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Monday
Jan102011

Best Places to Buy and Sell Camera Gear

Buying Camera Gear

Something I get asked frequently is where to buy camera gear? Here's my take on this...

I buy almost everything I own online.

That makes some people feel very uncomfortable especially when considering shelling out several thousand dollars on professional cameras and lenses. Let's face it, account fraud and identity fraud are two of the hottest topics in the world media lately.

Even still, I'm one of the growing number of consumers leaving brick and mortar businesses in the dust for e-commerce with a deep personal resolve to both save money and make better informed buying decisions.

If you are struggling with trusting the online market, hopefully the guidance provided in this article will inspire and guide you in the direction of making safe online transactions and offer you more alternatives to brick and mortar shops.

My first suggestion is to research your credit cards to determine what fraud protection, if any, is offered with them. Most now come standard with complete fraud protection. In a nutshell, should someone steal your credit card card or credit card card number and use it fraudulently, your bank or credit card company will not hold you accountable for the amount of the loss. Some companies include a small deductible. This might help you to feel at ease more in considering making online transactions.

Why risk purchasing online?

The main reason for me is to save $$$!

Online stores often offer their products are prices that are 5-25% below that of brick and mortar shops. Additionally, many also do not charge sales tax and/or frequently if not always offer free shipping on some or all of the products in their line. It's also much faster for me to compare prices at 10 online stores than at 10 brick and mortar shops and the time that I save price comparing is invaluable to me.

Even when purchasing from American-based online companies, non-American consumers can often realize a significant discount on higher-priced goods even with the added cost of international shipping.

Considerations for making foreign purchases are the currency exchange rate and any applicable foreign transaction surcharge. The currency exchange rates are often made automatically by the credit card companies and vary by company as to the spread. As well, some credit card companies charge a fee, a foreign transaction surcharge, which is typically a percentage of the purchase price which could significantly reduce any realized savings.

The other advantage to purchasing online is making a better educated buying decision.

There are several means to making a better educated purchase online.
One is by researching your camera product on various consumer sites. While Consumer Reports dominated the consumer research space for many years, the online world has opened consumers up to numerous consumer research and advocacy sites. Once such site is cnet.com.

Cnet offers a great deal of information about cameras both compact and dslr in the form of videos, user ratings and categorical Cnet ratings. Here is an example of their review of the Canon 7D dslr.



Dpreview.com is another great resource for researching camera gear especially for those seeking far more technical detail. For example, here's a link to their review of the same camera.

Various online forums also offer a wealth of advice from other photographers that may be more situation specific. Some great examples are Flickr.com and photo.net.

Another means to making a better educated purchase online is by taking advantage of reading user reviews on vendor sites. The four online vendors that I shop with exclusively are: B & H Photo Video, Adorama, Calumet, and Amazon.

Of these four vendors, I get the most benefit from the reviews on B & H and Adorama. Adorama even offers the ability to upload images to reviews that you write to share with other shoppers first-hand accounts of a product's capabilities.

However, when it comes to making an informed decision about buying an expensive camera or camera component, nothing seems to be able to provide the same benefits of actually having that camera or camera component in my hands and using it for the purpose I intend to use it. For this reason, I always prefer to test it out myself first before making a purchase. I do this by renting cameras and camera components from BorrowLenses.com, a great rent-by-mail company that I've now used about a dozen or so times.

lens rental

You might be wondering which of these vendors I use more than others...here's my process:

I buy my underwater housing/gear and Canon gear from B & H and/or Adorama because they have some of the best prices of any reputable vendor. From Canon, that includes camera bodies, compact cameras, lenses, flashes, and anything else made by Canon. I buy my studio products and tripod/monopod gear from Calumet who manufactures their own line of products at high quality and low prices. I buy all non Canon camera products like flash extenders, intervalometers, and memory devices from Amazon.

I've experienced very high customer service when returning goods to all four vendors as well.

I've been asked by people why I don't purchase from any of the lower priced vendors listed on websites like Nextag.com?

I've learned from personal experience that if something is too good to be true...then it is. A few years back I made a purchase from one of those ultra-low price vendors and it back-fired. I got a call from them a few days later indicating that the model that I had purchased was out-of-stock.

Desperate to make a sale they quickly up-sold me into a more expensive unit with an accessory package I'm now sure I didn't need. It was all they had left and came with a "no refunds policy" attached and it all happened very fast. I was stuck and I knew it but what could I do?

I researched this vendor following this incident and learned that this was a common "Bait & Switch" technique used by them and other ultra-low price vendors and that I wasn't the only one who had been duped. I now confidently stay a loyal customer of the four vendors that I listed above partly to avoid blunders like these.

Thinking of buying used?

This can also be a great way to save money. For used gear, I prefer to use Adorama which lists their entire used gear inventory online with a condition rating attached to each item. Adorama conducts a thorough inspection of all incoming used gear before listing it for sale.

I personally tend to stay away from buying used gear directly from photographers via Amazon or FredMiranda.com since I am not able to determine if there is any damage to the component prior to purchasing it. However, I know of several photographers that buy used gear almost exclusively from other photographers via these means. I suppose it depends on your own comfort level toward not having recourse on a larger purchase.

Selling Camera Gear

While buying camera gear directly from photographers isn't necessarily 'my thing', selling it to them certainly is and I prefer to use Amazon.com for this. I like to keep the box I purchase everything in along with any cables, cords, instruction manuals and anything else that came with the product to increase salability. Amazon takes a small cut of the sale but doesn't charge anything to list the product even if it never sells.

FredMiranda.com offers a forum where photographers can buy/sell used gear from each other and I find this to be popular among photogs. The listings are free and resemble Craigslist minus the constant flow of spam and con-artists.

If you're looking for a quick sale, Adorama is the place. A phone call and a visit to the local post office can have your product on the way to an Adorama rep in New York City for a quote. Usually within a week to 10 days, you'll receive your funds.

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