Where to Buy DSLR?

One of the questions that I get asked very often from my readers and friends, is “where should I buy a DSLR from?” While this might seem like a pretty straightforward answer to many of our readers, I still decided to write a quick article about where to buy DSLRs and lenses and why.

This is not about what DSLRs and lenses you should buy and why. If you are looking for detailed information on what DSLR you should choose and why, please read my comprehensive “How to Buy a DSLR Camera” guide. If you are looking for a comparison between point and shoot cameras and DSLRs, then I highly recommend reading Lola’s detailed “DSLR vs Point and Shoot” article.

If you have already made up your mind on what DSLR camera and lens to buy but you are still wondering if you should purchase it online or in a local store, then keep reading, since I might be able to save you some money.

1) Where to buy a DSLR – Local Store or Online/Internet?

There are many different sources of where you could buy DSLR equipment, but I will talk about the two main ones:

  1. A local camera/electronics store
  2. An online Internet store

Obviously, you could also buy a used camera from a friend or a coworker or perhaps grab one for a really good price in a garage sale. But those cases are rare and you would have to decide for yourself if it is worth it. One thing to note – if you buy a used camera or lens, in most cases, the manufacturer’s warranty will NOT transfer to your name.

So, which one is better, a local or an online store? It really depends on a case-by-case basis. Let’s analyze the advantages and disadvantages of both in a little more detail.

1.1) Advantages and disadvantages of a local store

Advantages of a local store:

  1. Helpful staff – a local camera store such as Wolf Camera or Calumet Photo will have qualified sales staff that can help you answer many of your questions about DSLRs, lenses and other accessories (which is not always the case in larger electronics stores such as Best Buy).
  2. You can try before you buy – you can see, touch and even try some of the equipment before you buy it.
  3. Immediate purchase – if the item you are looking for is in stock, you can get it on the same day.
  4. Immediate return/exchange – If anything is wrong with your equipment you can return or exchange it within 14-90 days (depending on store return policy).
  5. Great deals – occasionally, local stores might have great discounts and specials, especially if they need to clear out their shelves or go out of business.
  6. Discounted display items – you might be able to buy a display item at a greatly discounted price.

Disadvantages of a local store:

  1. Commission-based – while having a good salesperson that knows what he/she is talking about might be an advantage, there is also a big possibility that they will try to persuade you to buy an expensive product that you do not necessarily need. They might also try to sell you extra accessories, filters, extended warranty, etc. This is because most sales people, especially in specialized photography stores and large electronics stores, get commissions from sales. So, the more you buy, the more they get.
  2. Higher prices – local stores rarely have good prices on camera gear, since most of what they sell is “MSRP” (manufacturer’s suggested retail price).
  3. Sales tax – you pay sales tax, which can be as high as 12 percent of the total amount.
  4. Buying frenzy – seeing a large selection of gear and accessories, you might become a victim of marketing and spend more money than you intended to before entering the store.

1.2) Advantages and disadvantages of an online store

Advantages of an online store:

  1. Great prices – there is a lot of tough competition on photography gear on the Internet and companies that play on large margins can provide better prices and incentives. There is also a smaller overhead of operating an online business, since there is no need to hire expensive sales people.
  2. Product reviews – online product reviews are another huge advantage, because you can find out what other people think about the product before you buy it. Many online retailers provide the ability to leave comments and rate products, and I always read other people’s comments before making the final purchasing decision.
  3. No sales tax – you don’t pay a sales tax (as long as the store you are buying from is in a different state). While for smaller purchases this might not be a big deal, if you are buying a DSLR or an expensive lens, paying no sales tax will make a huge difference.
  4. Better return/refund policies – some of the specialized online photography stores will have much better return/refund policies and customer support than a local store.

Disadvantages of an online store:

  1. Shipping and insurance charges – while many of the online stores have free shipping on select items, you still have to pay shipping/insurance fees on other items. You have to be extra-cautions about shipping charges, because some companies might advertise a product at a lower price and make it up in shipping charges.
  2. Fraud – unfortunately, the Internet is full of scammers that advertise cameras and lenses at super good prices that will run away with your money and steal your credit card info.
  3. Not immediate – once you place an order, you have to wait for your order to go through and get processed/shipped. Then you have to wait for your package to arrive.
  4. Processing and shipping delays – some companies get so busy with processing online purchases that you order might not be processed for a couple of days, especially during the holiday period. In addition, you might also experience shipping delays due to inclement weather.
  5. Longer return/exchange – if something went wrong with the product you purchased, you would have to RMA it back to the company, then wait for the company to process your RMA and send a replacement unit back, which might take up to two weeks or more.

