New Digital Camera
February 22, 2004 8:40 PM   Subscribe

University student on a budget looking to buy a new digital camera. Looking at the Canon G5 or Sony V1 right now, but wondering if I'm overlooking others. Also questions about ordering from the US to Canada with duties and taxes (more)

I'm a university student who has recently saved up a wad of money that I'm looking to blow on a camera to replace my very outdated fuji finepix 1400.

I'm currently between a G5 or a DSC V1, and leaning to the G5. I wouldn't mind a G3 either since I really don't need the 5MP, but the prices for even used G3's seem pretty close to the G5, so a new camera with a warranty seems like the better option there. I've looked at the Coolpix 5400 too, but its quite a bit more expensive from what I can see.
I can order both the G5 and DSC-V1 for around $700 CAD from B&H.

I really like the flip LCD and the remote control of the G5 and while the 5400 is out of reach, I'd love to have a bulb shutter setting too. Is there any other camera model that I could get for the price ($500 US) that has comperable features that I've overlooked? I really don't need huge MP, but I do want as much manual control as possible.

Also, as mentioned, I'm from Canada. I can't order a camera from, and doesn't have cameras. Canadian retailers are trying to sell the G5 for around $1000 CAD, but I can get if from the US for around $700 CAD. If I did order the camera from B&H it would cost me $35 for UPS shipping which is fine. Would I have to pay Canadian duties or taxes on importation though? I've tried to look at the Canadian Customs site, but I can't seem to find a clear answer. If I had to pay 15% Canadian taxes, it would be stretching my budget past its breaking point.
Thanks very much for any help.
posted by sinical to Shopping (11 answers total)
You will have to pay PST and GST, as well as a $5 handling fee and any and all customs brokers fees (if it's UPS, it'll be an obscene amount). ... and duty if they feel like charging you.

When buying electronics, I find it's a crap shoot when ordering from the USA. It depends whether they consider it a computer part or not--ie, a digital item. From what I understand, digital items are duty free. However, this will depend on how your seller declares the item on the customs sheet. If they just put "Camera" you're pretty sure as fucked. If they put "digital camera" you may be better off but it'll depend on the whimsy of the customs agent.

Your absolute best bet is to get them to send it by USPS. No customs or taxes whatsoever.

I've bought about 180 dvds from the USA in the past 2 months. I only got hit by customs people once and it was the only time the seller sent UPS. It was 5 dvds with a declared value of $35. I got hit with C$40 by the UPS guy (30 of that was customs broker fees).

In short, it's a crap shoot. If I were you I wouldn't risk it unless they'll send USPS (but then of course there's no way to trace it).

If you're in Toronto, visit the store on Yonge directly across from Sam the Record man, just north of Dundas. Ask for Carlos. He'll give you a good price. :)

If you're not afraid of eBay, you could give it a shot. Some Canadian retailers have 'em for under $900.

You could also get a USA'n outfit to ship to an American friend and then have the friend ship to you via USPS.

Lastly, if you aren't going to risk it and aren't in Quebec, check out Cendirect. They have it for $994 but there will be no PST and they ship via Purolator for a flat $10.
posted by dobbs at 9:06 PM on February 22, 2004

Shipped by USPS it will still be subject to inspection by Customs and you'll have to pay duties, plus Canada Post's $5 handling fee (for doing the customs work -- much better than UPS' exorbitant fees for the same thing).

Often, Canada Customs will let smaller items ($20 or less) through without charging the duties (or GST/PST); however, for a $700+ item, you can be sure they'll charge you GST/PST at a minimum (plus any duties, if they apply to the item).
posted by filmgoerjuan at 9:17 PM on February 22, 2004

I love the big Leica lens (12X optical zoom with optical image stabilizer that works, f2.8 all the way through the range) on my 4MP Panasonic Lumix FZ10, and the color makes my previous Sony's pictures look drab. About $500. The first pictures I took are at the top of my November archives, and here's a look at the 12X optical zoom.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:57 AM on February 23, 2004

last time i had a retail item come thru' customs (california to ontario) i was charged $80 in duty fees for a $284 item.
posted by t r a c y at 6:56 AM on February 23, 2004
posted by terrapin at 8:38 AM on February 23, 2004

the color makes my previous Sony's pictures look drab.

