How to save money when buying camera gear?

 

Camera gear is expensive.

It just is, there’s no escaping the fact.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be smart about it and save thousands of dollars!

In this post I want to give some ideas about how to save money when buying camera gear, using real world examples and numbers from my own experience.

Knowing these tips on how to save money when buying camera gear will hopefully make things a lot easier moving forward in your search for the perfect setup.

I decided to write this when I was listing the camera gear to use for overseas travel, I realised how expensive everything is and started writing out examples on how to save money when buying camera gear, but the post became too long so I made this as a separate post.

One thing I want to make clear from the start though is that you need time and patience to get the best prices. I will refer back to this later on, but if you are in a rush you won’t have the power in your hands.

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Affiliate links are present on this page. Through partnerships with, but not limited to: Amazon, eBay and Commission Factory, I will make a small commission through qualifying purchases. This comes at no extra cost to you and is just a way for me to try and support myself and the blog.  Thank you.

How I learnt to save money when buying camera gear

 

I bought my first camera in 2017 and have been slowly adding to the collection over the past 6 years. So don’t be disheartened at the costs of this gear, getting all of this stuff doesn’t happen overnight.

I earn a decent wage but am not a lottery winner, nor am I massively wealthy. I still have to work after all.

I learnt how to save money when buying camera gear through necessity and also through trial and error. Some of the things I mention here are going to be obvious to many but others may not have thought about it.

So hopefully I can teach someone how to save money when buying camera gear using what I have learnt the past 6 years.

How to save money when buying camera gear using real world examples

 

Everything that is listed below is an actual price that I paid for something. To work out the savings I made on each item I compared it to the recommended retail price (RRP) at the time I made the purchase.

The RRP will be different now, with items of tech generally becoming cheaper as time goes on, by comparing it to the RRP at the time of purchase you get a better idea of what I saved.

The list is not a complete list of everything that I own, because although I have quite detailed purchase lists (I track spendings on a word document) it isn’t always possible to find the RRP price at the time of purchase.

On top of this, I want to keep it simple, with a few examples of how to save money when buying camera gear under each different tip/method without too much clutter.

The examples given under each method of saving money are the exact way that I saved on that particular item.

As per the affiliates disclosure at the top of the page after the intro, the links to items will be affiliate links in case you are interested in making a purchase.

*All prices mentioned are Australian dollars (AUD) unless stated otherwise.

8 Methods To Save Money When Buying Camera Gear

 

I have broken the methods of how to save money when buying camera gear into 8 categories, some being quite specific and some pretty vague, but don’t worry, there will be plenty of detail amongst each section as well as examples given.

I’m going to start with the most obvious and boring ways to save money, which is…

Shop around

 

Pretty obvious this one so I won’t spend too much time on it, but some people just keep buying from the one place.

I won’t put too many examples here but the most recent example for me is the purchase of the DJI Ronin image transmission (Amazon) kit.

Every shop I looked at was $239 but it was going on Amazon for $170, I just had to wait about 1 week longer to receive it as it was coming from Amazon Japan, but that didn’t bother me at all.

There are other examples where shops might have the same price but will differ on shipping, sometimes an extra $10 or more can be saved if one store has free shipping.

It’s all well and good having a favourite shop to shop at but keep an eye on what else is out there to see if they will price match at least.

 

I used to shop at a place called Digidirect here in Australia, but look at this new completely-made-up-nonsense fee they tack onto every purchase now!

About 1% is added to everything, it is in no way reflective of any payment or handling fee the company has, this is why it pays to shop around.

I will be avoiding them for future purchases and going with a competitor until they abolish it. You can’t have favourites, you need to be flexible.

Buy second hand

 

The best way to save money when buying camera gear is to buy second hand.

Here is a list of every lens I have ever bought:

  • Sony 16-35mm f/4
  • Sony 24-70mm f/4
  • Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6
  • Sony 55mm f/1.8
  • Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM
  • Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6

In bold are the lenses that I bought second hand. The majority by quite a way.

