110 Shades of Grey
October 23, 2012 9:46 PM   Subscribe

Is it a good idea to buy a grey-market SLR lens?

I'm going to buy a new lens for my camera, a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G. The cheapest I can get it for in Canada is about $575 once taxes are factored in. B&H has a grey-market version that will come to $465 all told. That's a pretty big price difference (20%) and while I am willing to pay "Canadian price" for it, there are a lot of things I could do with an extra $110.

The Canadian lens will have a 5-year warranty, and the grey-market lens will not have any (B&H will warrant it for 1 year but I'd have to pay for shipping it there and back so I'm not counting on it) so in essence I'd be paying $110 for the warranty. I'm an optimist and am inclined to go without the warranty. Is this a wise thing to do?

What else could go wrong with getting the grey-market lens?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm to Shopping (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Keep in mind that most decent credit cards (Amex, Signature Visa etc.) will extend your warranty by an additional year.
posted by halogen at 10:10 PM on October 23, 2012

posted by krautland at 10:19 PM on October 23, 2012

As the B&H link states, grey market technically means the product wasn't sold through the correct channels. For a large company like B&H, I might trust them with that. I wouldn't trust nearly anyone else- the temptation to sell counterfeit goods as grey market must be huge.

I might even consider it for a non- AF-S lens. There's much less to go wrong. But a lens with an integrated focus motor? That can easily go bad in 5 years. $110 for five years of factory warranty is a pretty good deal.
posted by gjc at 10:46 PM on October 23, 2012

I have the Nikon Nikkor f/1.8 and the thing seems quite solid compared to the Nikon kit zoom lens that came with my camera. I would be surprised if many need that warranty after the first year. Maybe do a little research on the Nikon forums and see if there are lots of complaints, and if not, go for it?
posted by zippy at 11:30 PM on October 23, 2012

I'm not sure of the differences between the policies of Nikon USA (where I am) and Nikon Canada.

As a working photographer I've always bought genuine Nikon USA lenses, and I've owned tons of them over the years. Currently I have about 14, and many are higher end AF-S lenses with internal motors, etc. Call it paranoia, but in my job I feel like it's worth the money over gray market stuff.

However, in 36 years, the only repairs I have ever needed on any lens were due to impact damage or simply hard use, which would not be covered by Nikon's, or presumably B&H's, warranty.

Regardless of whether gray market or legit, if you get a lousy lens (de-centered element, mechanical issue, etc.) it should be apparent that there's a problem the first time or so that you use it. Check it out thoroughly as soon as it's in your hands, and exchange it if there's a problem.

So, if I were you and saving money was important, I'd probably go gray market on this one.

Also, for what it's worth, every Nikon 50mm lens produced in the last 30 years is excellent optically. Especially for relatively current generation lenses, anybody citing one model as being significantly better than the others is engaging in some serious nitpicking pixel peeping.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:01 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that shipping from B&H will also likely ding you with import duty + handling, so that $110 could easily disappear in charges.
posted by scruss at 4:08 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would buy the grey market lens. Not for 5%, but for 20% savings, yeah. B&H is absolutely trustworthy. Most of the things that could go wrong with a lens will be apparent the first day you get it. Does it focus? Does it have any flaws? If not, the lens is likely to last a very long time.

BTW, unless I got the wrong lens Amazon has it for $439 for Americans, no mention of grey market, explicit mention of 4 year warranty. Amazon's camera prices are usually competitive with B&H.
posted by Nelson at 8:35 AM on October 24, 2012

The OP said the B&H price was all-in, so duty and handling are included. The question is this: on any other item you buy would you play a 20% premium for warranty? Probably not. I'd go ahead and get the grey market lens.
posted by reformedjerk at 11:26 AM on October 24, 2012

Ordered it last night. Hopefully there won't be any follow-up AskMe about DIY lens repair.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:02 AM on October 25, 2012

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