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Tips on how to test drive new cameras in a store.
After reading many posts here, a common theme I saw is that a person purchasing a camera or looking to comparing nikon to canon should go to a local store to check out the feel of a camera..

One of the issues I have is that what features should I check out in the store. In many cases, or at least my case, I am new to dslrs both nikon and canon and not knowing how to set many of the features becomes a problem and I end up just clicking away and trying to go through the menus. But not really feel like I've been using the camera..

I am now waiting for a canon 40d to appear in stores to try it out and compare it to a 200d but I wanted peoples take on some important features that I should try to do in the store to get a feel for how the camera works..

Thanks,Jeff.

P.S> I live in NY (City) and while I went to B&H they weren't very helpful in figuring out the cameras and they are not near where I work (Grand Central terminal). Anyone know of good camera store(s) to check out the nikon d200 or canon 40d. (I might try adorama but they close so early that I can never seem to make it there by 6:15pm.)..

Comments (22)

You should be able to go to each manufacturers website (Pentax, Canon, etc...) and download a complete users manual for a particular camera in PDF format. This should give you a good idea of all of the camera's functions and how to test them once you've got your hands on it..

Patrick Steele..

Comment #1

1. Eyeball the fit and finish of the camera and lens/lenses.2. Open the battery and card door/doors, flimsy or sturdy, do you care?.

3. Inspect the LCD, Reflections? Take to a sunny window or under a bright light, can you still easily see what you need to see?.

4. Hold the camera in your right hand. Is the grip comfortable? Does the shutter button seem to be in precisely the right place..

5. While holding the camera in your right hand, knock it against the palm of your right hand. Bring down the base of the camera on your palm. Does it rattle or creak? Twist the body (don't get carried away!) any creaking?.

6. Put your eye to the viewfinder, if you wear glasses leave them on. Can you see all the edges? Can you read all the setting information without moving the camera? How do the viewfinders compare?7. Common functions need to be easy to access and change.a. Under/Over exposure compensation a button or do you have to access a menu?b. In Shutter Priority how do you change the shutter speed?c.

In Program how do you shift the program?.

8. Lens Operations. Pick a single central focus point, typically a menu operation but may be a button......then..

A. At max zoom how does it focus? Slow, hunting? Is it accurate? Alternate between close objects and far, how long does it take, is it accurate each time? Pick low contrast subjects and repeat..

B. Switch to manual focus. How does the focus ring respond. Does it feel natural. Is it easy to tell when your in focus? Is there a focus indicator in the viewfinder? Is it right?.

C. Is the zoom control smooth and without jumps and jitters? Is it easy to make small corrections?.

That is the typical stuff to do in order to determine the "feel" of a camera. Beyond that downloading the manuals and reading up on the specs and how you do other more complex operations is best left to reading and deciding on whether or not you'll ever even use them.A member of the rabble in good standing...

Comment #2

Both for a great question and a really helpful reply!.

This is helpful for me, too!LucyU ZI owner!Olympus C30-20Zhttp://www.pbase.com/lucyFCAS Member #98, Oly Division'Photography is the art of seeing what others do not.'.

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Comment #3

I don't think there's any magic to holding the camera. I always regretted my impulse purchases, where I go to the store and buy based on the look and feel of the equipment (or advices from the sale clerks). There's so much more to the camera than what 5 minutes of play can illicit..

In addition, what might seem awkward for 5 minutes might become familiar after continuous use. I've used Canon DSLR's for a long time, and hated the Sony A100 user interface when I first saw one. But after spending more time with it, there are things I actually prefer to my Canon..

This website spends weeks on each camera to study it. I much rather do research here or similar review sites and base my purchase decition on it..

With that said, for someone who never held a DSLR before, it might be worth making a trip to the store first. My Canon 350D seems very small for me, although many of my friends describe it as "huge"...

Comment #4

Thanks for the great input..

I am doing a lot of research here and reading a lot of posts  I did go to a store (although it was a best buy) after reading about the d40x and xti. I didn't like the feel of either of them. I couldn't see myself holding either of them comfortably. Luckily, BB had the 30D and D80 both of which felt better. So I came back here for more research...... Then upon visiting b&h, I looked more closely at the 30d but unfortuneatley they did not have the 40D or D200 in stock so I couldn't check those out (yet).

I already downloaded the d200 manual but the canon 40d manual isn't posted yet (or I couldn't find it) on their website..

Jeff..

Comment #5

Store test drives can be intimidating. So, buy the camera at a store with a "good" return policy, take it home, use it to the max and find out if you like it or not...

Comment #6

Dylanbarnhart wrote:.

