There is a lesson here for all, especially when purchasing expensive gear. Expensive is a relative term with a value that varies per individual and can’t be generalized, the stuff being said here applies to all values of items. It comes down to how much value the item has to you and whether you are willing to risk that value versus the warranty programs being offered. Obviously the bigger the expense, the higher the risk.
I usually always buy my all of my camera gear right here in the US of A, because that is where I live and I like to go buy the expensive stuff in person at a Hunts Photo and Video store to make sure it arrives safely.
Well, 4 years and 9 months ago I broke that personal rule to buy a Nikkor 600mm F4 VR lens from Canada. The reason I did so was because the lens had been unavailable in the USA for over six months and I was tired of waiting. So one week when we were on vacation we drove up to Montreal Canada and purchased the 600mm there. We made sure it was an ‘Authorized Nikon’ dealer before purchasing and once all the paperwork was finalized we happily drove back to the US of A with our new lens. Note: after tariffs and Canadian taxes it wasn’t any cheaper than buying from the USA.
Lets move forward 4 years and 9 months to today and the VR on my prized 600mm decided to play up. Nikon Canada has a 5 year warranty on lenses from authorized Canadian dealers so we are in good hands right?
Well the answer is not so simple.
I know we have a global community, so what I want to recommend to everybody is buy local, not just local but from ‘Authorized Local Dealer’ for anything expensive in the camera department. At the very least check cross border warranty coverage before making overseas purchases.
Here’s my experience in bullet points:
- Bought the lens from Canada – live in the USA ($10,000 lens).
- Bought from an authorized seller (Canadian).
- Kept all my receipts and store information.
- Have my warranty card.
- Have problem with VR and the lens definitely needs servicing.
- Contact Nikon USA to repair
- Nikon USA doesn’t honor Canadian Warranty, no sure reciprocal system of warranty
- Maybe can get special treatment, but really up to Nikon USA repair center
- OK – no problem, Canada not too far away, send to Canada for repair.
- Run into problems at staples (UPS Shipping Center) – spend an hour there with them trying to figure out shipping options
- After all that, they run into a snag and can only insure for $5,000, remember the lens cost $10,000 to replace
- What to do now, turns out only a company label or UPS store can insure higher (up to $50,000)
- Call a UPS store, turns out they have different insurance rates – $200 just for insurance, let alone boxing and shipping.
- To be sure your insurance will have maximum chance of being paid it really needs to be packed by the UPS store.
- OH, and there may be customs tariffs involved because of shipping overseas (international)
- So my hair turns gray and I decide to ship from local UPS Staples at their $106 price, versus $350 plus from UPS store.
Now the waiting game begins, wait for arrival at Nikon Toronto repair center and wait for news of repair status, then safe return of lens. Some items like shipping would still apply if I had made the purchase local, but I have definitely made my life infinitely harder by purchasing such an expensive item across country borders. I will worry every day until that lens returns safely or I will be crying if something happens and there is not enough insurance to cover the item. Had I bought it at my favorite store like usual, I would just have driven it there and avoided all these little roadblocks.
EDIT (below updated/added) 4/17/2014
- Lens arrives in Toronto service center – UPS sends delivery confirmation (my $5000 insurance risk OK – phew)
- 24hrs since Nikon received my lens – no contact from Nikon to confirm from they the received it
- I call them, they say I have not included any paperwork which is why they didn’t contact me
- 36hrs since delivery – I contact them again (international call rates) – They find my paperwork after I tell them its in the steel Nikon camera box the lens is in.
- LoL – they have had it for over 36hrs and not even opened the case to find the paperwork (on a 10 grand lens)
- 54hrs since Nikon received my lens – No official email or phone contact from Nikon to confirm delivery or receipt of the lens yet :(
The lesson for everybody here in a nutshell is, unless you don’t care about warranty and repairs to your gear, you should buy from your country’s authorized dealer.
