I do get asked a fair bit, what digital camera should someone buy? The answer is always it depends. It depends on what the person wants to spend, what features they are looking for and how they will use the pictures. There are four things that I do when I am looking at cameras for myself or family members.
1) Check the manufacturers web site for detailed descriptions and specifications
2) Read independent reviews. There are 2 main sites that I use for this. www.dpreview.com and www.steves-digicams.com. Both sites provide excellent review of almost all digital cameras. Update Mar 19, 2008. You can also see end user reviews at www.amazon.com. I would take these with a grain of salt however as they are from end users and may not be entirely accurate. Someone may be mad at Amazon, the manufacturer or not even have owned or used the camera. Read several reviews there, the ones that are false or fake become evident the more you read.
3) Check out real world images taken with the camera. By going to www.flickr.com/cameras you can browse by manufacturer and camera to see pictures taken with those cameras. Since these pages are generated using Meta Data in the images, they are not easily faked.
4) Google the camera for other real world reviews from photography and store forums a well as Googleing a more specific search for pricing for my city.
Following the above steps I can find cameras (although I usually look for specific models), read reviews from professionals and regular users. See some regular user photos and not just shots taken by Pros and get an idea about pricing and availability. Most often I buy my cameras from smaller specialized stores (Vistek, The Camera Store or Saneal’s) rather than from big box stores. Pricing and availability are usually better in the smaller stores.
One thing I try to avoid is going into a store, talking to a salesperson and then going in somewhere else to buy it at a better price. This is not really fair to the employee that helps you, especially if they are commissioned sales people.
Do your research before going into a store and the experience will save you time and money!
One word of caution though. Beware of purchasing from US online stores. Warranties are often different between the US and Canada and if you do have problems with a camera that was purchased through the US often you will have to send the camera to the US Warranty Depot as opposed to the Canadian one. This only delays the time that it takes to get the camera repaired and adds shipping expenses. A perfect example is for Canon Cameras. Canon has a repair depot right in Calgary and if there is ever a problem you can just take your camera there. I have had to do this in the past when a camera was dropped (not by me) and the lens was damaged and required repairs.