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Camera gear isn’t cheap and buying your camera is just the start for an avid photographer. Choosing and buying new gear online is fairly easy and can save you substantial sums of money over goods bought locally. I’ve bought online with little or no aggravation for several years.

My previous camera and nearly all the kit I have were bought brand new from eBay and saved me substantial sums of money over buying locally. My current camera was bought from a vendor I found via a sponsored link on eBay.

A couple of examples: Nikon’s 50mm f1.4 lens can retail for about $500-$850 locally, but I found it listed on eBay for $359, with free shipping via FedEx, from a seller in Hong Kong that I’ve used several times before. Ted’s Cameras has the Nikon D700 body listed for $3,800, but Digital World International (another Hong Kong vendor) have it listed for $2,530.

Before you buy, research manufacturer and review sites to be sure you know what you’re getting and that it suits your needs. Compare prices both here and internationally to ensure that you are getting good value: it probably won’t be worth buying a lens overseas for the sake of saving $30. Ignore offers of free gifts unless you know that they add real value.

Buying

Start off with a relatively small purchase until you are confident that a vendor is reliable. Buy from vendors that have a lot of buyer feedback and are rated around 97-100% positive.

Ebay and your credit card provider do offer buyer protection, but it is best to avoid getting into that situation in the first place. Read the description carefully and watch out for listing that say things like “Nikon compatible” or “for Canon” as these are often cheap knockoffs.

Tips:

  • Do your research
  • Decide a budget and stick to it
  • Compare prices
  • Purchase the best you can afford
  • Buy when the exchange rate is good
  • Read the seller’s fine print

The Risks

Buying greymarket goods isn’t without risks. Generally, local distributors will not honour a warranty on goods purchased overseas, so if something goes wrong you can be stuck with a potentially steep repair bill.

Do watch out for vendors selling fakes or cheaply-made goods from China. For every great seller on eBay there are probably another five selling goods of poor quality. These are usually camera accessories: complex items such as lenses or cameras are harder to fake.

Returning goods that are faulty or not what you expected can also be a pain as you will usually bear the return shipping costs.

Another thing to watch out for is electrical voltage. Electrical items won’t last long if you plug them into a wall socket with the wrong voltage. Australia’s voltage is 220-240v at 50Hz (Hertz) and we have a specific socket design. American electrical goods have a voltage requirement of 110-120v at 60Hz. Good suppliers will usually include an adapter to match our socket requirements. Battery chargers work fine with an adapter.

Goods entering Australia with a declared value over $1,000 (including shipping) will most likely attract 10% GST and a processing fee, so do the math and work out if the item will cost about the same locally if these charges are added, or be prepared to pay the additional costs. Some vendors will under-declare the value to help avoid these charges, but Customs won’t take kindly to that if detected.

That said, courier companies will normally handle the customs processing upon arrival in Australia and, given the volumes of parcels arriving in the country each day, are likely to take the declared value at, well, face value. Items via mail are more likely to be picked up and incur charges as they are streamed in to the country differently.

If I’ve missed anything let me know. Otherwise, happy shopping!

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Comments on: "Buying Gear Online" (3)

  1. UPDATE: Amended to include a paragraph about electrical voltage.

  2. jpdyno said:

    Good post Chris.

    Some vendors will also mark parcels as a ‘gift’ to avoid the tax,
    Don’t know how that works out if it gets found out though.

    Fake accessories are a huge problem on ebay. I recently bought a couple of filters but did a bit of research into fakes vs real before i purchased, it woiuld be pretty hard to tell without knowing where to look!

    I purchase a lot of stuff from an ebay store called DigitalRev, They offer 14 day no questions asked refunds, but I’ve never needed one. They’ve also got livechat and an Australian phone number for support – which is comforting.

  3. I have used DigitalRev quite frequently too. The other one that I have used a fair bit is HKBNS. I’ve received very good service from both.

    Customs will look closely at items marked ‘gifts’, especially if they are shipping from a business. Not sure how often buyers get nailed for that though: I’ve never asked a vendor to do that and none have offered. I haven’t been slugged duty on anything I’ve ordered from overseas yet!

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