Digital cameras have never been cheaper. Compared to 10 years ago, models have vastly improved, in specification, features image quality and price. Consider the fact in 2001 a friend of mine bought a 1.3 Megapixel Fuji camera with a 3X optical zoom for around £200.00 There was no ISO setting, no metering mode, no Panorama assistance or smile and blink deteection, and the digital zoom produced very poor images. Move on to 2011 and we have £60.00 cameras with 14 Megapixels and all of the above mentioned features. Image quality has increased and digital zooms can now produce great quality images. Indeed, many cameras from lesser known brands such as Vivitar, GE, Traveller, Praktika and Polaroid are clones of established brands like Fuji & Pentax.

My own GE bridge camera is based on a Fuji model, and was about £70 cheaper than the Fuji's own entry level bridge camera, though prices of Fuji's current entry level bridges are about £20 more expensive. My wife is currently using a Vivitar clone of a Pentax camera that was also marketed as a Konica and a Rollei. I even downloaded a Pentax manual for the equivalent of my wifes Vivitar which was virtually identical to her printed one, even using the same photo's in both. I paid just £45.00 (Second hand) for my GE, and a paltry £27.00 for my wife's Vivitar. If you know what you're looking for, you can get a 'Branded' camera for much less all because the name on the front is different and a few minor functions have been removed. 

And don't think that in order to bag a bargain you have to go down the traditional routes of the high street electrical chains or the big supermarkets. It's possible to bag a bargain in other places as well. Read on for the full picture.......


Like a scout - Be prepared! 

My best bargains have all come along at an unexpected moment. The last five cameras I have bought all cost me £45 or less. Only my bridge camera was second hand. Out of those five, only one took a length of time to decide 'Yes, I'll buy it!' and that was my wife's as it was her decision. I'd have bought it on the spot for her if she'd said yes straight away. The first bargain I dropped on was a metal bodied Pentax Optio S7 7Mp model that was reduced to £40.00 in Asda. It was the last one. My then camera was a 5Mp HP which to be honest was a very poor camera, one of only two I regretted buying. I knew the Pentax was a great camera at a fantastic price. 6 months later I was in Asda again looking for a camera for my daughters birthday. The Pentax E40 was just £35.00, present sorted! The next bargain was in may of this year when my daughter spotted the 12Mp Kodak Easyshare C143 in Curry's for an irresistable £35.00. This was followed in July by the GE Bridge camera for £45.00.

My 14 megapixel GE Bridge camera was an absolute bargain at just £45.00

My Daughters 8 Megapixel Pentax E40 was just £35.00 brand new!

 The Kodak Easyshare C143 was last year's entry level model, but was reduced to £35.00 by Curry's & PC World

So what's the point in bragging about my bargains? It's to illustrate a point about flexibility. All the purchases were under £45.00, and nearly all of those were bought when they were spotted. They were all from the High Street. Reasearch any cameras you fancy first. Point-n-Shoot has user reviews, and there's plenty of reviews of most cameras online. Once you've narrowed your choice down go bargain hunting. If you're prepared to go for any make in your price bracket (add a few just above your maximum budget as well), go shopping. Bargains don't last. All my purchases were almost impulse buys. The price was the defining factor. Some like the S7 were clearance models and slightly out of date. Others, like the Kodak were on special offer. You can be sure at the prices I paid stocks didn't last long. Be ready to get your wallet out at a moments notice, as they came along when I wasn't looking for another camera. So if you're doing the weekly shopping at Tesco or Asda and you see a bargain then bag it. Don't even think about it. If it's at a ridiculously low price, it probably won't be there tomorrow. The S7 I bought was the last one in the store. If you've got your heart set on a specific £80.00 camera, and you see a similar £80.00 camera on a half price offer for £40.00 (or a better camera reduced to £80.00) then get it. That's why I say 'Be Prepared', because offers come and go. Check our Megapixel Madness page for the latest offers.

So what are your options for bagging a cheap camera?

The High Street.

