A Not-So-Technical Tips on Buying Brand New DSLR in Jakarta (For First-Timers)

A DSLR camera used to be that geeky-looking gadget dangling around the necks of professional photographers or journalists-only. However, with the release of entry-level DSLR cameras with its semi-automatic functions such as Auto-Focus and Image Stabilizer, nowadays even ordinary folks can flaunt these and shoot like a pro. This non-technical 3-steps guide is written based on my personal experience and the assumption that you have no prior experience or much knowledge in buying a DSLR camera.
Captured using Canon Rebel T3 standard 18-55mm lens
1. Pre-purchase

Research
With electronics, it is almost impossible to keep up with the pace. When you buy the newest model, the next model is already being assembled in the factories. Always do an extensive research, ask at least 2 professional photographers and several friends who are already using DSLR cameras for their referrals, experience, advice and tips. The Internet forums or camera review websites and articles are reliable and good sources as well.

Research here includes researching for the current price in the market and possible places to buy from. The price online is not very reliable unless it’s on buy/sell forum or trusted online shops, but it doesn’t really matter, because your purpose is just to get a gauge on how much you should prepare for your budget.

What you need vs. what you want
Different individuals have different wants, needs and budgets, while different DSLR features are suited for different usages. 
Why do you need a dslr?
How much is your budget?
What are the specs that falls within your budget?
What do others say about the several models you’ve shortlisted?
What are the other vital accessories for basic functions?
What about the warranty?

Check prices
The next step is to go to several locations to compare the prices. In general, you can purchase DSLR cameras at 3 “levels” of locations in Jakarta, horizontal or vertical cross-referencing is optional.

- 1st echelon
Some may prefer to avoid the hassle of bargaining or store-hopping to ask for prices from less than eager store clerks, you may want to head to shopping malls. Places like Best Denki, Electronic Solutions and Electronic City are just examples of such places. The pros are you can opt to pay in installments rather than paying with cash or debit, the convenience of shopping in the malls and the service, the warranty is certain and there is no need to doubt about product quality. On the downside, the prices are usually significantly marked up due to the store’s admin charges, government taxes, etc.

- 2nd echelon
Another option is shopping at the ITCs or International Trade Centers. Several notable favourites are ITC Ambassador at Kuningan, Harco, Mall and Orion Mangga Dua. It is a slight downgrade on the convenience and glamour side, but you’ll get relatively good deals here. The rows of stores selling identical gadgets simply mean that you have more options to choose from.

- 3rd echelon
The traditional market-like setting may be the most off-putting factor for some of us, but places like Pasar Baru or Harco Glodok most likely would offer the best bargains. The lower additional charges and taxes and some even distributes black market goods openly means that you can get ridiculous deals here .

Every option comes with the risks. With the latter two, your convenience and security about the product quality and source is compromised. I personally avoided the first and the last echelons and opted to purchase at Mall Mangga Dua, a decision that was deeply regretted, (partly) because of the fault of omitting the 1st step.

2. At the store

Test the camera
Test several cameras on the spot. Don’t try too many models because it will only confuse you more. After step 1 you should have shortlisted a few models to try. Test the camera functions and the physical body for any imperfections. Take photos of close and far range. If possible, request to compare several cameras of the same model at once.
Never be fooled by the screen display, because it can be adjusted to show better-looking pictures while in reality it’s not. Plus, different manufacturers have different LCD screens quality, while they may look significantly different on the LCD screens, the images produced may be of comparable qualities in reality.

Research on the spot
Don’t blindly buy into anything that the store clerk tells you. As much as you hope that he/she is telling the truth and as much as you’re consciously telling yourself to be skeptical, sometimes people still fall victim to the lies. The store clerks may not necessarily do it on purpose, as they might even be less knowledgeable than yourself, but for the sake of making sales for that day, they’re adding butter and oil to keep you going and feed your ego. If possible, bring a friend who knows about cameras, or bring your smart phone so you can browse for information on the spot.

Check the warranty
If you’re buying an electronic product, always check for the warranty and the guarantor. Is it an authorized company? Have you heard about the company before? Does anyone answer the phone on the telephone provided on the guarantee card? If the store tells you it’s international warranty, don’t buy it directly, check the card and make sure it’s legitimate. How to check if it is legit? Either browse on the internet or try to call the telephone number provided.

3. Post purchase

Stop asking and stop searching
Just face it, the deal is closed, even if you are now in doubt or uncertain about your decision. Unless the store has a refundable policy, just do yourself mercy and stop asking people around or searching the internet. If you ask people, more often than not, you’ll be welcomed with negativities. They are either going to comment on the price or on the model that you bought. Whereas if you search the Internet, you might stumble upon unpleasant rumours or complaints about the model you just bought.

Start Shooting!
So, just do nothing and let your camera speak for itself. After all, you should’ve done enough and extensive research at the beginning, so why waste your energy? Rather, invest your time in discovering the wonderful features of your brand new DSLR camera and fall in love with it. If people ask how much you bought it for, just say you forgot, unless you’re absolutely certain that you got it at a very good deal. The less you and the others know, the happier everyone will be.

Just start shooting, don’t look back, the past is the past.
This was captured using my Canon Rebel T3
A final tip from a professional photographer friend:
As a new user, entry-level DSLR models are most recommended.  When you have more experience and gained more expertise, invest your money to purchase different lenses. The lenses are costly and sometimes even more so than the body itself. When you are ready to progress to the next level, you may then consider purchasing a new DSLR body with newer and more complex features and functions, a level above entry-level DSLRs.

At the end of the day, what's important is the person behind the camera. The gadget may be ordinary, but you can create wonders out out it if you know your way.

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