News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Make Holiday Gifts Decisions Wisely

More on living a retro life
My wife and I decided to buy our daughter a new camera this year. Originally, it was because she's going to take a photography class at school. I started looking at all kinds of digital SLRs, was overcome by the selection, and called the photography teacher to see what kind of camera she recommended.

"Well, it just needs to be a film camera," she said. I did a doubletake. A film camera? Why?! "Because I'm going to be teaching the class some darkroom techniques." In fact, she said, the entire first semester will be spent learing about cameras and darkrooms. The kids won't shoot any pictures at all.

A short rant about dank darkrooms
I think it's great to spend time learning about the camera itself. But it seemed/seems odd to me that people are still using darkrooms. I didn't even know companies made film anymore. I can appreciate that there is nothing like actual film for getting the best image (Ansel Adams et al). But these are young kids--middle schoolers. It seems to me like the appropriate thing to teach at this age is how to compose a picture, not how to develop film. And to make them wait an entire semester to shoot one frame?

But I'm not the teacher, am I? Okay. No problem. I think I have an old Nikon around she can use for the class. But I know my daughter. She loves to snap away. And there's no way we can afford to do that with actual film.

To the hunt
So once again, I started researching cameras, but this time for a camera our daughter could use until she mastered her darkroom techniques. I did some quick searching around and came up with three candidates (Click on image to enlarge it):

You can see that little paperclip icon at the upper right corner of each branch. That means there's a hyperlink attached. When I click on the link, it takes me right to the page that features that particular camera.

When I open up the next level of branches, I can see some of the detailed info I've collected on this camera: Its name an product cousins, how it's powered, its zoom, whether you can override auto and get manual control, how big the censor is, what kind of preset modes there are and, last but not least, a collection of product reviews.

Details, details...
As I keep drilling down, more information becomes available to me. I really like being able to see a photo of what I'm thinking about buying. Yes, it's good to make decisions based on what's under the cover. But come on, you want it to look nice too, right? And then there is a list (again, with hot links to the actual sites) of some product reviews.

Comparing apples to apples
The hardest thing for me when trying to make an intelligent buying decision is keeping track of the main variables I want to track: Which camera(s) needs special batteries? How long is each zoom? What is the size of the sensor? What does it cost? Are there any rebates?

MINDMAP is a great way to keep track of these variables. By capturing each individual feature on its own branch, I can easily drag and drop branches to quickly compare each of these features side by side.

Make your Christmas a little calmer this year
Once I have a good sense of what I want to buy, I print out the map and take it with me to a local store--in this case, a local photo store. Having this information with me makes it much easier to ask the right questions, and to make sure the salesperson isn't blowing smoke up my... wallet.

Think Global. Buy Local.
I like to do research the internet, then buy locally--giving the local vendor a chance to match or beat online prices. But if they can't, I usually go with them anyway unless the price is just crazy high. I paid $30 for a 3-year, no-questions-asked warranty on my daughter's camera. If it breaks, I drive right up the street, drop the camera off at this same store, and it goes to the front of the repair line.

Supporting local businesses means that you help them stay local so they'll be around if and when you have a question, need a repair, or are ready to upgrade. The difference between online prices and local retail prices can evaporate when you consider all of the benefits of having stores in your immediate area.

Alas, you can't buy ConceptDraw MINDMAP at a local store, so we're the exception to that rule. But we like to think that we treat each customer as if he or she were our neighbor. So drop on by our website and see what you think!

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