I don't think there's any magic to holding the camera..

There's no "magic" in the idea that in the process of purchasing something that you are going to use, in your hands, with continuous adjustment of controls, you might like to handle it before you buy. In fact, I don't understand how anyone, even (perhaps especially) an experienced photog, would contemplate buying a camera they've never actually handled..

I alwaysregretted my impulse purchases, where I go to the store and buy basedon the look and feel of the equipment (or advices from the saleclerks). There's so much more to the camera than what 5 minutes ofplay can illicit..

Saying you should handle the camera before buying is not the same as saying it should be an impulse purchase" based on "5 minutes of play"..

In addition, what might seem awkward for 5 minutes might becomefamiliar after continuous use. I've used Canon DSLR's for a longtime, and hated the Sony A100 user interface when I first saw one.But after spending more time with it, there are things I actuallyprefer to my Canon..

That's certainly true, and something the buyer needs to keep in mind and be able to judge for themselves..

This website spends weeks on each camera to study it. I much ratherdo research here or similar review sites and base my purchasedecition on it..

Of course the research must be part of the process, it's not an "either or" situation and I don't think anyone is suggesting that. No-one here is saying "research isn't necessary", but you seem to be saying "handling isn't necessary" and I don't think that's sustainable..

With that said, for someone who never held a DSLR before, it might beworth making a trip to the store first..

It's especially important (vital) for a newbie. Maybe an experienced photog could get away with more research and less handling, but my advice to a newbie who wants to do all research on line with no handling would be "well good luck with that, then"..

My Canon 350D seems verysmall for me, although many of my friends describe it as "huge"..

The best example I can think of is the Nikon D40 vs D80 choice, which a lot of people on these forums, newbies and more experienced, seem to be making..

Feature-wise you can easily list the differences between the cameras and decide..

But there is a MASSIVE difference in the size, weight, and "feel" of the cameras. To try and choose between a D40 and D80 without handling them is (IMHO) utter madness..

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Comment #7

That's an outstanding and pretty much comprehensive list of advice and ideas. Well done..

The only thing I would add, is:.

- For each camera you're looking at, there may be one or two particular reasons (features) why that camera is on the list. (Beyond the "standard" features listed in the above post). So examine those features and especially how easy they are to use..

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Comment #8

Yeah, I agree. It's best to do both research online and handle the camera physically...

Comment #9

Many things I write make sense. .

But you don't often get such a swift, agreeable and reasonable response..

It seems we don't differ much at all, really..

Cheers..

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Comment #10

Try Alkit on East 18th Street and Park Ave. They might have it. B&H is just a cross town bus from Grand Central. I used to work on 43/5 Ave. Also, try Willoboughys...

Comment #11

Is it ethical to 'test drive' a camera in the store and waste the salesperson's time if you have no intention of buying it there? Maybe people feel less guilty about this in a big box retailer, but the principal is the same. I'm just wondering how people feel about this..

Mark..

Comment #12

Arrowman wrote:.

That's an outstanding and pretty much comprehensive list of adviceand ideas. Well done..

The only thing I would add, is:.

- For each camera you're looking at, there may be one or twoparticular reasons (features) why that camera is on the list.(Beyond the "standard" features listed in the above post). Soexamine those features and especially how easy they are to use..

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Yes I am trying to do that. I have downloaded the d200 manual to learn more about it. I did not find a canon 40d pdf manual on their site yet but I should be able to figure out the few features that are most important to me..

Thanks,Jeff..

Comment #13

Davisesq212 wrote:.

Try Alkit on East 18th Street and Park Ave. They might have it. B&His just a cross town bus from Grand Central. I used to work on 43/5Ave. Also, try Willoboughys..

I've been to B&H and it is not too hard to get to. I just seem to never get out of work until 6pm leaving very little room to get across town in rush hour..... I want to check out Willoboughys and they are open until 7:30 giving me plenty of time to go after work and avoiding some of the rush hour traffic as I will just walk downtown for 10 blocks..

Jeff..

Comment #14

I agree BUT am test driving a Fuji S700 from WalMart now. I burned up about 1 min of there time AND might have sold someone on this camera??.

So I will play with it some more. Not open any other bag up other than the one the camera came in, can be resealed, and WalMart will put it back on the self and sell it again because I will have only shot like 50 shots and put like 0.5% wear on it..

So yes if anyone does this keep in mind that time is $$ and save has much of the stores time as you can. Bring the camera back in the PERFECT shape, check the lens and body of the camera over in sun light to ensure it looks perfect. If all goes well on the return talk the store up to friends and family. In the end the store should make out because your word of month is worth $$$ with it comes to there sales...

