In this post I’ll discuss where—and where not—to buy your new digital camera. But first, do your homework and check camera news and review sites.
There are a number of good digital photography news and reviews sites on the Internet. Following are three sites that I find helpful:
- Steve’s DigiCams, run by Steve Sanders, is an outstanding news and reviews site. It allows you to keep up with the latest in digital imaging, focusing on both cameras and accessories. The site contains links to manufacturers and dictionary of terminology.
- Photography Review, part of the Consumer Review Network provides lens reviews, latest in camera and photography news, photo lessons, and forums
- Digital Review is a Canadian news and review site. You’ll find ‘best deals’, and rebates available in Canada.
Where Should I Buy?
Photography is an expensive hobby. So, it’s always tempting to look for the lowest price when purchasing a new camera or accessories. But, unfortunately, there’s a lot of counterfeit gear out there and many retailers mislabel items on their website. So, it’s important to use a little caution when shopping for the latest and greatest camera gear.
Buying locally can be the best option or it can be tough with few choices for the more experienced photographers combined with poor selection and lack of competitive pricing.
- B&H in New York is widely recognized for having the lowest prices on equipment just about anywhere. B&H is often used as the benchmark cost when buying an item. You will have a hard time finding anything lower than what they can offer. Their level of knowledge, professionalism, pricing, and inventory—new and used—can’t be beat and they offer free shipping by courier in the U.S. B&H is choice #1.
- Adorama, also in New York also sells huge volume with low prices and reliable service.
- Froogle, a comparison shopping sites, is useful to establish a good price basis.
- PriceBlink is a browser add-on that let you know if you’re looking at the best price. If not, it will show you where to find the product cheaper. PriceBlink works with IE, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.
Buyer Beware: Avoid Online Scams
Electronics—and digital cameras in particular—are favorite products for unscrupulous sellers. It’s easy to find cameras quoted at hundreds less than list price. Don’t be reeled in by these low prices.
- Reseller Ratings offer first-hand customer accounts of online retailers to highlight the best and help shoppers avoid the rest. Use this site to see real-world ratings of over 20,000 on-line camera stores especially if you see an on-line deal that seems too good to be true. No fee to join.
- Gray market products are intended for sale overseas—not in the U.S. or Canada. They have fallen outside of normal distribution channels and are being imported here by third parties. Gray market products are not necessarily bad. Generally speaking, the quality won’t be any less. The product may just have a different name or badge. And, in most cases, the warranty will NOT be honored. Gray market is called gray since it’s not as bad as black market (illegal imports) but it’s not exactly pure white (authorized from the manufacturer) either.
- eBay and other auction sites should be avoided when buying camera gear. Why? It’s the same as buying from a stranger and you don’t get to see it first and it could be gray market.
- Amazon.com should also be avoided; you’re buying from a stranger and you don’t get to see it first and it could be gray market.
- Refurbished lens could be retail returns or demo units. The manufacturer tests a lens, makes any necessary repairs, and resells it. After the lens has been refurbished, it’s in like-new condition. You’ll probably get a 90-day warranty. Buy only from an authorized reseller; otherwise, you can’t be sure who refurbished it.
So, who can you trust?
In summary, I recommend two options:
- Buy from a local camera store that you’ve known and trusted for some time. If you already buy most of your gear from a local camera store that you’ve known for awhile, then I recommend sticking with them. Sometimes it may cost a little more to buy from them, but the important part is that you’re buying what you think you’re buying (and not some counterfeit version).
- Buy online from Adorama or B&H. Both of these retailers have been selling camera gear since the 1970s, and are used by many professional photographers. I think it’s safe to trust either one of these places.
Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!