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Copied From the Learn Photography Master Thread: Lesson 1


Choosing a camera: Point and Shoot vs. Mirrorless vs. DSLR


Before you even start thinking which camera model to buy, you have to decide something much more important: the type of camera. There are three main types of cameras on the market today, and they each offer some things the others don't. Let's take a quick at them and see what the differences are and why you might choose one over the other.


Point & Shoots (P&S): These are by far the most popular cameras out there. Usually extremely compact, they're all easy to use, relatively cheap, and deliver great images. The point & shoot ranges from tiny shirt-pocket cameras such as the Canon Elph series, to large superzooms (sometimes called all-in-ones or bridge cameras) such as the Panasonic FZ series, to 'advanced' P&Ss like the Canon G series or the $2800(!) Sony RX-1. All P&Ss have fixed (non-removable) lenses.


Point & Shoot pros:
--- Amazing selection: At the time of this writing, B&H has 328 cameras in stock listed under Point & Shoot. A basic Canon Elph-style camera usually has a 3-8x zoom lens, a 3" screen, 1080p video, image stabilization, and a million other features. Should you could choose a superzoom, you'd get a 24-50x zoom, manual controls, a viewfinder, and (usually) a hotshoe for flashes. Advanced P&Ss will give you even more control, better, larger sensors, and higher quality lenses. Want a camera your baby could drop into a bowl of cereal? There are currently 18 different shock and waterproof cameras [url=http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?ipp=100&Ns=p_PRODUCT_SHORT_DESCR|0&ci=8612&N=4288586279+35+4052359761&srtclk=sort]available
. Want a screen that swivels? Built-in GPS? WiFi? Check, check, and check. One screen not enough, you want two of 'em? Check!
--- Cheap: Even a $100 P&S will give you better pictures than a $500 camera from 5 years ago. You do not need to spend a fortune to get amazing pictures.
--- Light and easy to carry: No excuses for not shlepping the camera. If fits into your shirt pocket, a purse, just about anywhere.
--- Great video: Most current cameras are capable of recording 1080p HD video, or at least 720p. Combined with ubiquitous image stabilization P&Ss are capable of outputting awesome video.
--- Easy to use: Most P&S will only have an Auto or P mode, although some advanced or superzoom models will have full manual control. In Auto mode all you have to do is press the button. Some cameras even have an 'intelligent' auto feature where it could detect if you're shooting a flower, a portrait, etc. and adjust itself accordingly. This actually works pretty well on most cameras. In P mode you get a bit more control (you could turn the flash off, adjust the picture brighter or darker, etc.), but the camera still handles most of the decisions making for you.


Point & Shoot Cons:
--- Image quality relative to mirrorless and DSLRs: Yes, P&Ss will give you great picture quality - when situations are ideal. But if you plan to be shooting a lot in darker situations (indoors, your kids' school play) you will notice a considerable difference in quality compared to the other two. Sharpness will also not be as good as the others - the combination of a small physical lens, a small sensor, and over-zealous noise reduction (more on all of these later) is not a recipe for razor-sharp photos. These factors will be much less of an issue with advanced cameras such as the Canon G15, although a mirrorless or DSLR will still be far better.
--- Hard or impossible to achieve certain effects: You know that portrait look where the entire background is just blurred into creamy nothingness? That's one of the hardest things to create with a P&S (and conversely one of the easiest things to do with an SLR/mirrorless). Later on I'll show you some techniques to force this effect out of a P&S (to a degree), but the physics are simply not in your favor.
--- Speed: Compared to a DSLR, the P&S is practically a turtle. It takes a few seconds to turn on, zooming takes time, every setting change takes time. Most importantly though, is the speed at which the camera takes the picture. While a DSLR focuses almost instantly, a P&S could take a second or two. Once the image is in focus, there is a maddening delay called shutter lag, which is the time between you pressing the shutter button and the camera actually taking the picture. Between focusing and shutter lag, it could sometimes take 3 or more seconds to get your shoot, at which point the moment may be long gone. Later on we'll discuss some techniques for speeding this process up, but it'll still take far longer than a DSLR.
--- Not much control: The flip side to the P&S's ease of use it its lack of control. Want to lower your flash power so that people don't have that 'deer in headlights' look? Tough noogies. Want to change your aperture? Your shutter speed? Ain't happenin'. Of course some cameras do let you change all that, but a) they're in the minority by far, and b) since these are secondary features, you'll probably have to dig through 6 menu pages every time you want to make a change.
--- Limited expandability: A P&S is a closed system. Want a longer or wider lens? Want to use filters? No dice on most cameras. This is also a big issue if you ever want to dabble in lighting - it'll be quite difficult with a P&S.
____________


