Refurbished Camera Equipment: As Good as New if not Better - Digital Photography School

Refurbished Camera Equipment: As Good as New if not Better

Today Art Skopec shares some tips on buying Refurbished Camera Gear.

Image by Stephen DesRoches

Image by Stephen DesRoches

During the 1980’s, I was the Canon USA Service Manager in charge of setting up and running their Refurbishing Center in New York. For 5 years, I worked with other Service Departments to establish procedures and standards related to refurbished equipment. Though we dealt with more than photographic equipment, it will be the focus of this piece.

Where does the equipment come from?

The majority to be refurbished equipment are retail returns. These returns are usually because the buyer or gift recipient can’t get equipment to work for them! (Seriously) The other source of gear is from retired in-store demo units. In both cases, the equipment is usually in perfect running order, possibly with slight cosmetic issues. No matter how good their condition though, they are no longer “New”, and can’t be sold as such.

This is where refurbishing comes to the rescue of the manufacturer and retailer, putting the equipment into a salable state so they can get their investment out of them. In the process, the buyer benefits with a price break.

How is the equipment serviced?

Camera Service standards are more stringent than the Manufacturing Standards of new product coming off the assembly line. Each piece of equipment is tested in a standard manner and adjustments are made when and if required. Depending on the cost involved, more involved repairs will be undertaken to permit the equipment to pass Quality Control. In rare cases, equipment has cosmetic damage that warrants the replacement of external parts. At the end of the repair the piece of equipment is readied for packaging and sale.

In a majority of cases, all original accessories are included with refurbished equipment.

Warranty

There is a different Warranty with Refurbished equipment. Be sure to read the details because there can be a couple different versions for the same model. The difference is usually the duration, making a significant difference in retail price.

Where can I purchase Refurbished products?

I know that Canon sells refurbished equipment at their eStore. Adorama always has an excellent selection of refurbished equipment. Finally, Refurbdepot specializes in all categories of refurbished equipment.

I hope my insights have been useful and that you will consider purchasing refurbished equipment in the future. If you do you’ll get a much better bang for the buck!

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  • http://www.adorama.com Helen Oster

    Hi again, Tracy

    Please be aware that refurbs are refurbished by the manufacturer, NOT by Adorama. Yes, occasionally Nikon can miss something, but as a retailer I don’t think we can take responsibility for that…..

    re: shipping a replacement; our warehouse is closed, as always, for the week long holiday of Sukkot. I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

    In any case, we would not have been able to send a replacement until the unit you have has been returned, unless you authorized us to raise an additional charge on your credit card (refunded as soon as the original unit had been booked back in).

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador
    Helen@adorama.com

  • Lucas Reck

    I am a newbie in photography and I am LIMITED in funds for equipment. Is this article for both lenses and cameras? Should I buy refurbished equipment as my starting equipment? Thank you.

  • qaz111111

    I would only buy refurb Canon from Canon., Adorama or B&H. With Canon’s estore the prices do go on sale several times a year for any given item. So you need to bide your time and the deal will happen. The warranty is the same as new, one year and a credit card purchase can double that to two years. Other refurb companies cannot possibly have the resources to do the refurb quality that cannot can and the sketchy reviews of these companies make the idea equivalent to buying a used piece of gear at a higher price. Canon’s direct price is often lower than used prices so why look elsewhere? As with most things if you need it right now you are likely to pay the highest price so decide what you want and then watch the prices and wait for the deal to come. It will.

  • qaz111111

    *to do the refurb quality that Canon can (I wish there was an edit function for these posts…)

Some older comments

  • Helen Oster

    September 22, 2013 03:28 pm

    Hi again, Tracy

    Please be aware that refurbs are refurbished by the manufacturer, NOT by Adorama. Yes, occasionally Nikon can miss something, but as a retailer I don't think we can take responsibility for that.....

    re: shipping a replacement; our warehouse is closed, as always, for the week long holiday of Sukkot. I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

    In any case, we would not have been able to send a replacement until the unit you have has been returned, unless you authorized us to raise an additional charge on your credit card (refunded as soon as the original unit had been booked back in).

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador
    Helen@adorama.com

  • Tracy

    September 19, 2013 04:16 am

    So frustrated with the Nikon D7000 and Adorama! Called customer service to see if they could send me out a camera today, but they said they couldn't send one until the 29th of September! I'm going to a balloon fest this Saturday! I wanted a good camera for that! I got sent a lemon from Adorama and now I can't exchange it until the 29th? I'm not even sure I trust the company! Just want my money back for the camera body so I can order m Amzon!

  • Helen Oster

    September 18, 2013 10:32 pm

    Hi Tracy

    I understand that since you adjusted the camera to the factory settings the problems have gone?

    However, please test it over the weekend; I have your order number, and if by Monday you feel that it is still under-performing, please let me know and I'll have a pre-paid label emailed to you for easy return to us.

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador
    Helen@adorama.com

  • Tracy

    September 18, 2013 12:56 pm

    I ordered a refurbished Nikon D7000 and two lenses (one refurbished as well) from Adorama and received the items in a timely manner. The problem is that the camera is not taking quality photos. I have had a professional photographer look at the camera and he could not get the camera to take a det photo Even on auto mode, the camera just doesn't seem to want to focus clearly on anything. All pictures are turning out slightly blurred. Right now I am very frustrated with the camera. 2 people very familiar with dslr's could not get the camera to take a decent photo.

    When it's fully automatic (at least when it's on auto) shouldn't it take a nice crisp clear picture?
    We have tried auto, scene select, shutter speed, aperture, change the ISO....we tried everything! The professional photographer could not get it to take a decent shot.
    Very displeased with the Nikon D7000. Displeased and frustrated!

