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The Risks of Gray Market Photography Equipment

Nikon D800 photo
Gray market or authorized reseller? You can't tell by looking - by Nikon

In photography it is frequently tempting to shop around and try to save a few bucks whenever you can. I’m just as guilty as anyone but there’s a risk that goes along with buying from the lowest priced vendor.

If the savings are too steep, you may be getting a product from the so-called “gray market”. Manufactures work with specific importers and distributors in certain regions, called a distribution channel. Gray market products are brand name products sold outside the manufacturer’s distribution channel.

While you will pay more for products through the manufacturer’s distribution channel, there are good reasons to do so. Everything coming into the country through the proper channels are checked to insure that they have the proper cables, manuals, and warranty protection. The importer is also the source for warranty work, telephone technical support, brochures and product documentation which you’re all supposed to be reading.

The important thing to understand here is that the camera may be coming from Nikon, but the warranty service is coming from the importer for your particular country. If your camera comes into the country through another route, the legitimate importer has the right to deny warranty coverage. In addition the manufacturer may limit your ability to obtain firmware updates.

Cameras and the new lenses that are jammed with focusing motors and VR systems today are another product you want to buy through authorized dealers.

Because of gray market pricing, some countries are pushing for advertisements to include whether the vendor is an authorized reseller, but most do not.

The only way you can sometimes spot a gray market product is that the price will be significantly lower and the products will be coming from a vendor you’ve never heard of. Return policies can run from vague to non-existent.

That’s why I deal primarily with two vendors for camera equipment: B&H Photo and Adorama. Lately I’ve included Amazon on that list because their clout in marketplace means they can enforce very generous return policies on their vendors. I know that if there’s something I don’t like about the product, I’ll be able to send it back.

Back in the 80’s aftermarket products were a choice you could make with some confidence when it came to things like manual lenses. These days it’s just not worth it. Stick with the factory distribution channels, pay a little extra to work with the names that have been in business for decades.

2 responses on "The Risks of Gray Market Photography Equipment"

  1. great product! and a great post as well.a good product is worth the price

  2. Hmm that’s really great. This post will surely help a lot of people in buying cameras and other photographic equipment from authorized dealers.

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