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Without going into detail - I'm noticing that some Professional DSLR lenses are on sale at amazon for up to 50pct off. An example would be an L-series lens which sells for 2200 being available for 1180 - again, that's an example. I'm not promoting Amazon or offering any links or giving you real pricing..

When this is the case, are those lenses about to be discontinued. Should they be avoided? I normally see them at consumer electronics stores for the high price. Is there a service or a database where users can post the lowest prices that they've seen for equipment?

(just added this) As an example, please see http://www.amazon.com/Canon-100mm-2-8L-IS-Macro/dp/B002NEGTSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365521688&sr=8-1&keywords=canon+100+macro+2.8l+is

It's at a huge discount...but in line with Best Buy's price...makes me wonder if they just boost the MSRP sky high, knowing they will actually price it considerably lower.

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If you can post the link to one of the items, we can answer why the prices is so much lower with more confidence. It should be ok to post since this is not a shopping question and not an advertisement, but rather a legitimate question specific to photographic equipment in general. –  AJ Henderson Apr 8 '13 at 19:33
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You mentioned "L" lenses, so you must be speaking of Canon lenses. This website has historical price info: canonpricewatch.com –  dpollitt Apr 8 '13 at 19:36
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+1 for introducing canonpricewatch.com. Great site! –  Regmi Apr 8 '13 at 19:59
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Also, make sure it's not a cheaper version of the same lens. For example Canon makes 4 versions of the 70-200L, from the 70-200L f/4 which runs around $1000 or less to the 70-200L f/2.8 IS II which is usually over $2000. –  cadmium Apr 8 '13 at 21:01
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On the 100mm f/2.8 macro example: the current Amazon link shows a price of $900 and a "List Price" of $1700 — yet on Canon USA's web site they note "Estimated Retail Price: $1,050". Amazon is still (clearly) giving a discount, but basically the "List Price" is nonsense and shouldn't be taken into consideration. –  mattdm Apr 9 '13 at 16:55

3 Answers 3

It's been a long time since I've seen rebates worth 50% or grey market items selling for 50% of the normal price for high end photo gear. I think one of two things is happening here.

  1. You may be confusing two different lenses with names that are very similar. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L (1995), the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS (2001), and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (2010) are often confused with one another. They are three totally different designs, two of which are still in production. One sells for about twice the other (and is worth the difference!).

  2. Pricing on amazon.com can fluctuate frequently. Since prices are adjusted often, in some cases it appears that data entry errors are made that are usually corrected in a very short time frame. Based on anecdotal information from internet discussions, anyone who ordered the item during the time the price was too low is usually sold the item at the listed price when ordered and amazon takes the loss.

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Manufacturers Rebates

Lens manufactures often have cash-back rebates. If you check a site like B&H they'll often list the discount that applies (recently saw a $1600 lens selling for $1200 due to a $400 Nikon rebate). You can also check the Nikon/Canon sites, or even better Canon Rumors and Nikon Rumors will usually have articles about deals going on.

Grey Market

See AJ's answer. You can get something of a discount by buying grey market. US sellers like Adorama and B&H will clearly identify if a product comes with a US or International warranty. The international product is the same, but usually a bit less expensive.

Used products

Amazon sells used products, as do B&H and Adorama. Particularly if a lens is out of stock or discontinued, the used products will appear, and can catch you out if you're not paying attention.

Because Amazon sells most of their photography products through resellers like B&H and Adorama, you can check those sites and should find the same prices. It would be very unusual to find one of them selling a product for a significantly different price than another.

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As an example B&H have a Nikon 16-35mm lens. USA and International versions both the same price, but the "USA" one out of stock. Over on Amazon, if you search for that lens, you only see used ones (at the same price as new!). This is I think because B&H sell that lens on behalf of Amazon, and they only sell the USA version through Amazon, and it's out of stock –  MikeW Apr 8 '13 at 20:04
    
No one sells anything "on behalf of amazon". Amazon lists products from third party sellers and clearly identifies who the product is being sold by. In some cases a product will be "fulfilled by amazon" which means the item is warehoused in an amazon facility rather that at the third party seller's location. If B&H sells through amazon, they do it using an alternate name. Adorama, 17th street, and other NY based photo supply businesses do sell through amazon.com using their publicly recognized name. –  Michael Clark Apr 9 '13 at 1:41
    
"...Amazon lists products from third party sellers and clearly identifies who the product is being sold by" - that's exactly what I meant by selling on behalf of... I saw something listed on Amazon, sold by Adorama, same price as on Adorama site, 2 items in stock, bought off Adorama, and immediately saw the Amazon site showing 1 in stock. Point being much of the stock is not held by Amazon, but sold via the 3rd parties. –  MikeW Apr 9 '13 at 2:22
    
You've still got it backwards. In the situation you just described the product is owned and warehoused by Adorama. If you buy it from Adorama, amazon has nothing to do with the sale. The reduction in inventory at Adorama's facility is reflected on amazon, but the product was sold to you by Adorama on behalf of Adorama. If, on the other hand, you had ordered the product via amazon.com, it would have been sold by amazon on behalf of Adorama. Amazon sells no products through other businesses. Other businesses sell products through amazon. –  Michael Clark Apr 9 '13 at 9:42
    
I think this discussion belongs on the English usage site. I think you're right that my use of "behalf of" was wrong way around. I fully understand that Adorama for example holds all the inventory, the products are merely listed on Amazon, but fulfilled by Adorama. My point, which seems to be lost, is that you won't find vastly different prices on Amazon vs Adorama. –  MikeW Apr 9 '13 at 9:57

You are most likely seeing grey market items. Amazon themselves is pretty unlikely to be selling a grey market item, but many third parties that use their system may be selling grey market items. A grey market item is an item that is intended to be sold in another locality at a (potentially) much lower price point due to the limits of what that market can support.

Such items are often the same as the actual lens you would buy, but they have no warranty as the manufacturer only warrants items that are distributed through official distributors. It is also possible that it could be a fake item, but if they have decent reviews, it's probably fairly unlikely that they are selling counterfeit goods. The price points you mention also are about on par for grey market items.

There's always some risk deciding if it is worth it, but if you don't mind the lack of warranty, grey market can be a great way to save money, but it can also be a path to a lot of pain. It's up to you if you think the risk is worth the potential savings.

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Grey market price difference (for Nikon) is generally a tiny percentage, like $760 rather than $800. Also Canon (outside the U.S. anyway) honors all international warranties –  MikeW Apr 8 '13 at 19:42
    
@MikeW wow - your experience is quite different from mine. I've seen differences (from places I know and trust) of as much as $1000 off a $3500 item or $300 off an $800 item. Sometimes even from the same retailer's non-grey market version. Canon will very specifically not honor international warranties for US customers. I guess they like the rest of the world more. –  AJ Henderson Apr 8 '13 at 19:47
    
In NZ if you buy grey market Nikon gear, the local distributor will not service it, whether under warranty or not, but Canon NZ will service any Canon product. –  MikeW Apr 8 '13 at 19:54
    
Nikon 300mm $1369 vs $1134. That's more like what you're saying, but still not the half that the OP is claiming. –  MikeW Apr 8 '13 at 20:02
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@MikeW maybe, I've seen pretty close to 50% though (like 40% off). Combine that with a rebate that they already processed and 50% becomes achievable. Granted, another possibility we haven't mentioned yet is that it could be that Amazon brought up two different lenses for the same keywords, I've seen that before too which is why I asked about links to the actual item in question in a comment. –  AJ Henderson Apr 8 '13 at 20:47

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