Since we get lots of questions on the show that we don’t have time to answer, I’m going to try to answer some of the common questions here on the blog. And one very common question has to do with who to trust when buying camera gear online or through the mail.

Seen those ads in the back of the photo magazines for incredible prices on the latest DSLR? The photo magazines accept money for camera ads from people who, in my opinion, have very questionable ethics and business practices. They know these companies suffer from massive complaints that often go unanswered, but yet, the magazine publishers take the money anyway.

This leads to confusion. Legitimate retailers like Amazon and Adorama will publish prices that are real. Then when photographers see a price that is hundreds, even thousands of dollars less, they think they’re going to get a good deal somewhere else. They’re not.

So how can you tell? Start here. Go to http://www.resellerratings.com. This site lets consumers share their experiences as customers of these companies. It won’t take you too long to figure out that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Several of you have written to me about Broadway Photo. Rather than give you my opinion, I’ll direct you to BroadwayPhoto. You’ll note that Broadway Photo operates under several names, including A&M Photo World, Regal Camera, Prestige Camera, Preferred Photo, Royal Camera and more. You’ll also see that they have one of the lowest ratings (that means highest customer dissatisfaction) on the ResellerRatings site.

You can research any number of questionable resellers on ResellersRatings and you’ll notice a common theme. Customers of these companies report having been quoted a low price, only to suffer from very high pressure salespeople pushing overpriced, unnecessary accessories. You’ll also see that most of these companies will simply not ever honor the advertised price for the advertised item unless you pay for these accessories, or unless you pay inflated shipping charges.

Many of the stores that advertise the very low prices are located in Brooklyn, NY. The ads make it look like these resellers operate real camera stores. Check out these photos from a photographer who went to the locations listed for several well-known camera retailers who have poor reputations with online consumers.

http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/h0099.htm
http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/h0253.htm

Are these places you’d buy a camera?

The New York Daily News has profiled another of these companies in a story you can find on the NYDailyNews.com website.

To wrap up, here are some things to consider when deciding where to buy your camera.

1. Is the company an authorized reseller? Don’t just take their word for it. Send an email to the manufacturer and ask them. I recently did this as a test and found one out of ten companies representing themselves as authorized resellers for a major camera manufacturer were in fact not.

2. If you’re a USA resident – Is the camera under US warranty? It will be less expensive if it’s not covered by US warranty. There’s nothing wrong with gray market. But if you’re comparing gray market prices to US prices, you need to know. Also know that some manufacturers will only offer warranty service in the USA if the camera has a US warranty.

3. Is the camera new-never opened, new returned, a floor demo, refurbed, or used? You may decide to purchase any camera regardless of the answer, but again, the answer should impact the price. Starting from new to used, the price should decrease.

4. Does the camera come with all the manufacturer’s included parts like battery, charger, documentation, strap, etc.? Many of the shady resellers will charge you extra for these items. Don’t fall for it. The manufacturer intends for these items to be included in the original box and at the retail price.

5. How does the reseller rank on resellerratings.com?

6. What sort of reputation does the company have with friends and family?

7. Does the price differ from other mainstream resellers significantly and if so, why? This is a red flag. Cameras typically have a small margin. If someone is selling a camera for 20% less than the competition, the reseller warrants close examination.

Finally – always pay with a credit card if possible. Don’t use a debit card. You have fewer protections with a debit card. Credit cards typically offer some sort of fraud protection. Don’t ever send cash or wire money and resist sending checks and money orders to companies you have never heard of or never dealt with.

At the end of the day, the big, well-known, online resellers are usually your best bet. If you get cheated out of thousands of dollars trying to save a few hundred, you’re not better off.

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Sponsored by the Amazon Digital SLR Store – Cameras, lenses, accessories and everything else.

Join the conversation! 20 Comments

  1. I ordered a Canon G9 from BroadwayPhoto.com, and upon calling the company to confirm my order, I found out that the camera advertised online was in fact manufactured for the japanese market (all in japanese symbols) the American version was $70 more. Eventually i went to best buy. don’t waste your time, I won’t any longer!

