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I enjoy shopping online - and, chances are, you do, too. It's fast, convenient and - if you exercise just a little common sense - safe. But it also presents some disadvantages - especially when buying something as personal as a digital camera.
"Personal" may sound like an odd word to use for an item like a camera, but it's accurate. And it's also why you may want to consider buying your digital camera from a brick-and-mortar store.
The size and weight of a camera makes a big difference. For example, the Casio Exilim EX-S10BE weighs in at less than four ounces (without battery). And it's a tiny 3.71” x 2.15” x .59”. If you want a small camera, that may sound ideal... but folks with big hands are likely to find it too small to use comfortably.
Near the other end of the spectrum is Nikon's D300 digital SLR. At 23.9 ounces (about 1-1/2 pounds) - and that's without a lens - lugging the D300 around for a day of shooting would wear many people out.
That's why "trying a camera on" is important. You won't use a camera that isn't a comfortable fit in both size and weight as much as you'll use one that fits you well. And that's wasted money.
The second reason to consider buying from a physical store is design. Sure, you can see what a camera looks like online, but you won't know how a camera feels in your hand until it's actually in your hand. Are all the controls conveniently placed? Is the grip comfortable?
Finally, there's performance, and that's tied closely to how you use a camera. Shutter lag (the time between when you press the shutter release and when the exposure is actually made) , write time (how long it takes the camera to transfer data to memory), auto-focus speed... these are all critical differences.
Many important performance numbers are available... but it's hard to translate a number into experience. For instance, I could tell you that a camera's shutter lag is 0.1 second, but what does that mean when you're shooting?
"0.1 second" sounds pretty small, doesn't it? Sure, but it's the difference between getting a picture of your child blowing out her birthday candles - or a shot of smoke streaming upward from the candles she just blew out.
Shopping online is convenient. And sometimes it saves you money. But when you're looking for your ideal digital camera, you're better off going to a store and "trying them on."
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|