I recently received an offer of a Canon DSLR camera, which is incredibly low (5D III + 24-105 L lens for 1100€). As the usual price is three to four times more, I'm trying to figure out where the catch is. I know that there are many fake Canon accessories around (batteries, speedlites etc.) but not cameras. On many forums it is stated that cameras are too complex to be faked, even the Canon official site does not mention them.

There are scenarios which I can exclude:

  • I will receive an empty box or a photograph of the camera — I will pay after receiving the package and looking inside.
  • The name will be something like "Conan" or "Canoon" — again, this is something obvious.
  • Just grey market or refurbished product — the price is too low even for that.

Q1: What are some risks of buying such a camera? I don't care about a warranty as long as it is an original Canon product.

Q2: If there are Canon camera counterfeits around, how can I recognize them really quickly? Taking the camera to the repair center is not an option.

I know that buying from a shady seller and too low price are huge red flags, but the price is too tempting.

  • 19
    Usual rule: if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
    – Philip Kendall
    Feb 27, 2017 at 13:11
  • 32
    Have you considered "it's stolen"?
    – mattdm
    Feb 27, 2017 at 13:19
  • 3
    The first rule of commerce is to never buy anything from any seller you don't trust unless you're willing to risk getting nothing in return. Even then there is additional risk in disclosing information to a seller that the seller might exploit.
    – Michael C
    Feb 27, 2017 at 13:22
  • 5
    The current street price for a new gray market 5D3 is about $2000 in the U.S. The current street price for a grey market EF 24-105mm f/4 L is about $600. The total of $2,600 USD is about 2,450 euros at the current exchange rate. That is only a bit more than twice your quoted price. Is it possible the camera and lens you have been offered is heavily used?
    – Michael C
    Feb 27, 2017 at 13:28
  • 5
    Why is the price so tempting? Everything tells you that there is something not right. Just move on.
    – osullic
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:55

6 Answers 6


I'm trying to figure out where the catch is.

  1. The camera might have been stolen.

  2. The camera might be broken or damaged in some way that's not immediately noticeable. For example, if the body casting itself is bent, the camera might not be able to take a sharp image, or the battery connection might not be reliable. Professional cameras like the 5D line are very tough, but they're not indestructible.

What are some risks buying such a camera?

  1. In most places, receiving and/or possessing stolen goods is itself a crime.

  2. You could be stuck with a camera that can't be repaired, or one that costs more to buy and repair than it would have cost to buy a new one.

If there are canon camera counterfeits around, how can I recognize them really quickly?

I haven't heard of counterfeit cameras, and producing such a thing on a small scale would likely be more expensive than buying the real deal. Conversely, a counterfeit Canon 5D III that could be sold at a much lower price would have to be a pretty poor imitation. The best way to protect yourself in this case would be to become familiar with what the real thing looks and feels like and how it works.

Counterfeit batteries, on the other hand, are a little harder to spot. There's an article on Canon's web site that explains how to spot fake batteries that are passed off as being Canon OEM batteries.

  • 5
    I'm not aware of jurisdictions where it's a crime to receive/possess stolen goods unknowingly, but usually they can be confiscated and returned to the actual owner (from whom they were stolen) and you have no recourse except to sue the crook who sold them to you. Feb 27, 2017 at 21:24
  • 2
    @R.. Well, in U.S. it's a crime even if you didn't have specific knowledge that the goods were stolen, but you bought them under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to doubt their legality. Feb 28, 2017 at 4:42
  • 1
    So it's a crime to shop at a pawn shop? I generally assume a large portion of the goods for sale there were stolen and I think that's a pretty reasonable view... Feb 28, 2017 at 14:56
  • 1
    @R In Poland owning stolen goods is illegal. It is not punishable if you couldn't know it's stolen (but surprisingly low price is usually treated as a proof that you could know), do not hide it and do not refuse to give it back once you found out it was stolen, but then - you don't own this thing anymore and probably nobody will give you your money back
    – Mołot
    Feb 28, 2017 at 15:30
  • 3
    @R.. Not sure where you're at, but all the pawn shops I have visited have very extensive means to deter stolen goods passing through them including things like cooperation with law enforcement through things like serial number lookups.
    – Michael
    Feb 28, 2017 at 16:57

A common "scam" is to offer the camera body for a very low price, and then make up the difference by charging high prices for everything else. You say the offer is for "5D III + 24-105 L lens for 1100€" -- this is exactly what you'll get. It doesn't include a battery, or the user manual, or the camera strap, or lens caps, or a protective cover for the hotshoe, or anything else you'd expect in the box. The seller will make these available, but at huge markups.

