How to Buy Gear Online Without Being Ripped Off

A photography student recently emailed to ask my opinion on a photo kit she found online. In addition to the camera and lens they advertised several other "freebies" including:

 "Deal 1: "Card Reader + Free Lens Cleaning Kit + LCD Screen Protector And A Tripod + Camera Case" 

Deal 2: Buy a High Speed Memory Card Get 2nd one FREE+ FREE 57 in 1 Card Reader

Deal 3: Purchase any Lithium Battery and Get a second one FREE!!

Deal 4: Order Any 2 OR 3 Year Warranty And Receive An Upgrade To 4 OR 5 Years For FREE!!  

Deal 5: Order 2 Lithium Ion Batteries And Get An External AC/DC Rapid Charger For FREE!!

Deal 6: Buy Any SLR Camera Or SLR Camera Kit and Get a FREE!! Wireless Remote A $69.99 Value"

 Sounds impressive right? Well...let's take a closer look at the specifics. Well, my first question is, Does the camera and lens have a U.S. warranty or is it a grey market item or knockoff? 

Warning Signs

1) Who makes the tripod, how much weight does it hold, and what kind of ball head does it have? A tripod is a very important consideration, and not one that should be bundled with a camera. To find the perfect tripod, check here.

2) Who makes this high speed memory card and what is the capacity? Can you really trust it? With digital photography, the memory card is your film. Stick with Lexar and SanDisk for reliable results.

3) Third party batteries are cheaper, but have a notoriously shorter life span. Typically they lose their ability to hold a charge in less than one year.  You are far better off with the manufacturer battery.

4) The "extended warranty" is overpriced and unnecessary. Most new cameras come with a one-year manufacturer's warranty right out of the box. If something malfunctions you send it in and they fix it for free. Should something fail after the initial warranty period, they will still fix it, but charge to do so. Ironically, most of these repairs cost far less than the cost of the extended warranty. Even something extreme like a blown shutter is a reasonable repair in comparison to these expensive extensions.

5 & 6) When you buy a camera it is supposed to come packaged with the proper charger. Again, stick to the batteries, chargers and accessories made by the manufacturer. Theses other products sound good on paper, but fail to impress in practice.

If you are still unsure of how legit an online seller is, you can check out their reputation at

Just enter the company name and you'll see real reviews from people who shopped their previously. You've been warned!