Too good to be true?
March 11, 2008 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Should I avoid discount camera websites?

I've finally chosen a new digital camera to buy (PLEASE don't try to talk me out of it unless you have something within the same price range, it took me a while to finally pick one as it is!), and I want a Canon G9.

However, my next task is to try to get the best deal online. I've found a few sites that price it well under the list price, so is there anything I should be concerned about? Could any of these sites rip me off? Where would you buy it from?
posted by kindle to Technology (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
ResellerRatings is your friend. Look up the store you want to buy from to read other people's experiences with them.
posted by wordsmith at 7:08 PM on March 11, 2008

For instance, the last of your links is for 86th Street Photo and Video. ResellerRating gives it a .21/10 -- not good. One review says,

"This company is aggressively deceptive and actively attempts to scam buyers by low-balling them with great prices. STAY AWAY!!!! If a price is too good to be true, read reviews on an unbiased site before purchasing!!! Thanks for reading and good luck!!!"
posted by wordsmith at 7:11 PM on March 11, 2008

Buy from B&H or Adorama. When it comes to camera gear, if the price is even slightly too good to be true, its almost certainly a scam. Don't be a victim.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:13 PM on March 11, 2008 is your friend.

Camera sellers online are a minefield. The usual tactic is to upsell on accessories, and if you don't buy enough of them to cover their margin, the 'in stock' camera mysteriously becomes backordered; even if you do get your camera, it's likely to be grey-market, stripped of its addons, and perhaps not covered by the US warranty. At least you have the Google for this nowadays: 86th Street is notoriously bent.

Look, there are limits on discounts put in place by the manufacturers to legitimate resellers. You're paying $450 for a new G9, or you're asking for trouble.
posted by holgate at 7:14 PM on March 11, 2008

Ditto B&H and Adorama ... also consider Calumet. Retail camera sales is an exact science and you will most likely get screwed if you try to get a deal with a shady shop.
posted by gyusan at 7:20 PM on March 11, 2008

Let me reiterate: "discount camera places" tend to be scams. is your friend. Really.

I just buy from B&H most of the time. Sure, they're a bit pricier, but they're a known quantity.
posted by Alterscape at 7:20 PM on March 11, 2008

Just to add: the dodgy websites are just an extension of the dodgy shops -- generally in NYC -- that used to advertise deep discounts in the back of photo magazines.

The bait-and-switch is almost always the same: you order, they call you back for 'confirmation' and try to sell you overpriced accessories (memory cards, batteries) that ought to be part of the package, and if you don't buy, they stick your order in limbo. And what generally happens is that after too many scams, an operation goes out of business or adopts a new DBA name, distancing it from negative feedback until enough people get burned and post reviews of the new operation.

(I think there's a database of scuzzy Brooklyn shops and their parent companies on one of the photography websites, but I can't find it right now.)
posted by holgate at 7:24 PM on March 11, 2008

I've had very good experience with J&R ( and they guarantee the lowest price on the web.
posted by winston at 7:36 PM on March 11, 2008

You could try KEH. They seems to have a few G9s and one used in LN- (They have a little chart explaining their grading, they say their new merch comes w/ USA warranties).

I've never bought anything from them, I like to buy new digital stuff, but I've seen 2 old film cameras people have bought from them and they were in good shape and they didn't mention any up-selling buying experiences.

Others may post some negative reviews of KEH after I post this, so you may want to sit tight till someone gives a second opinion of them. Their reseller rating seems OK.
posted by JulianDay at 7:38 PM on March 11, 2008

KEH is reputable, yes. J&R, well, don't give them your real e-mail address, they do sell it (or at least they used to), but I've never had any trouble with orders I've placed there. B&H and Adorama are the other big New York photo places.

You might check; right now they have a promotion where you can get $50 off your order if you open a new "Revolution" credit account. They don't stock the G9 themselves, but resell it from OneCall (which is also a reputable store), but I think you can still get the $50 off by ordering it through their site. That would make the camera $399.99 with free shipping, which seems pretty competitive.

Don't forget to start your shopping trip at Ebates or another rebates site; offers another 1% ($4) back that way. (If you don't already have an Ebates account, click this link and you will get a $10 bonus. Note, that's a referral link -- I get a bonus too.)
posted by kindall at 7:56 PM on March 11, 2008

@JulianDay: I've bought a few lenses from KEH and they all arrived exactly as described in a decent amount of time.
posted by sjl7678 at 8:12 PM on March 11, 2008

Check the company that you want to buy from: Lineage of scuzzy camera shops in Brooklyn I think this is the link that holgate was looking for.

