Former Gizmodian Brian Lam has a site called The Wirecutter, whose singular goal is to decide which gadgets to buy or not to buy. Today, he looks at a handful of product categories you should wait on before plunking down a stack of cash.
Right now is an awkward time to buy some kinds of electronics. The wise will wait on these types of things.
Wait until when? Mid Year 2012
Why? The 2012 TV lineups should all be reviewed by mid year. Wait until May if you can to see what Samsung's Plasmas are like. For now, the Panasonic ST50 is better than last year's bests, at the price of last year's middle ground. The same kind of goes for blu-ray players and receivers, which haven't been reviewed yet in 2012.
Why? The new one only a few months away! If you think about it, the current model is only a variant on a design that is nearly 2 years old at this point. What's another 5-6 months?
Wait until when? Windows 8 (Fall 2012) and Ivy Bridge (Late Spring 2012)
Why? Intel's new chipset, Ivy Bridge, is going to be more efficient, faster and have better onboard graphics capabilities. Here is everything you need to know about this, and then some. Those laptops should hit sometime in the next month or two, I hear, but don't know for sure. You simply must wait for this significant jump in technology–Especially if you are a Mac User. Also, it would be weird to buy a laptop now with USB 2.0 and not USB 3.0. It doesn't matter but it matters when you're trying to transfer HD and multi megapixel files. There's always the very fast thunderbolt interface, but there aren't many drives like that now. Here's one we like, but in the future, you'll have more choices, and the drives will be better. Also important, after Ivy Bridge: waiting for Windows 8, which will bring with it new laptops already preloaded and sure to run the new, heavier operating system.
Why? DSLRs are great for pros but not really worth it for people who just want something better than a point and shoot. (It is totally reasonable to feel this way because camera phones are occupying the place that $200 point and shoots did and so to justify carrying around a second body, that body has to be very good.) Mirrorless cameras, a still new kind of camera type has interchangeable lenses like DSLRs but in a body only a little larger than a big point and shoot. They're light.
The best low-to-mid-range mirrorless camera is the Sony NEX-5n, which has much better sensor quality than others from olympus and panasonic that use the Micro 4/3 format. It's not perfect, lacking solid manual controls like knobs, and the lens selection is a little thin, but it is packing the equivalent image quality from a $1500 DSLR in a $700 camera. It's astounding. And an astounding deal. It's a disruptive camera, like the 5D mk.2 from Canon was years ago, and like the Canon Powershot S90 point and shoot was, too. (These leaps generally are made by gear with landmark sensors.) The NEX-5N is the perfect camera for someone who has an iPhone and needs to really step it up. This camera belongs on the leader board, but I haven't written it up yet. This is a camera you can safely buy now.
The world of high end mirror less cameras over $1000, which are like micro DSLRs, is a bit more complicated. There's the Fuji X-Pro1, which is big and feels hollow inside. I don't really like the way it feels or the quality of its LCD, even if the photos are nice. There's a new Olympus that looks ok, too. But again Sony is using a much larger sensor than nearly everyone else, and it's NEX-7 is widely lauded as having incredible image potential. It costs $1350 with a lens which is a cost that is nearly double that of the NEX-5n. But the NEX-5n has nearly identical image quality. Why is the NEX-7 twice as much? Because it has a magnesium body, three beefy dials that can be set for various controls and an astoundingly great OLED viewfinder. Worth it.
So why aren't I recommending this camera yet on the leader board? I can't get over the fact that the NEX-7 is a great body that is hobbled by lenses more suitable for a camera half it's price. The only great lens in Sony's lineup is a $1000 f1.8 24mm designed by Carl Zeiss. It's great, but an equivalent lens in the Micro 4/3 format would be like $600. And if you add up those costs, the NEX-7 is more like a $2300 camera. For that kind of money, you can get a used Canon 5D Mark 2, and some decent lens. So, you're really paying for the size of the NEX-7, which isn't to be undervalued, but hey, this is a lot of money to be on the fence about. And I am on the fence. Maybe I'd like to see some great third party lenses come out, or have that zeiss prime dip to $800 before buying one of these.
I am personally going to order a NEX-7 when I get the chance to swallow the money. That's how much I love this camera, after 100 hours of research on mirror less cams. But I am still hesitating because the lens selection is so poor and no Wirecutter recommendation is based on hesitation or doubt–Only a feeling of sureness based on days of research. I don't know yet.