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I am planning to buy a Nikon 55-200mm lens and I was checking prices at B&H and there is a $30 difference (almost 15% of cost) between "Imported" and "USA" lenses. What is the difference between the two? Is there any drawback of buying the "imported" lens?

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Welcome to photo.SE! –  Reid Nov 1 '10 at 12:34

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It goes beyond warranty; Nikon USA will not work on gray market lenses AT ALL, regardless of warranty status and your willingness to pay. You have to find someone else to do it, or send it overseas to Nikon Japan (who won't honor the warranty but will at least take your money). Non-Nikon repair shops might be riskier due to parts availability and expertise issues (VR lenses are very complicated) and the fact that Nikon is pressuring (or wants to pressure) them into similar non-repair policies.

Thom Hogan has a more detailed article about it.

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Wow. That is a bit extreme position on part of Nikon. I'll stick with the authorized lenses. –  Aditya Nov 1 '10 at 21:23

The biggest drawback is that Nikon and Canon USA do not provide warranty service for "grey" market goods.

B&H attempts to offset this by providing a "matching" warranty: BH matches up to one year of the original warranty, which ever is shorter.

Besides the OEM warranty, you also give up the cc warrant. Little known by many, in the US when you purchase an item with a credit card, the credit card company will double the manufacturer's warranty. This does not apply to imports. YMMV outside of the US (I guess it's one benefit for being a society that finances it's lifestyle with credit-card debt).

Also, albeit minor, you may not get an english version of the instruction manual. I purchased the canon remote flash transmitter and it ended up being the canon.jp model. The seller did have an English manual avail in PDF, but is was a bit of a nuisance.

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The credit card benefits will vary by territory - to say it doubles the warranty is a touch misleading to those in the UK, for example. –  Rowland Shaw Nov 1 '10 at 12:45
    
And by credit card - you might have more, less, or no warranty extension. –  Reid Nov 1 '10 at 14:44
    
@Rowland Shaw: True. I mentioned the US specific CC warranty because the OP is asking about buying a US lens vs an import lens, from a US retailer (B&H). So I assumed he is buying in the US. –  Alan Nov 1 '10 at 17:10
    
Thanks. I didn't realize that what B&H calls imported is the same as grey market. I guess that I'll shell out the extra $30 dollars for the lens warrenty –  Aditya Nov 1 '10 at 21:21

They are the same lenses, but the difference is in the warranty offered. Nikon USA imports lenses and offers a USA warranty. Similarly, Nikon Canada does the same. They are different organizations. I live in Canada, so my experience may not be as relevant to you, but Nikon Canada will not service or offer warranty on lenses that were not purchased through an authorized Canadian dealer. On the other hand, Nikon Canada offers a 2 year warranty on cameras, and a 5 year warranty on lenses. For me, that makes it worth the difference in prices. (Similarly, Sigma Canada offers a 10 year warranty on lenses, compared to I think 4 years in the USA).

The term for merchandise imported and sold by a dealer not authorized by the local organization is "Grey Market". There's nothing wrong with the gear, it just may be harder to get it serviced and may have different warranty conditions.

There is also the possibility that some imported gear may be counterfeit or knock-offs of some kind, but I haven't run into that problem with camera gear yet.

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Actually, I am moving to Canada in some time and that was part of the reason for buying gear in the USA. The prices in Canada are much more expensive (The same lens on Amazon.ca is $300, almost $80 more than the US price of $220. I haven't checked the price at local camera stores). Judging by the Thom Hogan article that Reid linked to, I should be able to get service from Nikkon Canada dealer on a lens I purchased when I was in US. –  Aditya Nov 1 '10 at 21:27
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Sometimes I find things to be cheaper in Canada, especially after taking into account shipping (and/or brokerage, depending on how the item is shipped). There is a good photo price comparison site for Canadians that includes pricing from Adorama, B&H, and others, as well as all the big Canadian places like Henry's, Vistek, Aden, etc... The site is photoprice.ca. Here is the link to the lens that you were looking at: photoprice.ca/product/00084/… –  seanmc Nov 1 '10 at 23:19
    
Thanks for the photoprice link. Some of the lenses are actually cheaper in Canada :) –  Aditya Nov 2 '10 at 15:44

Typically the imported lens might need to be returned to the country of origin for the warranty.

i.e. if it was imported from the UK (I know highly unlikely) and there was a fault you would need to send the lens back to the UK for repair - if you wanted to claim under the warranty.

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This will depend on the nature of the warranty. Nikon UK repaired under warranty a D70 body for me that I had bought in Chile but originally came from the USA. I don't have the paperwork any longer, but I seem to recall that Nikon operated a world-wide warranty at that time. –  Danny Edmunds Nov 1 '10 at 7:56
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My understanding is that Nikon USA will repair lenses you personally buy (and can prove you bought) overseas, but not gray market imports. @Danny, that sounds like your situation perhaps? –  Reid Nov 1 '10 at 14:45
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@Reid, yes possibly. Wish I still had the paperwork so I could check the wording! Reading through Thom's article (see Reid's comment below) it was a repair done due to a batch fault in early D70s, which may also have been a factor. –  Danny Edmunds Nov 1 '10 at 15:49
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thats all really useful to know - thank you –  Zoe Bailey Nov 1 '10 at 17:21
    
I will be moving to another country (Canada) in some time. But, since I am buying the lens when I in the US, I think that I should be covered by Nikon Canada in warranty. –  Aditya Nov 1 '10 at 21:30

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