Camera bargains: camera sales to look out for
26th Dec 2011 | 15:00
Deals on compact cameras, DSLRs and CSCs
Cheap cameras in the sales
If you're hankering after an upgrade to your current digital camera, but feeling pinched for cash, why not consider bypassing the shiny (and pricey) new launches and checking out some of the older DSLRs, compact system cameras (CSCs) and compact cameras that are still available to buy?
While digital camera technology is evolving is such a rapid rate, some camera models are replaced by their successors just a few months after being released, so - while they've technically been usurped - they're not exactly outdated.
In fact, many of the previous versions of the latest launches often sport very few differences compared to their slightly tweaked replacements, which may sometimes only offer one or two new or upgraded features to speak of.
Then there are much-loved cameras that have been around for a little longer, but are yet to be replaced. In this case, once a manufacturer nears completion of the camera intended to take the older one's place, they tend to offer sizeable discounts or other incentives in order to shift their remaining stock in advance of the next release. Watch out for offers like these, where you can often pick up a high-spec camera for a ridiculously low price.
We've grouped together some of the hottest prospects to watch out for in the January sales, with their original RRPs and a rough indication of current prices to act as a guide. But sales prices can change on a daily basis, so keep your eyes peeled, hunt around and bag yourself a photography bargain!
Compact camera bargains
Canon PowerShot S95
Original RRP: £399
Current price: around £245
This pocket-sized powerhouse combines smart styling with sophisticated technology, and really impressed us with its overall performance in our tests. The PowerShot family of cameras has long been revered for its ability to deliver great image quality and exciting features in a petite package that scores well in the style stakes too: all aspects that ring true for the Canon PowerShot S95.
In terms of technology, the Canon PowerShot S95 doesn't disappoint. It incorporates Canon's excellent High Sensitivity (HS) system, marrying a 10MP CCD sensor with a powerful DIGIC 4 processor, resulting in an excellent all-round performance when it comes to both operational speed and image quality. The compact camera also offers a superbly fast and sharp f/2.0 zoom lens, with a useful focal range of 28-105mm (35mm equivalent), in addition to HD movie recording.
While the beginner-friendly user interface is blissfully simple to navigate, the Canon PowerShot S95 boasts several features that aim it squarely at the more advanced photography enthusiast, namely raw file shooting capability and full manual control over settings. Throw in top-notch image quality and impressive low light performance and - at the current selling price - the S95 is a real steal.
Read: the full Canon PowerShot S95 review
Panasonic Lumix LX5
Original RRP: £399.99
Current price: around £295
Sporting a stylish all-metal body, one of the Panasonic Lumix LX5's headline features is its speedy f/2.0 24-90mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens, which stole the show during our testing period. Originally designed to compete with the Canon PowerShot G11, the compact camera packs a 10.1MP sensor and a comprehensive sensitivity range spanning ISO 80-12800, in addition to 720p HD video recording in AVCHD or Motion JPEG format.
Raw file shooting is available with the Panasonic Lumix LX5, as is full manual control. So you can make the most of the fast lens's f/2.0 aperture and generate some pleasing shallow depth-of-field effects, which really come into their own when you're photographing macro subjects.
Image stabilisation is another asset boasted by this well-equipped compact camera, helping to achieve shake-free shots in low light, while the camera's performance at high ISOs is also exemplary. Great colours, plenty of sharp detail and an impressive dynamic range all add to the Panasonic Lumix LX5's impressive image quality, which - when combined with the favourable handling experience this camera delivers - makes it a tempting option at its new, lower price-point.
Nikon Coolpix P7000
Original RRP: £450
Current price: around £264
The tank-like Nikon Coolpix P7000 comes from a prestigious line of high-quality compact cameras aimed at photographers who favour taking complete control over their settings. Offering a decent range of manual dials and dedicated controls, the all-metal camera also boasts a 10.1MP sensor, 720p HD movie recording, built-in optical viewfinder and an outstanding 3-inch, 920,000-dot resolution LCD.
While beginners may be daunted by the plethora of physical controls adorning the Nikon Coolpix P7000's business-like body, advanced photographers will revel in the level of direct access the interface affords to key settings such as ISO, white balance (WB), bracketing and exposure compensation - to name just a few.