Now let’s look at even more stuff here using a table, this is an easier way to follow along. This list is not everything that I have ever purchased second hand, it’s just covering the main things to show how much can be saved.

ITEMPURCHASE PRICERRPSAVINGS
Sony a7R III$3,600$4,700$1,100
Sony 16-35mm f/4 Zeiss$1,100$1,600$500
Sony 24-70mm f/4$790$1,300$510
Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6$1,250$1,899$649
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8$950$1,499$549
Tamron 28-200 f/2.8-5.6$750$1,199$449
DJI Mini 3 Pro$900$1,119$219
TOTAL$9,340$13,316$3,976

So, how to save money when buying camera gear? Buy second hand that’s how!

You can see there that I saved almost $4,000!

That’s just from the larger big ticket items as well, if we take into account all the smaller purchases it would be over four thousand with ease.

I guess what I am trying to say here is – don’t think that an item being second hand will be worn out or not as good. With lenses the glass is usually looked after, so go find a lens with small scuff marks but perfect glass and get it cheap.

Let go of the desire to have shiny new things because you’re buying this stuff to be used anyway, what does it matter if someone else used it first?

Note that I don’t have all of these items anymore and some I even managed to sell for the same price or even a profit a year later!

Refurbished

 

This is the same as buying second hand but it comes with a few extra guarantees from the manufacturer who gives it a quick once over.

I have purchased two laptops refurbished through Apple.

Why?

Because I love them, but they’re overpriced.

It is not just Apple though that offer this, think of any really big company and chances are they offer a refurbished product: DJI, Apple, Sony, Nikon, Canon etc.

Sometimes a refurbished product will be offered through a 3rd party company that stocks the product or sometimes it will be direct through the company, there’s heaps of choice out there.

My latest example is the purchase of a 14″ Macbook Pro, M2 Max 12c CPU, 30c GPU, 64GB RAM and 4TB SSD for $5,909.

The RRP on this setup is $7,099 … so I saved $1,190 on the one purchase for a machine that’s as good as new!

Still a super hefty price tag but that’s hard to avoid. Way back in 2018 I saved $820 on a refurbished 15″ Macbook Pro as well and I do like to keep an eye out with DJI to see if any drones come up for sale.

When you buy refurbished your losses are minimised when or if you decide to sell it yourself. If you buy brand new the price will plummet a lot when the next generation of something is released, with refurbished that drop is partially accounted for already.

Comparing the refurbished price against the brand new one. Easy choice for me!

Play the game

 

This tip on how to save money when buying camera gear is a little more vague but bear with me.

 

Example 1 – GoPro

The example I like to use here is GoPro, who brought in a subscription service to try and get more profits from people. I despise subscription services and avoid them wherever possible but this one was easy to play.

At the time there was a better price on the GoPro Hero 10 Black (Amazon) with the subscription, as well as discounts on accessories and mounts.

So I bought it and set a reminder to cancel the subscription before it renewed and after I had purchased all the mounts that I wanted at the discounted price.

I don’t have the figures, but we’re talking a saving of $200-300 dollars once it was all accounted for, without ever paying the subscription (first year free). However they have since altered this arrangement.

Fuck your subscription!

 

Example 2 – Amazon Prime

This is basically the same thing but it’s to do with shipping costs and a number of items that had been accruing on my wish list.

I took the subscription with the first month free, then bought everything that I wanted for a month with better prices, free shipping etc and cancelled the subscription before paying.

Fuck your subscription!

Buy in bulk

 

This kind of is a way of playing the game but I’ve made it its own section about how to save money when buying camera gear so it gets its own heading in the table of contents.

To stay on Amazon for a while, when shopping for items that are only available via international sellers you often need to meet a minimum spend for free shipping, so try and wait until you have enough items to do so.

Another example I have here for video editors. I love motionvfx, they’re absolutely brilliant and have the best plugins for Final Cut Pro, hands down!

But they’re expensive.

However if you buy more than 5 items you get 30% off, which is huge.

I have 42 plugins from them! 39 of which are paid for and a few freebies. We’re talking about $2,500-$3,000 USD which is probably $4,500 AUD!

