Robert White Camera (UK) and import duties : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am tempted to order a lens from Robert White Camera in the UK. For those who have dealt with this firm, what are the import duties into the US for a $600 to $800 camera lens? Thank you for any replys.

Martin VanMeter Lexington, KY

-- Martin VanMeter (, May 02, 2001


Hi, I recently bought a Sinar F1 from these guys. Camera was $790.00, I was charged $93.00 for shipping and $56.00 duty. Total$939.00. This compares with $2311 from B&H. I have order other items from them with only good results to report. Dick Bennett

-- Richard W. Bennett (, May 02, 2001.

Recently I purchased a for my wife, new Contax G2 including lenses and case from Robert White (She was a very good girl). The entire package cot $90 for International shipping and $63 import duty. Even with the duty and extra shipping, I saved over $400 on a US purchase.

They are great folks to deal with.


-- Mike Kravit (, May 02, 2001.

I just ordered from Robert White and promptly received an Arca Swiss camera, lens, two backs, and adapter and saved about $1200 over US prices. The shipping was about $100 via FedEx (recommended) and I have not been charged any duty yet --- I got everything about 3 weeks ago, so I don't know whether they overlooked my duty or whether I will be surprised soon. But it sure won't be anywhere near the savings amount.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, May 02, 2001.

Well, I am new to large format and the usenet, BUT finally get to contribute an answer isnstead of just asking all the time!

I ordered my new Toyo VX125 and a bunch of photo and darkroom equipment from him. Service was superb, prices were much better on everything I bought. I spent about $4,500 total and the shipping was $90.00 UPS 3 day. The order was held up by UPS due to their need for my Social Security number to clear customs which I finally got to them. The duty was only 1.5% ($67.50) which was much better than the 3% I was told to expect by Robert.

After talking with US cutoms before I even ordered, it was clear to me that how each piece of equipment fits into each catagory that they have is Highly subjective. I mean these catagories are really obscure and difficult to know what they mean. I am not even really sure that they have any catagories that are really applicable to large format per se. I expect that duty levies can fluctuate all over the map, but the above is my experience and I was VERY pleased. I did find out that each carrier uses a contracted business to do the duty charging for them and it isn't the customs department themselves. So who knows how the charges are figured!

Some small peripheral accessory items were not better deals at Robert's such as the Toyo 3.6x loupe, peak grain magnifier etc. BUT some items were significantly cheaper such as Toyo cut film holders. The price came down to comparable to the other brands and they are finely made.

All in all I highly recommend their business. Whether using Fedex would be better than UPS I don't know, but suspect it might (based totally on rumour and hunch!)


-- Scott Jones (, May 02, 2001.

I second Scott's observations about duty charges being pretty funky.

My first order from RW was a Gitzo tripod that ran around $450.00. I had told my wife to expect the package with a small amount due but UPS just left it on my porch and forgot to charge for it. (of course my wife was ever so helpful, and called them back to TELL them they forgot to charge me!) The duty came to $31.00 for that order.

My next order was for a medium format Mamiya lens (~750.00) and a Ricoh point and shoot camera (~$300.00). The duty on that one was only $22.00 despite the total bill being more than twice as much.

Robert White's policy seems to be to give you a worst case estimate. You shouldn't owe any more than they tell you to expect.

I've been very impressed. They've been great people to work with; very fair and honest. I wouldn't hesitate to order from them again.

-- Tim Klein (, May 03, 2001.

More of the vox populi: 355/9 G Claron, ~$850, ZERO duty. It's a crap shoot at customs I guess.

-- John O'Connell (, May 03, 2001.

I ordered 3 times from R. White, there was duty on one package, two came without. The two packages that "slipped through" were ordered early during the week and arrived 2 days later (yes, you will receive your package 2 days after R. White sends it off). The one that got charged went over the weekend and had more time to "clear" customs I guess...

-- Andreas Carl (, May 03, 2001.

About 1 in 3 packages get charged duty, in my experience.

-- William Marderness (, May 06, 2001.

You can call customs in your locale, and get one of the import specialists to give you what it "should" be. This is not to say this is what you'll end up with. I've written before on what I believe is the best way to get the right duty charged - ask the vendor to code it using the language used in the regulations.

From looking at the US Customs Harmonized Tarrif System (HTS) database available from the customs website (, I'd guess the following:

For lenses:

HTS Number: 90021190 Brief Description: Objective lenses and parts & access. thereof, for cameras, projectors, or photographic enlargers or reducers, except projection, nesi Tarrif: 2.3%

Many photographic accessories:

HTS Number: 90069100 Brief Description: Parts and accessories for photographic cameras, not cinematographic Tarrif: 5.8%

4x5 View Cameras (I plugged "camera" into the database, and thought the following was the only classification of view camera which fit):

HTS Number: 90065990 Brief Description: Photographic cameras, other than fixed focus, valued over $10 each, nesi Tarrif: 0%

Now, I'm not a international trade attorney, so take the above as one lay person's opinion. I've never ordered a camera internationally, so I don't have any first hand war stories either.

-- Larry Huppert (, May 06, 2001.

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