One of the most demanding parts of photography is the expense that comes with it. The ecosystem of camera bodies, lenses and gear is vast and varied. Once you start adding all those expenses up, it can easily eat through your budget. But one of the easiest ways to circumvent the hefty price tags of quality cameras is to buy refurbished.
Not sure about what to look for when buying a refurbished camera? Here’s a helpful guide to help you get started.
Are Refurbished Cameras Worth Buying?
When you’re buying a professionally refurbished camera, the equipment goes through many phases of repair and testing for any defects, along with tedious inspections so the camera is practically like-new when it’s back on the market. Refurbished cameras can help create room in your spending plan to not only get the camera you want, but also the lenses, lights and gear, you need.
What Does “Refurbished” Camera Really Mean?Refurbished items are framed as being the happy medium between used and brand new, but it’s best to understand what the difference is and what potential pitfalls there are to buying refurbished.
Refurbished items are usually a result of:
- The product being a showroom or demo item
- A customer returning it in a fair to like-new condition
- The product arrived at the store with compromised packaging
- The product was initially defective from the manufacturer
That last one is a bit of a worry for most who shop refurbished, as you never know if there’s a fundamental issue with the product and it’s unlikely the reseller will tell you why it was refurbished (though you can always ask!). But rest assured, all items are inspected thoroughly and, if necessary, repaired before they are returned to the store for purchase as refurbished.
Pros and Cons of Buying Refurbished
Refurbishment, when done correctly, can be a great way to buy a quality product with the lifespan of a brand new product. Some of the advantages of buying refurbished include:
- Lower Price: The biggest pro to buying refurbished is the discount off the original price. You can often find items from 10-30% off MSRP, which could translate to hundreds of dollars. You’re essentially getting a “new” item at a substantial discount.
- Warranty is Included: Refurbished items usually come with some type of warranty, including a return-to-manufacturer warranty. That means if there’s anything that isn’t functioning properly, it’s as simple as asking for a return shipping label and you get your money back guaranteed.
You also reduce electronic waste, incentivize manufacturers to create easily serviceable products, and have the warranty as a safety net for any purchase. For anyone looking to have a discounted product that lasts, refurbishment is the way to go.
There’s an argument to be made that the risk of buying refurbished cameras isn’t worth the cost savings that come with them. Some of the drawbacks include:
- Potential Lingering Defects: A downside of buying refurbished is that you can never be totally sure why the item was marked as refurbished to begin with. It could be nothing, or it could be a defect that comes back to bite you. Usually, you only get to look at a few pictures online before deciding to buy. While obvious signs of wear should be shared in the description, it can definitely be a roll of the dice.
- Might Not Include Accessories: In some cases, refurbished cameras may not come with all the original accessories such as battery chargers, usb cables, etc., which means you’ll need to shell out the money to purchase these. This may sway shoppers away from refurbished, but at 10-30% discount, those prices should be covered by the savings and still leave some room for other essentials.
The best way to mitigate these concerns is to only buy your refurbished camera from authorized sellers that offer a warranty and excellent return policy in case anything goes wrong.
Tips on Buying Refurbished Cameras
1. Know The Marketplace
Even before you make the decision of whether or not to go refurbished, you have the equally daunting task of choosing what camera you want. I recommend using Imaging Resource’s camera compare to interactively compare two different cameras. It’s a user-friendly tool that gives clean, easy-to-understand graphics that show what features each camera has and what might work for you.
If you aren’t locked into a specific manufacturer or brand, or just want to get a quick idea of the playing field, check out the current camera deals.
2. Read the Fine Print
To increase your chance of getting a good deal, always read the description of the listing to verify what accessories come with the item. Don’t just assume that since a new kit includes items like a battery, charging cable, etc., that a refurbished kit will also include them.
The most common complaints about refurbished items tend to be that items were not included, despite being listed in the description. Therefore, it’s a good idea to always verify you got everything that was advertised. Opting for a product with a 30-day money-back guarantee is the best way to ensure you don’t end up with a bad case of buyer’s remorse.
3. Use Authorized Sellers
While many online sites sell refurbish cameras, it’s essential to shop from sellers that have authorization from the original manufacturer. This way, you won’t be voiding a potential warranty and can feel confident the refurbished equipment will have gotten the thorough parts and inspection specifications approved by the original manufacturer.
The sellers listed below are all endorsed by the major manufacturers, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon, and Sony. If you find a brand of camera not listed here, make sure to check the manufacturers’ websites as they will offer a list of authorized dealers.
Top Refurbished Camera Dealers
BuyDig is a favorite of camera enthusiasts for its stellar reputation and great deals. It is an excellent spot for home appliances, tv and sound equipment, while also offering consumer and pro cameras at great prices.
With a 90-day warranty, you’ll have a significant safety gap for testing the camera. This site is constantly offering coupons for batch orders so make sure to look at our store page for BuyDig here.
B&H Photo and Video
One of the biggest names in the game, B&H is a safe bet when it comes to buying refurbished as they have a 30-day return-to-manufacturer warranty with relationships with all major camera brands.
B&H is best known for offering great deals on high-end equipment, and your purchase comes with the highest quality customer service and care on the market.
It’s always safest to go right to the source, and the Canon store has a plethora of options for their professional and consumer cameras. On top of that, any refurbished purchase comes with a 1-year warranty!
If you do find a deal on a camera body, make sure to check out their collection of refurbished lenses. Canon has some of the best glass on the market and here is where you can get some of the best prices on it.
Nikon lists almost their entire modern collection refurbished with a 90-day warranty and at least a 10% discount on all listed items. Like Canon, they also have great glass options in the refurbished section, as well as plenty of binoculars if you are looking to bird watch!
While you may find bigger discounts on refurbished items at other stores, the official Nikon store has a bigger selection if you’re looking for something specific.
eBay is a bit more of a wild west when it comes to finding refurbished items. There are big-budget authorized retailers like Adorama who have an eBay shop, as well as single sellers who are just looking to offload their own collection. Someone could list an item as refurbished but it might just be a used camera thats been dusted off recently. You may be able to find some decent deals, but do be cautious about what you are purchasing.
Happy camera hunting! Make sure to look for holiday deals while they last, and if you have something specific in mind make sure to set a deal alert so you don’t miss out!