Why you should avoid the gray market and buy from your local camera store instead

The last thing anyone wants to hear when contemplating an opportunity to pay an unbelievably low price for high-end merchandise is also usually the most important thing to hear: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

The good news? Great deals on camera gear are available through the proper channels!

What is the gray market?

The “gray market” (“grey” for our overseas readers) is a term that refers to goods that are not necessarily not what you’re looking for, but may be incomplete, altered, or obtained through unofficial channels (selling a camera intended for the Asian market in the USA, for example). These are not counterfeit or stolen goods—that’d be black-market—but they’re never the same as full-priced goods offered by authorized retailers.

What’s wrong with the gray market?

Occasionally you’ll see replacements of components (like batteries) with cheaper, compatible versions, but the most common issue is that of the warranty. Most gray market cameras and lenses have a non-US warranty, meaning that no support will be provided should you run into an issue.

Some manufacturers don’t service equipment at all (whether you pay or not) if it is determined to have been purchased out-of-market or from an unauthorized dealer. We all hope to never deal with service departments, but it sure is nice to have the option available!

Why buy local?

Speaking of having an option available, one big reason to buy from your neighborhood camera store is to keep a camera store in your neighborhood. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a physical nexus for photography enthusiasts nearby, and we’d like to keep serving our communities: education, photo excursions, big-name seminars and more are only possible because there’s someone (us) making it happen. Professional photographer? Being able to talk to the actual people making your prints and working with them to get the exact results you need is priceless. Family archivist? You never have to worry about irreplaceable family albums being lost in the mail when you need them scanned if you can walk them right up to the scanner.

It’s not just a favor to us, though. Contrary to what some may imagine, you’re actually getting a better value at Mike’s Camera than you would from some big-box or “everything” retailer, and it’s the same for most of our fellow independent camera shops.

Not only is price not an issue—we match any authorized dealer, and most internet agencies are no longer exempt from sales tax—but every camera we sell comes with a selection of all those services I mentioned earlier. I’m talkin’ about a free class, free prints, and more in the form of our famous Perfect Picture Pak, plus we’ll be hosting manufacturer-led seminars for all holiday camera buyers in the beginning of 2020.

Box stores may try to woo you with filler bonuses like a cheap bag or a memory card you hope won’t fail, but I guarantee that what you learn in your class and the wall art you make will last a lot longer than a bottle of lens-cleaning solution.

Hope to see you soon! Click here for a list of our locations, and keep watching this blog for photo challenges, how-tos, and the latest news in a fun and exciting industry.

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