What Is a Grey Market Camera?

Buying a camera can be very confusing.  Not only is there the question of which camera to buy, but there is also the confusion of the grey market.  So, what is a grey market camera, and what should a buyer know before purchasing a grey market camera, or lens, or any other equipment branded by Canon, Nikon, or others?

This article takes a look at the question of what is a grey market camera, and how to make the decision about whether it is a viable choice when purchasing camera gear.

After you have made the decision about which camera to purchase a buyer will find many buying choices and the prices are all over the board.  Why are there so many prices?  Looking at Canon for example you sill find a reasonably consistent  price among authorized dealers because canon sets the MSRP.  For example, at the time of this writing,  a Canon 5d Mark IV sells for $3299 at Adorama, which is the same price that camera sells for at Canon, or any Canon authorized dealer.

If a buyer searches the internet, what appears to be the same camera can be purchased at a much lower price, because grey market cameras are priced much lower.

gray market camera

What Is a Grey Market Camera?

Grey market basically means that a product is imported and sold by someone other than the manufacturer.  In many cases it is the very same product, manufactured in the same factory, but designated, labeled, and packaged for retail sales in a country other than where it is being marketed.  Usually the product is genuine, but there are fake products out there, or refurbished products being marketed as new.

The Majority of Grey Market Products Are Sold Online

Generally a potential buyer wants to get the best deal they can find, and of course  the internet provides a multitude of choices.  A buyer sees an image of a new camera at a great price that is advertised as ‘Brand New‘  and ‘US Seller Warranty’  and does not realize that the product is grey market.

A few keywords to look for in ads are Import Model, Warranty by Seller, Grey (or Gray) Market, Direct Import, USA Seller Warranty, Off Market

Why Grey Market Cameras Are Less Expensive

Grey market cameras are less expensive because of MSRP in different countries.  The logistics of properly importing a product and the cost of warrantying the product varies in different countries, mainly due to labor costs.  The expense of delivering a Canon camera to a dealer in Japan is much lower than the cost of delivering the same product to a dealer in the U.S.  The cost of getting that camera to Europe is even higher.  Also the warranty requirements in different countries affect costs, some countries require longer warranties than others.


Camera equipment manufacturers will not warranty or service grey market cameras.  That is a fact among all major camera equipment brands.

One reason for this is that camera accessories such as chargers and batteries vary depending on the region the manufacturer intended for it to be retailed. The boxes may have been opened and these accessories replaced by the importer.  The manufacturer cannot be responsible for the compatibility of these accessories and modification of the product cannot be guaranteed.

Another reason is, as described above, the cost of performing warranty repairs differs from country to country.  The manufacturer sets the MSRP to cover these expenses.

Warranties are a major consideration when deciding if grey market is worth the lower price.  Canon and Nikon are very clear about their stance on grey market products.



Know What You Are Buying

Some photographers will still buy grey market cameras.  For example an opinion I have heard is that if a model of camera has no known issues, the savings may be worth the roll of the dice as the only difference is the warranty.  The actual product is no different.

There is really nothing wrong with buying grey market as long as you are completely aware of the warranty policies or service restrictions and the risk involved with that.  There is nothing illegal about it and clearly, a lot of money can be saved.

Other Considerations

Saving money is not a bad thing.  However, there are other ways to save money on a camera or lens and still have customer service and warranty .

Used or refurbished gear excellent choices to save some money when purchasing gear, and many suppliers offer good warranty and service.  KEH Camera is a great choice for used camera equipment and offer a great repair service.  They are very reputable and offer a six month warranty.  See their warranty HERE.

gray market camera equipment

Adorama covers their grey market products for one year and used gear for six months.  Adorama has the advantage in offering new, refurbished, and used camera equipment .  See their warranty HERE.



Grey market camera equipment is a legal means of purchasing for a much lower price.  A grey market purchase should be a cautious and informed decision.  Be certain you are dealing with a reputable retailer and know that you will be taken care of if any problems arise.  There will be no assistance from the manufacturer, so seller reputation is essential.  Used equipment or refurbished may be a better option to save money.

If you do choose to purchase grey market, do the research on the model you are considering and be certain that there are no know issues.

Most importantly, read ALL the information the seller is offering and know what you are buying.  If the price seems to good to be true, it most likely is.


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