Buying Digital Cameras in Thailand

Sex Education Class at School

I think it is probably obvious to most people that photography is one of my major hobbies. I love taking pictures. When I first came to Thailand I had a film camera. I was taken hundreds of pictures which were starting to cost me a small fortune. Then I discovered digital cameras and became hooked ever since. What I want to try and do on my blog today, is share with you some of my experiences of using digital cameras. I will also try and make it as relevant as I can for people on holiday in Thailand.

Up to this point my main digital camera was Fujifilm FinePix 4900Z. I have had this for four or so years now and it has served me well. It is bigger than normal digital cameras and is almost like a SLR. This has a 6x optical zoom which is like a 200 mm lens. I use this camera for all my major shooting events. Bascially whenever I needed a guaranteed good picture. My number two camera is a Sanyo Xacti camera. This is palm size but also has a 6x optical zoom. The quality is roughly the same though not so reliable. However, I mainly bought it for the excellent feature of being able to take DVD movies. It is also small and I can carry it around in my pocket whenever I go out for a walk.

My third digital camera is not used so much now. It is a Sony Cyber-shot camera. This is tiny and is what I call my snapshot camera. I carried it with me everywhere and could easily sneak pictures inside department stores and supermarkets. The quality is not as good as the Sanyo so I don’t use it much now. However, I often lend it out to my students so that they can take snapshots around the school.

Nursery School Student

When you buy cameras, you need to consider a number of points. First the size. If you only want snapshots then go for a smaller size. These days, some of the palm sized cameras are producing good results. Although my bigger camera produces better results but I more often take my smaller camera out on photo shoots. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. For the record, the photos of Phra Nattawud were taken with the Fujifilm and the food photos were mainly taken with the Sanyo. So, consider which size camera you will use more often. A bigger camera means a special bag. A small camera can fit in your pocket.

For me a zoom is very important. Most small cameras have a 3x. You sometimes see a larger number but don’t be fooled if it says digital zoom. These are not worth the money. Always make sure it is optical zoom. For me a 6x zoom is the minimum. This allows you to take candid photos of people without them realizing. I spend a lot of time framing my shots and thinking about angles. I am always using the zoom.

The next important aspect is the batteries. How long do they last for? How long does it take to charge? How much are spare batteries? These are all very important questions. I know someone who bought a camera once and they didn’t realize how expensive it was to buy a spare battery. My small Sony camera uses two AAA batteries and can be used all day to take several hundred pictures. Spare batteries are also cheap.

Next comes the memory card. Things have changed so much now. The prices and sizes between different brand names are quite big. Obviously the better the quality camera you have, the larger the memory card you will need. Certain types of memory cards are now more than 1 GB each and the prices are quite reasonable. Others are not so big and can be more expensive.

Secondary student during Morning Prayers

Although I love my digital cameras, I am very frustrated for a number of reasons. The first is that they are usually slow to start up. Then the ones with an optical lens takes time to focus. As a consequence, I sometimes missed photo opportunities. Or, I only managed to take one or two pictures during a live event and so didn’t have much to choose from. Also, the flash on digital cameras are quite often disappointing.

Then I noticed that both Canon and Nikon had brought out a semi-professional SLR Digital camera at reasonable prices. I did test drives of both cameras in the shops. I even took along my own memory cards so that I could check on the computer back at home. Although I liked the Nikon, I decided to go for the Canon EOS 350D in the end. This is mainly because my last proper SLR film camera was a Canon. I have some good lenses already that I haven’t used for a long time. It was a bonus for me that I could use these zoom lenses (75-300mm) with the new digital camera. The Canon was also 8 megapixels compared to 6 megapixels for the Nikon.

Lots of people ask me about buying digital cameras in Thailand. However, I always say that they should buy in their homecountry. Quite often the price is much the same (the listed price for the Canon in America was roughly the same here). People have this misconception that Thailand is cheap. That is not always true for imported electronic goods. When I bought my Fujifilm camera, I went to Singapore which was 10,000 baht cheaper! This saving paid for the airplane ticket and hotel! Another reason to buy in your homecountry is that have more time to test it out before you buy. And then after you buy you have a chance to perfect your camera skills!

I have been using the Canon SLR for the last few days at school. The pictures on this page were taken with this camera. I have been really pleased with the results so far. For a start, the camera turns on straight away. In less than one second you are taking pictures. Focus is also quick and accurate. When I was in the nursery class I was just going click, click, click all the time. It was just like a normal SLR camera. I didn’t miss any shots. In fact, because the film and developing is “free” I just took several hundred without worrying about it. I haven’t printed any of them yet, but the book says you can print larger than A3 which is really big.

If you really want to buy a digital camera in Thailand then I would suggest you visit Panthip Plaza or MBK. I bought my camera at the former though MBK has more accessories for cameras. When I go on long trips here, I always take the laptop with me so I can download my pictures. However, many internet cafes and camera shops offer services where you can download and then burn onto CDs. You can also buy small portable hard disks that you can download your photos onto. This is much lighter than carrying your laptop. If you want prints made here, they usually cost about 4 baht per picture.

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