- In Australia, buy from an Australian authorized dealer
- In USA, buy from a USA Authorized dealer
- In Canada, buy from a Canadian authorized dealer etc…
Buying from another country is easy to do, but getting stuff repaired under warranty or even without warranty across borders can be another matter.
Quite simply, you want warranty or repairs to your equipment without fear of problems, buy within your countries border and make sure they are authorized before you buy, make sure you keep your receipts. There are some cross border warranty that will be honored, some are worldwide, but not always and the time periods of the warranty coverage can vary dramatically. For example my lens has a 5 year warranty in Canada but to get it repaired in the USA the warranty period is much less than 5 years. Nikon is very strict about cross border warranties.
On a special note, what I did was not a gray market purchase, that is a whole different matter. Big camera companies usually have subsidiaries in different regions of the world to import, price and repair the manufacturers product. Gray market is defined as a product not imported by the subsidiary. In USA the official subsidiary would be Nikon USA Inc. and Canada it would be Nikon Canada Inc. etc. Because each subsidiary is responsible for warranties, they set and make the rules.
So a gray market Nikon camera item in the USA would for example be a camera that was imported by someone other than Nikon USA. The chances of any warranty being honored by the manufacturer on gray market items are slim to none or only that offered by the original seller who imported it. I used Nikon here in this example, but it could be Canon, Sony, Sigma or any other camera / lens manufacturer. It probably gets even worse when purchasing from places like eBay.
In closing, be careful and thoughtful before you buy your expensive gear. I did not buy my lens from Canada to save money, it was because of availability, but if you are buying from another country you better understand how it will affect future repairs and warranties. Good Luck.
EDIT: 15th April 2014 – Some of the comments I have received below present very helpful content that expand further on ones understanding of shipping limitations, Nikon Warranty and worldwide issues and might be worth reading, almost as an extension to the article. (Rob)
Let me put a different spin on this issue. Nikon Canada will not honour warranties on cameras not purchased in Canada thereby hoping to scare off Canadians trying to save money purchasing in the US. A few years back my Nikon 80-400 mm lense purchased in the States, failed. A week later my Nikon Camera that I bought in Canada failed. I sent them both to their respective warranty depots. Nikon USA returned my lense within 3 weeks; Nikon Canada completed the camera repair in 10 weeks. I was told by my dealer that since Nikon Canada consolidated their warranty depot to one location, service has been much slower. Since this experience, I have had no qualms about purchasing Nikon products from an authorized dealer in the US knowing that if the product fails that I can still get better customer service than if I had purchased the equipment in Canada. For me there really is no incentive to buy Canadian given the disparity in customer service. I still patronize my local camera store for other equipment. (tripods filters, printers etc)
Focus Camera is listed as an certified Nikon Imaging dealer. All the dealers I have bought from in the past are back ordered on the D850 so I am concerned as to why Focus would have it available. Have any of you bought from Focus or heard of them before? What is the difference between Nikon Imaging dealer and Nikon Professional dealer?
Great article Robert…I am considering purchasing the D850 outside of Canada (In the US) based on the difference in cost but will now have to weigh this into the equation. Sounds like the issue was with shipping over the border and for me the border is only about a one hour drive away so I suppose I could just take it back to the dealer directly if I had any issues with the camera. I agree that the warranty should be offered for it’s full length across borders if purchased through an authorized dealer. With many people migrating to different countries, it seems petty on the company’s behalf to not honour the full warranty in these situations.
LOL That’s a joke right? Authorised dealers are hardly ever cheaper than other retailers. You made my day with that comment.
By your own account, had you purchased it in the US of A, the warranty is not as good, which means you would’ve had no warranty and who knows how much you would’ve needed to pay!
An old post but due to the unending lesson entailed, it’s worth refreshing and I am posting this to hopefully help other people think twice beofre buying from online trades and unauthorized dealers.
