Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Office Depot stores go camera crazy (what will the shareholders think?)

As part of the Memorial Day week-long sale, Office Depot (ODP) did something very few brick and mortar retailers dare to do: slash the prices of many digital cameras and offer bonus items with them to boot. Why they did that, we'll leave it to the retail analysts and stock market gurus, but we will talk about the digital cameras involved.

Executive Summary
If you go to your local Office Depot store, and if you are lucky, you may find some of the hot 2008 digital cameras at prices well below Amazon/B&H/etc. Read on for more details.

The Scope
Please note that the special prices discussed here are only good for in-store buyers, not for online or buy online pick-up at the store buyers. Their website has their regular prices. To see the special sale prices, check your local circular ad in the Sunday newspaper or visit OfficeDepot.com and click on "Weekly Specials" under the "Shop our Stores" heading in the right column of their site.

The prices listed are good until May 31, 2008, but the better the deal is, the higher the chances are that your local store(s) will be out of them. Needless to say, your mileage may and (probably will) vary. But you knew that already.

The special
Any current camera over $200 (excludes clearance and discontinued) gets $50 off and a free digital camera starter kit which includes a carrying case, mini tripod, and cleaning kit. This without rebates.

If you want to do mail-in rebates, you can also get an unspecified Epson printer for free after a $100 mail-in rebate.

The Camera Bargains
Rebel Rebel, are you in-stock? That's what fans of the XSi 450D will be asking Office Depot employees, because the XSi 450D with the EF-S 18-55 IS kit lens is down to $850 because of the $50 off special mentioned above. The lowest price among reputable and recognizable sellers at Amazon is $900. Again, assuming your local Office Depot stores have them in-stock.

So what exactly are the other wacky prices? Let's see, the popular colorful Canon SD-1100-IS is offered at $200, while the current Amazon price is around $220.

The Canon S5 IS is $300, which is $5 to $10 below the best reputable Amazon price. The other hot superzoom, the Panasonic TZ5K is not as hot, since you can get it online for $270 or so, versus $300 at Office Depot.

The lovely Sony W150 goes for $200 at ODP, versus $240 to $250 lowest reputable Amazon price. This has a 5x Carl Zeiss branded optical zoom lens, starting at 30mm. The W170 is the model that starts at 28mm wide and has a 10mp 1/2.3" sensor, versus the 8mp 1/2.5" sensor of the W150. Sony is one of the few companies that has completely staggered their models based on megapixels as their 2008 models start at 7mp 1/2.5" and go to 8mp 1/2.5", 9mp 1/2.5" and 10mp 1/2.33".

Other cameras mentioned in the ad include the Sony Cybershot S730 at $110, versus Amazon's $125, the AA-based Nikon Coolpix L18 at $120 (similar price at Amazon - depending on body color), the Kodak M863 at $130 (versus $134 at Amazon - depending on body color).

All these include the digital camera starter kit (aka trinket kit) mentioned above.

This is what is mentioned in their weekly ad, the actual models carried by your local store(s) and the availability of each model will depend on each local store, so be sure to check with them, in person, by phone, or online.

The Office Depot (ODP) cameras page lists 88 digital cameras, but we are assuming the average store carries a much smaller number.

But wait there's more!
Memory cards are another big sale area, and as always, the better the deal, the lower the chances of finding it in-stock. Same as above, the prices include 4gb Sandisk SDHC or 4gb Ativa (house brand) Compact Flash or 2gb Sandisk Ultra II Memorystick Pro duo for $25. Also 4gb Sandisk MS Pro Duo at $40, 2gb Ativa SD card for $10, and 1gb Kingston SD for $6. All without rebates by the way.

Laptops were another hot item, but these do require mail-in rebates for the lowest prices, which include a nice Toshiba A205-S5843 for $450 after mail-in rebate, and a convertible touchscreen HP TX2000Z for $600 after mail-in rebate, and a Centrino Acer with 3gb memory for $500 after mail-in rebate. Again, the better the price, the lower the chances of finding it in-stock at your local store.

For more on all these, I'm sure there are plenty of discussions at FatWallet, and dozens of other bargain hunting sites.

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