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Safely Buying Photography Gear Online



  Amazon listing for Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Buying online is always a risk. Anyone can offer anything for sale, and in the case of a problem there is often no recourse. Even large marketplaces like Amazon – with tens of thousands of sellers ̵

1; are not immune to counterfeiting and fraud. Photographers spend billions every year and are therefore an obvious target. Let's take a look at how to safely buy camera equipment online – or at least buy it as safely as possible.

How common is counterfeit camera equipment?

Counterfeit camera equipment is, although not common, definitely on the market. The way it is faked depends on what exactly it is.

Camera accessories are most likely fake. It is estimated that up to one-third of SanDisk memory cards sold are counterfeit. That's a damn lot of fake cards. The reason why they are so common is that SanDisk is a soft target: their cards are very popular (we recommend them here on how-to-geek), and people can fake them by simply putting a sticker on one beat cheap generic card. The fakes have even been sold on Amazon.

CONNECTED: What SD card do I need for my camera?

Similarly, Canon had problems with counterfeiters who rip off their flash units, and there were fake Nikon battery handles. This type of accessory is a goldmine for cheaters because the products work and most people can not tell the difference. If photos are written to your camera's memory card, why would you question the authenticity? Only if the cheap chip fails, you might find that you have been had.

 Amazon List of Nikon Camera Housings

For larger objects such as cameras and lenses, the problems are slightly larger subtle Cameras are expensive and technically difficult to manufacture, making them much harder to clone. Instead, scammers buy a cheaper camera and change the badges, so it looks like the more expensive model. For example, the Nikon D7100 is so similar to the much more expensive D610 that scammers can inexpensively change a body plate and beat the 7100 for a decent profit.

 Amazon Collection Showing Canon Camera Body [19659005] You also need to be wary of gray market imports. In the best cases, the seller buys the camera cheaper abroad, imports it somewhat doubtfully and then sells it at a price that is still below the EIA. There is no guarantee and the camera manufacturer can questionably check if it needs repair at any time, but you will get a brand new camera with a cut rate.

In other cases you will end up with a camera that has been stolen. Sellers usually change or hide the serial number on the body so you can not easily check it. If something goes wrong, you will not notice.

RELATED: How to Check the Serial Number on Your Camera Equipment

Things to Watch

There are many red flags that can lead you to a fake or otherwise dodgy listing. Some of the most important are:

  • A price too good to be true. Cameras are expensive, and if the vendor is overboard, there is so little they can go.
  • If the camera or equipment is offered without a box, manual or warranty, there is probably something wrong. It could be a real gray market import, or it could be something more.
  • If there are many bad reviews on the product, bad reviews on the seller's other products, or good reviews that look fake, that's a cause for concern.
  • If you buy from Amazon and the product is listed as "Fulfilled by Amazon," it means that a third party is using Amazon's marketplace to handle the packaging and posting, but not the ones I sell to you. The products of Amazon products are known to be ripe with counterfeits and counterfeits.
  • If the listing is written in poor English, there are some simple misspellings or the photos do not look as if they came from a multi-million dollar marketing department

CONNECTION: How to avoid fake and Fraudulent Amazon Sellers

Buy a Local Gadget or Serious Store

While You Buy All Your Camera Equipment at Amazon This is something we can not recommend, at least until they have resolved their counterfeiting and counterfeiting issues. For the sake of fairness, in one of the articles I link to above, where someone bought something wrong from Amazon, the company has reimbursed or otherwise made things right, but it's just no trouble with that you want to cope with.

The best thing to do is buy from a local camera store. Many of them have online stores and will be happy to help. Prices are not likely to be as low as Amazon, but you can rest assured that they will not be demolished. Especially for items with large tickets, the camera shop staff may have the option of offering discounts, giving you free stuff, and closing the gap between the list price and Amazon's. The major camera manufacturers also have frequent cash back offers that they can advise you on.

 B & H Photo Home

If you want to buy in an online store with a large selection of even the most niche accessories, then we recommend B & H Photo. They are, for a reason, one of the largest online photo retailers: they sell everything, ship everywhere and have good prices. It gives you a much more consistent experience than buying your camera from Amazon.

Check What You Buy

Even if you're sure that you've bought from a reputable salesman – and especially if you're not – it's worth it if you buy camera equipment you Buy online, it will arrive immediately. Google "How to recognize a fake [whatever you bought]" and verify that your authenticity is. For example, real SanDisk cards have a gray switch and a serial number on the back. Some of the counterfeit cards have a yellow switch and no serial number.

RELATED: How to Make Sure a Camera or Lens Works Properly Before You Buy

You should also do this Check if all holograms are genuine and where they should be, that the labels are safe, aligned and printed correctly and that everything that should be in the box – like the manual and warranty card -.

This is also the case with cameras It is worth checking the number of locks. For a brand new camera, it should be zero (or almost zero); If it is higher, something has expired.

If in doubt, contact the seller and the manufacturer.


The photo market is worth so much money that it is an easy target for scammers. You only have to take the smallest fraction of the smallest portion of 1% of the business in order to earn a serious profit. This means that you as a consumer need to be especially vigilant.


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