I have saved over $1,000 AUD when buying from motionvfx by only buying in bulk or waiting for sales (more on sales later).

 

 Now obviously if you don’t need 5 items don’t get 5 items. Don’t go spending an extra 300 dollars to save 80 on things you didn’t need. In this instance you would be better off just waiting for a sale.

Crowdfunding

 

I think this is the hardest of the tips to implement because you really never know when a good item will be pitched.

What I mean here is keeping an eye out on Kickstarter or Indiegogo for something that interests you or following companies you know make good products and getting notified about their next announcements.

In the past I have backed campaigns from:

I’ve backed a few more smaller campaigns as well with mixed results but the savings I have made have been significant and I have received some of my favourite items ever from these crowdfunding campaigns.

 

Peak Design

We’ll start with Peak Design. I backed the Peak Design Travel Backpack (Amazon) with a load of accessories at the same time.

My total pledge was $900, the value of all the items combined was $1,700!

Not only did I save a bunch of money, I got some of my favourite accessories that I still use to this day including the Peak Design Tech Pouch, Small Packing Cube, Medium Packing Cube and Wash Pouch (Amazon links).

 

Shimoda Designs

Shimoda are my go to camera bags and I was lucky enough to jump onto the Action X series of items on kickstarter.

I got the Shimoda Action X50 and a Medium DSLR camer cube V2 (Amazon links) with a pledge of $405 for items valued at $749.

I also backed the original Explore series of bags, although I can’t compare what I paid to the RRP prices of the time.

 

Freewell

Freewell came out with the filter system that I still use to this day via an Indiegogo campaign.

I am talking about the amazing Freewell Magnetic VND System (Amazon).

My purchase as a super early bird cost me $452 for filters and base rings valued at $650 after they went to market.

 

So keep an eye out on what’s going on, follow reputable people and wait for their next product. This is the long game though as there’s no guarantee they release something you need.

I also have purchased an international travel adapter, 27,000 mAh powerbank and more through crowdfunded campaigns and have always been happy with the results

Backed the Peak Design travel line all the way back in 2018 and although I use Shimoda bags I still use all these travel accessories 5 years later and counting!

Sales

 

As with all of the above methods of how to save money when buying camera gear, you will need time on your side and patience for this.

The sales themselves can be like clockwork and is region specific. In Australia it’s: end of financial year, black friday/cyber monday, boxing day, halloween or whatever other random holiday they decide to celebrate.

But the sales also come in the style of click frenzy sales or even just random summer/winter/autumn/spring sales. There’s never a real reason for them so just stay on the ball with a list of what you want.

Here is a list of a number of things I have bought on sale and this list is far from complete. I buy everything on sale.

ITEMPURCHASE PRICERRPSAVINGS
Sony Alpha 1$7,580$10,499$2,919
Sony a7 IV$3,219$3,900$681
Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM$1,500$2,000$500
Sony 55mm f/1.8$850$999$149
DJI Mavic 3 Flymore Combo$3,568$3,900$332
Shimoda Explore V2 35L$415$560$145
TOTAL$17,132$21,858$4,726

Again the savings is over $4,000 and that’s just the stuff I can be bothered figuring out!

All of my ProGrade SD cards are purchased on sale. All of my spare NP-FZ100 batteries, Sandisk portable SSDs and things like Aputure Amaran P60C, all on sale (Amazon links).

Say if you want some Motionvfx plugins but can’t buy enough to get 30% off, well they go on sale throughout the year.

The Sony A1 that I bought, I got lucky there, that was a combination of an existing sale in which I didn’t purchase, but the retailer added another 5% off for the last 12 hours of the sale.

After that it was too good to pass up, I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise as it was way too expensive!

The Sony 24mm GM was another combination deal. A retailer was offering a ‘click frenzy’ sale at the same time as Sony were offering $200 cashback deals, score!

So be patient, be savvy and know what you want and what price you’re willing to pay. Good deals do come around every now and then.

