Buying online is always a risk. Anyone can list something for sale, and there is often nothing new if a problem occurs. Even large marketplaces like Amazon – with tens of thousands of sellers ̵1; are not immune to counterfeiting and fraud. Photographers spend billions every year so they are an obvious target Let's look at how to safely buy camera accessories online or at least buy it as safely as possible.
How common are fake camera accessories?
Incorrect camera equipment is, if not common, definitely out there. How far it is forged depends on what exactly it is.
Camera accessories are most likely to be counterfeit. It is estimated that up to one-third of SanDisk memory cards sold are fake. It's a hell of a lot of counterfeit cards. The reason they are so common is that SanDisk is a soft target: their cards are super popular (we recommend them here on How-To Geek), and people can fake them by simply dropping a sticker on a cheap generic card. The seam has also been sold on Amazon.
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Similarly, Canon has had problems with counterfeiters producing knockoffs of their flash units, and there have been fake Nikon battery grips. These types of accessories are a gold mine for fakers because the products work and most will not be able to distinguish the difference. If photos write to the memory card in your camera, why would you question its authenticity? It's just when the cheap chip inside fails that you might realize you've had.
For larger items like cameras and lenses, the problems are a little more subtle. Cameras are expensive and technically difficult to manufacture, so they are much more difficult to clone. Instead, scammers will buy a cheaper camera and change brands, so it looks like the more expensive model. For example, the Nikon D7100 is just as big for the much more expensive D610 as scammers can cheaply change a body panel and lose 7100 for a nice profit.
 You also need to be careful about the import of gray market. In the best cases, the seller buys the camera cheaper abroad, imports it slightly dubious and sells it to a profit at a price that is still lower than the RRP. You get no guarantee, and the camera manufacturer can watch you if you need to fix it anytime, but you will get a brand new camera with a knockdown rate.
In other cases, you will end up with a camera that has been stolen. The sellers will normally change or cover the serial number on the body so that you cannot easily check and until something goes wrong, you will not notice.
RELATED: How to check serial numbers on your camera accessories
What to look out for
There are lots of red flags that can lead you to a false or otherwise questionable listing. Some of the big ones are:
- A price that is too good to be true. Cameras are expensive, and if the seller is over the table, it's just so low that they can go.
- If the camera or implement is offered without the box, no manual or no guarantee, then something is likely to be up. It can be a real import of gray markets, or it can be something more.
- If there are very bad reviews on the product, bad reviews on the seller's other products, or good reviews that look fake, it's worrying.
- If you buy from Amazon and the product is listed as "Fulfilled by Amazon," it means that a third-party seller uses Amazon's marketplace, and they do the packaging and publishing, but they are not the ones selling it to you. Fulfilled by Amazon products are famous for being full of fakes and counterfeits.
- If the listing is written in bad English, there are some simple stick fields, or the pictures do not look like they came from a market share of several million dollars. It is another sign that something can be up.
RELATED: How to avoid fake and scammy Amazon vendors
Buy locally or from a nice store
Although it is tempting to buy all your camera equipment from Amazon, this is something we cannot recommend , at least until they sort out their counterfeit and fake lists problems. In fairness to them, in one of the articles I linked to where someone bought something fake from Amazon, the company repaid them or otherwise made things right, but it's just no problem you want to deal with.
The best thing to do is to buy from a local camera store. Many of them have online stores, and they will be happy to send you. The prices will probably not be as low as the Amazon, but you will have the peace of mind knowing that you will not be ripped off. Especially for large ticket items, the camera shop staff can have some latitude to offer discounts, give you free stuff and otherwise clear the distance between the list price and Amazon's. The large camera manufacturers often have regular cash offers that they can advise you on.
If you want to buy from an online store with a large selection of even the most niche accessories, then we recommend B & H Photo. They are one of the largest online photography businesses for good reason: they sell everything, are delivered everywhere and have good prices. You will have a much more consistent experience than buying your camera products from Amazon.
Check what you buy
Even if you are sure you bought from a reputable seller – and especially if you are not – it is worth giving any camera gear you buy online a quick one over when it comes . Google "how to discover a fake [whatever you bought]" and check that your is genuine. For example, real SanDisk cards have a gray switch and a serial number on the back; Some of the fake cards have a yellow switch and no serial number.
RELATED: How to make sure that a camera or lens works properly before buying
You should also check that some holograms are real and where they should be, that the labels are safe, custom and correctly written and that everything that should be in the box, such as the manual and the warranty card, is.
For cameras, it is also worth checking the shutter tree. It should be zero (or almost zero) for a brand new camera; If it is higher, then something is up.
If you are ever in doubt, contact the seller and the manufacturer.
The photography market is worth so much money that it is a simple target for scammers. They only need to take the smallest fraction of the smallest fraction of 1% of the business to make a serious profit. This means that you, the consumer, must be extra vigilant.