras - you're not settling - you are saving because you get more for less!
One final note. Not all refurbished products are sold using the high standards we use here at Tech For Less. That's why it really pays to shop with an industry leader like Tech For Less. We've been selling refurbished right since 2001 to over 1 million customers.
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DELILAH S. - May 31st 2016