2) My recommendation

I personally buy everything online, because it is much cheaper. I do not have to pay a sales tax and I can find some amazing deals online that a local store will not be able to match. I usually pay no shipping fees and even if I have to, I know that the online seller is not overcharging me. I do not mind waiting for a couple of days and I know that the companies I deal with are 100% reliable and provide excellent customer support.

In terms of fraud, if you see a deal that sounds too good to be true, do NOT buy it. I have seen too many companies online that will advertise cameras and lenses at half price or less. Photography gear is nothing like regular electronics, where one retailer might have a much different price than another. Most of the photo equipment prices are regulated by the manufacturers. If the price you see is much lower than in any of the websites listed below, you are most likely dealing with a scammer.

Here is the list of verified and reliable online stores that I buy my equipment from:

  1. B&H Photo Video – one of the largest photo/video stores in the world based out of NY. I always use B&H for all of my purchases and use another company only when B&H does not have what I want in stock. Their customer service is superb and I have never had any issues with them.
  2. Adorama – another large online store with excellent customer service and support based out of NY. This is the second best for me and their prices are usually on par with B&H.
  3. Calumet Photo – I bought a few things from them in the past and they proved to be a reliable company.
  4. Amazon – Everybody knows Amazon, because it is a great company with great prices. Be careful about some of their resellers though!
  5. J&R – Another great company based out of NY.

The above companies are all very reliable to work with and I highly recommend them for your photography needs. Please note that most of the above companies also have retail locations in New York and other major cities.

Obviously, an online store might not work out for you if you need something immediately. Another thing you should keep an eye on are specials that happen in local stores every once in a while (Black Friday, holiday specials, etc). I snatched some filters and other camera accessories when a local Wolf Camera store was closing down for good – they were giving up to 75% off. For all other cases you should use an online store, if you want to get the best price.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section below.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Mahsuma
    February 1, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Thanks for a very useful information, Nasim :)! I will definitely use these links while buying camera. Most probably we’re gonna buy it from the US cause it’s indeed much cheaper there. I will ask you some more questions later when we will decide to do it :)

    • February 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm

      Mahsuma, you are most welcome! Let me know when you will be ready to buy one and I will help you out with the selection process :)

  2. 2
    ) shams
    February 1, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I do not trust online shopping anymore :(
    Bought a lens from alibaba.com, never arrived. (it was a scam and because i paid by western union aka sh##t union, never had the money back)
    Bought 16 Gb Sony pen drive from ebay. It was reprogrammed and stopped working after 2 months.
    Got 16 Gb Kingston SDHC memory from Amazon. After taking about 200 photos, it starts misbehaving(does not show images at all).

    They were all cheaper than high street shops but what I earned? Nothing, except extra headache, time waste, anger, disappointment.
    My advice is, if you are in the UK, spend little bit more and buy from high street shops!

    • February 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      Shams, thank you for your feedback! It is unfortunate that you have had such a bad experience with online shopping. That’s why it is important to buy from reliable companies, because they have a reputation to hold and they have excellent customer service.

      As far as your Kingston SDHC card, did you try to format it in the camera? Some people move pictures from memory cards without ever formatting them, which causes issues later. Try it and see if that resolves the problem or not. If it still doesn’t work, then I would contact Kingston to see if they can replace the unit for you.

      • 5
        ) Shams
        February 3, 2010 at 5:42 pm

        Thanks a lot.
        Yes, I did several times. But it did not change anything. It can take around up to 15.5GB data via pc, but only stores about 200 healthy photos. Recently got another two 8GB SDHC’s from jessops store, can’t see any problem on them so far.
        And I do not think Kingston will take responsibility, because I got it from third parties. :(

        • February 5, 2010 at 2:38 am

          Shams, it doesn’t matter whether you bought the memory from a third party – it is still Kingston memory. You should definitely try contacting them!

          A friend of mine recently got himself a brand new replacement card after his old one failed. I think he used it for 2 years…

  3. 7
    ) shams
    February 5, 2010 at 4:03 am

    That sounds good.

    Kingston(US probably) already referred me back to amazon :)
    Warranty was kind of “lifetime” , let’s see what’s gonna happen.

  4. 8
    ) Kasey
    March 15, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    What about extended guarantees? Are they worth the money? I’m a student and can’t cover any equip under homeowners/renters insurance, should I buy individual insurance on the machine? I know I wouldn’t be able to replace the gear if it were stolen/broken.

    • March 18, 2010 at 1:25 am

      Kasey, no extended guarantees are not worth the extra money. The manufacturer warranty is sufficient, so individual insurance is your best option.

  5. 10
    ) Mike
    July 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Nasim, thanks for the pros and cons of local and online stores. Here’s one more thing to consider. My wife and I make an effort to support our local mom and pop stores. As you say, sometimes this does cost a little bit more than the very lowest price from the Internet. But if nobody supports these stores, and they go out of business, you’ll have no place to hold and test equipment, or take it home the same day when you really need something right away.

