31 days without Walmart – Buying a new camera

Two sparrows in my backyard, taken with my new Nikon P100.

A few months ago, my little pocket point and shoot camera started to act a little wonky, and then last month simply died.

I’m no professional photographer, but I use my camera a lot, snapping pictures of the dogs or other things to accompany my blog posts. And I’d also been a little more creative with my shots, but the camera I had didn’t give me much leeway in photo quality.

So I needed a new camera, and in November I started shopping around. I knew I wanted a step up from the pocket point and shoot, but I couldn’t afford a digital SLR. I had no idea what was available but I saw a sale at Rowe Photo, so that’s where I went.

I’ve purchased my last two pocket point and shoot cameras at Walmart and Target. But when I was a kid, my dad, who was a photography buff, always went to Rowe to get his camera supplies, from developing chemicals to Kodak film in the bright yellow box.

(In Rochester, you bought Kodak and kept your neighbors’ jobs safe. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter. Everything’s been shipped overseas and Kodak isn’t the local pride it once was. Sigh.)

Rowe Photo has been in business in Rochester for more than 100 years, and the folks who work there know their electronics. I’d seen the Nikon P100 on sale, checked it out online, and wanted to see what else might fit my needs. Jonathan, the clerk who helped me, took time to show me some cameras, make some recommendations, and give me information.

For instance, I didn’t know that the camera companies set the price. So the same camera will be the same price at Walmart or Rowe or other camera stores in the city. What’s different is the service and the availability of product. Interesting.

Just to check, I went to Walmart. And yup, he was right.

First, the prices on the cameras Walmart had were the same. And nope, they didn’t have the camera I wanted. But I stood around at the photo counter anyway, just to see what kind of service or information I’d get about the cameras they did sell. And I stood around and stood around. That’s because the one Walmart employee working the photo deptartment was printing pictures, ringing out customers, and doing myriad other tasks. And this was a weekday morning.

So I waited to buy a camera. I kept watching the papers for sales, and saw an ad for another camera store; the camera I’d decided on was $30 less expensive than it was a week ago. (I remembered Jonathan telling me the camera companies set the price, so I headed to Rowe. Yup, it was on sale there, too, and such a deal I couldn’t wait for Santa. I bought the camera.

I had the camera a day or so; sometimes I got a great picture, sometimes not so much. So I went back to Rowe for some advice. The gentleman who helped me took me behind the counter, pulled up all of the photos on my camera card, and went through them all to help me figure out what settings I could have used.

I had a SLR in high school, and he refreshed my memory about ISO and f-stops and aperatures. I asked questions about specific photos; he talked about lighting and focus. Ahh, so much better!

And that’s where the difference is when you don’t shop at Walmart.

Don’t get me wrong. The employees at Walmart have always been helpful and nice.  But they’re overwhelmed with tasks behind the counter and waiting on customers that they don’t really have time to give personal advice.

So price wasn’t a factor in my camera purchase. Walmart’s prices were the same as Rowe on cameras Walmart carried. Since they didn’t carry the camera I wanted anyway, I got a great price and personal service at Rowe. Which in this case was very, very important since I’m still learning how to use the camera.

That’s an important lesson: Walmart isn’t always cheaper, but we’ve trained ourselves to think Walmart for low prices. And sometimes we miss out on better services.

I love this picture of Scout and Bandit, but it's a little "soft".

I’m still experimenting; sometimes I forget to change the mode and the photo is soft. Sometimes the action I want to capture happens too quickly for me to think before I shoot. But more and more I’m getting really great shots that my little point and shoot couldn’t do. Close ups, zoom, action shots.

You can learn more:

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One response to “31 days without Walmart – Buying a new camera

  1. Pingback: The Kodak Girl «

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