Also, read the thread in a relatively recent discussion in ">The Consumerist and in particular, read the raders' (and unhappy customers') comments.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:22 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Consumerist thread
posted by seawallrunner at 8:22 PM on March 11, 2008

Nthing B&H. Amazon or TigerDirect/NewEgg may also have a lower price. Any price lower than these retailers, who buy in massive bulk, will be a giant ripoff.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:31 PM on March 11, 2008

Best answer: Look for the best price (including tax and shipping) from Adorama, B&H, Amazon, J&R, Ritz. You won't save more than 10-15 dollars buying it anywhere else, so you might as well go with a reputable vendor that is guaranteed to not rip you off.
posted by qvtqht at 8:32 PM on March 11, 2008

KEH, Adorama, or B&H Photo and Video, in that order. NewEgg, too, if they've got it... but they probably won't. Calumet is terribly overpriced, but they're on the level.

Everyone else is suspect. Abe's of Maine doubly so.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:29 PM on March 11, 2008

I was actually thinking of Don Wiss's shopfront page, but Shedding Some Light is very good indeed.

It really is such a different market to, say, computer bits or cellphones, where you will find grey market stuff, but aren't likely to be upsold and bullshitted in the same way. And it's a practice that has just morphed to the online world, where a shiny web frontend disguises a maildrop, apartment or hole-in-the-wall address the same way that a well-designed print ad once did.
posted by holgate at 9:40 PM on March 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys, now I have some safe websites to do price comparison with. Everyone's answers were very helpful!
posted by kindle at 10:09 PM on March 11, 2008

I have purchased two prosumer digital SLRs on discount websites- I don't remember which sites, but both time I've gotten a price 25 to 35% below the other sites. Both cameras have gone back to Nikon (they're both Nikon bodies) for various things and Nikon has had no problem with them (e.g. not grey market), the retailer quickly responded to inquiries and shipped immediately.

Buy with your credit card and I believe most major credit card retailers will protect you from fraud- even dissatisfaction! My AmEx card allows me to return items to them that I don't like up to $1500 a year in the first 90 days if I don't like the product.

Anyway, just anecdotal experience! Good luck with your camera buying experience.
posted by arnicae at 10:56 PM on March 11, 2008

Another online retailer worth looking into is BuyDig. I have bought a Canon Rebel XT and an Epson printer from them. Have had nothing but good experiences. Their prices are usually pretty good and they were most certainly on the level.
posted by arishaun at 12:37 AM on March 12, 2008

At the end of 2007 I replaced $6000 worth of camera bodies and got a great deal from Roberts Imaging. The items I bought were in short supply nationwide at the time but Roberts had them when others did not.

This company has a high percentage of professional customers, and the sales force really knows its stuff.

I'll be making future purchases from them. I have no affiliation other than being a very staisfied customer.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:41 AM on March 12, 2008

A few people over at Fred Miranda's forums recommended Robert's Imaging as well.
posted by Silvertree at 6:12 AM on March 12, 2008

From personal experience, the discount camera site I tried behaved exactly as some have suggested. They had the lowest price by far, so I went ahead and ordered online. Then I got the "Call in to confirm your order" email. I called in, and they tried to "upgrade" me. I stuck by my guns and refused any upgrades/add-ons. The guy finally told me that he hoped I could read Chinese, because this was the Asian version of the camera and the menus were all in Chinese.

Luckily, he let me cancel my order.
posted by jerryg99 at 8:14 AM on March 12, 2008

I've bought a few lenses from KEH and they all arrived exactly as described in a decent amount of time.

One thing to watch for with used stuff from KEH. When they say "exactly as described", they mean it. If it doesn't say "includes lens caps", you aren't getting them. Or camera straps, or any other little accessory that are kind of convenient when you buy them for real. Not a big deal, but an annoyance.
posted by smackfu at 12:43 PM on March 12, 2008

Nthing the camera store suggestions above. B&H, Adorama (though they have tried to push accessories on me in the past), Roberts Imaging, and I've also heard decent things about 17th Street Photo.

Oh, and New Egg DOES have the G9, and it is $10 less than B&H, and $7.88 for 3-day shipping. You probably won't find a better legitimate deal than that, unless Canon starts a mail-in rebate campaign. I bought my Digital Rebel XTi from them over a year ago (again they had the best deal out of any non-shady business) and buy computer equipment from frequently, so they have my vote of confidence.

The G9 is a great camera. For that money though, you could get a Digital Rebel XT. Megapixels aren't the only thing that counts, and though it is two models back in the Digital Rebel line now, the XT is still a great camera (and probably closer to what you were originally looking for anyway). The 8MP sensor in it is a larger (22.2mm x 14.8mm) CMOS as compared to the smaller (about 7.6mm x 5.7mm) CCD in the G9, and produces better quality images overall. Of course, you'll only start with the 18-55mm zoom lens on the Digital Rebel XT, but at least there is the option for changing lenses. If you ever upgrade the body, the lenses you purchase should be compatible with it as well. Here is a side-by-side feature comparison of the two on DPreview. Note that there are links to their in-depth reviews of both cameras at the top of each column; there is a wealth of information there for both models.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 2:28 PM on March 12, 2008

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