Where the Nikon Coolpix P7000 really shines is when it comes to low-light photography. Offering a top sensitivity setting of ISO 6400, we found the camera capable of producing printable shots as high as ISO 3200. Taking this - plus the robust build quality and sophisticated manual functionality - into account, the P7000 can still hold its own among its peers. Our only major criticism when this camera was first launched was its hefty price tag, so there should be little to deter you from snapping up the Nikon P7000 in the sales.
Fuji FinePix F550 EXR
Original RRP: £270
Current price: around £180
This hot contender is packed with high-end features, including a 15x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 24-360mm on a 35mm camera), 16MP rear-illuminated CMOS sensor with EXR technology, sensor-shift image-stabilisation, manual exposure control and raw file shooting. As if that wasn't enough, the Fuji FinePix F550 EXR also boasts Full HD 1080p movie recording capability at 30fps, and even built-in GPS functionality: all features that you really wouldn't expect for a sub-£200 selling price.
Take into account that the new Fuji FinePix F600 EXR is almost identical - save for a new EXR Auto mode with Motion Detection for better action capture, an intelligent digital zoom mode that Fuji states "doubles its telephoto power to 30x", plus a Landmark Navigator added to the GPS system - yet comes with a price tag around that of the Fuji F550 EXR's original RRP, and you really appreciate the value for money that the older model offers.
If you're a tech-loving photographer who hankers after the ability to take control over the entire shooting process without being weighed down by a DSLR body and lenses, then the decision to pick up this little beauty should be a no-brainer.
Hybrid and Compact System Camera bargains
Original RRP: £449.99 (with kit lens)
Current price: around £179 (with kit lens)
At just over a year old, the Samsung NX100's technology is still pretty current. This mirrorless camera sports a petite profile, but still manages to pack in a 14MP APS-C-sized sensor, a 3-inch AMOLED screen and features such as Full HD movie recording. It also benefits from the added functionality associated with Samsung's latest i-Function lenses, which aim to make the manual shooting experience more streamlined for the advanced user.
Delivering crisp, colourful images and well-controlled noise at up to ISO 1000, there's a lot to like about this curvy, rangefinder design-inspired camera, and the fact that you can put the cash you'd save towards some of the latest i-Function lenses adds to the Samsung NX100's appeal.
It might not sport the same all-metal body or the upgraded AF system and higher-resolution sensor of its replacement - the Samsung NX200 - but to bag these added features, Samsung's asking price is a whopping £699. If you can do without these extra bells and whistles, the Samsung NX100 looks to be a tempting - and far more budget-friendly - prospect indeed.
Olympus PEN E-PL1
Original RRP: £550 (with 14-42mm lens)
Current price: around £199 (body only)/£229 (with 14-42mm lens)
The third-generation PEN that pioneered the mirrorless E-PL series may be nearly two years old now, but the Olympus PEN E-PL1 still has plenty to satisfy the everyday snapper on the lookout for a lightweight and versatile upgrade to their compact.
A streamlined and simplified alternative to the more advanced Olympus PEN E-P1 (and subsequent PEN E-P3), the PEN E-PL1 is intended to offer a beginner-friendly introduction to the world of Micro Four Thirds technology and provide a bridge for upgraders who want more functionality than their compact camera can provide, but aren't ready to tackle a DSLR.
Despite its age, the Olympus PEN E-PL1's specifications don't look too out of place in the current market. With a 12.3MP Live MOS sensor, built-in image stabilisation, pop-up flash, HD movie recording capability and a comprehensive set of exposure modes, plus Olympus's popular creative Art Filters - all bundled into a sexy retro-styled package - the current low price for this looks very reasonable indeed.
DSLR camera bargains
Original RRP: £450 (with single kit lens)
Current price: around £350 (twin zoom lens kit)
Another old favourite of ours, the Olympus Four Thirds format E-system cameras have since been sidelined by the manufacturer in favour of their mirrorless cousins, but that's not to say they should be overlooked. Sporting a slim, compact profile that makes it inherently more portable than some other DSLRs, the entry-level Olympus E-450 still manages to shoehorn a 10MP Four Thirds sensor (about half the size of an APS-C format version) into its neat little body.
