Whenever I help friends and family buy a new camera, they almost always turn to pixels as the dominating trade point. The reality is, that’s probably not the most appropriate measure of “bestness” and here’s why:
The metric most often used by camera manufacturers and marketers to tout their products has been pixel count. That’s a shame, but it was probably inevitable — it’s easy to measure, and consumers are used to the idea that more is better. However, the number of pixels is a measure of quantity, not quality.
This is a great article explaining in a mostly non-technical way why pixels aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Case in point: I can (and have) print a 30″ x 20″ from my eight-year-old 6.1 MP Nikon D70 that look great because it has a 23.7 mm Ã— 15.6 mm1 sensor. If I were to print a picture at the same size using my year-old iPhone 4S with its 8 MP 4.54 mm x 3.42 mm2 sensor, it would look very noisy.
I went to Wolf Camera today to see if they had what I wanted. They carry the everything online and I was hoping that they had the same in the store. Almost. They had the 3265 Vertical Grip Action Ball Head, but not the 322RC2 Horizontal Grip Action Ball Head. They also only had the 3021 (silver in color and the neck doesn’t tilt 90°), not the 3021B Pro (black and the neck tilts 90°).
I put the 3265 on the regular 3021 and played around with that for a while. It was very impressive. I made a mental note of the price for the head and left. One of the things that was bugging me was the “What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item?” question on Amazon.com. For the 3265, only 21% buy it. 39% end up buying the 322RC2. When I look at the the stats for the 322RC2, an astounding 76% of customers buy it. That’s a huge difference. I couldn’t figure out why. So I was poking around the customer reviews and I found the answer:
The 322RC2 is basically the 3265 on steroids. While it’s marketed as a horizontal grip, it can actually be a vertical grip too! Just take out a couple screws and move the quick release to the end of the grip. Voila! A vertical grip action ball head!
Since Wolf Camera’s didn’t have what I wanted in stock (I also really don’t like shopping there. The sales people are idiots and not helpful at all), I did a Google search to see if there were any real photography stores in Boulder or Denver. I came up with Mike’s Camera, which has locations both in Boulder and Denver. I checked online to see what their cost was: $199.99 for the tripod and $129.95 for the head…$329.94 total plus tax (another $25.08) for a grand total of $355.02 (or somewhere there bouts).
Wolf Camera wasn’t terribly better: $313.98 for both. I could get free 7-10 shipping if I ordered online and I don’t believe sales tax would apply.
Amazon.com has the best deal by far: $266.95. No tax and free shipping! That’s almost $100 saved over Mike’s Camera Store. I called Mike’s and asked if they would price match Amazon.com. The sales person checked with his manager and mumbled something about not having a lot of overhead or markup and that they really only price match on cameras.
Brick and mortar companies like Mike’s will not be around much longer if they think they can price gouge like that and still hold on to some market share. Yes, I don’t mind paying a little bit more to walk into a store and be able to talk to someone knowledgeable. But I’m not going to pay an extra $90 (plus a half hour drive each way). A $30 markup from online…a little more realistic; $20 would be better.
What Mike’s should have done is say, “Hey, we can go to $290 with tax. When do you want to pick it up.” Selling their stock at a loss, but then turn right around to Amazon.com and order a replacement for the $266.95. They make some money, I get my tripod, and most importantly: they have a new happy customer.