Camera Buying Guide

A guide to help you see through all the camera buying "noise"

Camera Buying Guide

Years ago, you wouldn’t have used or even needed a digital camera buying guide online. There were just the mainstream camera manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Kodak, Olympus, Pentax etc) that made a fairly basic array (by today’s standards) of cameras to suit all levels.

You saw an ad on TV, in a magazine or saw a friend’s camera. Then you made your choice to suit your budget and headed off to the local camera store.

Nowadays, with the information superhighway, and media explosion, you are hit from all angles by all sorts of ads, all with one thing on their mind - MONEY! Companies like Panasonic and Sony have diversified from their mainstream products to include cameras at the top of their agenda. And they're doing well!

Since I first bought a camera (way back in 1980) a lot has changed! To supplement my income whilst serving a one-year apprenticeship with a local photographer, I worked in the local camera shop where I lived!

It was great. I got to play with all the latest cameras and lenses that I had just read about in my favourite camera mag.

Nostalgia is great, but what is your point?

My point is that I was a 16 year old that read every photographic magazine published. I worked in the industry at a good level with a lot of knowledge. When a customer walked into the shop, I knew what I was talking about. I was their camera buying guide in those days.

Working alongside me were people that maybe didn't have the same level of passion as me. It made me realise that I had to trust my own judgement or listen to the professionals when making a choice of camera. Therefore I used my own "common sense" camera buying guide.

So where is the camera buying guide Stubbsy?

It is exactly where you are now…the internet! Not only has it got a huge knowledge base to suit all abilities and budgets, but I would whole-heartedly suggest that you make your purchases online too! It's also here:

In the first 2 years that I went digital, I bought the majority of my professional kit from companies on the internet. I have saved a fortune!

For example, back in 2006 I bought a Canon EF 70-200L F2.8 IS USM Lens (mark I). One of the finest bits of glass I have seen and I bought it on eBay. The average price from the high street back then? £1450.00! I bought it online for quite a bit less.

Note (2021): I am still using that lens today. Not only on my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, but also on my Panasonic GH5 and Panasonic S1H using adapters. 

Panasonic GH5 with Canon 70-200

Canon EF 70-200L f2.8 IS on the Panasonic GH5

The CRAZY thing is that about 5 years ago, I swung my camera bag over my shoulder without checking. Yep! The zipper was undone and the 70-200 lens flew out and bounced about 20 yards down the concrete path.

Zero damage and it stills works as good today as it did back in 2006!

It arrived in 3 days (including a weekend!), in immaculate condition, brand new and unopened. I paid just £40 shipping charges from outside the UK. Paying via PayPal, I knew it was secure and it was all done from the comfort of my office. I had read umpteen reviews online, visited photographic forums and I spoke to my (photographer) brother who also owns one.

Not once did I go into a shop to try one, I hate sales patter as I am an easy target! Also, it is actually safer to buy online now. The goods are delivered to the address on your statement and there is no chance of someone “swiping” your card and making a copy. Online transactions are secured by 128-bit encryption or higher so you are completely safe.

My wife and I now buy all our books, software, accessories and even kids clothes online, it makes a lot of sense.

What else do I look out for?

Here are some more pointers…

  • When buying online, make sure it is with reputable, secure payment companies.
  • eBay, for example, has over 25,000,000 items new and used with 3,000,000 listed daily. They use ALL secure servers for payment. They also sell brand new camera products as well as second hand, and DON’T always need bidding. You just BUY IT NOW.
  • Track your deliveries online to check for delivery dates and times.
  • If buying from eBay, buy from the “Power sellers” or stores with a high positive feedback score if you can. They have a reputation to keep and need good feedback from customers like myself in order to keep trading successfully.
  • Other companies like Amazon work in a similar way to eBay, and both are regulated by the trading standards. I buy most of my kit through Amazon these days…I love them!
  • Buying online cuts out all the middlemen, warehouses and shops alike. This means the end user (you) gets the benefit, being a good discount.
  • Most goods bought online, have the usual guarantees in place. However, just check to make sure before buying.
  • I can’t leave without giving a quick plug to my friends at B and H Stores in New York. I have bought a ton of camera gear through them in the past and saved a bundle. Their store is incredible, their service excellent and prices low. I had all my kit delivered to Spain before moving back to the UK…no problem! Have a look around their site, it is huge!

B and H Photo Video

As well as expanding this camera buying guide, we will hopefully be adding a list of recommended retailers such as B and H above. This is from either personal experience or customers’ ratings. Use their sites to review and/or purchase your goods with peace of mind.

For now, why not check out some of the kit that I use:

End Note July 2021: I very recently bought another camera from eBay. It was advertised as brand new, unopened but around £1,100 cheaper than the RRP. After a few messages back and forth, I bit the bullet. 

It was the Panasonic Lumix S1H and as advertised, it was in a sealed, unopened box and in pristine condition. Bargain. 

Panasonic S1H Mirrorless Camera

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