I recently dropped off a couple of my lenses for service at Nikon Canada and observed the risk of buying camera gear from an unapproved vendor.
As I was filling out some paperwork for some warranty work on my 1 Nikon 6.7-13mm, and a repair on a 10-30mm PD zoom (which was not covered by warranty as I bought a used lens), another customer came up to the service counter.
I wasn’t paying that much attention to the actual issue that the other customer was having with his DSLR. Suffice to say that the Nikon Canada service representative was pleasant and professional as she was trying to understand the issue that the customer was having with his camera. My ears did pick up a bit more as the situation progressed.
When it came time to actually enter the camera into Nikon Canada’s service system, the customer presented his receipt for the camera which he had very recently bought online from a vendor in Canada.
As it turned out, the customer had not bought the camera from an approved Nikon dealer and as such the camera was not covered by warranty. The service representative explained this to the customer who seemed to be shocked at the news.
Apparently the customer had bought it online through a well-known online vendor, who he assumed was an approved Nikon dealer and would be the company supplying the camera. Unfortunately his actual invoice was not from that approved online vendor, but from another source that actually shipped the camera to him. As a result Nikon Canada was not able to provide warranty coverage on his DSLR.
The service representative offered to have a repair estimate done on the customer’s DSLR. The customer declined as he wanted to check things out with the online vendor, and left with his camera. Unfortunately this customer made an uninformed purchase decision, perhaps with the original goal of saving some money.
I raise this real-life situation simply to point out that when buying camera gear we need to fully understand what we are buying, and the relationship that the vendor may have, or not have, with the manufacturer.
There are some unscrupulous people and companies out there that misrepresent camera equipment. Sometimes ‘gray market’ cameras are not identified as such and are misrepresented as coming with a full factory warranty. At other times, refurbished gear is misrepresented as being new or being refurbished by the manufacturer when it wasn’t.
Most of us want to get a good deal when we buy camera equipment and we often look for ways to save money. Like most people, I’ve bought new camera gear from manufacturer-approved dealers, direct from manufacturers, and online. I’ve also purchased refurbished gear, and used camera equipment. Before parting with your hard-earned money, it is critical to understand exactly what you are getting.
Most manufacturers will list their approved dealers on their websites. If that information is not on their website they will typically let you know if a particular vendor is an approved dealer if you contact the manufacturer directly.
Warranty terms vary by manufacturer so it is always a good idea to understand them before buying gear. In many cases warranties are not transferable to subsequent owners. If you see ads for used gear that state “3 years of factory warranty still left” don’t accept that at face value. It is very possible that the camera equipment won’t have any warranty coverage once you buy it used.
It is also important to understand the origin of the gear. For example, if you buy ‘gray market’ camera gear (i.e. gear that was imported into your country of residence by a non-approved vendor or distribution channel) you may not be able to get it serviced in your country of residence by the manufacturer. If that gear fails you may be left high and dry, and your only option may be to send it overseas for service. Worst case, it may just be dead with no repair options available to you at all.
It also pays to be careful when buying used camera gear. Last year I bought a used V3 with EVF, grip and a 10-30mm PD kit lens. Before handing over any money I had the current owner provide me with the serial numbers on all of the individual pieces of kit. I then checked these serial numbers through with the manufacturer to make sure that the camera equipment was originally bought through approved channels and was not ‘gray market’. Had it been ‘gray market’ gear I would have walked away. As it turned out the gear was originally purchased through an approved dealer. I was able to meet with the owner, inspect the gear, and finalize the transaction.
Buying refurbished gear can be a good option. You need to make sure that the refurbishing was done by the manufacturer and that it is covered by some kind of warranty. Six to twelve months of warranty is typical with manufacturer refurbished gear. I suggest only buying refurbished gear from an approved dealer, or better yet, you can sometimes buy refurbished equipment directly from the manufacturer. I recently was able to buy a refurbished 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 directly from Nikon Canada. I have confidence that I will not have any issues should that lens require service down the road after it is out of the refurbished warranty period.
Each of us makes our own decisions based on needs, expectations, and available budgets. It is important that we do our homework in advance of buying camera gear to avoid future disappointments.
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