The big supermarkets now have camera sections in their hypermarkets, and there's Curry's/PC World, Comet, Argos, Jessops and a plethora of local retailers on the High Street. Keep an eye on the TV  and newspaper ads for bargains, and if you spot a bargain, see if you can reserve online, or if a store doesn't have this facility, ring up and ask if they could put aside for you to collect that day. If you do the latter (especially with a local trader) then please go to the shop and pick it up. A retailer will only be let down once. Don't be afraid to use price matching as a bargaining tool. Many stores offer to price match, but you can go one bit further and see if they'll throw in any extras to get the sale. A memory card or case thrown in can be a good sweetner. Having said that, don't be tempted to buy your cases, batteries and cards etc at the same store you're buying the camera from as these may be dearer. Some stores offer bundle deals, but other retailers may be cheaper. As an example, Tesco do a budget case to fit a small compact camera for just £1.00, and their memory cards are pretty cheap.The major chains often produce catalogues or flyers on a regular basis featuring the latest special offers. Jessops publish several catalogues a year, and Argos produce fortnightly savings leaflets, with several cameras discounted. Christmas catalogues are also produced by the major chains and supermarkets. As an example, the Argos 2011 Christmas catalogue features a NIkon Coolpix L120 21X zoom bridge camera for £110 until 24th December 2011, a price not matched anywhere, even on the web. At an average street price of £170.00 - £180.00 it's offers like this that are worth buying. Keep an eye on prices, so that when a bargain surfaces you grab it before stocks sell out.

Tesco supermarket gives it's customers ClubCard points they can exchange for money off items. It often offers double value on electrical goods. £50.00 in vouchers is £100.00 off. Check instore before you decide to buy. Update: Tesco is currently offering to double your ClubCard vouchers on cameras and accessories (Nov 2013)..

Online.

All the major retailers have an online presence, and there's lots of internet based retailers offering cheap deals too. If you're looking for a cheap deal, many retailers use Amazon or Play as their strorefront. Check out their shipping costs, feedback and returns policies too. Or type 'Digital Camera', 'Cheap Digital cameras' or similar things into google, or the name of your camera of choice and see which retailers come up. Comparison ites such as Kelkoo, Price Runner or Price Grabber will often do the hard work for you. Money Supermarket features a digital camera section with prices for all the latest models similar to the other price comparison sites as well. It's not just for financial services.

Martyn Lewis' Money Saving Expert website has produced a page to finding discounted goods at Amazon.co.uk: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/cheap-amazon-loopholes#uncover When you click on the camera link let it load. The last numbers in the web  adress is the discount you are getting.  If you type 25-99 in place of 50-99 then you'll see items with 25-99% discount. Similarly, 10-30 is 10 -30% discount. Try it yourself.

Mail Order Catalogues.

Many people think of mail order catalogues as being expensive, and only used by people on benefits who can't afford to pay up front. When it comes to cameras this might at first appear true, but why not make good use of this facility and SAVE yourself some cash. Many people put larger purchases on their store card, credit card, or make use of their overdraft facilities. This costs the buyer interest of up to 30%. The big mail order catalogues will offer from 20 to 52 weeks interest free credit (52 weeks interest free if you spend over £80.00), or they'll often have good deals. Plus there's cashback paid on purchases. For example, on 13th November 2011 a Fujifilm JX370 bundle was on offer for £79.99. It included the camera (14Mp, 5X optical zoom & 720p video), a case worth at least £5.00 and a 4GB SD card worth £10.00. Considering the average price of the camera bought on it's own online is between £58.00 and £80.00, the addition of a memory card and case brings it roughly close to the high street price. Now factor in 5 monthly payments of roughly £16.00 (20 week terms) and it's a very tempting offer. Add 5% - 10% comission into the equation, then it makes Christmas shopping not only more manageable, but almost irresistable. Remember, this way of shopping's not suitable for those who are likely to run up a huge credit bill they can't afford, but if you usually end up paying interest on your overdraft or credit or store cards it can work out cheaper in the long run.

If you consider that the majority of us pay the minimun amount each month on a credit card (instead of paying the balance in one go to pay no interest), then it's expensive to use cards in this way. Take the Samsung PL170 as an example. It's £140.00 at both Tesco and in all the Shop Direct Group's main catalogues (Littlewoods, K & Co etc) on Nov 13th 2011. In Feb 2011 the average UK credit card rate was 18.9%. Paid back over 1 year, compound interest payable is £26.46 on your card or zero interest and between £7.50 and £15,00 cashback if you buy from the catalogues. You do the maths, the catalogue saves you over £33.00 (interst you would pay +  5% cashback), plus free delivery and returns. If you ordered online from Tesco there's a fivers delivery on top as well.


