August 22, 2005 by Allen George
If you’re in the market for photographic equipment, you’ll notice that mail-order, online, eBay and US-based stores all offer lenses, accessories and camera bodies at a significant discount to Canadian stores. In some cases discounts can rise to 10 to 20 percent of Canadian retailer prices. If you feel like saving money, but still buying Canadian, viable alternatives include checking photography forums’ Buy and Sell sections and ordering from out of province. The most popoular alternatives are 3 stores – 2 in Quebec, 1 in Alberta.
Buying Canadian, and even more important, buying locally has a number of advantages. Local buyers are able to test lenses to ensure that they’ve received copies meeting their standards. They can check for vignetting, sharpness, zoom creep, saturation and a whole host of lens issues. Thorough checking makes the difference between an average lens copy and a great lens copy. Buying from your local store gives you an immediate point of contact. You’re able to walk in, buy the lens and check it out for a week or so. If you’re unsatisfied – back it goes. No hassle of separate shipping, extra fees and so on. Now as to buying Canadian… I disagree with how the Canadian government spends a good portion of its revenue and I know that work can be done far more efficiently. It’s disappointing that waste is endemic in goverment departments. But despite all that, I realize that my taxes do play a [small] part in ensuring that basic services are being provided. So despite my bellyaching, I fork out.
There’s one last important factor in buying locally – especially if you’re buying camera equipment – and that is “The Warranty”. I was shocked to find that cameras, lenses and accessories don’t come with global warranties.
It all comes down to dealer rights and territories. Although many companies like Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm are global corporations, they don’t act like them. Many of their offices in other countries are not wholly owned subsidiaries, but independent entities that have acquired distribution rights. This creates an impressive patchwork of product and service websites. Unlike true multinationals, there is no coordinated web presence or global ‘look’. Check out Nikon Canada, Nikon USA and Nikon Europe. Same company? Oh, and the Canadian site is definitely the junkiest. In my opinion not the best way to run a company.
This patchwork is evident in warranties. Sigma lenses have a 1-year international warranty. But, if you buy from an authorized Canadian dealer, you’re covered by a 7-year Canadian warranty. Same with Nikkor optics (1-year international, 5-year Canadian). The situation gets even stranger if you are looking at camera bodies. If you buy a camera from the US via eBay or B&H or another online store, the Canadian distributor may refuse to provide you any service. To get any fixes, you’d have to ship your camera over the border to the US service location. Talk about a poor way to encourage customers to buy your wares. If you’re buying “Grey Market” items – well – then you’re completely out of luck. Both the US and Canadian service centers will refuse to fix your purchase. Peachy no?
Olympus is the only camera company I know of that doesn’t do this. They supply a global warranty on all their cameras and lenses. Any Olympus service center the world over will fix your item, given proof of purchase. A sensible approach, and one that I hope more companies (*cough*Nikon*cough*) will take.