Camera Hacker

Where to buy cameras?

"And finally, I have an issue of POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY which has tons of mail order houses to order from and I have also seen some of these on the web. Is this a safe way to go? I've heard the stories of American versus an International warranty and the possibility of product misrepresentation. Has anyone dealt with ordering a camera through this method? I can't see paying local camera store prices, that would be a crime."

When I first started photography, I tried to order my equipment from the merchant with the lowest advertising price in Popular Photography and PHOTOgraphic magazines. The equipment I wanted to order was a Canon Rebel G kit with body and lens, mini-tripod, etc. The first merchant kept telling me that the advertised price was for a Malaysian made camera body with no warranty. He would rather sell me a U.S. version for an extra cost. I insisted on purchasing the Malaysian made version with the reduced price. Finally, the sales person said they did not have it in stock and ended the call.

The second merchant I called went through the same routine. I insisted again. He finally said "ok". I thought I was going to get my camera for the price I wanted. But the sales person kept asking me if I want extra battery, filter, tripod and so on. I kept saying "no". Once he has gone through the list, he started back at the top with the battery again. At that point it was apparent he was not going to sell the kit to me unless I said "yes" to something. I ended up getting the Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 Macro lens for $50 extra and paid $40 for shipping!

After I got my equipment, I found that the Sigma 28-80mm Macro lens was actually cheaper than the Canon 28-80mm lens that came with the kit. My only comfort was that the Sigma 28-80mm had slightly more features than the Canon lens. Overall, I over-paid by about $100 compared to more reputable stores. Now, that's a crime.

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A very reliable mail order place is B&H. Their prices are reasonably low, generally lower than other honest merchants. They can keep their price low because they purchase in large quantities and they sell tons of equipment every year. B&H's shipping is quite fast (2-3 days) and shipping rates are extremely reasonable. Most of the time, I order exclusively with B&H.

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I have ordered numerous things (photographic and non-photographic) from from Amazon before. An example order consisted of two Polaroid i-Zone Digital and Instant Combo Cameras (See my "Fun Photographic Gift for Children" article) that arrived within a few days. Amazon's on-line ordering process is extremely simple. Plus, there are, at the bottom of every product page, reviews of the product by other consumers. Recently, Amazon has expanded its photographic equipment section. Now it has numerous semi-pro and professional equipment also. In fact, they now carry Adorama inventory on-line as well. I expect them to increase their offering to include more products in the future.

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I have ordered many used lenses from KEH. Many times at very good deals. All the lenses I have received from them come to me in what I feel is brand new condition. Of course, I only order used products with EX or LN designation. But you have to be careful about their prices. Sometimes their used equipment is almost or even more expensive then the same brand new equipment at B&H. If you are careful, there are good deals to be found.

Recently, Adorama and B&H have both started to carry a extensive listing of used equipment on-line. I would check with them as well to compare used prices.

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Adorama is another reliable mail-order camera store. They are in direct competition with B&H. Lately, I have been switching back and forth between these two shops. When one part is unavailable in one, it is generally in stock at the other one. Also, Adorama seems to be beating B&H in price of around $5 per items for anything over a hundred dollars. That might be a considerable amount if a lot of equipment is to be ordered. Of course, they are constantly competing and changing their prices. Therefore, it is wise to do compare prices between these two places.

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