DSLRs: The big, black, "professional" looking cameras. Big, heavy, and (relatively) expensive, these have interchangeable lenses and optical viewfinders. The big players are Canon and Nikon, with Sony and Pentax having a small but dedicated market share. A typical 'starter' DSLR will have a 18 (Canon) or 24 (Nikon) megapixel sensor, come with an 18-55mm lens, and have actual buttons for only the most important tasks. As you move up through the lineup, you'll get more direct buttons and knobs, status LCDs, better focusing/metering systems, more lens support, metal or magnesium bodies, weather sealing, wireless flash control, higher frame-per-second rates, and more. You also get better kit lenses (that's the lens that comes with the camera) as you move up, and at a certain level (usually the third camera in the lineup) you'll also be able to buy the camera body by itself without any lens.


DSLR pros:
--- Image quality: This is the number one benefit of the DSLR - even the cheapest camera and lens combination will give you better pictures that any point and shoot, even if the P&S costs much more. (B&H currently lists 3 DSLR kits (camera and lens) for $450 - that's cheaper than some P&Ss.) Looking at pictures of a P&S and a DSLR side by side, you'll be blown away by the difference in sharpness, color, and dynamic range (explained later) of the DSLR. When it comes to low light, there's no contest; the DSLR wins hand down.
--- Control: In a DLSR you have control over every single shooting parameter. There are no limits to what you could create; everything's at your beck and call. Flash power, exposure, color, and most importantly, RAW shooting. (I'll get into far more detail on that last thing later.)
--- Special effects: Out of focus backgrounds? Easy peasy. Long exposures? Timelapse? You bet.
--- System expandability: DSLRs are sometimes called 'system cameras'. This is due to the fact that unlike P&Ss, a DSLR is not just a camera; it's at the heart of an entire system. Each brand has dozens of lenses available, plus many more from third-party lens manufacturers. You could get flashes, transmitters, remotes, and many other goodies and they will all work seamlessly and communicate properly to one another. BTW, this is why you should choose your first SLR very carefully: you're probably buying into a system. First you get a camera and lens, then another lens, then maybe another lens or a flash, and then the a new camera comes out so you buy that. It's quite the pain to switch to a different brand once you're bought in to the system.
--- Viewfinder: By definition, a DSLR is a single lens reflex camera; what that means is that inside the camera just behind the lens mount there's a mirror, which projects the image from the lens into a prism, which in turn shows up in the viewfinder. The big advantage of this is that when you look through the viewfinder you're actually looking through lens, and as such are seeing exactly what the lens sees. This gives you an extremely accurate and life-like view, which makes it easy to compose your shots properly. A viewfinder also lets you use the camera in bright light without worrying about not being able to see the screen.
--- Speed: A DSLR is ready to shoot almost instantly after being turned on. No matter where you are, be it a menu or playing back you pictures, a slight tap of the shutter button and the camera is instantly ready to shoot. Focus is nearly instantaneous, and shutter lag is pretty much a non-issue. Another speed aspect is continuous shooting - holding down the shutter button while the camera rattles off picture after picture. An entry-level camera  could easily do around 4.5fps (frames per second), while higher level cameras could do 7 or 8 (or 12, if you count the $6800 Canon 1D X).


DSLR cons:
--- Size and weight: There's no getting around it: DSLRs are big and bulky, especially if you're carrying more than one lens.
--- Price: DSLRs start at about $450, and go way up. One of the most common cameras, the Canon T4i, will set you back about a grand. And then you want to buy another lens. And another one. And another one... :D
--- Video: DSLR video is a really weird situation. On the one hand the quality is INSANE. Just look on Vimeo and see what people have been doing with the Canon 5DMk2 and Mk3 and you'll see what I mean. On the other hand, if you look at the behind the scenes video of one of those, you'll see that the camera is mounted on a rig costing $10K or more. The rig stabilizes the camera and provides support for the focus controls, the zoom controls, the sound system, and many other things. Why is all this necessary? Very simple - because the camera does a horrible job at all this if left to it's own devices. Focusing during video is horrible, especially if anything's moving through the scene. What this means is that if you're buying an SLR and are planning on taking videos of your kids running around in the park, you will be sorely disappointed - nothing will be in focus half the time, and when the camera finally does achieve focus, the built-in mike will have picked up every grind and whirr of the lens as it moved back and forth. Canon has made some progress on eliminating these issues with their new STM lenses, but for now that's only two cameras and two lenses, and even that isn't perfect.


