This past weekend I went to buy a snapshot camera as a gift for someone. I shortlisted the Nikon, Canon and Sony compact models. (I still don't take Samsung cameras seriously.) I had a budget set and wasn't going to exceed it no matter what great features I could get for just $100 more.
The salesman - very polite guy - could pick up I was doing more than just browsing and offered his assistance. Now, I liked the Sony Cyber Shot W510 which at $110 had so many features for the money: smile detection, image stabilising and a feature not found at this price - lithium ion rechargeable battery. My mind was already made up after seeing this camera's arsenal. However I made the mistake of casually telling the salesman I was into photography and pointed out the Nikon SLR camera in their display unit that was similar to mine. Immediately he takes me to the more expensive Sony Cyber Shot W570 model. He says, "This is the camera everybody asks for. Sixteen megapixels, Carl Zeiss optics....." He proceeds to give me a huge list of reasons why the W570 dominates the W510.
The icing on the cake came though when he switched both models on and showed me the viewfinders on them. The viewfinder is the LCD screen at the back of the camera which displays the menus and shot you're about to take:
He showed how much clearer the viewfinder on the W570 was compared to the W510. Then he enthused: "Look at the difference in picture quality!" Now, the W570 viewfinder was much clearer than the W510, but that is no indication of the quality of the image the camera can take. The viewfinder is just an LCD screen slapped on the back of a camera, and the W570 obviously had a better LCD screen. Granted the W570 in all likelihood takes better images, but you can only know that once you upload the images on a bigger screen or print them. You cannot ascertain image quality based on the viewfinder on a camera because not all viewfinders are created equal. A camera may have a tardy viewfinder but excellent lens and censor. Such a camera will still take better shots than a one with awesome viewfinder but mediocre lens and internals. I briefly pointed this out to Mr Salesman and he just smiled, knowing he had been found out.
As per the plan, I took the W510.