What's the difference between USA products and "grey market" products?

It is important that consumers understand the difference between "grey market" items in the photographic market and USA warranty products. In the United States, a grey market product, or imported product, is any product that is sold without authorization from the original manufacturer, be it Nikon USA, Canon USA, etc. For both Nikon USA and Canon USA, you can find lists of Authorized Dealers here (Canon and Nikon). If a vendor is not listed on an authorized dealer list, then a red flag should pop up in your mind because you may not be purchasing a USA warranty product. Giving customers the false impression that you are buying a USA warranty product when it is actually a grey market item is illegal. Selling a grey market item, though, is not illegal.

So what's the deal with grey market items and why do we not sell them at Gary Camera?

Grey market items cost less money and are regularly sold at a lower price than the USA warranty analogue of a product so anyone would then ask, "What's the catch?" At Gary Camera, we do not sell imported products specifically for the following reasons:

  1. Grey market products will not be serviced by any manufacturer (e.g. Canon, Nikon, Olympus, etc). If your camera breaks, the manufacturer will refuse any servicing your camera may require.
  2. Grey market products do not include any manufacturer warranty while any USA warranty product has a default 1 year warranty included with its purchase.
  3. Grey market cameras do not qualify for any manufacturer rebate programs.
  4. Grey market items are commonly sold to consumers with expensive in-store warranty coverage plans that can cost you even more than the difference you would have saved by buying an imported product.
  5. Given the desperate position consumers face with damaged imported products, camera technicians can charge exorbitant service charges because as a consumer, you have nowhere to go.

In order to grasp the importance of the USA warranty and why we believe selling only USA warranty products is the best business practice, here are two accounts:

I bought an imported Canon 70-200mm f/4 USM lens for $20 less than the price of the USA warranty version of the lens anywhere. I thought I was saving money, but I didn't know what was a USA lens or an imported lens. I got my lens from the online retailer and it looked normal and worked fine. Six months later, the autofocus started lagging behind where it was when I originally bought the lens and then it just died. I called Canon USA and sent them my lens. I learned that my lens was not a "USA warranty lens'" so they could not service it. Then, I set out to find a camera technician locally and online, but every time I explained I had a grey market lens, technicians either refused it or quoted me nearly $400 to repair the lens that cost me originally only $600!       

-Sandra B.

I bought a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens online for $100 below the price of any competitor. The lens seemed like the steal of the century. The listing said "imported" but that didn't mean much to me. I figured everything is imported. Barely anything seems to be made in the USA anymore, but I quickly learned what "imported" meant almost a year later. I had spent $1600 on this lens and saved $100 when I bought it. Less than a year later, a part of the lens ring mount broke off. It seemed like a fairly easy fix, so I called Nikon and they sent me to my local authorized Nikon dealer. The store salesman called Nikon. Nikon immediately let them know that the serial number of my lens was not a Nikon USA lens and the nightmare began. I learned that Nikon would not do anything to my lens because it was "grey market." I didn't even know at the time there were outside camera repair shops so I scrapped the lens and ended up buying a whole new lens but this time the USA version. What originally saved me $100... cost me another $1700 extra.

-Jerry T. 


Today in the photographic retail market, grey market camera bodies, lenses, flashes, and all other accessories are still widely sold. In order to identify a grey market camera or product, things can be a bit tricky. One sure-fire way to know you are buying a USA warranty product is to look closely at a listing or ask the retailer if it is a USA warranty product. Another tell-tale sign of a grey market item is an unusually low price. Fortunately, Canon and Nikon both offer readily available lists online of all authorized dealers (Canon and Nikon) so you can buy with greater confidence in your vendor. If a vendor is not listed on an authorized dealer list, then you know they are not authorized dealers.

Having highlighted the disadvantages of buying a grey market product, here is a concise summation by Canon U.S.A., Inc. about the benefits of buying USA warranty products from Gary Camera & Digital and other Authorized Dealers:

  • Access to purchase genuine (Canon, Nikon): products, supplies and accessories
  • Authorized Dealer access to specialized (Canon, Nikon) administrative support services
  • Authorized Dealer staff who have access to ongoing product training (from Canon or Nikon)
  • Authorized service and repair facilities
  • Comprehensive support for (Canon, Nikon) product warranties
  • Access to Canon-offered or Nikon-offered promotional programs, consumer rebates and special offers
  • These statements were based upon links here at Canon USA's home site

At the end of the day, it's your choice as consumer. Grey market items may cost you less than USA market products, but there is ultimately high risk to buying a “grey market” item, which is why we, at Gary Camera, will always sell you USA warranty cameras, lenses, and accessories.