__________


Mirrorless: Known by many different names (ILCs and EVILs for example), the industry has seemed to settle on Mirrorless lately. This was the brainchild of a joint venture between Olympus and Panasonic, and was aimed on creating an interchangeable-lens camera in with a P&S body and DSLR-like image quality, and has been wildly successful. Olympus and Panasonic are still the major players with their Micro 4/3s system, followed by Sony with their NEX line. Many others have tried to take over market share from the big 3, but have been largely unsuccessful mainly due to inferior products. Nikon 1, Canon, M, and Samsung NX are examples of fairly unpopular systems.


Most mirrorless cameras have a P&S form-factor, albeit somewhat larger. With the exception of Olympus and Panasonic, the lenses are not interchangeable between brands, but adapters are available to convert practically any DSLR (or old rangefinder camera) lens to just about every system. Most adapters will not autofocus the lens, so it's not exactly a perfect solution.


Mirrorless pros:
--- Size and weight: This is the main draw for most people. While not exactly pocket sized once a lens is in place, it it still a fairly compact kit and could be carried in a purse with ease. It's more like a large P&S than a small DSLR.
--- Price: Generally cheaper than a DSLR of a similar level. The Panasonics and Olympus (Olympusus? Olympi? ??? ) especially seem to be on sale more often than not.
--- Image quality: About as good as an SLR, simple as that.
--- Expandability: Like DSLRs, these cameras are part of a system. In the last couple of months more and more third parties have started to make lenses too. Micro 4/3s is a much more robust system then Sony NEX though, with many more lenses available.
--- Video: Video on mirrorless cameras is insanely fantastic. Similar in quality to an SLR, but with the ease of use of a P&S. It focuses quickly, perfectly, and fairly quietly.


Mirrorless cons:
--- Lenses: Far smaller selection than SLRs, although to be fair most important lenses are covered.
--- Image quality: A DSLR will still have slightly better image quality, especially in low light scenarios.
--- Viewfinders: Most donít have viewfinders at all, which make it harder to use in low light. Some of those have axillary finders you could out in the hotshoe (usually at exorbitant prices or some reason), but these are just to give you a general idea of what the camera is seeing.
--- Batteries: Uses batteries like a P&S (200-400 shots), while a DSLR usually gets around 2000 shots per battery.
--- Speed: Focusing, while worlds better than P&Ss, isn't quite up to DSLR standards yet, but that's getting better every day.
--- Control: While mirrorless camera offer the same level of control as DSLRs, very often you'll have to dig through menus to get to where you want to. The main point of mirrorless being cutting down on size, buttons and knobs were eliminated without mercy.


___________


Lesson Summary:
--- Point & Shoots are great for most everyday shooting. Cheap, more options than you could ever want, great image quality and video. Quite difficult (but definitely possible - I'll show you how) to get the 'pro' look.
--- DSLR are king when it comes to image quality, control, and expandability. For the best pictures in any situation, go for a DSLR. Video, not so much.
--- Mirrorless cameras are the best of both worlds, with some caveats. Amazing image quality, the best video, and fairly small and portable. Less control and versatility than an SLR, though.

___________


For the full lesson series visit the Learn Photography Master Thread.

____________________________________________________

Links to additional Info:

Learn Photography Master Thread: Lesson 2: Camera specs - What do they mean, and which ones matter to me?

Canon's DSLR naming scheme
Nikon's DSLR naming scheme
« Last edited by Curlyhead on August 10, 2016, 11:42:18 AM »

Author Topic: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread  (Read 94427 times)

Offline Little Bob

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #60 on: December 01, 2013, 08:00:37 PM »
is this a good deal    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Canon-16-MP-6354B001/21675104
Canon PowerShot SX160 IS 16MP 16x Optical Zoom Digital Camera $79.00 Shipped!

is it a better camera than the elph 530 hs from BH for $114?

Offline smurf

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #61 on: December 01, 2013, 08:14:01 PM »
is this a good deal    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Canon-16-MP-6354B001/21675104
Canon PowerShot SX160 IS 16MP 16x Optical Zoom Digital Camera $79.00 Shipped!

is it a better camera than the elph 530 hs from BH for $114?
and with amex deal is only 59

Offline smurf

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #62 on: December 01, 2013, 08:14:50 PM »
155 after tax and less the amex discount, sounds like a no brainer
Is this a betty option than the sx model you mentioned earlier?
just bought, and because the sd card was a lightning deal the kit was 3 bucks cheaper

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #63 on: December 01, 2013, 09:04:59 PM »
The elph 530 is a far better camera, but the sx is amazing for that price.
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Offline Little Bob

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #64 on: December 01, 2013, 09:30:10 PM »
I understand that the elph 530 has many more features; has a newer chip and smaller ect but is the quality of pictures noticeably better than the sx?