Open box & ex-demo

 

The last method of how to save money when buying camera gear is quite similar to the refurbished option, it’s the ex-demo or open boxed discounts.

In 2019 I got my Mavic 2 Pro brand new for $2,790 when the going price was $3,320 all because the box had been opened to show someone something.

The thing was brand new and I saved $530 by keeping an eye out and being ready to purchase.

The Mavic 2 Pro served me well and due to buying at a discount I didn’t lose as much when selling 3 years later.

Summary – How much have I saved?

 

That’s pretty much all I know about how to save money when buying camera gear.

I think the key is having the time and patience to wait for great deals. If you want brand new equipment then you will find this hard, it usually takes at least 9-12 months before you will see something hit the second hand market.

Every now and then you might get a brand new item discounted in a sale but it’s unlikely to happen within the first 6 months, if you’re lucky it will be within the year though.

Although some of these tips like buying ex-demo or refurbished are quite specific to camera gear and electronics, the other tips apply to anything you’re looking to purchase in life.

The best way to save money is to not buy at all and hold on to what you already have.

When I was looking through receipts to calculate how much I saved over the years the figure topped $12,000 before I got tired of looking. This is mostly off the big ticket items listed in this post, with smaller items like SD cards and GoPro accessories not really being counted.

Still, it’s comforting to know that the time spent looking is worth something and doesn’t go wasted.

Bonus tip 1

 

Put things that you want in your cart but don’t make the purchase. This does two things.

Firstly, it allows you to sleep on it for a few nights and you might find that you don’t really want the item after all.

Secondly, some companies will send you discount codes for items left in a cart to try and get you to make the purchase. It might take a day, or maybe three days, any longer than that and it’s probably not coming.

The example I have here is from Satechi and I figured this out by complete mistake. That discount code is something they sent me via email to encourage the purchase of items I had left in my cart.

I have seen numerous companies offer similar deals over the years when I have slept on a decision or forgotten to clear my cart before leaving so it’s always worth a shot.

Bonus tip 2

 

This one doesn’t refer to buying, but a good way to save after you have made your purchase. Hold items longer.

The best way to save money is to convince yourself that you either don’t need an item, or that you don’t need the latest model of something that you already have.

I like to use smartphones as an example here, every year the gains get so incremental now compared to the massive leaps in technology of the early 2010s,  I tend to keep phones for 4+ years now and ignore the marketing rubbish.

GoPro is the same, I had the 7 and didn’t upgrade until the 10 came out. I can tell you now I won’t be buying the 12, nor the 11 on sale because nothing really changes massively that will affect the way I use the camera.

My Macbook Pros are expensive but I will get 4+ years before updating. Jumping to Apple silicone is a worthy upgrade for anyone still on intel chip machines and they will do any task you require for years to come because they’re so powerful.

I bought the original insta 360 One X and I still have it. They have yet to release a camera that I think is worth my time in upgrading. They need to be used in very unique ways that doesn’t blend well with other footage at this time.

That doesn’t mean their later releases are no good, the Insta 360 One RS 1″ (Amazon) is amazing, but it still suffers from the same 720p resolution after cropping. For me the functionality isn’t there yet and the camera has yet to meet my needs.

Until recently I was using the Zhiyun Weebill S (Amazon) despite it being 4 years old. The only reason I updated it is that the image transmission wasn’t connecting to my cameras so I changed to DJI, otherwise I’d have kept it until it broke.

There are heaps of examples to throw in here, I still have UHS-I microSD cards that get used because they still work, even though I’d much prefer UHS-II speeds, it’s wasteful to change all the time.

I use “slow” portable SSDs rather than the latest tech becasue it’s all relative. I find 1050MB/s more than enough and don’t need to upgrade to 3000MB/s for the sake of it.

I could go on but we’ll leave it there for now. I think everyone has a pretty good handle on how to save money when buying camera gear after reading this.

Conclusion

 

OK my brain is now spent.

I can’t think of much more else to say about how to save money when buying camera gear, so if anyone else has something to add (I’m sure I’ve forgotten something) then go ahead and leave a comment!

Good luck and be patient.

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