    • July 29, 2010 at 2:28 am

      Mike, I agree, local camera stores need our support! A bunch of camera stores around Denver got shot down because they were not making any money. Online stores are really killing them!

      Thank you for your feedback!

  6. 12
    ) Cole
    November 17, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Nasim,

    Great site. Just so you are aware, while some online retailers do not collect sales tax, you (the consumer) are responsible for remitting that sales tax to the state when you file your taxes – called a “use tax” when remitted by the consumer. This is true in all states save for Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire and Oregon – these states have no sales tax at all. In fact, Colorado passed a law this year that requires large online retailers like Amazon to send its Colorado based customers statements that show all their purchases for the year so that the individual can more easily pay use/sales tax.

    • November 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      Cole, thank you for pointing this out – I am aware about changes in law that now require us to pay taxes on Internet purchases. This is unfortunate, and I was bummed to find out that Colorado is now making retailers send the paperwork for us to pay taxes. It looks like going forward, I will be making my purchases through a local store instead, since it won’t make a difference in terms of pricing…

      • 14
        ) Cole
        November 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm

        I only just found out about use tax, and it’s actually not a new law. Consumers have been responsible for remitting sales tax that wasn’t collected by the seller since before the internet existed (mail order catalogues). Really it’s a question of who collects and remits the tax, not if it is due. Something I think most people, including myself, didn’t realize.

        • November 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

          Cole, I have been buying stuff from the Internet for years and I had no idea about the “use tax”, thanks for clarifying!

  7. 16
    ) Satyam
    February 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I purchase dslrs from dailydealdigital.com
    Paid over $3600 for 2 dslr camera with kit.
    They said item shipped, i contacted few weeks after that i never recieve my package yet. They said wait one more week then we will see. I called again after week to them , i asked money back. They refuse to do so. I call my credit card company to despute transaction. Now i will never buy reputed products with too low price. For me wallmart $ bestbuy is first choice.

    • February 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Satyam, I am sorry to hear about what happened – that’s why I ALWAYS recommend my readers to buy from trusted sources. Never buy a camera from an online store that has a price much lower than B&H or Adorama, because it is most likely some sort of scam.

  8. 18
    ) angel
    March 20, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I’m from Asia and this will be my first time to shop online for a dslr camera. i have been wanting to buy an olympus e510 but it is not available in local stores since it is an old model. friends told me to look for the model in the internet. i found only one seller who sells a new stock of this model: Star5Electronics. This seller was not part of the list of recommended sellers. But since this is the only one that has a new stock, i would like to know whether you have heard of this seller and whether they have a good reputation. I tried looking for this model in Adorama and J&R, but what they have are used models and I’m not comfortable purchasing these. I would appreciate your advice on this as this will be a big investment on my part. Thanks.

  9. 19
    ) Ross
    August 18, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Very useful information.
    I’m from the UK and i was wondering whether B and H ship to the UK because their prices are generally cheaper than those i have seen in UK based retailers. If they do ship their products, do you think it is worth the hassle of long shipping hours and delivery fees to save the extra money? If so, should i then buy my lenses, accessories overseas if i can save more?
    Thanks
    P.S. I was considering a nikon d5100: Jessops(£525)/ B & H(£455)

  10. 20
    ) Aseel
    October 30, 2011 at 7:12 am

    Hi Nasim and others,

    I have been using point and shoot/mobile phone cameras all this while and wanted to upgrade to an entry level DSLR camera. I have shortlisted the Sony A290 due to a number of reasons.
    Photography is just a new hobby and I don’t want to invest too much. I just like to click pictures of random stuff. Price is my main criteria, and the A290 was the cheapest one I could find. Since the item has become obsolete one local shop is offering a decent deal on their display item.
    They are willing to sell their display item at around 17000 INR (approx. 365 USD)
    The price in other shops and online is about 19000 INR (Approx. 415 USD)
    They are willing to give me a one year shop warranty or a tripod as a freebie.
    The camera looks in decent condition, save a few small scratches in the body and a bit of wear and tear at the grip.
    Since this is a display item I don’t think it might have been used extensively and the lens removed often.
    The camera will come with a 3 year national warranty.
    How do batteries of SLR cameras age, do they have similar life cycles as mobile phone batteries.
    Please advise if i should go ahead and buy it.
    Your suggestions will prove invaluable and might just light the photography bug in me.