Last Year's Models.

Manufacturers are constantly introducing new models to their ranges. What happens to the older models? Well, retailers negotiate discounts or payments for stock in hand with manufacturers to allow them to discount older models just before or after new models hit the shelves. Suppose a brand new entry level camera from a big name manufacturer isn't selling, manufacturers quickly reduce the RRP of the previous entry level model so they will sell quickly and once sold the new models will start selling. When Fuji introduced  18 new models in the first quarter of 2012, the price of it's current cameras dropped. For example, the HS20 EXR was around £300.00 on the hight street at the end of 2011. The HS30 EXR replaced it  in Feb 2012 As of Aril 26th the cheapest price on a Google search was £205.00 with free delivery in 7-10 days. As today's entry level optical zoom cameras are 14 Mp, there's several acceptable 12 Mp models being sold at discount prices. There's hardly any difference in image quality, and the savings can be substantial. Sometimes retailers discount last years models to get rid of stocks so it's often a case of bargains all round.

Second Hand.

This is where some of the best bargains are found. If you consider that some of the big stores exclude cameras from their 14 day refund guarantees, and will only refund if faulty within 28 days (repair ouside this), if you don't like the camera that you bought because of it's image quality or some other reason, you're stuck with it. Or you might be upgrading to a better camera. The local papers, E-bay, Amazon & Play.com Traders, Gumtree and second hand stores are full of used cameras.

I bought my GE bridge camera from a well known national chain of second hand shops for £45.00 against £130.00 new on the High Street. I also had 12 weeks in which to pay off the balance, as much or as little as I wanted to at a time, and had a 60 day warranty. It was a clean undamaged camera, but was unboxed and had nothing apart from a usb lead. My Pentax had an AV cable for the TV that fitted it. I tested it in the shop before purchasing. To give you an idea of the savings, in recent weeks I've seen Sony, JVC & Canon DVD Camcorders for £39.00, a12Mp 3X zoom GE for £20.00 and several older 7 - 10 Mp cameras from £25.00 - 35.00. The downside was a Fuji bridge model for £230.00, almost as much (if not more expensive than new). Another chain selling second hand is CEX, who do not offer a weekly payment plan, but do sell items at reasonable prices.

Ebay is another place to pick up bargains. However, you do have to be careful. The majority of traders are perfectly honest, but sometimes things can be not as described, or damaged. Check sellers feedback, delivery charges and returns policy. Both the Ebay site itself and Paypal have a complaints resolution programme,  and will refund in cases where the trader is found to be at fault and/or un-coperative.There's a tip to getting a good bargain. Look for an auction on a product you like with low bidding. Put a single minimum bid on the item, and wait until 5 minutes before the auction closes, so people will think you're not interested and they'll keep bidding low.. If bidding is still low, put in a maximum bid several pounds higher than the current highest. Ebay will automatically generate bids for you up to your maximum. If a bidding war breaks out, then drop out as the price will often escalate, but if it's not going up by much, keep an eye on it and increase your maximum bid accordingly, but don't get carried away. 

The local papers and free ad sites like Loot or Quids in have digital cameras for sale as well. I looked at my regional Loot site, and didn't notice anything much on offer. There were a few 10Mp models around the £40.00 mark, and someone had the cheek to ask £50.00 for an old 2Mp Olympus. Thankfully they never put 'Bargain' in the ad. That shows us the downside of newspaper bargains columns in so much as if you paid £150.00 for a camera 10 years ago and kept it in good condition, you're going to want at least half of what you paid for it, despite models 10 times better selling new for a third of the price. Still, theres plenty of sites where you can list goods for sale for free. Some advertise on TV, and you'll probably find more cameras on the ones that do. As they're private sellers a little haggling goes a long long way.