  2. I ordered a Canon G9 from BroadwayPhoto.com, and upon calling the company to confirm my order, I found out that the camera advertised online was in fact manufactured for the japanese market (all in japanese symbols) the American version was $70 more. Eventually i went to best buy. don’t waste your time, I won’t any longer!

  3. When looking at the different seller rating sites, one thing I observed is that with reputable retailers their “price” score is usually lower or equal to their other scores (eg customer service, etc).

    With (much) less than reputable dealers, their “price” score is often higher (sometimes much higher) than all their other scores (eg customer service, etc). So this is a potential red-flag rule of thumb.

  4. When looking at the different seller rating sites, one thing I observed is that with reputable retailers their “price” score is usually lower or equal to their other scores (eg customer service, etc).

    With (much) less than reputable dealers, their “price” score is often higher (sometimes much higher) than all their other scores (eg customer service, etc). So this is a potential red-flag rule of thumb.

  5. Also know what it is you are buying.
    With camera companies naming the different models so close to each other, make sure you are getting the model you want.

    There is a difference between the Nikon D40 and D40x, D2X, D2Xs, and the there are multiple versions of the Canon Rebel on the market.

    Older cameras are often cheaper than the new models.

  6. Also know what it is you are buying.
    With camera companies naming the different models so close to each other, make sure you are getting the model you want.

    There is a difference between the Nikon D40 and D40x, D2X, D2Xs, and the there are multiple versions of the Canon Rebel on the market.

    Older cameras are often cheaper than the new models.

  7. This is very timely and sage advice. The search engines are also flooded with supposed great prices from “shady” dealers.

    My son was looking to purchase a high end camcorder for his startup production company.

    He mentioned a particular model that a couple places had for thousands below the normal price.

    I had to break the news to him that this was essentially a scam and he would not really be able to get the camera for that kind of price. Aside from the ridiculous price the fact that you don’t get a battery nor manual unless you buy a package is a dead giveaway that you are probably getting scammed in some way.

    I’m glad he mentioned it to me before he attempted the purchase.

  8. This is very timely and sage advice. The search engines are also flooded with supposed great prices from “shady” dealers.

    My son was looking to purchase a high end camcorder for his startup production company.

    He mentioned a particular model that a couple places had for thousands below the normal price.

    I had to break the news to him that this was essentially a scam and he would not really be able to get the camera for that kind of price. Aside from the ridiculous price the fact that you don’t get a battery nor manual unless you buy a package is a dead giveaway that you are probably getting scammed in some way.

    I’m glad he mentioned it to me before he attempted the purchase.

  9. I too am frustrated with seeing these ads in back of many of my photography magazines. These are supposed to be trusted sources of photography news and reviews. I understand it takes money to publish a magazine and keep the cost to subscribers down but is it worth the cost of your readers’ trust? At least they put it at the end of the magazine most of the time…

  10. I too am frustrated with seeing these ads in back of many of my photography magazines. These are supposed to be trusted sources of photography news and reviews. I understand it takes money to publish a magazine and keep the cost to subscribers down but is it worth the cost of your readers’ trust? At least they put it at the end of the magazine most of the time…

  11. True Story. I read this article on TWIP and knew that my friend was moments away from buying a Canon 40D from bestpricecameras.com. Told him to read the article and research that site. He got my e-mail just as he was putting the 40D in the “cart” to checkout, but hadn’t hit purchase yet!! He pulled the order after reading the huge amount of bad customer reviews.
    MAN..that was close. Thanks for the extremely timely article and research advice!

  12. True Story. I read this article on TWIP and knew that my friend was moments away from buying a Canon 40D from bestpricecameras.com. Told him to read the article and research that site. He got my e-mail just as he was putting the 40D in the “cart” to checkout, but hadn’t hit purchase yet!! He pulled the order after reading the huge amount of bad customer reviews.
    MAN..that was close. Thanks for the extremely timely article and research advice!

  13. So what happens exactly with these type places (bestpricecameras.com)?? They seem to offer everything you need with the camera. Do they just not bother to ship it?

