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Are the 2009 DSLR Black Friday Sales any good?

If you are in the market for a camera, Black Friday can be a really good time to shop if you do your research and shop carefully. Lots of point and shoots are on sale – your options are limited only by your budget and your preference of brand. Decide what you want, and how much you are willing to pay for it, and you’ll be able to find a good deal that fits your needs.

But the real money can be saved in the area of the higher-ticket dSLR cameras, especially if you are looking to buy your first entry-level dSLR. Historically, most of the large department and electronic chain stores put on sale an entry-level Canon and/or Nikon dSLR every year. The past few years the models have been the Canon XS and the Nikon D40. This year, the companies are moving forward a generation in their offerings and are offering the Canon T1i and the Nikon D3000 as the sale models. (Sears is sticking with the Canon XS in a bid for rock bottom sticker price, however.)

Canon T1iFor consumers, this shift in models is definitely a win. These are two incredible models for buyers to have to choose from on Black Friday. Both have been very well-reviewed by photography experts and there are clear differences between them to help buyers choose. The Nikon D3000 is actually considered a slight step below the T1i. Its direct competitor in Canon’s line is considered to be the Canon XSi. The T1i is 15MP vs 10MP for the D3000, for instance. But the biggest difference of all is that the Canon T1i is capable of shooting impressive HD video, a capability inherited from professional Canon models like the 5D Mark II.

If price is your concern, the D3000 is definitely cheaper (about $200 less than the T1i).

Great cameras….Black Friday sales…this all sounds great, right? But before you go running out to buy one of these cameras on Black Friday, there is something that you should know: All of those cameras with their kit lenses are actually available for lower everyday prices online at places like Amazon.com than they are being advertised in Black Friday ads.

Nikon D3000:

Canon XS:

Canon T1i:

Some stores seem to be recognizing that they just can’t compete in this market, especially given the possibility of lower demand this holiday season for high-ticket purchases like dSLR’s in the bad economy. Stores like Target, Walmart, and the office chains that have historically offered a camera on sale seem to be staying on the sidelines this year on Black Friday, even though many of those stores carry dSLR’s regularly.

If you just want the camera and the kit lens, online is the place to get it. The prices listed above for Amazon may even go down lower on Black Friday because historically they have a camera sale that weekend but details haven’t been announced yet. Sometimes they offer price discounts, and sometimes the sale is in the form of bundles (buy a camera, get a lens very cheaply or something similar).

So where are all the savings on dSLRs? They are in the bundles with the extra lenses. These bundles can be very good bargains compared to buying the items separately, if you want all of the included components. (The sole exception to that this holiday season so far is the bundle offered with the Canon XS at Sears. Its components can be bought separately for less at Amazon.)

Typically the extra lens offered with the bundle is a telephoto zoom in the range of 50-200mm or so. Best Buy’s bundle lenses this Black Friday are a 55-200mm with the Nikon D3000, and a 55-250mm with the Canon T1i, for instance. When I purchased my Canon XS from Amazon last year, I got a 75-300mm lens bundled in with it.

Canon 75-300It’s true these bundle lenses aren’t exactly professional level SLR glass. They are usually lenses with an MSRP of about $200 that don’t have stabilization on them – something that is really needed at those longer lengths to get super crisp shots. But if you are just starting out, the bundles can be a very affordable way to add a second lens (and a bit of telephoto length) to your camera bag. The quality can come later when the budget allows. In the meantime, you can learn on the lower quality equipment. I’ve used my Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III , which retails for $147.78 on Amazon, for everything from shooting celebrities to getting a closer look at my daughter and her cousin’s dolphin encounter from the spectator area across the pool. I won’t be making poster prints from its shots anytime soon, but it is definitely serviceable.

So, if you want just a camera and kit lens – shop online. If you would like some additional gear along with that purchase, it may be worth checking out some Black Friday bundles. But shop carefully and compare prices before you head out to stores!

For the details on all the Black Friday dSLR sales, visit our sortable 2009 Black Friday DSLR Sale reference table!

FTC Disclaimer: Yes, this article contains some Amazon.com affiliate links. But one thing should tell you all that you need to know about any links I post to Amazon: I put my money where my mouth is regarding my recommendation. Every piece of dSLR camera equipment that I own, from my camera right down to the brush I use to clean my lenses, was purchased from Amazon. I recommend them because in my experience they have the best prices and the best customer service, and that makes me a very happy customer.

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