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In this post, we will go over how to save money when buying photography camera gear on a budget. We will share our top 10 strategies that we personally use to avoid overpaying for photography equipment.
When we started our photography journey, we did not have the latest and the greatest gear. We bought inexpensive, cheap cropped sensor cameras with interchangeable lenses. It was only over time that we built up to our full-frame camera and lens lineup and learned how to be frugal about it.
Tip 1: Shop On Holidays or Sales Events
Try to time your purchases around holidays and sales events, such as Cyber Monday. Also, major camera manufacturers have several sales events throughout the year that are not necessarily tied to holidays. During these sale events, the selection of discounted items may differ.
To stay up-to-date on sales, subscribe to your favorite manufacturer’s newsletter and they will send you updates about discounts. For instance, we are subscribed to Nikon’s newsletters and we regularly receive news about their major sales. Alternatively, you can follow websites such as Canon Rumors, Nikon Rumors or Sony Alpha Rumors. These websites will regularly update you on upcoming deals and latest information related to camera gear. Using this strategy, we frequently bought lenses/cameras that were anywhere from $100 to $500 off their original price.
Tip 2: Track Price Changes on Camera Gear
This leads to the second strategy we use to keep track of price changes on camera gear we are interested in buying. Instead of checking prices every day, I use online price trackers for Amazon, such as Keepa or CamelCamelCamel. Although you may be buying your camera equipment from places other than Amazon, almost all online merchants maintain comparable prices across the board.
So, let’s say I want to buy Nikon Z7 II full-frame camera for $2,500 or less. I would go to Keepa and copy paste the link of this product from Amazon and will see a graph for price changes.
Here, you can create a tracking record for this photography camera and Keepa will notify you when Z7’s price falls below your threshold. Actually, we do that for all of our online purchases, not only camera gear.
Tip 3: Maximize Credit Cards Cash Back
My third piece of advice is to maximize your cash back on credit cards when shopping. This may or may not work for someone who is unwilling to use credit cards for making purchases.
We frequently make purchases on B&H Video using their Payboo credit card. This card will instantly rebate any sales tax owed on purchases. Depending on your location in the US, sales tax rate could be anywhere from zero to over 10%. This could add up to significant savings. Also, certain credit cards would have cash back deals for specific merchants. For instance, I use Capital One Quicksilver credit card and it has cash back of 4% for Adorama and 6% for Canon at this time.
Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member and have an Amazon Visa credit card, you are already getting 5% cash back on all purchases from Amazon. If you are not a member, you can sign up for or try Amazon Prime for 30 days for free. However, I would say that B&H’s Payboo credit card is by far the best value proposition when it comes to cash back on electronics purchases.
Tip 4: Use PayPal Honey Cash Back Rewards
The fourth strategy we use when shopping online is to take advantage of PayPal Honey rewards. This company is owned by PayPal since 2020. PayPal Honey is a handy browser extension that lets you know if there is a cashback available on a particular website.
We use it all the time to get savings on not only photography camera gear, but also everything else. The availability of PayPal Honey and the cash back percent vary from website to website. For instance, Honey is available on Adorama with a cashback from 0.1% to 2%, but it is not available on B&H Video. But it is available on Walmart with a cash back from 0.1% to 1%. Sometimes, in addition to cash back, PayPal Honey would offer you a special deal on a particular product with extra cash back in addition to percent cash back.
For PayPal Honey to work, you need to install the browser extension, disable any ad blockers you have, activate the cashback deal through Honey, complete the purchase and that is it. Also, as you shop on a particular website, Honey will list all the coupons and discount codes they have on file for this merchant. They will even try them for you at checkout. About a month or so after your purchase, you will get your cashback. You have many options to redeem it, such as gift cards or good old-fashioned cash deposit to your PayPal account, if you have one.
Tip 5: Buy Used or Refurbished Products
The fifth strategy is to buy used cameras gear or refurbished photography products. Typically, individual sellers on Amazon or Ebay would sell their used gear for a very reasonable price. We actually purchased a used Sony camera a few years ago and it worked perfectly fine.
