Black Friday and Cyber Monday have already passed us by, but we still have several weeks worth of holiday deal hunting to look forward to. There are plenty of ways to do your shopping, both online and in stores (we're flattered when you do it through Digital Camera HQ), each with their pros and cons. We've put together a list of tips to help you find the best deals this holiday season.
Cameras Are Almost Always Cheaper Online
Shoppers expect better deals online than in stores. With the exception of some in-store doorbuster deals, that notion is almost always correct. Take the Nikon Coolpix S230 for example: We called a few brick-and-mortar stores in the Boston area, and found that the lowest price was $149.99, available at Hunt's Photo and Best Buy. However, half of the merchants here on DCHQ sell the S230 at or below that price, with Adorama, Abe's of Maine, and BuyDig all offering the lowest price of $146.95. Walmart has a web-only Cyber Week deal at $139; and a dodgy merchant called Supreme Camera sells it for $127 (more on them below).
The same goes for Canon's popular T1i dSLR kit. The lowest brick-and-mortar price is $799.99, again at Hunt's Photo and Best Buy, but several online retailers beat that price when we checked: Adorama at $719.95 (with free shipping), Walmart at $719.88 (online only), Amazon at $689.95, and Digital Hawks at $639.
Salespeople Have An Incentive To Sell
Some shoppers still feel more comfortable buying a camera from a salesperson in a store rather than going it alone online. Particularly in a specialty camera shop, they can offer sound advice and make sure that you walk away with all the accessories you'll need. But they do typically work on commission, so they have an incentive to try to sell you some "extras" you don't necessarily need, such as huge memory cards or a backup battery. There are plenty of online resources to advise you on your next camera purchase as well. We're happy to help right here, of course.
If A Price Seems Too Good To Be True, Check Out The Merchant
It's human nature to jump at the lowest price available. Why pay more than you have to, right? But the lowest price doesn't always get you the best deal. Ebay, for example, usually offers the lowest prices for cameras, but you're buying from a private seller; the consumer safety net isn't as strong as it would be if you were buying from a dealer.
Then there are the deep-discount Web merchants. They some great prices on cameras, but typically at the expense of good customer service. Users have even reported that some resort to dodgy bait-and-switch tactics.
For example, a quick Google search for "Nikon S230 Prices" turns up an offer of $127.99 through Supreme Camera. That's more than $20 cheaper than the average price of an already-cheap camera, so it sounds like a great deal. But a similarly quick Google search of "Supreme Camera Reviews" turns up some less-than-stellar anecdotes from several angry customers. Apparently it's required that customers call to "verify" their online orders. There's a salesperson on the other end of the line who tries to sell you memory cards and batteries for huge markups. Two users on ResellerRatings.com reported that when they refused to buy any of these over-priced accessories, their salespeople suddenly claimed that the cameras they wanted were on backorder. Another reported that his salesperson tried to sell him a lens for a fixed-lens camcorder. There are several dodgy merchants like this out there, so be very careful when you're going for the super-low-cost option.
New Brands Need To Win An Audience
And they're trying to win that audience with low prices. Casio and Samsung are relatively new to the digital camera game. While they both make good products, it's tough to convince consumers to go with an unknown brand over a brand-name like Canon. To do this, they sell their cameras on the cheap. Best Buy, for example, offered Cyber Monday deals on some Samsung and Casio models. Sears has ongoing deals on certain Samsungs as well. Do some research on these cameras before you splurge, but in general, these are usually pretty good deals.
DSLR Deals Are Harder To Come By
If you've been waiting all year for a deal on top-end dSLR, you probably won't find one, at least not at a big retailer like Walmart, Best Buy, or Target. Almost anybody who would buy one of these semi-luxury goods would do it even without a price cut. Manufacturers and merchants alike know this, so they have no incentive to drop the price. A dSLR underdog however, might sweeten the deal—Sony, for example, is offering discounts on certain Alpha dSLR system bundles, such as the a850 kit. The rare dSLRs that are advertised on TV sometimes see price breaks as well. Nikon is really pushing the D5000 (you may have seen the TV spot where Asthon Kutcher crashes a fashion show with this camera). It's no coincidence that Amazon is currently offering a $100 on the D5000 kit.