Offline ari9

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #65 on: December 01, 2013, 09:31:46 PM »
i'm looking for a mirrorless that would come out to about 350-400 after the amex/amazon promo
which of these would be the best choice?
 
Panasonic DMC-G5KK 16 MP Compact System Camera with 14-42mm Zoom Lens and 3-Inch LCD
http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-DMC-G5KK-Compact-System-14-42mm/dp/B008MB71IS/
595

Fujifilm X-A1 Kit with 16-50mm Lens
http://www.amazon.com/Fujifilm-X-A1-16-50mm-Lens-Black/dp/B00EYTM3FS/
499

Sony NEX-3NL/B Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera Kit
http://www.amazon.com/Sony-NEX-3NL-Compact-Interchangeable-Digital/dp/B00BF9MUAS/
448

Olympus E-PL5 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm Lens
http://www.amazon.com/Olympus-Interchangeable-Digital-Camera-14-42mm/dp/B0096WDMGC
499

tia

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #67 on: December 01, 2013, 09:38:27 PM »
I understand that the elph 530 has many more features; has a newer chip and smaller ect but is the quality of pictures noticeably better than the sx?

Yes (but not a tremendous difference, especially in bright light). AA batteries are also a pain since they don't last nearly as long as li-ion (although they're obviously easier to find when you run out).
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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #68 on: December 01, 2013, 09:42:35 PM »
i'm looking for a mirrorless that would come out to about 350-400 after the amex/amazon promo
which of these would be the best choice?
 
Panasonic DMC-G5KK 16 MP Compact System Camera with 14-42mm Zoom Lens and 3-Inch LCD
http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-DMC-G5KK-Compact-System-14-42mm/dp/B008MB71IS/
595

Fujifilm X-A1 Kit with 16-50mm Lens
http://www.amazon.com/Fujifilm-X-A1-16-50mm-Lens-Black/dp/B00EYTM3FS/
499

Sony NEX-3NL/B Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera Kit
http://www.amazon.com/Sony-NEX-3NL-Compact-Interchangeable-Digital/dp/B00BF9MUAS/
448

Olympus E-PL5 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm Lens
http://www.amazon.com/Olympus-Interchangeable-Digital-Camera-14-42mm/dp/B0096WDMGC
499

tia

The Sony would be my first choice if you're not planning on getting more that 2-3 lenses at most. THe picture quality will be best on this one.

My next choice would be the Olympus, followed by the Pana. Note that the Pana is not a compact camera; it's a shrunk down DSLR. It also puts a very heavy focus on video, so if that's important that'll give you the best output (the other's are great, too; this one's just the best).

I wouldn't go with the Fuji over any of the others.
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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #69 on: December 01, 2013, 09:45:45 PM »
Would you consider buying used from Amazon?

I personally wouldn't. I'd be far more comfortable on ebay or CL - you're dealing with a real person and could check it out first (on CL at least). But even so, I'd rather pay a bit more for B&H or Adorama. Every camera is checked and tested and comes with some kind of warranty.

For factory refurb I wouldn't hesitate a second.
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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #70 on: December 01, 2013, 10:32:45 PM »
I can't believe this has gone on for 5 pages with no mention of the Canon Loyalty Program.

I admit I've been a bit of a mirrorless junky (micro4/3, if anyone is wondering) lately for the ridiculous amount of legacy lens support (Canon FDs and FLs FTW!) and the prospect of Metabones speedboosters and other focal reducers. But I used to be a Canon fanboy, and back then the Loyalty Program was the best kept secret in camera buying.

If I ever replace my Canon bodies (they still get used), I'm definitely going back there for a replacement.

Meanwhile, it looks like some great all around advice in this thread so far. I work with cameras all day and moderate some forums dealing with SLR gear specifically, so if it's OK, I'd like to add some personal opinions if anyone finds it helpful:

1) If buying an interchangeable lens camera, a more expensive model won't necessarily yield better pictures. In fact, a cheaper and simpler model with a better lens will take far better photos than an expensive body with the included kit lens. My advice to new buyers is never to invest in a camera body, they depreciate faster than cellular phones these days, and will be obsolete by the time you learn how to use it properly. Invest in lenses, as the glass holds its value for generations and will make a FAR BIGGER DIFFERENCE in the quality of your pictures than what camera body it is currently resting on. Therefore, I say find the cheapest body that has the features you want (crop, full frame, DR, etc) and then spend the rest of your budget on glass.