Additionally, if you don't opt to buy the overpriced accessories, expect it to take months for your order to ship, if it ever does, as they "don't have it in stock, but it'll be arriving from our supplier any day now", or "we're having a dispute with the shipping company, rest assured that we value your order", or other delaying tactics.

  • 1
    Yeah, I got a grey -market camera from Abe's of Maine (which suspiciously enough is in NJ :-) ) for a decent price. All hardware, but no warranty. Then they called and offered to sell me a spare battery for 4X the price of the manufacturer's list price. Hah. Feb 28, 2017 at 12:53
  • Abe's used to be a good outfit when I live in the states, back in the mid-80s, Have they gone down hill? Feb 28, 2017 at 14:39
  • 2
    @Mawg Yes. That company went bankrupt in 2012; the current holders of the name are a bait & switch outfit. See this blog post for some background.
    – mattdm
    Feb 28, 2017 at 17:18
  • That's the same basic scam referenced in this answer
    – Michael C
    Feb 28, 2017 at 21:20
  • A shame about Abes/ I bought quite a few cameras and lenses from them, by mail order, and never had a problem, but always had a bargain ;-( Mar 1, 2017 at 8:41

Sometimes there are reports of entry level DSLRs camouflaged and sold as full frame ones. Recently, it was found out that some d7100s (dx) were modified and sold as d610s (fx). And some d800s ( with an anti aliasing filter) were modified and sold as d800Es. So it may be a canon, but a cheaper model.


Yes, there are counterfeit cameras.

Last time I visited Beijing, I had my cam around my neck while visiting a mall known to sell both original and fake products. (Well, I did not buy anything or trust anyone there.) A seller immediately recognised my G16 and asked "Nice cam! Original or buy here? How much?"

Well, while that anecdote doesn´t bear the authority usually wanted on the stackexchange network, at least it should ring some bells.

As to the manufacturing prices: Sometimes fake manufacturers manage to get real cases (guess where they are made) and fill them with wortlesselectronics and optics.

  • Really? Hmm. Can you explain your last sentence
    – Janardan S
    Feb 28, 2017 at 1:32
  • 1
    @Janas: They aquire original camera cases and worthless electronics. You can´t tell the difference from looking at it, just by opening it. Feb 28, 2017 at 12:20
  • Whoa! Blows my mind, never heard of that before. Shocking
    – Janardan S
    Feb 28, 2017 at 12:27
  • The seller was probably interested because they weren't aware of any fakes of that camera, and wanted to find out if someone else had them before he did. That or he was just starting conversation to try and sell you something else
    – user21099
    Feb 28, 2017 at 15:52

If it is indeed a real 5D III (and not a cheaper model "converted" into a 5D III), it might be camera which has seem professional use. IIRC, the shutter is rated for 150.000 operations. A professional photographers can easily exceed this rating within a few months. One thing which differentiates the professional model line from the consumer model line is the ability to shoot at a higher sustained rate (high burst rates are nice, but it really sucks when the camera stalls because the burst buffer is full and your pay depends on getting a photo done in exactly that precise moment).

The number of shutter cycles can be read via some software on a computer. I do not know if this number can be manipulated, but since most people don't even know about this option, sellers often give a much lower number of shutter cycles than the camera had in reality (the file/directory numbering wraps around and is no reliable indication).

One other option is that the camera has been stolen. The original owner most probably knows the serial number (it's stored in every picture taken) and if this serial number resurfaces anywhere at a later point of time, you might get into trouble (it's stored in every picture...). A Google search like "Serial number of camera 820603796" (just a random 5D2 serial number for this example) might lead to the owner/operator of the camera (https://www.flickr.com/photos/7842697@N03/7945299606).

  • 1
    The shutter in a 5D can be replaced for a few hundred dollars, so a worn out shutter by itself wouldn't justify such a low price.
    – Caleb
    Feb 28, 2017 at 17:22
  • @Caleb Coupled with the entry on the profit/loss sheet for selling it for so much less than one paid while only taking one year of depreciation would get it a lot closer. But I highly doubt that is what is going on here.
    – Michael C
    Feb 28, 2017 at 21:24

The real worry is that the vendor appears to be kind and sweet, answers all your queries, and even appears to negotiate price. But after you have made an irreversible payment, a package arrives that either appears from the outside to be genuine (re-used packaging), or, worse, has a Customs declaration that totally misrepresents the shipped goods. Then when you complain, the vendor has disappeared. Like you, I ordered a Canon camera and lens for what seemed a bargain price, and received a couple of fake watches. When I telephoned the vendor, I got an oral apology that the firm was in liquidation, and that no compensation was possible. My only 'compensation' is to bad-mouth the vendor association which is in a country claiming to own the Pacific Ocean. You guess who.

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