|Berger Brothers Camera in Amityville NY. A great store.|
These people just don't have the luxury of going downtown to visit four or five shops to see the camera they want to buy. And based on the brand or model, we may not even find the camera selling at big box stores like Best Buy or other electronics specificity stores.
We could order several cameras from Amazon, and try them all out, then return them all except the one we like best. But this practice has problems because:
- This drives up the cost for everyone else by creating open box cameras
- It is most certainly unethical, which is a concern for some people
- If you do it enough, you will get a "lifetime ban" from Amazon, with no appeal
Incidentally, the exact same problem exists for lots of other things too. And even for Nikon and Canon cameras above entry or mid level. Try finding certain upgrade lenses even in big cities today. You almost always have to order them, even in bigger cities.
So.... how do you cope with buying cameras that you have never actually handled?
- Step 1 - read up about and research every camera you are considering. Read all the reviews. You will discover the consensus as to their strengths, weaknesses, and ergonomic issues. When there is universal agreement about anything, it is generally true. (For example, "the GM1 might be too small if you have large hands," or "the GH3 is almost as large as an entry level DSLR." Pay special attention to any mention of button placement and other ergonomic issues.
- Step 2 - Use online resources like camerasize.com to compare the camera you want to a camera you already have or are familiar with. You could also use the Four-thirds.org matching simulator to see what that camera looks like with certain lenses on it. These resources can sometimes tell you a lot about new cameras. Once you know what you want, then you can order it from a reliable online vendor like B&H, Amazon or Adorama.
- Step 3 - Find others who own that camera, either by joining a camera club, or simply keeping a sharp eye out when visiting tourist spots on vacation or when travelling to larger cities. Ask others about the camera they are using. They will usually tell you all about it, and tell you what they like about it and what they don't like. But more importantly, they will let you handle it.
- Step 4 - Find someone on Craigslist that is selling the same camera you want. Don't worry about the price, since that is often negotiable. Then drive there and meet the seller in a public place and inspect and handle his camera. He will tell you everything you want to know. If you like it, and the price is right, then buy it. If you don't, then you have just learned something, and it only cost you "gas money" to find out.
- Step 5 - If this is going to be a very expensive purchase for you, then it makes sense to rent the camera first. And this is easily accomplished by using websites like lensrentals.com. All you need is a valid credit card to rent a camera, You could rent a camera like a GX7 for five days for $43. This could be a good investment if you are worried about whether a camera is right for you. Or, you could plan a trip to a large city to visit a real camera shop that carries that model. Or, just combine that visit with a vacation or trip already planned.
- Step 6 - Always remember.... this is just a freaking camera, and not a liver transplant. If you strive for the "perfect camera for me" you will always be disappointed and frustrated. Just buy something that matches your needs closely, use it, enjoy it, because three years from now you will want something else anyway. I am amazed that some folks put more work into selecting a camera than selecting a wife. But, I suppose, everyone is different.
After all, it's just a box with a lens on it.