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Thursday, January 17, 2019

How to Safely Buy Photography Gear Online

Amazon listing for Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Buying online is always a risk. Anyone anywhere can list something for sale, and there’s often no recourse should a problem arise. Even big marketplaces like Amazon—with tens of thousands of sellers—aren’t immune to counterfeits and scams. Photographers spend billions every year so they’re an obvious target; let’s look at how to safely buy camera gear online—or at least, buy it as safely as possible.

How Common Is Counterfeit Camera Gear?

Counterfeit camera gear is, if not common, definitely out there. What way it’s counterfeit depends on what exactly it is.

Camera accessories are the most likely thing to be counterfeited. It’s estimated that up to a third of SanDisk memory cards sold are fake. That’s a hell of a lot of counterfeit cards. The reason they’re so common is that SanDisk is a soft target: their cards are super popular (we recommend them here on How-To Geek), and people can fake them by simply by slapping a sticker on a cheap generic card. The fakes have even been sold on Amazon.

RELATED: What SD Card Do I Need for My Camera?

Similarly, Canon has had trouble with counterfeiters manufacturing knockoffs of their flash units, and there have been fake Nikon battery grips. These kind of accessories are a gold mine for fakers because the products work and most people won’t be able to tell the difference. If photos write to the memory card in your camera, why would you question its authenticity? It’s only when the cheap chip inside fails that you might realize you’ve been had.

Amazon listing showing Nikon camera bodies

For larger items like cameras and lenses, the problems are a little more subtle. Cameras are expensive and technically difficult to manufacture, so they’re much harder to clone. Instead, scammers will buy a cheaper camera and change the badges, so it looks like the more expensive model. For example, the Nikon D7100 is similar enough to the significantly more expensive D610 that scammers can cheaply change a body panel and flog the 7100 on for a tidy profit.

Amazon listing showing Canon camera bodies

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