  14. So what happens exactly with these type places (bestpricecameras.com)?? They seem to offer everything you need with the camera. Do they just not bother to ship it?

  15. Thanks Scott. Here is my experience. I recently went to buy a Nikon D300 body and lens. Did some searching around on the web and found SonicCameras.com. So, I did a little research, and although they didn’t have the highest marks, they weren’t the lowest, so, I thought, I have visa protection, I’ll go ahead and buy it. I did the norm. Called three days later, the guy said they were trying check my visa for fraud. They said the camera was ready to go. So, I ordered it. Hadn’t heard anything back for a week and a half. Called them back and – wow, it is on backorder, BUT they have a different model sitting right there and it is only $200.00 more. So, after listening to the sales pitch, seemed like the camera I ordered was a Japanese version (plastic frame, plastic lenses etc.) NO WHERE did it say this. I just told them to go ahead and cancel it since they then told me it was still 3 weeks out!

  16. Thanks Scott. Here is my experience. I recently went to buy a Nikon D300 body and lens. Did some searching around on the web and found SonicCameras.com. So, I did a little research, and although they didn’t have the highest marks, they weren’t the lowest, so, I thought, I have visa protection, I’ll go ahead and buy it. I did the norm. Called three days later, the guy said they were trying check my visa for fraud. They said the camera was ready to go. So, I ordered it. Hadn’t heard anything back for a week and a half. Called them back and – wow, it is on backorder, BUT they have a different model sitting right there and it is only $200.00 more. So, after listening to the sales pitch, seemed like the camera I ordered was a Japanese version (plastic frame, plastic lenses etc.) NO WHERE did it say this. I just told them to go ahead and cancel it since they then told me it was still 3 weeks out!

  17. I dodged a bullet on this one. Last year I ordered a Canon XTi for what was supposed to be a great deal. Immediately after clicking the buy button, those red lights began to go off in my head. Research revealed to me what a mistake I just made. To remedy the situation, I called their order line and told them I just placed an order, but my boss saw the great deals and wants to order stuff, too, so please cancel my order and I’ll start over. It worked. Shwew.

  18. I dodged a bullet on this one. Last year I ordered a Canon XTi for what was supposed to be a great deal. Immediately after clicking the buy button, those red lights began to go off in my head. Research revealed to me what a mistake I just made. To remedy the situation, I called their order line and told them I just placed an order, but my boss saw the great deals and wants to order stuff, too, so please cancel my order and I’ll start over. It worked. Shwew.

  19. This is FYI only – a lot of these Brooklyn scam photo sites like Broadway Photo are run by certain sub-sects of Hassidic Jews. Some of the Hassidic sub-sects believe it is ok to cheat non-Hassidic Jews and non-Jews alike because those sectants believe they are above them.

    This goes against everything mainstream Judaism teaches – cheating people (Jews or non-Jews) is wrong, period. In fact they are committing a grave sin – hillul Hashem, or desecrating G-d’s name (when Jews behave in a manner that makes non-Jews think badly of them they are desecrating G-d’s name). This situation is similar to how some Fundamentalist Mormon sects believe it’s ok to marry 14 year old girls while most of the Mormons would agree it is not.

    My point is don’t think bad about all Jews if you got burned by these crooks.. and don’t ever buy anything from them.

  20. This is FYI only – a lot of these Brooklyn scam photo sites like Broadway Photo are run by certain sub-sects of Hassidic Jews. Some of the Hassidic sub-sects believe it is ok to cheat non-Hassidic Jews and non-Jews alike because those sectants believe they are above them.

    This goes against everything mainstream Judaism teaches – cheating people (Jews or non-Jews) is wrong, period. In fact they are committing a grave sin – hillul Hashem, or desecrating G-d’s name (when Jews behave in a manner that makes non-Jews think badly of them they are desecrating G-d’s name). This situation is similar to how some Fundamentalist Mormon sects believe it’s ok to marry 14 year old girls while most of the Mormons would agree it is not.

    My point is don’t think bad about all Jews if you got burned by these crooks.. and don’t ever buy anything from them.

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