Photography doesn’t have to be expensive. From big purchases such as camera bodies to small ones such as batteries, there are many ways you can save money on camera gear if you’re willing to do your homework.
In this post, I am going to cover some of the most useful resources available today that can help you save money on your next camera gear.
1. Use our Lens Tool
If you’re looking to save money on lenses or find the best option for the price, check out our Lens Radar.
The lens radar allows you to tailor your results based on your budget. You can also get custom results based on camera model, lens type, focal length, and your photography style.
It’s is a great tool to save money and time if you are looking to buy a new lens. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions, and our tool will find the best lens for you.
If you know someone who owns the equipment you are trying to purchase, see if you can borrow it first. This way, you can test it out and be confident that buying it is the right move for you.
Trying out equipment before buying can help you avoid making an unnecessary purchase. It may help you realize that the gear is not that much better than the one you already own or that you don’t need it after all.
Once you have a good feel of the equipment, you’ll be able to make better purchasing decisions.
If you don’t know someone you can borrow from, renting can be a great alternative.
Although renting cost money, it’s often more flexible in terms of gear choices and the length of time you can use it.
Renting is also ideal if you’ll only need the gear for a particular photo shoot. If you know you’ll only need to use the gear on rare occasions, then renting can be a more cost-effective approach than buying.
Some retailers will also let you put the cost of the rental towards the purchase of the equipment, so keep that in mind if you’re testing something out and then decide to purchase!
If you are looking to rent camera gear online, here are a few good places to start:
Besides renting online, you can also rent gear from other photographers. There are now online communities of photographers who rent out their equipment at a fraction of the price of traditional retailers. Here are a few of the best peer-to-peer rental marketplaces:
Another great option for renting gear is visiting your local camera stores. Most local camera stores offer rentals, and you will have an easier time negotiating prices and local stores than with online retailers.
4. Buy Off-Brand
Camera gear is expensive, especially when you buy from the most popular brands.
Brands such as Nikon, Canon, and Sony offer a ton of great equipment, but they usually come with a premium price tag.
One way to circumvent this is to buy off-brand. Off-brand companies manufacture a lot of similar gear as branded companies but at a fraction of the price.
Brands like Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, and Samyang (Rokinon) makes quality gear that functions just as good (sometimes better) than branded gear, but without the hefty price tag.
Whether you buy off-brand or not will depend on the piece of equipment, you are buying. Below are some guidelines to follow for each piece of equipment.
Your camera body is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your camera bag.
Although you can save money going with an off-brand, branded camera bodies are well worth their price.
Off-brand camera models have not yet caught up to branded camera models. Today, branded models are still far superior in quality and durability than off-branded cameras.
To ensure the quality and longevity of your camera body, invest in a well-known camera brand such as Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus.
Lenses are one of the best items to consider buying off-brand.
Off-brand lens companies usually offer the same lenses that name brands provide, but they are compatible with multiple camera bodies.
They are also known for their unique and innovative designs.
For example, Sigma introduced the first zoom lens with a constant f/1.8 max aperture. Nokton also released a prime lens with an extremely large max aperture of f/0.95.
Before buying an off-brand lens, make sure you do your research on the quality and compatibility of the lens with your camera.
Similar to buying a camera body, spending money on a branded, quality tripod is well worth the investment.
I made the mistake of buying my first tripod off-brand, and it did not last very long.
A quality tripod, on the other hand, will last for years. Although they come with a more significant price tag, you’ll be able to save money in the long run.
Also, those additional dollars could mean a great deal of difference in performance.
For instance, quality tripods allow you to drop the tripod legs and lock them in place quickly for a shot. This may seem like a trivial feature, but it can make a significant difference in your efficiency on the field.
It’s against this backdrop that you’ll want to go for more user-friendly tripods, even if it means paying a little more for it.
I suggest buying camera accessories off-brand.
Often, you will have way more choices in terms of functionality and style when buying off-brand. Not to mention, you are more likely to find cheaper products.
For camera batteries, I typically try to purchase at least 2-3 branded batteries but also purchase several off-branded batteries as a last resort. Don’t rely solely on off-branded batteries because there are stories of off-branded batters no holding a charge, dying rapidly, or not working at all
While this is not always the case, it’s better to be safe than sorry with your camera batteries.
Some accessories that I recommend purchasing off-brand are filters, camera straps, lens caps, memory card holders, camera cleaning gear, wireless shutter release, LCD protector, camera bags, and much more.
Mostly small accessories that enhance the photography experience are great items to purchase off-brand. These products are easy to replicate, which means buying an expensive branded product is not necessary.
5. Buy Older Models
If you are looking to purchase a new camera or lens, consider buying the previous model to save money.
Camera models that are only a few generations apart have very subtle differences in features.
So, although the latest piece of equipment can be tempting to buy, getting last year’s model will probably give you more bang for your buck.
Often camera manufacturers only enhance a few features from the previous model. These enhancements are often hardly noticeable and only necessary for particular tasks or styles of photography.
