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Should you buy a camera on Black Friday? Here’s what to watch out for

Like nearly everyone else in America right now, your heart is probably pumping fast for Black Friday deals. Heck, you probably have a strategic game plan than any military general or NFL coach would be proud of. If a digital camera is on your list, here are some things you might want to consider before plunking down cash on that seemingly good buy.

Cameras tend to be older

Nikon D3200 review front top lens zoom nikkor

Nikon D3200

A whole bunch of exciting camera were recently announced in the past few months, from Sony’s Alpha full-frame cameras to Nikon’s retro-inspired Df, Fujifilm’s XQ1, and Panasonic’s Lumix GM1. But if you were hoping to snag one of these for yourself or as a Christmas gift, forget it: Most of the camera deals will be on models that are older or lower-end point-and-shoots (some of the newer models are still in pre-order). Camera companies might be hurting, but they’re not going to give everything away.

But that’s not to suggest you can’t get yourself a great camera. If you are willing to forego the latest tech, there are some potential deals out there. For example, we have been seeing several listings for the Canon EOS Rebel T3 and T3i, and the Nikon D3200. These DSLRs are a couple generations old, but if you’ve been looking to move up to a DSLR to improve your photography, these models make great starter cameras and can shoot great-looking photos. Also, look out for more advanced cameras like Canon’s EOS 60D or Nikon’s D5100 – they’re rarer, but they exist.

Is it really a deal?

Canon EOS Rebel T3 front lens

Canon EOS Rebel T3

Staples is advertising in its flyer the Rebel T3 with an 18-35mm kit lens for $450, but you should know that this is the regular price offered through Canon’s online store. Staples is knocking off $150, but only if you purchase a 75-300mm lens as well. When all said and done, you’ll be paying $500 for the entire set, but Target and Walmart are offering it for $449 and also including a camera bag and SD card (Walmart normally sells it for only $30 more).

While it may not seem like you’re saving any money, you are getting a second longer lens for only $50 more over retail through the Staples deal – even cheaper at Target and Walmart. In that view, you’re getting some kind of deal at both places. The key is, don’t just trust an advertisement. Do a quick search to make sure there are some extras thrown in or it’s a genuine price drop, and do some fast comparison shopping. Otherwise, a Rebel T3 with an 18-35mm kit lens for advertised for $450 is the everyday price.

Don’t just look for the big brands

We have seen a lot of specials for Canon and Nikon, which makes sense since they’re the two bigger makers of DSLRs and point-and-shoots. As you’re looking through ads, don’t forget about other manufacturers like Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Pentax, Samsung, etc. These companies also make terrific cameras, especially in the mirrorless camera segment. Avoid no-name camera brands unless you want to be hated by the gift recipient.

Should you bother with budget point-and-shoot?

Olympus Stylus 1 Front

Olympus Stylus 1

Point-and-shoot cameras are still useful for many people, but unfortunately the casual photographers who would use such cameras are moving toward smartphones. Still, they make nice gifts for kids, older folks, or anyone who still prefers to have a separate device for picture taking. 

You might be tempted to spend $100 on a budget cam and call it a day, but they’re just as good as any smartphone – which to say they aren’t aren’t any better. Try looking for a more advanced point-and-shoot that offers more features, bigger sensors, longer zooms, and manual shooting modes. Consider non-compact point-and-shoots like megazoom (bridge) or a specialty model like rugged cameras.

SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I card

SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I card

Accessorize yourself

While there are plenty of hot deals on cameras, don’t forget about accessories. This could be that lens you’ve always wanted, or useful gear like tripods, bags, external hard drives, etc. We’ve seen plenty of deals on memory cards. While they are normally cheap to begin with, it never hurts to have plenty stocked up – especially if they’re fast, large capacity cards.