When looking at a second hand model, consider several things. The condition must be good, unless it's under£20.00. It should be considerably cheaper than new or cheaper than the same company's equivelant model today - it's no good paying £50.00 for an 8Mp entry level Fuji when a new 12 Mp entry level Fuji can be bought for £45.00. The camera should be complete with all accesories, leads and discs, and preferably boxed. You should be able to see it working and have a go with it yourself if possible. Shop assistants take good portraits, and items on display can test its close up ability.

There's a third option, buying refurbished. Many sellers on amazon and play offer refurbished models with 12 month warranties, and both Kodak and Fuji have clearance centres on their websites. Just type Refurbished or clearance into the websites own search facility.Tesco and Argos have clearance outlets on Ebay. Tesco were offering a refurbished Samsung ES28 for just £34.97 with free delivery. There were literally dozens of cameras, all significantly cheaper than new, with free delivery and a 12 month Tesco Outlet warranty. Fuji's F600 EXR was almost £330.00 new when released in Nov 2011. It features a 16 mp Cmos sensor, 15 X optical zoom and GPS tagging. Today (26/4/12), at Fuji's online shop a refurbished model with full 12 mth warranty can be bought for £130.00, a saving of almost 60% on one of the  Typing the word 'Refurbished' and either a brand name or specific model number will usually give you a list of camera shops and Ebay sellers offering manufacturer refurbished models at discounted prices. Make sure you choose a seller who gives a full 12 month guarantee. I've just bought a refurbished Fuji HS20 EXR from their online shop, and it's just like new.

Point-n-shoot have partnered with the Kodak shop to give you great prices on both new and refurbished cameras and printers. . Going through this site will not only get you a great camera at a great price with FREE shipping, you'll be helping this site too. Simply click on the Kodak Shop partner link below.


What can I Expect For My Money?

The price points below are rounded up from the odd few pence under it. Thus £29.97 - 99 should be viewed as £30.00 and so on.

£30.00 Or Less

8 - 10 Mp fixed lens camera with Digital Zoom from a cheaper brand manufacturer like Vivitar. Or a kids 1.3 Mp camera with a TV tie in like Dora or Spongebob Squarepants.

£40.00 +

12 Mp 3X zoom camera from cheaper brands like Vivitar, Polaroid, Hitachi, GE or Agfa. Occasionally stores will sell Branded cameras (Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Panasonic, Casio, Pentax and Kodak) at reduced prices on special offer for a short while. 

£50.00+

12 - 14 Mp 3X zoom from a 'Branded' manufacturer like Fuji, Kodak, Canon, etc, usually powered by AA batteries.

£60.00 +

Branded 14 Mp 3X zoom with Lithium Ion battery and charger.

£70.00 +

14 Mp 5X zoom or ultra compact camera from an established brand.

£100.00 +

14 Mp Long zoom compact camera with up to 10X zoom.

£120.00 +

14 -16 Mp advanced compact with either unique features or entry level bridge cameras like GE X500 16Mp 15X zoom or Fuji S2950 14 Mp 18X zoom.

£150.00 +

Bridge camera with 20X plus zoom and manual controlls, or the latest compacts with innovative features like touch screens or GPS tagging.      

£200.00 - £300

Cameras with built in projectors and high end bridge cameras with Raw shooting capability that are beginning to get close to entry level DSLR & compact system cameras for image quality,

£300 +

Above the £300 mark, it's specialist enthusiast equipment. It's an expensive market to enter into, with the accesories on their own costing more than the cameras.Extra lenses start at £150.00 upwards, and what is classed as a 'Good' lens can cost over £1,000.Two months ago, I was talking to a photographer using a Canon DSLR, and asked Her what the leans was, Her reply was 'Just a cheap one', and when I asked her the price she said  '£300.00' which to me is anything but cheap. If you think that the lenses supplied with entry level DSLR cameras are only equivalent to a 3X zoom, a high end bridge camera with a 30 X - 42 X zoom (largest available on a bridge camera) gives the amateur photographer much more scope. That's why Point-n-shoot won't be catering for the DSLR/Compact System market.

Colin's Conclusion.

There's many ways to bag yourself  a cut price camera,  I've explored the many different options for buying a digital camera. one will be right for you. Whether it's last year's models, clones of big names, online auctions, second hand or refurbished, there's a bargain for you. Remember to always check out the best prices of the cameras in your budget

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