Comment #15

Mark B. wrote:.

Is it ethical to 'test drive' a camera in the store and waste thesalesperson's time if you have no intention of buying it there?.

I've said before that I don't think it is ethical to test drive in store when you are planning on buying online. It's using one store's service to cover a gap in the other. I think it's less so when you're just "shopping around" and it's OK, I think, to spend 5-10 minutes talking to a salesperson. But I feel a bit guilty, and try to avoid, going in to extended sessions when I know I'm going to buy elsewhere..

On the other hand, I would advise people to visit several different stores, and get several different persepctives from salespeople, before they decide. If you do that then I suppose there's a fair chance that the best, most credible etc salesperson will "win" the sale and that's what it's all about..

Maybe people feel less guilty about this in a big box retailer, butthe principal is the same. I'm just wondering how people feel aboutthis..

Actually a "big box" retailer is the last place I'd go to test drive a camera. it's usually busier and noisier, you have a harder time getting the salesperson's full attention, you're more likely (in my experience) to find a knowledgeable salesperson who is as focused on helping you as making the sale in a smaller "semi pro" store etc. We have a couple of "big box" retailers in my city plus several smaller, more specialised stores. I've never bought anything in the "big box" or even tried to "test drive" anything there..

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Comment #16

For me it's same qhuestion like 400D vs D40x. Read 2nd paragraph here: http://www.howtoshot.com/7/nikon-d40x-vs-canon-400d-rebel-xti/.

To be onest... the most important is you like that camera. For 99.9% people it is the same and important is how you like it, how do you feel it's handling nad control layout. In my eyes nikon is better designed however thats my personal opiniom.My fotoblog: http://www.howtoshot.com/My fotoblog (czech): http://fotaky.xf.cz/My photos (leazy to update anyway): http://gady.idomena.cz/..

Comment #17

Lots of good advice here. Just one point... you say you are a beginner, yet are considering a Nikon D200. yes it's physically tough but it conspicuously lacks a lot of the thinigs that a beginner might use, like standard modes for action, portraits etc. It is really aimed at experienced people who know what they are doing and exactly what they want for a shot. Do you really need something built like a tank - are you going to be taking hundreds of pictures a week, every week? if so, fine...



Best wishesMike..

Comment #18

Mike703 wrote:.

Lots of good advice here. Just one point... you say you are abeginner, yet are considering a Nikon D200. yes it's physicallytough but it conspicuously lacks a lot of the thinigs that a beginnermight use, like standard modes for action, portraits etc. It isreally aimed at experienced people who know what they are doing andexactly what they want for a shot. Do you really need somethingbuilt like a tank - are you going to be taking hundreds of pictures aweek, every week? if so, fine...



Best wishesMike.

Mike,.

Yes, my continued research is having me believe that the d200 might not be the camera for me (for now at least). I still want to go to a store and pick it up and try it out..

I find that the weatherproofing discussion a little misleading as the basis for everyone's ideas on what it should do is different. I am coming from a nikon n60 film slr where I had to open the casing in some humid, dry, sandy/dusty environments and never had a problem. Seeing how that camera was a lower quailty and more entry level than some of the dslrs, I may just be overly cautious. But dlsrs with all the electronics might be more sensitive to the environment. I just don't know.....

I already tried out the d40(x) (and a canon xti) and didn't like the feel. I also didn't care too much for the d80 based on the navigation knobs, but I probabily will give it a second look. I held a 30d in a store and liked it so I've been lurking over in the canon 30/40d forums and seem to find the features that the 40d offer more appealing for me as a beginner. (I just printed out the pdf of the manual and will check it out when I can get my hands on it in a store.).

Thanks,Jeff..

Comment #19

Without knowing how to use a d-slr in general I think it's hard to evaluate the operation of cameras. and even if you know canon's system nikons work a bit different. but you can certainly check the ergonomics (weight, viewfinder, how it feels in your hand and so forth)..

There are online rental places. you might want to rent one first to get the general hang of it...

Comment #20

Sorry Jeff, I misunderstood your initial post - when you said 'I am new to DSLRs' I interprested that as 'new to photography'... hence my comment about the advisability or otherwise of a D200!Best wishesMike..

Comment #21

Mike703 wrote:.

Sorry Jeff, I misunderstood your initial post - when you said 'I amnew to DSLRs' I interprested that as 'new to photography'... hence mycomment about the advisability or otherwise of a D200!Best wishesMike.

Even with my slr experience you can consider me new to photography:-) I appreciate any tips or comments. I have a lot to learn about exposure but seem to have a good eye..

Jeff..

Comment #22

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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