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Dec 162012
 December 16, 2012  Posted by  Hot Deals, Shopping

If you’re thinking about giving a camera as a gift or buying one for yourself to capture some great holiday photos, you don’t have to spend a bundle. It’s possible to get a camera for under $200, even under $100, that will do the job for most people.

We asked professional photographer Ed Szczepanski, who lives and works in the St. Louis Bay area, if you can get a “decent” camera for under $200 or even under $100. Amazon is running an entire page of camera deals this week.

Here is his advice for finding the camera that will work well for you without spending too much.

Know what you’re going to use the camera for. You may not need all those bells and whistles. He advises: “Keep it simple and don’t pay for features that you won’t use anyway. Look for holiday rebates, too. There are lots of them this time of year.”

Consider older models. Cameras that came out six months ago may be offered at a discount as the store clears the shelves for new models. “Oftentimes, these cameras are significantly reduced in price — even name brands like Canon and Nikon,” Szczepanski said.

Zoom capability. “Usually zoom is something you sacrifice in a cheap camera but if you have a camera above 10 megapixels, you are able to crop the image to be closer, which is in a sense zooming in,” he said. “You won’t be able to print the photo as large but it can help.”

Megapixels. More is not necessarily better. “People often get excited about the number of megapixels a camera has but they needn’t,” Szczepanski said. “In this day and age, we are far too concerned about megapixels. And often times less megapixels means better low light performance. Ask yourself how often you print a photo larger than 8-by-10 inches. Most people don’t print larger than that, and a six megapixel camera can print wonderful 8-by-10 prints. Larger megapixels do allow you to crop in tighter but the difference between a 14 mp and 10 mp is minimal.”

Batteries. What kind of batteries does the camera use? Are they disposable or rechargeable? Sales people sometimes push cameras using disposable batteries  (such as AA batteries) because, they say, you can buy those anywhere should you forget to take along your charger when you travel. On the other hand, you can go broke buying disposable batteries. A rechargeable battery can be a better option. Also, research the camera to see what kind of battery life you can expect. If you take a lot of photos, consider purchasing an extra battery. Secondary market batteries can cost as little as $10. In our experience they work well — up to a point. We had one that worked great for a couple of years before it stopped taking the charge while the original battery continued to work fine.

Memory card type.  A lot of cameras take the same memory card, which means you can use most of your old ones (if you already had a camera) saving you the cost of purchasing a new ones, Szczepanski said. “Also look for rebates for memory cards during the holiday months.”

Low-light capability. The ability to take low-light photos without a flash, which can make the subject look harsh, can run up the tab for a camera. “But the best thing you can do in a low-light situation is to stabilize the camera somehow,” Szczepanski said. “Whether it’s putting your elbows on the table or leaning up against a wall or better yet, using a tripod … it’s the best thing you can do to help your low-light photos come out.”

Looking for specific camera suggestions? Szczepansk suggests these two, which you can find for around $100:

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Kathie Sutin

Kathie Sutin has covered everything from construction to transportation. Features, however, are her specialty especially those about travel, food, health, parenting and people. Her work has appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Midwest Traveler, Southern Traveler, St. Louis Parent, Hooked on the Outdoors, Missouri Life, St. Louis Magazine, Air Tran’s flight magazine and Sauce Magazine and websites including and At her last fulltime gig, public relations writer for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, she developed a vast knowledge of all things St. Louis as she spread the gospel about free and things to do in the Gateway City. That came in handy when she launched St. Louis On The Cheap as did her lifelong strategy of paying less whenever she can.

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