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2011 Black Friday Digital Camera Buying Guide

We've combed through all the black Friday deals we could find and picked out the best values for 2011. With some of our best deals already available online, read our breakdown to get a head start on this year's holiday shopping.

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The week of Thanksgiving is now upon us and, like many former retail employees, I will be most thankful that I don't have to get up at 2 AM Friday to prepare for the onslaught that is black Friday. However, for those of you looking to score a deal on a camera this year, we have a breakdown of the best black Friday deals that have been released so far, as well as some advice to help you beat the crowds on the craziest shopping day of the year.

For those of you who haven't engaged in Black Fridays in the past, understand that the big sales are limited in number. These are called "doorbusters," which require you to often lineup as early as midnight on Thanksgiving to guarantee one of a limited number of the product. Most ads will indicate the minimum amount of stock they have for a doorbuster in the ad itself and should hand out a voucher for the product around 2 AM to the first people in line who want them. These vouchers are often good for a set period of time (until say, 10 AM), meaning you can stay warm in your car until the doors open and browse other departments at will.

If you wanted a doorbuster camera, sometimes it helps to find out when the vouchers are good until and then check back in with the store to see if anybody got a voucher and then didn't pick up the product. You'll have to physically go to the store usually, as the phone lines will be a mess for the entire day.

Other than that, check prices ahead of time. Often a black friday deal is not much of a deal at all, especially in tough economic times or with brands you've never heard of. Here we have a list of the biggest deals we could find, including big savings on several of our award-winning cameras from 2011.

Compact Camera Deal of the Year - Canon 100 HS

When the Canon 100 HS cost $179.99, we called it the best value of 2011. On Black Friday that price will drop to $129.99 at many major retailers. It offers a CMOS sensor, speedy shooting for a compact camera, with true-to-life colors and an intuitive menu system. You can read our full review of the camera here, and then check out where you can find the 100 HS on sale this Friday:

B&H - $129, available right now through Wednesday on, with free shipping.

Office Depot - $129.99 w/Free 4GB Memory Card

Office Max - $129.99
Radio Shack - $129.99 (case, 4GB memory, and screen protectors for another $12.99)

Staples - $129.99, with 50% off all regularly priced camera bags

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DSLR Camera Deal of the Year - Nikon D5100

Our overall camera of the year for 2011, the Nikon D5100, is available at BJ's for $849.99 with its 18-55mm kit lens as well as a 55-200mm telephoto lens, Nikon camera bag, and instructional DVD. Given that this camera normally retails for $849.99 with just the 18-55mm kit lens (and it's our second-best DSLR overall, regardless of price) this is one of the better deals available. You will likely need to be a BJ's member to get the savings, however.

Read our full review on the Nikon D5100 for a full breakdown on the camera of the year. BJ's opens up at 7AM Friday, but the ad lists this deal as available online as well while supplies last from Friday to Sunday.

Canon DSLR Deals - Rebel T3 and Rebel T3i

These are definitely the two most packaged cameras in 2011, as nearly every retailer is offering some sort of package with Canon's entry-level DSLRs. The T3 goes for $479 at every retailer while the T3i is available nearly everywhere at $799 for just the basic kit with camera and 18-55mm kit lens. The real separation between stores comes down to bundles and the extras they throw in, which we've listed below. Read up on our full review of the Canon T3 and our review of the Canon T3i to see if these are deals you want to snap up.

Canon Rebel T3i

Best Buy - $799 with 18-55mm kit lens, 8GB memory card, 58mm UV filter, and camera bag; add 75-300mm lens for $100 or 55-250mm IS lens for $150 more. (minimum seven per store)

HHGregg - $799 with 18-55mm kit lens; $979.99 with 55-250mm IS lens, Lowepro all-weather sling bag, and 8GB memory card.

Sears - $799 with 18-55mm kit lens; $879.98 with 75-300mm telephoto lens.

Canon Rebel T3

Best Buy - $479 with 18-55mm kit lens, 8GB memory card, 58mm UV filter, and camera bag; add 75-300mm lens for $100 or 55-250mm IS lens for $150 more. (minimum six per store)

HHGregg - $479 with 18-55mm kit lens; $599 with 75-300mm kit lens, camera bag, and 8GB memory card.
Office Max - $479 with 18-55mm kit lens and Case Logic camera case.

Sears - $479 with 18-55mm kit lens; $579.98 with 75-300mm telephoto lens.

Staples - $479 with 18-55mm kit lens; $99 off of Canon zoom lens (online only), which we assume is the 75-300mm telephoto lens, so it should come to $579.98.

Target - $479 with camera bag.

Walmart - $479 with Canon gadget bag, 4GB memory card, 8x10'' Walmart photo book (Walmart opens at 12:01 Friday morning, much earlier than other stores)

B&H - $488 with 18-55mm kit lens, available right now through Wednesday on with free shipping.

Other Compact Camera Deals

Samsung PL120 - $99 at Kmart (MSRP of $149, our full review available here)

Canon SX150 - $199 at B&H, available online now through Wednesday.

Canon SX40 - $387.99 at B&H, available online now through Wednesday, or for $379 at Office Depot on Friday with free 4GB memory card. Our full review of the SX40, our second-best point & shoot camera, is available here.

Other Interchangeable Lens Camera Deals

Nikon J1 - $799 Bundle with lens and accessories at HHGregg

We reviewed the Nikon J1 this Fall and found it to offer decent performances, though it was a bit overpriced. Black Friday alleviates that concern somewhat, as you can have the J1 and its 10-30mm kit lens with a 30-110mm telephoto lens, case, and 8GB memory card at HHGregg for $799.99. Read our full review on the Nikon J1 to see if this is the deal for you.

Sony NEX-5 - $499 w/ 18-55mm kit lens, $629 with extra lens and accessories at Best Buy

The Sony NEX-5 is a bit older, as it was released in Summer 2010, but it still holds up in our overall rankings as a top-20 camera. With three new models on the market, Sony clearly needs to move stock and the camera's available at a number of retailers. Best Buy has the best deal on the NEX-5, with the camera being sold with kit lens for $499 (around $150 below MSRP), or with a bag, 8GB memory card, and 16mm compact lens for just $629. You'll have to act quickly, as this only comes with a minimum of two per store, so supplies will be limited. Read our full review on the Sony NEX-5 here to see if this is the deal for you.

Olympus E-PM1 - $449 w/ 14-42mm kit lens - on sale now at

We loved the Olympus E-P3, and its compact brother is available on Amazon right now for $449, or about 25% off, in black, brown, silver, and white. Act fast, as this is a weeklong deal and will sell out very soon. We don't have a full review of the E-PM1 yet (it'll be up this week), but it offers great video, fast autofocus, decent image quality, and only really struggled in very low light.

Nikon D3100 Bundle - $799 kit lens, bag, memory card, and extra lens at

This one is a little confusing based on how Walmart structures their sales, but online this lets you select the D3100, a 16GB memory card, one of three SLR bags, and a 55-200mm Nikkor lens for $799. In the black Friday ad itself, this deal does not include the memory card and has one set bag, a Nikon bag that includes the Nikon School instructional DVD. This deal should be available online only during Friday, according to the webpage itself. You can read our full review on the Nikon D3100 and then check out Walmart's online page for this deal.

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