Where should I buy my new camera from?

As a follow up post to my which camera should I buy post, I thought it might be a good idea to give some tips as to where to buy that camera, now that you’ve decided what you want to get.

Nikon D90 Pr0n

These are some simple tips that I use when I want to buy camera gear. There are lots of factors that can sway where you should buy so hopefully this list will give you a few pointers.

  • ask your friends first
    Seems simple enough but camera gear, like computer gear is constantly changing and your friends may want to upgrade so you could score a deal on their used, but still awesome gear.
  • buy your gear in the country you live in
    Sure, Amazon or Costco in the US has a better deal on that DSLR than what you can get in Canada, but keep in mind many camera companies don’t have worldwide warranties. If you need service, you may need to send the camera back to the country it was sold in for service. You’ll have to weigh the cost/benefit of saving some money on the upfront purchase versus dealing with cross border issues if you have a problem – for me, my DSLR camera bodies are bought at home but I’m open to deals anywhere for lenses or smaller accessories
  • If you decide to cross a border to get a deal, know your options
    Did you know that Oregon has no sales tax? So if you bought say a fisheye lens back when the Canadian dollar was at par, you’d save a ton of money in the deal in taxes and exchange.
  • Staying within Canada, consider buying online from places in another province
    I like Henry’s since they only charge sales tax in Ontario. Plus they sell Apple products and quite often have free shipping promotions. Alberta also doesn’t have provincial sales tax.
  • Don’t be afraid to pricematch
    Many big stores these days have some kind of pricematching scheme with their competitors – find a deal at one place and if you’re lucky, another place will have a “We’ll beat competitor’s price by X% deal” where you can potentially get 5-15% more off the sale price if you play your cards right
  • What about big chain versus small camera store?
    That’s a little tougher to answer. Generally you’ll get way better service at the smaller camera store but their prices are usually higher. Big chain stores tend not to have the variety of gear that the smaller stores do and again, like electronic and computer items, generally don’t have the knowledgeable sales staff. Supporting the little guy is always preferred but sometimes the mighty dollar wins the day. Many smaller places also offer some bonuses that the big guys don’t like free classes (instore) on how to use your new purchase for example.
  • Price protection
    Like pricematching, be sure to find out if the store you decide to buy from has some for of price protection. It’s not uncommon for the big chain stores to have sales that rotate during a month. So you buy the camera one week and then two weeks later it’s on sale for $100s off – as long as you have the receipt, you should be able to get that cash back. Be diligent, even after you’ve made your purchase to check the flyers…at least until the window of opportunity closes
  • What about eBay and Craigslist?
    If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I buy a lot of gear from eBay – usually it’s offshore, sometimes its knockoff but it’s always cheap(er). It really depends on what you’re looking for. Personally, I don’t like buying camera gear second hand due to it’s delicate nature – you don’t know how many times that lens has been dropped. But for other things like cables, filters, etc, go crazy. If nothing else, eBay is usually a great resource to get more information about something you’re interested in as many of the sellers have incredibly detailed listings that answers questions the manufacturers websites don’t always.
  • Buy with a credit card
    No matter where you buy it from, use a credit card, preferably you have one that extends the warranty (usually doubling the manufacturers warranty) and one that protects your purchase right out of the gate from theft or damage. If you buy online, this also protects you from scams although you probably won’t have a choice but to pay via credit card online (avoid PayPal if possible as you won’t have the same level of protection as you get with a credit card). Check the fine print or call your card provider to know what your card entitles you to. My experience with extended warranties via credit card has been excellent although it was for a computer repair, not camera gear.

Hopefully these tips help you have an awesome buying experience getting your new gear!

UPDATE: John Goldsmith (aka Waxy Poetic) reminded me on Twitter about PhotoPrice.ca which shows you the current prices on just about every piece of camera gear you’d want to buy…including US prices from a number of locations. Check there first!


  1. tyfn says:

    You always have great tips to share via twitter. Glad I got to talk to you about camera stuff last week. Thanks for the additional useful suggestions.

  2. Tyler Ingram says:

    Good tips!
    I’ve had hit and miss with small shops having good customer service. Perhaps I look dumb or something but they never seem to be generally happy to answer my questions or offer solutions when I ask. Who knows, if that one place over on Broadway *cough* was nicer, I would have probably bought my last purchase there. $2300 would have looked nice on their sales sheet ;) Oh well, guess sales people are still somewhat sharky!

  3. John says:

    Tyfn: always good to to talk to you!

    Tyler: yeah, there is still somewhat of a snobish feel to some of the smaller shops. Most people will vote with their wallets, like you did, if they get rubbed the wrong way in the store. It also really depends on the person asking the questions….hopefully those people looking to buy will be somewhat informed when they actually enter a store because they talked to friends or did their research online. There is pretty much no excuse these days to either put up with the snobbery or be a complete rube in the store. If you’re looking at spending $100s or $1000s on gear, make sure you know what you’re buying.

  4. Jeremy Lim says:

    Funny, someone just asked me how they should buy their new camera. Perfect timing, Sir Biehler! Great post!

  5. JR says:

    Great write up, glad I found it!

    Take a look at a new site dedicated to buying/selling camera equipment. It is an auction marketplace in the photography niche. Similar features as eBay although it offers 10 different payment gateways instead of just PayPal….although Paypal is an option. Also people can customize their own store fronts as well and upload items in bulk just like eBay.

    The best part is it is FREE! Absolutely NO FEES for anything mentioned above or anything else you use the site for.

    If you are looking for something not listed for sale, just add it to the Want Ad section and I suspect it will show up for sale.

    Check it out…. http://www.rutscameras.com

    If you like it please spread the word as the more users the more equipment available and the more money people will save from paying fees!

  6. Robyn Hanson says:

    Invaluable information. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  7. Darren says:

    Great post–bookmarked!

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