2) The best advice I was given when I was first interested in cameras, is to start off going as manual as possible. These days, you have a lot of options with vintage lenses. If you aren't interested in the technical side of optics and exposure, how aperture/shutter/ISO are used in tandem to properly expose your shot with different side effects (and which to use for artistic reasons), then you are probably better off with a point-and-shoot, or perhaps something more like the Sony RX-series, which offer DSLR-quality in a compact form factor. The beauty of interchangeable lenses is in learning how they work, and if you are willing to do a little bit of work on your own (aperture wheels, manual focus, etc), you can get beautiful, sharp and solidly built metal lenses from 20-30 years for a fraction of a modern lens. You'll take gorgeous pictures and save a ton of money, while also learning how this stuff works. When I wanted to flesh out my lens set with modern autofocus variants, I knew much more about what I wanted and how to use them as a result.

I far too often see folks spend a lot of money on a DSLR body, and stick with the kit lens on auto-everything. And I just want to scream, WHY?! ;)
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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #71 on: December 01, 2013, 10:40:54 PM »
I can't believe this has gone on for 5 pages with no mention of the Canon Loyalty Program.

I admit I've been a bit of a mirrorless junky (micro4/3, if anyone is wondering) lately for the ridiculous amount of legacy lens support (Canon FDs and FLs FTW!) and the prospect of Metabones speedboosters and other focal reducers. But I used to be a Canon fanboy, and back then the Loyalty Program was the best kept secret in camera buying.

If I ever replace my Canon bodies (they still get used), I'm definitely going back there for a replacement.

Meanwhile, it looks like some great all around advice in this thread so far. I work with cameras all day and moderate some forums dealing with SLR gear specifically, so if it's OK, I'd like to add some personal opinions if anyone finds it helpful:

1) If buying an interchangeable lens camera, a more expensive model won't necessarily yield better pictures. In fact, a cheaper and simpler model with a better lens will take far better photos than an expensive body with the included kit lens. My advice to new buyers is never to invest in a camera body, they depreciate faster than cellular phones these days, and will be obsolete by the time you learn how to use it properly. Invest in lenses, as the glass holds its value for generations and will make a FAR BIGGER DIFFERENCE in the quality of your pictures than what camera body it is currently resting on. Therefore, I say find the cheapest body that has the features you want (crop, full frame, DR, etc) and then spend the rest of your budget on glass.

2) The best advice I was given when I was first interested in cameras, is to start off going as manual as possible. These days, you have a lot of options with vintage lenses. If you aren't interested in the technical side of optics and exposure, how aperture/shutter/ISO are used in tandem to properly expose your shot with different side effects (and which to use for artistic reasons), then you are probably better off with a point-and-shoot, or perhaps something more like the Sony RX-series, which offer DSLR-quality in a compact form factor. The beauty of interchangeable lenses is in learning how they work, and if you are willing to do a little bit of work on your own (aperture wheels, manual focus, etc), you can get beautiful, sharp and solidly built metal lenses from 20-30 years for a fraction of a modern lens. You'll take gorgeous pictures and save a ton of money, while also learning how this stuff works. When I wanted to flesh out my lens set with modern autofocus variants, I knew much more about what I wanted and how to use them as a result.

I far too often see folks spend a lot of money on a DSLR body, and stick with the kit lens on auto-everything. And I just want to scream, WHY?! ;)

+100000 on just about everything.

One thing though - most people here will be using their cameras primarily for children/family pictures, but want the best quality they could get. Neither an aperture ring nor manual focus lenses will help them in this regard. In fact a manual-focus only lens, while sharp as anything and easily and cheaply available, is almost useless for anything involving a kid.
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Offline ari9

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #72 on: December 01, 2013, 10:49:55 PM »
The Sony would be my first choice if you're not planning on getting more that 2-3 lenses at most. THe picture quality will be best on this one.

Thanks for all the advice so far.
So if I get the Sony that's generally a good choice? (would I get something way better by spending another $100, let's say?)

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #73 on: December 01, 2013, 10:51:50 PM »
(would I get something way better by spending another $100, let's say?)

Not a better camera, just more features usually.
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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #74 on: December 01, 2013, 10:55:36 PM »
so I think I'm going to go with this one
I'm mainly looking for great quality of pictures and video (coming from a p&s) and advanced options as I learn some more about picture-taking
I also like that this one isn't so bulky

if I would get this from amazon it would come out to $300 using gc from amex/amazon
bestbuy has it on sale for 350 and with amex/bestbuy its $325
for the extra $25 I'd rather get the amex warranty b/c I'll be buying it straight on a cc