Say Cheese!

I need a new digital camera. The Sony Cyber-shot W110 which has served me faithfully for the last two years is due for retirement. I am not complaining since she was a free gift but it is high time I moved on to something a little more powerful.

By more powerful, I would mean being able to zoom beyond the 4x optical zoom that most compact cameras are equipped with. It makes a huge difference when I am trying to capture images of buildings, scenery or wildlife that I cannot physically get close to. My husband though would prefer a camera with good low light capabilities as some of the best photographs are natural landscapes taken in low light conditions.

We started our search combing one shop after another in Funan Digitamall and Sim Lim Square as this was the traditional way to find electronic products in Singapore. However instead of being enlightened through all the discussions and recommendations, we became more and more confused with the various choices, differing opinions and prices.

That’s when I had enough after a third round of futile shopping. I decided to find out more from the web. It started with a search on CNET Asia website based on my only criteria – > 10 x optical zoom which actually narrowed my choices down to four cameras.

1. Panasonic Lumix TZ8
2. Canon Powershot SX210 IS
3. Samsung WB650
4. Fujifilm Finepix F300EXR

Instead of running back to the shops and getting sloppy advice from the shop assistants who really just want you to buy something whether it is what you need, I found a photography blog which reviewed digital cameras.

Now we all know that reviews can possibly be biased in one way or another but definitely not the comments. Thankfully this is one of the more popular sites so each review actually garnered about 50 – 100 comments. From these I was able to discern more objectively which model is most suitable for my needs.

Now all I need to do is to choose a vendor to buy the product from. The amazing thing about the Internet is its ability for anyone to sell anything to anyone. I found a website called DD Electronics which is an internet trading company and its published price for the Panasonic Lumix TZ8 is $445!

I was quite taken aback by the offer and wondered if there was anything shady about this dealer. The price of a comparable model TZ10 is going for $452 when I was last offered $550 at Funan. Seriously how do these people survive?!

To verify the credibility of this vendor, I went down to their Singapore office which is really just a small little room in Merchants Building. But the people I spoke to seemed sincere enough. The best part was that I could place an order online and pay only when I receive the goods. To seal the sweet deal, I found out that they had just cut their online price for the TZ8 from $445 to $394! (Another loving gesture from my Father who provides everything for us.)

I hesitated no longer and placed my order online. The point in this whole discussion is that I never once felt that an online store can replace a physical one. But given the frustration involved in trying to bargain with the shop assistants and second guess their intentions has made the online process seem like a breeze.

I don’t doubt the CNET gurus for their recommendation on what’s in the market. I hear honest feedback from real people around the world on the professional blogs. And I found a supposedly reliable online store that is selling the camera I want at easily 30% cheaper. What’s stopping online retail from taking over?

Seriously if physical shops do not improve their customer service or clean up their act which really is the only thing that lends them credibility, the world wide web may just become their biggest competitor.

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