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Camera Financing: A Snapshot of Your Options

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For anyone truly interested in photography, buying a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera is a must. Because DSLR cameras offer more control over the photos you take, they’ll allow you to take better, higher quality images than standard point and shoot cameras. This also means that the materials that go into making DSLR cameras are naturally more expensive than other more basic cameras, hence the price gap between these cameras and cheaper ones.

While the price of a good DSLR camera can vary quite a bit based on your needs and level of experience, it’s pretty common to expect to pay anywhere between $400 and $1,800 for a new, beginner to an intermediate-level DSLR camera. You’ll find a huge variety of models in that range, with many new photography enthusiasts gravitating toward the lower end of that range (between $400 and $900) and slightly more experienced photographers opting for models within the $1,000 to $1,800 range.

Needless to say, this hefty price tag has many new photographers searching for camera financing options. We’ll dive into those here, so you can decide whether a credit card, personal loan or another option will serve you best.

5 ways to pay for a camera

1. Save up and pay with cash

The easiest and most basic way to pay for a camera is to spend a few months saving up for one. Rather than incurring any sort of debt to afford your dream camera, you can always start budgeting for the expense, saving part of each paycheck until you have enough to take the plunge.

If your current income doesn’t leave much room for additional savings, you might also consider earning a bit of extra cash to be able to afford your new DSLR even sooner.

2. Borrow a personal loan

If you’re in a rush to buy a camera and don’t foresee being able to budget for one, taking out a personal loan is another option. Personal loans are typically unsecured loans for an amount between $1,000 and $50,000 that you can use for a variety of purposes. Since these loans don’t rely on any sort of collateral, the loan terms you’re offered will strongly rely on factors such as your credit score and current debt-to-income ratio.

People with lower credit scores may be able to qualify for a personal loan, but the terms for these loans may be less favorable (think higher interest rates) than for those with better credit scores. If you have bad credit, lenders may only approve you for a relatively small personal loan (sometimes only $1,000). However, since this is within range of what many DSLR cameras cost, this shouldn’t deter you from applying, though you should be aware of higher interest rates.

3. Take out a payday alternative loan

Since you may not even need as much as $1,000 to buy your camera (which is the typical low-end value for personal loans), you might instead consider instead taking out a payday alternative loan. Payday alternative loans (PALs) are-short term loans generally offered in amounts between $200 and $1,000 with terms of one to six months.

Unlike payday loans, which are super short-term, high-cost loans meant to be repaid on your next payday, payday alternative loans offer a bit more buffer and protection for borrowers. The  main reason for this is that payday alternative loans are usually offered by credit unions for their members. PALs tend to have lower APRs than payday loans, and application fees are typically no more than $20.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to be a member of your credit union for at least one month to qualify, though, so plan on joining before you need the loan.

4. Charge the cost to a credit card

Another alternative to taking out a loan would be to purchase a new camera using your preferred credit card. A credit card with a 0% introductory APR would be an excellent choice for those with good credit, so long as you can repay the full amount before you have to start paying interest when the promotional period ends.

If you don’t have a good enough credit score to qualify for a personal loan or a zero-interest credit card, charging the cost to a credit card still may be your best option, albeit a potentially costly one. Keep in mind that for those with lower credit, borrowing terms are often less favorable. Make sure you’ll be able to afford payments on your credit card over the long term before you make any large purchases and start racking up high-interest debt.

5. Buy a certified refurbished camera

If you want a DSLR camera but are strapped for cash, refurbished cameras are a significantly cheaper option. You can find certified, refurbished DSLRs in many major brands for 10% to 30% less than new ones, which some users report to be a savings of up to $400.

Just be sure to buy from an authorized, trustworthy dealer, and keep in mind that refurbished and “like new” cameras don’t come with the same extended warranty as new ones. Some warranties last only 30 days after purchase, meaning you should carefully inspect your refurbished camera when you receive it to ensure everything is in good condition.

Don’t overlook these other camera costs

You should also note that buying a camera isn’t just about the cost of the camera body alone. When purchasing a DSLR camera you should plan to set aside some of your budget for these other items which, depending on the type of photography you plan to do, may be just as essential.

No one ever said photography was a cheap hobby, and with the cost of buying quality equipment you can probably see why. But with the right financial planning and research, you can easily start creating a budget to afford your dream camera and be on your way to taking professional photos.


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