Photography is an expensive hobby, but like anything there are bargains to be had on new cameras, lenses and accessories if you know where to look and – perhaps most importantly – when to go looking for them.
To help you find the best deals, here are 10 surefire ways to save money when buying new photography equipment…
01 Stay up to date on new gear
Staying on top of manufacturer’s release schedules and the life cycles of their products is perhaps the best way to grab a deal on a new camera or lens. If you know, for instance, that a particular camera’s predecessors were replaced every 18 months, then it’s a safe bet the current iteration on the market will experience a similar fate.
Some of the best deals can be found just before a camera or lens is upgraded. This is because retailers are eager to clear their stock of these current models before they are usurped by newer, sexier options.
There are a number of ways to stay on top of this. For a start, you can bookmark some of the leading photographic retailers like Park Cameras, Camera World, Wilkinson, Calumet, Cambrian, Wex Photographic, B&H Photo and Adorama, and watch their prices.
Alternatively, there are several ‘rumor’ sites out there for each manufacturer which, somehow, get very accurate insights into new cameras before they’re launched.
If you visit sites like Fuji Rumors, Sony Alpha Rumors, 4/3 Rumors, Mirrorless Rumors, Nikon Rumors, Canon Rumors, Pentax Rumors, Photo Rumors and more, and subscribe to updates you’ll very likely get a heads up on new gear being launched before it’s actually introduced. Then it’s just a case of checking in on those retailers we listed and watching for price drops.
Another good way of grabbing a deal is to make a note of the dates of the big camera trade shows, such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held annually in Las Vegas in early January, the Photokina show in Germany, which takes place every two years in September, and The Photography Show, which is the UK’s biggest trade show every March. You’ll find that most major new cameras make their debut at these shows.
A word of warning: if the ‘older’ camera or lens is one you’ve been mulling over for some time, don’t hang around when the price drops – there will be plenty of other photographers in your shoes ready to pounce and you’ll kick yourself if you miss out.
02 Buy new photo equipment online
We love the brick and mortar shops. There’s nothing more satisfying than walking into a camera shop and chatting to a fellow photographer who works there in depth about the obscure features on a particular camera. But as we all know, online camera retailers have lower overheads than high street camera shops, so they’re able to be more flexible in their pricing.
That said, many times you can persuade a camera store to match the prices you’ve seen online, and you can also usually get a much better trade-in price for your current camera – if you want to go that route – when you’re speaking to someone face to face.
What’s more, most of the big camera retailers – and all of the ones we mentioned above – have a growing online presence, so those gulfs between high street and online prices are ever-tightening.
From my own experience, though, I’m quite willing to pay a bit more in-store in exchange for having the benefit of getting face to face advice.
I like walking into a camera shop and being able to try out a range of cameras and accessories, as it gives me some peace of mind that I not only know what I’m getting, but if something goes wrong with whatever I buy, I can easily return it and speak to that same person who will likely remember me.
03 Buy at demo days
Some of the bigger camera retailers often host special ‘demo days’ where they let photographers come and get hands-on with new cameras. And because they have that captive audience they will tempt them with too-good-to-be-true offers and one-off deals.
If that’s not enough to sway you, you’ll also find product specialists from the big manufacturers on hand to explain the key features and benefits of their latest products.
Tying in with No. 2, a lot of these demo days also coincide with some of the big photography shows and events, so it’s always a good idea to go to things like The Photography Show at the Birmingham NEC, in England.
04 Shop around
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but prices can fluctuate daily, and in the age of the internet many retailers offer flash deals which are literally here one day and gone the next. So there can be a significant difference in the price between the likes of Amazon and independent camera retailers.
The economies of scale that the Amazon machine brings can result in cash savings on some new cameras and lenses, but we (and no doubt you) have seen camera retailers coming in with cheaper prices in plenty of cases like Davids determined to fell that Goliath.
One caveat, though: if you come across a website where the offer appears too good to be true, then it probably is. Free lunches, and all that.
Stick with reputable photo dealers that provide official stock, and you can still bag huge savings if you’re paying attention. The so-called ‘grey imports’ might’ offer incredible savings you won’t see elsewhere, but what happens when something goes wrong?
In our experience here at Camera Jabber, it’s not much higher a premium to buy from the established retailers, and when you do you get that peace of mind that each item is official, supported and guaranteed to last.
05 Wait for the holidays
Just like all other retailers, camera shops and online dealers will schedule their best offers around important dates on the calendar. Black Friday, Christmas, Easter and the post-Christmas January sales are the big dates when you can find the best bargains on new photo gear.
It’s also worth looking out for offers just before the summer holidays begin. Often around these dates you can find deals on travel-friendly cameras like big-zoom compacts and ’tough’ cameras that you can take anywhere.
06 Wait for camera cashback offers
These are a bit different than the deals in No. 5, and they come directly from the camera manufacturers themselves. Usually with the turn of a new season the big manufacturers will launch cashback campaigns where you can claim a rebate on a new camera or lens purchased from them.
Often the cashback offers will apply to select products and vary from £100 / $100 up to £500 / $500 cash back.
The way it works is you will pay the full advertised price of the product and claim the cashback directly from the manufacturer. Turnaround times are pretty quick, too.
07 Buy a camera bundle
Camera sellers are more likely to structure their best offers around camera bundles rather than listing simple money-off deals. You’ll often find these bundles being put together between seasonal buying periods and those cashback offers we mentioned.
GoPro is doing this at the time of writing, promising a free 3-Way Hand Grip with every Hero5 Black purchase. Other companies offer free cases and straps, bespoke bags, battery grips and more – sometimes even lenses!
And the beauty is: if you don’t want the freebie, you can always sell it on – or use it as part-exchange for another item.
08 Part-exchange your old cameras and lenses
Trading in some or all of your camera gear for new equipment will cut down on the amount of cash you have to part with. The pre-owned camera market has seen a resurgence in recent years, with retailers offering additional trade-in bonuses when an item is part-exchanged for a specific camera that a manufacturer wants to push.
You’ll need to be realistic about the condition of your gear, though, and make sure you’ve kept the original packaging, as this will increase the trade-in value.
Shop around as you’re likely to find some camera dealers offering a better trade-in valuation than others – although this has to be weighed up against the price of the item you want to buy.
If a camera retailer quotes you a better part-exchange offer but the cost of the new piece of equipment is higher than their rivals, then the deal may not be as sweet as it looks.
Again, it’s definitely worth regularly visiting photography websites to keep up to date on potential imminent upgrades for a lens or camera. A smart photographer will sell their gear in anticipation of the new release, as this is when the price for that camera will still be high. If you wait for the market to be flooded with used versions of an older camera, its trade-in value will drop considerably.
09 Follow camera retailers on social media
Here at Camera Jabber we’re glued to the websites of camera retailers throughout the day – it’s part of our job. We understand that not everyone else can, though. So a good way to stay on top of their offers is to subscribe to their Twitter feeds and follow their Facebook pages for early-bird warnings.