My story: Here comes Sony SLT-A77V, a 5-years old, gently used with only 8K shutter used will attract many onlookers. I purchased it for $280, from DCfever online trading (Hong Kong), similar to how Craiglist works. Everything works well during the spot testing and deal (no return policy-which I stupidly agreed). However after 48 hours, when I turned it on again- an intermittent error occurred. So I did try to purchased new compatible battery, as well as new & fast SD Card 95mbs- but still it didn’t solved any.
Left with no other choice-I have it repaired by Sony Service Center, it took about a week, the diagnosis: a broken main circuit board (AM-027) and the charge is USD250 including labor. When I went to Sony to pickup the camera- I also tried to purchase an extended warranty. However, as they checked the camera’s serial number- the staff said, sorry for they cannot issue a warranty for camera that is not purchased from an authorized dealer in Hong Kong, and those purchased from other country.. What a Duh! All the worse-my camera was purchased originally purchased from Korea and not from Hong Kong, and the owner didn’t give any information where.
Now, what I am left with is just to cling in the 3 months repair guarantee issued by Sony :(
Lesson in a nutshell is (IMHO)- welcome to the inevitable life of materialism, the older you become, the more you get entangled.
When you select a brand to support, you automatically trust the name and become like their subject or future slave :) In my case, it is Sony. Sony promotes buying only from an authorized dealers, at the current suggested retail price. If you cannot afford their price, sorry about that. Now, for your obedience in this system, you will receive a reward called- a trustworthy Sony warranty, not a “shop” warranty, but a real deal Sony free services. And in the future, a chance to purchase an extended warranty. This is how the sheep is separated from the wolves, how you separate the “can afford” to those who cannot. And those who don’t belong to their party, will not be worthy of any warranty or services.
I feel so bad that I dared enter this grey market system. Should I just sell my newly repaired camera so other people may be pissed-of like me when it breaks again while in their custody? Or perhaps I will just try to join some camera contest to win and finally redeem the USD250 that I loss from repair. I just cling to the latter idea though it’s just psychologically difficult for me to keep a gadget that reminds me of bad experience and loss. This purchase of mine is supposed to be an upgrade from my old camera, but I guess it is wisdom that I gained more rather than a new camera. May this lesson serve you. Think twice before entering the risky world of grey market.
i found this out when i bought a used 400 2.8 from ebay got it from AZ and after 3 years wanted to have it clean from Nikon Canada and they wouldnt they told me i would have to sent it to the USA
I understand their not being a warranty on grey market cameras, but I don’t understand not being able to get a grey market camera serviced for a price. At the end of the day they are legitimate products manufactured by the same company.
If only the warranty was an issue I would purchase grey market without hesitation. The savings would be enough in most cases to offset the chance that you would need to have a repair done under warranty.
My problem was not “not being able to get it serviced”, it was I had to ship it at my own cost and insurance. UPS and Fedex only offer so much coverage, so when I sent my 10 grand lens I only had $5000 insurance on it. Had I bought it from my local store “Hunts Photo and Video” I could have taken it to them and the risk would be theirs. I got it all fixed but there were moments when my lens was in transit theat it was totally undervalued and high risk to me.
If I’m reading this right, this is a cautionary tale about getting a lens serviced by mail, rather than by dropping it off at the brick-and-mortar store you bought it at, and perhaps that the Nikon service system in Canada isn’t very good. If a Canadian bought this lens in Toronto but is currently in Vancouver, how would their experience have been different? Unless I’m missing something, the only difference would be any additional delay or expense related to shipping across the border. Was there something about the shipping hassles that was related in particular to shipping internationally? Are there significant delays or additional expenses for shipping camera gear between U.S. and Canada as compared to shipping within the U.S.?
I live in Canada. I bought a Nikon D600 from eBay USA. Had problem – sent prepaid to Nikon Canada. They emailed me when they received it. Next day email their findings and they are going to fix it and send it back to me – no problem – no paperwork. USA serial number.