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PSA: A Lesson in Grey Market Camera Equipment

Ever see those amazing deals on gear on eBay? The deals that make you want to buy a piece of gear right there and then? It’s probably grey market camera equipment, and buying them just got a bit more risky. But what exactly is a grey market product other than the typical cost savings? In the most simple form, grey market is any product that is not imported through a country/regions authorized distributor and sold through an authorized retailer. Authorized distributors are companies that enter a contract with the manufacture and adhere to certain standards, ranging from how they advertise the product, the pricing structure, and in some cases the number they are able to sell within a country. These distributors then sell to retailers within the country. Grey market sellers skip the middleman, avoiding the customs, duty and taxes and selling at a substantial discount.

In the past few years the grey market photography gear has become an issue for many manufactures, especially when it comes to warranty repairs. In many cases the products are no different than if they came from an authorized distributor/retailer but there are numerous reports of people buying camera’s online thinking it was one camera model only to find out it was a lower end camera with a higher end body covering it (checkout this PetaPixel article on one buyers experience). There are also a number of reports of people buying grey market gear thinking the gear was new, only to find out it was a used or refurbished. In some cases manufactures will repair these products, others will just flat out reject it and send it back, unfortunately there really isn’t any way to tell what they will do.

In January of this year, Sigma added a small mention about grey market products on their service and support page.

“As of January 1, 2017, any product that is not imported by the Sigma Corporation of America or purchased from an unauthorized Sigma USA Dealer will not be serviced under warranty regardless of the service required. The Sigma Corporation of America Service department will service these products for a minimum $250 charge in addition to the required parts and labor charges at the owner’s expense.”

So if your thinking of buying a grey market product, you may want to think twice, I’m sure this is not the last company that will add a grey market clause. But if you are set on buying a grey market product, make sure you buy from a reputable online dealer who offers their own warranty support.