To save money, opt for an older model rather than the newest model.
Let’s compare the prices of the different generations of the Cannon 70-200 mm f/2.8 USM lens to show how buying an older model lens can be cheaper. The latest model, the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 III USM, costs $2,100. While the previous model, the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 II USM costs $1,435.
By purchasing an older model lens, you can save $665. These lenses are nearly the same, with the newest model only having some minor upgrades to the internal coating and flare resistance, but other than that, they perform almost identical.
This is the case with many new lenses, but it’s still important to compare new models and determine the changes. Comparing the models will make it easier for you to decide if the enhancements that come with the latest model would improve your photography.
Camera bodies are another piece of equipment where buying an older model can save you a significant amount of money.
Similar to new lens models, new camera bodies typically only have a few enhancements. These enhancements sometimes are only useful in certain types of photography or hardly noticeable at all.
Let us consider the Sony A series of cameras as an example of how much money you could save by buying an older model camera.
The Sony A7iii is the 3rd generation model of this series, and when writing this article, a brand new Sony A7iii cost $1,998 while a brand new Sony A7 costs $798. By purchasing the older model, you can save $1,200.
Yet there are only two majors advancements when upgrading from the A7 to the A7iii. First, you go from a 24MP sensor to a 48MP sensor. The other major improvement is the addition of image stabilization. In most cases, photographers will do just fine without these enhancements.
By purchasing an older model, you can save 60% on the price of your camera body. With these savings, you can get one or even two top of the line lenses to accompany your new camera.
Another great example is the evolution from the Nikon D800 to the D850. The chart below will show the there are only 5 key features that change and even those are marginal.
Although, there are only marginal changes when buying both of these new the D850 is nearly $800 more expensive. Another case where there are only minor differences in features yet the price is significantly higher for the newer model.
Whenever you are considering buying a new camera, always compare the previous two models to the latest model. Ask yourself:
Do you need these enhancements? Are the upgrades worth the increase in the price of the new model? Will my photography be the same if I used the previous model.
More often then not, you can find an older generation model that will offer everything you need for a fraction of the price.
6. Check for Rebates and Sales
Another great way to save money is to look for the sales and rebates offered by camera manufacturers and online retailers. Popular camera brands such as Nikon and Canon often offer instant rebates on their cameras and lenses when they are preparing to release a new model.
These rebates and new releases often follow a pattern. Keep an eye out for discounts and sales during the summer months and towards the end of the year. For example, a very common and yearly sale that most retailers participate in is Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Most online retailers also have a sale category on their website. Always browse the sale sections and keep an eye out for deals worth taking advantage of. You never know what you are going to find.
Recently while browsing through the B&H sale section, I found a $200 sale on the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. The 24-70mm lens is a very high quality, versatile lens that I recommend for any photographer.
I also came across a $200 instant savings on the Nikon D750 Camera. This is another excellent full-frame camera that would be worth buying if you need a new camera.
If you are considering buying a new camera, always stay aware of the rebates and sales currently being offered. If possible, purchase your photography gear during the summer months and during the holiday season of November and December. This is the time that most retailers have the most promotions and deals.
If you can’t wait for the seasonal sales, always browse the sale or specials section of the popular camera stores for hidden deals.
7. Buy Refurbished
Buying refurbished equipment is another great way to save money. With discounts sometimes going up to 30% off the retail price, these deals are worth looking into.
Although refurbished items get a bad reputation because they are “refurbished,” and many times, retailers do not reveal the reason they are labeled refurbished.
In most cases, the cameras have had some repairs done and are now being re-sold. In most cases, you are getting a relatively new camera for a fraction of the cost.
The main difference I find is that refurbished items have signs of wear and tear, but similar to used camera gear, they typically function just fine.
If you are worried about getting a bad deal, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the risks.
The first is to buy directly from the manufacturer. Manufacturer-refurbished items are the least likely to cause problems in the future, and they often include the longest warranties.
These warranties allow you to return or get a replacement camera if anything goes wrong with the current model you have.
That said, buying refurbished items from the manufacturer is also typically the most expensive route. For bigger savings, you can look into buying from an authorized dealer.
Reputable dealers sell items that have been inspected and repaired by someone trusted by the manufacturer.
In contrast, when buying from an unauthorized dealer, it can be challenging to be sure who did the repairs. This increases your chances of getting a faulty product.
To find a list of certified dealers, check your camera manufacturer’s website.
If you plan to buy from an unauthorized dealer, make sure to do proper research. Read reviews, verify warranties, and return policies before making a purchase.
Always buy from dealers that offer warranties or return policies. You’ll want to be able to try out the unit and have the freedom to return it if it turns out to be defective.
A couple of great places to buy a refurbished camera online are Adorama, B&H, and Amazon. The great thing about buying a refurbished camera, the same return policies apply to them as well as new cameras. For the online retailers listed above, they all follow the standard 30-day return policy for refurbished equipment.
