Gray market outside the US : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I was intrigued by the discussion on another thread around "gray market" vs official products purchased in the US. I am in fact not clear what gray means. I gather "gray" products are products purchased from sources other than official distributors in the US (e.g. from mail order like Robert White in UK) which are not covered by US warranties. Only products purchased from official US distributors have a US warranty.

Firstly, is this a correct interpretation? The discussion launchs in to the gray market issue without saying what it is.

Secondly, I live in Australia and am planning to purchase a lens via mail order from either HK or the UK. Does all this have any impact on me? Does this count as the gray market? Will my lens have a full warranty? Will the manufacturer (in this case Schneider) stand behind this lens? Do I have the same problem with Australian distributors as you apparently have in the US?

(BTW, I know that used and looked after, I will almost certainly never need to call on the warranty. I just want to know the situation before I spend the money)

-- Andrew Herrick (, July 17, 2000


Andrew, my friend Australian friend bought a nikon lens here in Canada and upon returning to Australia, realized the lens was defected. He did have an international warranty on his lens (i think it was 2 years and they covered it). From what i gather, camera gear in Australia is very expensive and the limited warranty is worth the risk.


-- Dave Anton (, July 17, 2000.

Your understanding of the term is correct. As far as who covers what - that can be a confusing topic. In the U.S. Nikon will not cover "gray" goods, Canon will. It probably boils down to who is the distributor and who pays the bill - Nikon USA may be an independent entity while Canon USA may be more tightly controlled by Canon. If there is a significant price difference between the UK and Australia then the distributor is probably a different distributor writing-off different costs (advertising, etc...). In the US prices for Mamiya goods are close to twice that in the UK (and very heavily advertised), while Rodenstock prices are almost equal, go figure.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, July 17, 2000.

Grey pricing vs. local pricing provides a very good point of comparison of the mark-up added by the country's authorized distributors. I understand that in the US, for example, Mamiya USA has trademarked the Mamiya name which makes importing of Mamiya products (e.g. grey products) into the USA by anyone else, a breach of their trademark and therefore illegal. This locks out selling grey imported goods. This lock out gives Mamiya USA a freer hand when it comes to pricing as evident by the fact that UK Mamiya pricing is substantially lower. Others, like Nikon refuse to service grey market goods, another way of virtually locking out grey goods. The fact that the products in question are all made by the same manufacturer does not seem to count for much with some distributors. Canon on the other hand seems to be more respectful to users, regardless of where they purchase their products. They do service all Canon products regardless of origin, and very importantly, they apply consistently lower mark-ups to their products than their main competitor, as evident by grey market price vs. USA price comparisons. That these practices go on is something that photographers should know. I for one do not like to be taken advantage of with the main reason being that the distributor needs the money to spend on advertising intended to brainwash me with as to the excellence of their products. The often given official alibi is that the local distributor needs to pay for maintaining a service dept. etc. etc., as if service was done for free! As well, if the one year guarantee is so important, that only indicates that the product in question can not be all that reliable. LF local vs. grey price comparisons are not as easily made as 35mm but the above should be a good thing to remember as it also applies also to LF goods.

-- Julio Fernandez (, July 29, 2000.

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