The camera also benefits from a very good Live View system that incorporates Image AF (contrast-detect), Hybrid AF and AF Sensor options, with further support for Face Detection (with some lenses). Aimed primarily at beginners, the Olympus E-450's Auto mode is complemented by a raft of Scene modes, but you also get full and partially-manual exposure options once you're ready to take control. A selection of Olympus's original Art Filters is also present, adding appeal for creative photographers, along with dynamic range-expanding Shadow Adjustment Technology.
The Olympus E-450's 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot resolution screen may look a little out-of-date compared to the larger screens on current cameras, but otherwise the hybrid camera boasts some decent features that justify taking it into consideration. Particularly given its sub-£400 price tag that includes not one, but two, zoom lenses.
Original RRP: £879.99 (with 18-105mm VR Kit)
Current price: around £560 (body only)
The Nikon D90 appeared on the scene just as Nikon was really stealing the show in terms of the low-light performance that its latest DSLRs could offer and - compared to current models - still doesn't look at all shabby in this department. Build quality - as we've come to expect from Nikon - is superb, and the D90 inherits a number of features from its higher-end sibling, the Nikon D300, which is also still readily available on the market.
Incorporating a 12.3MP sensor that performs admirably in low light, the Nikon D90 is capable of shooting at native sensitivities spanning ISO 200-3200, expandable to include ISO 100 and a top setting of ISO 6400. While this may sound a little restricted compared to the colossal top-whack settings found on the newest DSLRs, in use the Nikon D90 still puts in a comparably excellent performance.
Factor in the camera's snappy 11-point AF system, reasonable continuous shooting mode of 4.5fps, Live View and 720p HD movie shooting capability, as well as a beautifully detailed 3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD screen - then combine it with a fantastic handling experience and stunning image quality - and you'll understand why this camera scored full marks when we reviewed it. The Nikon D90 represented fantastic value-for-money at its full launch price, so at current rates, it's a snip.
Canon EOS 550D
Original RRP: £899.99 (with 18-55mm IS kit lens)
Current price: around £408 (with 18-55mm IS kit lens)
There's little to separate the excellent Canon EOS 550D from the more recently-launched Canon EOS 600D. A new Basic+ feature adds more flexibility for beginners who want to dabble in taking control over more camera settings, without making a full departure from the safety of Auto mode. A new Feature Guide offers a built-in photography manual that helps first-time DSLR buyers get the hang of the camera, while Scene Intelligent Auto gives complete control over to the 600D so you can concentrate on just capturing the moment.
These features - plus wireless off-camera flash control - are the only real differences between the old and new models: the Canon EOS 550D and Canon EOS 600D both share the same 1080p HD movie recording capability with stereo sound, a similar 18MP CMOS sensor, sensitivity range covering ISO 100-6400 (12,800 with boost), built-in pop-up flash and HDMI output - to name a few.
Both cameras sport the same 3-inch, 1,040,000-dot resolution screens, although the 600D's is an articulated version, as opposed to the 550D's fixed LCD display. Although the latter is perhaps a little less flexible for shooting at awkward angles and for filming, it's still an added extra that many photographers are more than happy to forego. If you fall into this group and are confident in your ability to master a DSLR without the hand-holding measures that Canon has put into the 600D, then the 550D is definitely worth considering.
Original RRP: £2,247.99 (body only)
Current price: around £1600 (body only)
Saving the best until last, the 12.1MP, full-frame Nikon D700 achieved our top accolade in our review - and not without good reason. In short, this is a stunning camera that any advanced photography enthusiast and/or professional photographer would be proud to own, even when comparing it to the modern alternatives currently available.
Sharing many features with the equally-superb, larger Nikon D3, the Nikon D700 was designed as a more portable alternative to its big brother, giving professionals the opportunity to maintain the benefits of having a full-frame sensor, minus the bulk. Sporting a high-resolution (922,000-dot), 3-inch LCD, slick 51-point AF system, large and bright optical viewfinder and a high level of user-customisation options, the Nikon D700 bowled us over with its comprehensive feature-set.
The camera also offers high-end extras such as a robust, weather-sealed body, great ergonomics and comfortable, efficient handling. Where it really wows, however, is in the low-light performance department: now famed for its top-notch performance in this area (along with the Nikon D3 and its subsequently-launched variants) the Nikon D700 still manages to impress. Indulge yourself and snap it up for a bargain price - before we do!
Liked this? Then check out Best DSLR: top cameras by price and brand
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