This gives you a reasonable amount of time to test the camera and determine if the condition is worth the price. If anything feels off to you as you use the camera, you can return it and get your money back.
Finally, always read the description and verify that you are getting everything as advertised. It’s not an uncommon complaint for certain items, such as chargers and batteries, to be missing, although it’s included in the product description.
8. Buy Used
Buying used photography equipment is an excellent way to save money, especially if you’re trying to buy a camera body.
Shopping for used camera bodies can save you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, which is an unusually high amount of savings compared to most pre-owned products.
To show the amount of money you can save by buying a used camera body, I recorded the prices for over 300 used cameras on amazon. The table below shows the results of my research.
If you wanted to buy a Nikon D850, it would cost $2,997 brand new. On the other hand, the average price for a used model that is rated very good is $2,511 — purchasing the same camera used rather than brand new, you can save $486 or 16%.
I also found that some cameras brands are much cheaper used than their brand new models. On average, you will save more money buying a used Canon camera than if you were to purchase a used Nikon or Sony.
Overall, my research suggested that across all brands, you could save a total of $556 by buying a used “Very Good” model rather than a brand new model.
In addition to savings, buying used also enables you to recoup purchase cost if you resell.
Camera equipment is a depreciating asset. That is, they lose their value as soon as you use them. But, if you buy your camera used, you may be able to get your money back or even make a profit if you ever decide to resell.
To ensure that you get a good quality camera, I recommend buying from a reputable dealer, such as B&H, Adorama, and Amazon.
These online retail stores offer highly reliable condition ratings for all their products. Just keep in mind that the higher the rating an item has, the less of a discount you’ll likely get.
One disadvantage of buying on these stores is you’ll have to forego the chance to negotiate prices.
If you want greater flexibility in price, you may want to look into local stores, craigslist, Facebook, or private sellers, instead of large retailers.
Most of these sellers will be willing to lower their prices to guarantee the sale. That said, this buying used equipment this way doesn’t come without risk, so you’ll need to be extra cautious. Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true. And if you can stick with sellers that offer warranties.
9. Buy Online
Online retailers have a smaller overhead compared to local camera stores, which enables them to provide better prices.
Online retailers also tend to provide a wider array of choices compared to physical stores. In addition, they offer product reviews so you can better assess an item before the final purchase decision.
Just be cautious of shipping charges when buying online. Although most stores provide free shipping after a certain price, not all online stores do.
Also, consider that the return or exchange process may take longer when you buy online instead of a physical store. So, if you need the gear for a special event, it may be wise to order it way ahead of time. This way, you’ll have time to return or exchange it before you need to use it.
Finally, be cautious of the online store you’re buying from. Although not very common, some websites out there will take your money or credit card information but never ship your product.
If you can, only buy from reputable dealers such as:
10. Buy Warranty or Insurance
If you’re buying expensive camera gear, it might be wise to purchase a dedicated warranty or insurance plan. Most retailers offer several years of warranty or insurance on their products.
Keep in mind that these are often limited and don’t offer much coverage but can come in handy if your camera has issues caused by the manufacturer.
You should consider buying external coverage to cover yourself in the event of an accident or theft. External coverage is especially important if your camera gear is very expensive or if you use it for work.
Check if your household or renters insurance will cover your camera gear if it’s lost, damaged, or stolen.
Most home insurance coverage will cover around $1,500 to $2,000 of equipment if your gear is lost or stolen outside of your home. If this occurs while you’re at home, they can typically cover anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.
Remember to check the cost your insurance covers and compare it against the value of your gear. Make sure that the coverage offered is at least the same or higher than the value of your equipment.
Try to get a coverage that is higher than your current gear value. This will allow you to purchase new gear and still have it covered by your insurance.
If your renter’s or home insurance is not sufficient, you can always add extra coverage. This is typically referred to as “personal property coverage. The additional coverage will cost more, but it will allow you to insure the full cost of your equipment.
In some cases, the deductible may be too much that it’s worth considering insuring your gear separately from your household.
Keep in mind that most policies require you to inform them about additions or changes to your camera gear to receive coverage. If this is the case, be sure to contact your insurance every time you purchase new equipment.
To be sure, review your current policy or verify with your insurance provider before deciding whether or not to purchase dedicated insurance for your camera gear.
If you use your camera gear for your business or you work as a freelancer, you might be better off getting a business owner’s policy. This will allow you to get full coverage on your gear, so you are covered in a broad array of situations.
Insurance is also an important consideration if you travel regularly or are always shooting in risky locations. Traveling exposes your camera gear to more risks, such as theft, loss, transportation, and environmental damage, among others.
Most general travel insurance will include some baseline coverage for personal belongings. Keep in mind that general travelers’ insurance typically does not cover more than $4,000 in personal belongings, even with additional coverage.
If you will be bringing lots of equipment on your trip, get insurance specifically for your gear. This type of coverage will cover every piece of gear you travel with. This will typically be more expensive, but it guarantees all your gear is covered in full.