Given that Sony digicams are notorious for their vivid colors -- the word "Disney" is often thrown about -- it's no surprise there's a market for a camera that renders colors "like a Sony but more so." And it's not a big shock that the camera to out-Sony Sony is a Panasonic. Matsushita has always played Microsoft to Sony's Apple (a deliberate strategy, it seems).
posted by kindall at 9:58 AM on February 23, 2004

More proof it's a crap shoot. Just got two packages in the mail delivered by the same guy at the same time. One contained 10 dvds valued at $210 and the other 6 DVDs valued at $35. Both were sent the same way (USPS). $11 in charges on the $35 package. No charges on the other. This is the first time I've been hit with charges on a USPS parcel--it was taxes and handling fee.
posted by dobbs at 12:10 PM on February 23, 2004

I'm assuming you're looking at the Canon G3/5 and Sony V1 because you're interested in a "prosumer", high-featured, and extensively accessory-capable digicam, one that is relatively compact and conventionally shaped. They are essentially the top picks within their category, and they compete directly against each other. As always, I highly recommend DPR as a starting point:

G3 review
G5 review
V1 review

Reviews aside, the G3 is a bit of a classic now. However, the G5, despite the increased megapixel count, failed to significantly improve upon the G3 (and even worsened in some ways), hence the reason why they're almost equal in price. Having said that, both accept standard Canon accessories (including their flashes), use the standard Canon RAW format, and have TTL-metering with external flashes. IMO the G-series are better "system" cameras than the Sony cameras (whose proprietary accessories, including memory, are badly overpriced), but the V1 appears to be smaller and almost as capable, judging from both reviews and user experiences. I've never tried it myself, although I am a tried-and-true fan of Canon's G-series. Canon's cameras almost without exception have very good image quality, while Sony's are more hit-and-miss (particularly with color rendition) but sometimes can pull some nifty tricks--for example, the V1 features Sony's (somewhat gimmicky) hologram AF assist. Keep in mind that almost all Sony cameras (including the V1) uses their proprietary memory stick format. You'll need to buy new memory in any case since the SmartMedia on your old Fuji is being phased out, but Sony's memory sticks won't be compatible with anything non-Sony.

If you're curious about "spec shopping" to compare various classes of cameras against each other (to look beyond the G3/5 and V1), Dave's Picks from Imaging Resource is a good place to start. You might find something with a feature set you're more interested in--smaller size, longer zoom range, lower price, etc. Generally for the class of cameras that the G3/5 and V1 belongs to, the emphasis is on extensive menu controls over all sorts of esoteric settings and controls, which may or may not be what's most important to you. Other types of digicams have forgo these "software features" and can often even give you features like longer zoom ranges at a lower price. I can't really say since you didn't mention how important things like Canon's RAW mode are to you. They're hugely important to me, in any case.

Features and images are just one thing though. Have you gone to an electronics store and played with the cameras in your hands? I'd ignore the salemens for the most part (I trust online reviews much more) but ergonomics is very important and is very hard to predict for different users. If you have (or can borrow) a spare CF card and/or memory stick, bring it to the store and take some test shots to bring home to look at on your computer. You can always buy online after you'd made your decision to save some money.

BTW, I wouldn't worry too much about megapixel counts. 3-4 megapixels is plenty for almost all uses, including moderate amounts of cropping (but excludes, say, printing posters), and the current batch of 5 megapixel cameras are somewhat mixed due to noise and other image quality issues from cramming to many pixels into such a tiny CCD chip. (DSLR's use much bigger sensors and therefore don't have this problem.) The first 8mp digicam, Sony's F828, drew some severe criticism online from certain quarters for its noise and aberration issues, so there does appear to be a "too many megapixel" phenomenon under current technology. Stick with the 4 or 5 megapixel cameras to be safe until the camera makers sort this issue out.

Umm, I hope this was helpful and I didn't just scare you away with all this instead. :)
posted by DaShiv at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2004

BTW, my current recommendation for an "all around" camera (as a compromise between size, features, and price) is the Canon PowerShot A80. The G3/5 and V1 obviously offer more for their higher prices, of course.
posted by DaShiv at 5:24 PM on February 23, 2004

I have a Canon PowerShot G2 I'm just about ready to sell, by the way. Previous generation of the G3 and a fine camera in its own right. Also have some accessories. You can see many of the pictures I've taken with it on my site (start with "James Island" and "Rusted," then go back to "Razor Wire" -- most of the ones before that, going back for quite a while, were taken with the G2).
posted by kindall at 7:22 PM on February 23, 2004

Response by poster: Apparently you do not need to pay duty on camera equipment, but I would have to pay taxes, handling fees and brokerage if applicable.

Thanks for all the help DaShiv. I have read through extenseive reviews of many cameras, but your ideas are still quite helpful.
I don't personally like the A80, becuase to me it has too many MP and not enough control. My roomate bought the A60 on Saturday, and I think it and the A70 are both good, but the A80 is overkill.

The more I read, the better the G3 looks, even over the G5. Unfortunately, becuase of that the G3 is somewhat of a commodity which is pushing up price. Buying used makes me somewhat antsy too.

Another option I could do is have a relative in the US buy the camera from (or another US retailer) for me, ship it to them, and then send it to me, marking it as a gift. It would then be exempt from duty/tax etc. I imagine that is rather illegal though.
posted by sinical at 12:09 PM on February 24, 2004

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