Also, other established merchants, such as B&H Video, Adorama and Amazon offer refurbished or used products at a discount on their websites. Typically, they provide a certain guarantee ranging from 30 to 90 days to return products with no questions asked. There are also other websites that specialize in selling used gear only, such KEH Camera, Lensrentals and MPB.
Tip 6: Buy Older Models of Cameras and Lenses
The sixth strategy is to buy older models of cameras and lenses. At the end of the day, no matter how great your gear is, your photography will be as good as your skill level. You do not need sometimes the latest and the greatest photography cameras and lenses to take stunning imagery.
Consider Nikon D850, which is an excellent DSLR camera that you can still buy for under $2,500. Alternatively, instead of buying the Nikon Z7 II, you can go with Nikon Z7, which is a less expensive, but still great camera. On Cyber Monday of 2022, BH Video was selling Nikon Z7 II for $2,600, while Z7 cost $1,800. Depending on your needs and requirements, the Z7 may be all you need at this stage of your hobby or professional career.
Tip 7: Sell or Exchange Your Old Gear
Saving tip number seven is to sell or exchange your old gear before buying new photography equipment. You can probably generate the highest dollar amount by selling your gear on Amazon, Ebay or other websites that specialize on used gear that I mentioned before.
You can also sell or exchange your old equipment at established camera merchants, such as B&H Video or Adorama. However, you will probably get less money compared to selling it yourself. However, the process of selling or exchanging with them is simpler. All you need to do is to send, for instance, to B&H Video your equipment. After their specialists evaluate your equipment, they will quote you the amount of money they are willing to pay depending on the condition of your gear.
Tip 8: Buy Third-Party Camera Gear
Another method to save money is to buy third-party camera gear, especially camera accessories such as lenses, speedlights, extension tubes, shutter release, intervalometers and many others. Third-party equipment is typically much cheaper. Also, depending on the lens mount, you may have a very wide or very narrow selection of third-party glass though. For instance, there is a very wide selection of third-party lenses for Nikon’s legacy DSLR F-mount, while there is very limited selection of new mirrorless Z-mount lenses, especially with autofocus. Also, before buying third-party gear, especially lenses, double check that the image quality is comparable to that of the brand product.
Tip 9: Join Rewards Programs
Saving tip number nine is to join rewards programs at places that you shop for camera gear. Rewards programs would typically offer you around 1% cashback on your purchases. It is not much, but better than nothing. For instance, Adorama has a rewards program that gives you a 1% reward. Best Buy also offers loyalty rewards program with 1% cash back.
Tip 10: Buy Only When You Need It
The final and most important advice on saving money on camera gear is this: do not to buy anything at all, until you absolutely need it. You have to constantly ask yourself this question: what do I gain by buying this product compared to what I have? Of course, if you have no gear at all, buying something you need is better than nothing. However, let’s say you already own a DSLR camera with lenses. Then should you upgrade to mirrorless? Is the expense worth it in terms of new capabilities you will gain?
As for us, we still own DSLR cameras and lenses, which work just fine for us. Our flagship camera Nikon D850 does an outstanding job for our photography and even videography needs.
Full-frame DSLR camera that captures 45.7 megapixels images up to 9 fps featuring precise autofocus and 4K movie recording.
Of course, I would like to get my hands on newer, sharper Nikon lenses and Z cameras with better video quality. But at the end of the day, I do not view this expensive upgrade as a worthy adventure at this time. Same goes for all other gear purchases that we may have on our mind.
Some photographers suggest to rent equipment and try it out. Although we never tried it, renting may be a viable option when you need something a few times for a short project or you want to try out a product before buying it. Lensrentals could be a place to do so.
When we buy photography equipment, we tend to build it up very slowly and strategically. We also tend to stay away from kits and bundles, because they typically contain low-value items that you may not necessarily need down the road.
Also, if you really know what you want, creating a savings plan and setting money aside each month may be an excellent and motivating tool to help you buy the gear you want.