Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Search for a Camera – the Ongoing Saga

November 26, 2011

Nice short title, right? Well, I tried to sum up the emotions and content of this post in the headline as my gift to you.

Assuming you’re out shopping for holiday gifts and are reading this post on your mobile device. Considering that Thanksgiving just passed, you can still thank me by leaving a comment here on the blog. But enough about you, let’s talk about gadgets and the artificial buying frenzy that’s afoot this time of year.

Saddled with Thanksgiving is the promise that everything you can buy will be a bargain. But I’ve seen a backlash from the connected minions on Twitter and Facebook. They’ve said that if you really want to save money on Black Friday, don’t go shopping. I think this premise is correct – especially since discounted goods find their way onto Websites right up until and after the holidays. No need to rush out to or or even to make your purchases now. Why not wait until Christmas Eve or even early 2012?

Further, maybe you need to assess your real need for gadgets…and that brings us to┬ámy continuing quest for a camera.

Last year (and for the past half-dozen years) I covered the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I was disenchanted with my point-and-shoot camera so in December 2009 I asked the kind folks at Panasonic to lend me a demo unit for my photos. Success. They saw the benefit of having all my images tagged with their name all over the Internet and in various national publications. This year I’m in a similar boat.

CES is coming up. I’ve been shopping since January 2011 for a new camera. And there were a few drawbacks to the Panasonic model I borrowed, so I’m looking for a true DSLR. Based on my assignments, I need one that can do full 1080 movies and also has mac-daddy skills when it comes to capturing product images. Emotionally and logically I’ve settled on either the Canon T3i or the 60D, but I’ve yet to pull the trigger because I only need the camera a couple times a year.

When it comes to cameras, there are a few considerations. Price, size, capability and your shooting requirements.

Requirements: I’ve gone 21 years as a freelancer using various cameras for various assignments. So my shooting requirements aren’t THAT complex. I do have the two issues above (HD video and fast still image capture), but beyond that, I don’t have to be Ansel Adams.

Size: Lighter is often better when walking around a tradeshow floor. Smaller is often better, too. But going too small at the expense of the other variables isn’t your best bet. Even if a point-and-shoot can fit in your pocket, it might not have the range to get a shot across a show booth or enough angle to capture a car or piece of technology without having you back away.

Capabiity: More is usually better here. If you don’t use all the options on a camera, it’s still nice to know they’re there. I had a Ricoh SLR in the past that had a TV shooting mode. You’d think that was excessive until you realized that no other cameras at the time could take photos of a computer screen or TV without getting lines or moire across the shot. That one feature sold a few shots for me and helped support some important articles. So, as you go up in size, you usually get more capability.

Price: This is the sticking point for me. If I can’t use a camera in my work – a LOT – I don’t want to drop $2000 on it. Right now I have the need for an external microphone, a flip-out screen and high-quality video. That’s why I mentioned the T3i and the 60D earlier. The only differences in those models are continuous shooting speed, focus points, camera speed and price. And the price between the two isn’t astronomical, so I’m inclined to go with the better model.

Conclusion – Before you buy any gadget, no matter where you’re shopping, figure out if you can do the job with your existing technology. A 42-inch 720p HDTV still looks pretty good…I’m not sure I need a 50-inch 3D 1080i HDTV right now. The same holds true for cameras, phones and lots of other products. Don’t get swept up in the madness of this weekend, and maybe you’ll have some extra money kicking around at the end of the year.

Isn’t that something to be thankful for?

*Before I forget, the three photos in this post were taken by two different cameras. One is a cell phone, the other is my point-and-shoot Olympus. Can you really tell the difference? Leave me a note in the blog with your guess as to which photos were taken with which camera. Perhaps I’ll give some demo product to whomever guesses correctly.