    :)
    Thank you,
    Aseel

  11. 21
    ) Elizabeth
    January 20, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    My husband and I have found a camera that would fit our needs. While researching prices, we found a store that is based out of Maryland but also has local stores in the northeast. However, in my research, I found that the company has filed bankruptcy and is closing their stores. This would be the reason for such a low cost in a camera. However, I am a little nervous purchasing an item from a store that is closing. Would you mind sharing your personal opinion? All of the reviews for the company are great and it seems like everyone loved the store, but the stores were just losing out on business.

  12. 22
    ) Hilda
    April 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you so much ! I was looking for reliable websites, I am going to order my camera and lenses from B & H Photo Video :)

  13. 23
    ) Yudi
    April 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I love your website.Its very helpful.You are doing a great Job :-). I have been to ask this, i live in INDIA, so do you think its Ok for Me 2 Buy A DSLR from http://www.bhphotovideo.com,http://www.adorama.com , i want a Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 50 mm 1.8G ( all thanks to you , i have been able to make up my mind for this DSLR & Lens) but i m not sure if i should buy from there or not, because there is issue of Warranty first and then it is a International Order , i m not sure . So Please Guide Me to This !!!:-)

  14. 24
    ) Yudi
    April 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I love your website.Its very helpful.You are doing a great Job :-). I have been meaning to ask this question as i live in INDIA, so do you think its Ok for Me 2 Buy A DSLR from http://www.bhphotovideo.com,http://www.adorama.com , i want a Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 50 mm 1.8G ( all thanks to you , i have been able to make up my mind for this DSLR & Lens) but i m not sure if i should buy from there or not, because there is issue of Warranty first and then it is a International Order , i m not sure . So Please Guide Me to This !!!:-)

  15. 25
    ) Harish
    July 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Hi… Your page is very useful to a guy like me who enters this Photography world. I have a budget of $ 600 – $ 700. which Camera you will suggest from the following options.
    a)Nikon D3200 b) Nikon 5100 c) Canon 550D

    and please explain me why? So that i wont be cheated by retail shop keeper.

  16. 26
    ) gary
    January 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Nasim:

    I will be buying a Nikon D800 and the Nikon Trinity in the near future. Along with other purchases, I will be spending about $10,000.

    I am curious if you or your readers can give me some advice on insurance. I am mostly concerned about theft, especially from a vehicle. I don’t need liability insurance and I can live without damage replacement insurance. I don’t want it to be tied in with my auto or homeowners insurance as a rider, etc.

    Can you give me any suggestions for a reputable company that covers the United States ( I live in Oregon)? Also, can you give me any kind of ballpark figure for reasonable annual insurance premiums for this kind of policy.

    This may be a good subject for an article by you. I know that a lot of people trust your judgment.

  17. 27
    ) shakeela
    January 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Hi there

    Many thanks for your useful article. I stumbled across this article as i was searching for a camera online (after having gone to a store and coming out more confused due to mixed reviews)

    i need a camera for my work as a hair stylist and make up artist – which will include shots in low lighting indoors…however i will also be doing shots outside in the scenery where i will be adjusting background etc ….is there a particular model and make you would recommend?? . your advice would be much appreciated

  18. 28
    ) Madhu Bansal
    March 14, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Hi

    I am thinking of buying Nikon D3200. Just went through ebay.in which has amazing deals lower than any online store on products marked as “new”. Do you think it could be a spam or is it reliable?

  19. 29
    ) Kelli
    March 16, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Madhu,

    I personally would not trust ebay to purchase a body. Unless you are buying this used and it specifically says it is a US model with warranty I wouldn’t touch it. The problem with buying a new body on ebay or another site online that is not reputable is you run into problems if you need your camera serviced. If you end up buying a “gray” market camera Nikon won’t touch it. You can go to the nikon web site and look up their authorized dealers. These are the places I would stick with. Bhphoto is where I purhase 95% of my glass and accessories, the rest has came from a local camera store and I have also bought a few things from adorama. If your going to use ebay I would use it for things that don’t have any significant value like some of the cheaper filters just incase you do get burned.

  20. 30
    ) Phil&Paul
    March 23, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    I’ve checked B&H Photo Video, they don’t ship to our country (Philippines). I want to buy Nikon 50mm f/1.8G for my Nikon d5100. You blog is great!

  21. 31
    ) Nayna
    May 10, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Hi,

    Your site is really amazing. Thanks a lot guiding. I am looking at buying my first DSLR camera and have narrowed down to Nikon 5200. What I am confused is what lens to go for:
    a) Kit lenses 18-55/18-105
    b) Tamron 18-270

    I am interested in indoor photography but an avid traveller so would also like to take landscape photography.

    Thanks
    Nayna

  22. 32
    ) Ben Vo
    April 3, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Hi, I’m thinking about buying Sony full frame camera, a7 or a7r. please give an advise which one is better and which e mount lens is best for pair with.
    thanks
    Ben

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