    I'm thinking the refurbished Nikon D7000 from Adorama is not a good investment. Very frustrated and just want to cry!!!!!! I was so excited to finally purchase a DSLR and the one I got (D7000) takes crappy photos. I mean really bad! Not foused, no clear, not crisp, and even the color seems to be off!

  • Michael

    August 11, 2013 03:41 pm

    Paul, I recently purchased 2 Canon T3i's from the Canon USA website "refurbished" versions. I saved $200 on one, $250 on the other. When I tested the shutter activations one had 47, the other 53. For kicks I punched in 750 cameras on the shopping cart, to see if it would go through (their website only allows the cart to pick up from products in stock at the time). It popped right through, telling me that they had over 750 of these T3is in stock. I called Canon, and he told me most of that was new overstock, since the T4i and T5i came out so quickly after the release of the T3i. In other words, I had 2 brand new cameras, and they were offering FREE shipping too. PLUS, I purchase them in April, with 90 day warranties. In July Canon extended their 90 day refurb warranties up to 1 YEAR, and very kindly "grandfathered" both of mine.

    Finally, 2 weeks ago I purchased a Refurbished Canon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS for $299. When it arrived it was perfect, and a full $200 off of retail! It came in the white factory box that ships with the 7D, sealed with everything from the retail kit.

    Right now, Adorama has a refurbished Canon 18-200mm f3.5-5-6 for $319, $281 dollars off of retail!
    You can't lose on a deal like that...

  • Paul Anderson

    March 7, 2013 09:16 am

    Dated article although probably still mostly accurate. Except referral of Refurb Depot is erroneous since the company closed.

  • amanda

    May 8, 2012 01:37 am

    Thank you so much for this I'm looking at getting a refurbed olympus anyways thanks..

  • Pc computer

    November 12, 2011 04:30 am

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  • phobetor

    November 4, 2011 04:06 pm

    You said, "Camera Service standards are more stringent than the Manufacturing Standards of new product coming off the assembly line". If that is the case, then why would the warranty period be 1/4 of a new camera?

  • Larry

    October 14, 2011 06:14 am

    When a camera is refurbished, is the shutter always replaced? Could I be buying a camera with 50,000+ shutter activations?

  • jaydee

    October 15, 2010 05:54 am

    Adorama has refurbished Canon S90 at this time. I got mine

  • Anthony

    February 7, 2010 07:20 am

    @Mandy,

    That is often the scenario. Look at it this way: The item had a problem when purchased "brand new". What does that tell you except that a brand new item can have issues. Buying a refurbished camera knocks out the possibility of having the initial "brand new" problems. I don't buy new anymore. Too much of a headache to be the guinea pig. I'd prefer to buy something that's been tested by a consumer and then repaired and retested by the manufacturer. Paying 100% retail or sale price for an item that hasn't gone through this rigorous kind of testing seems silly. I've yet to see any issues with the refurbs I've purchased.

  • Estores

    December 15, 2009 12:30 pm

    Good Tips!
    I want to buy a new camera and this way i can save some euros... cool!

  • Lea

    September 4, 2009 05:57 am

    I bought a refurbished Canon Rebel XT earlier this year from overstock.com and am more than happy with it! I really wanted to purchase my first DSLR but the prices were daunting! I was able to purchase a factory refurbished camera, camera bag and compact flash card for $100 less than what the camera would've cost me new! Love your tips!

  • Kari

    July 22, 2009 08:01 am

    Camera Service standards are more stringent than the Manufacturing Standards of new product coming off the assembly line.

    If this is true, why doesn't Canon (or Nikon, or Sigma, or Tamron) offer as good a warranty with refurbished items as they do with new. Or as you imply, is it only the difference in warranty that generates the difference in price of an item?

    I'm not against buying refurbished items, and have done so at Adorama, it's just that one shouldn't think you're getting something that is "as good as new."

  • John

    July 22, 2009 04:49 am

    I recently purchased a refurb Nikon D300 from Adorama and have been very pleased. Looking into adding some refurbished glass as well. It's a great way to get quality items at a great price

  • tacgurl

    July 3, 2009 09:49 am

    For all the Nikon folks out there, this refurbished discussion also applies. I have bought refurbished from Cameta & Adorama. Great savings, great products.

  • Rodrian Roadeye

    July 3, 2009 05:45 am

    Stay away from those who charge a restocking fee. They can make more money on that policy then a brand new camera if the same item is returned often enough and it may have never been refurbished at all to begin with.

  • Kelly

    July 3, 2009 04:29 am

    I bought my first DSLR (a Nikon D40) from Adorama, and it was refurbished, and came with a refurbished lens, and then I ordered another lens that was also refurbished. The first camera would not work properly...I did troubleshoot it with Nikon, and ended up sending it back and getting a replacement refurbished camera, which worked perfectly. I have since sold that camera to my mom and gotten a D60...but I think that buying a refurbished camera is a great way to save money. I can't remember whether or not the D60 is refurbished.

  • Jules

    July 2, 2009 10:17 pm

    Good article..interesting information for newbies coming into the industry. I must say that I don't like to see people putting others down for their queries or comments...isn't that why forums exist..so people can ask questions without fear of being made to feel stupid? Sledging isn't cool. Paul or Osmosis - try imparting helpful comments instead of being rude to others. Not everyone can be as perfect as you two seem to think you are.

  • Eric Mesa

    July 2, 2009 10:16 pm

    Looking over the canon refurbs on the estore - it's only $200 cheaper for the 50D. Once you're already spending $1 000, what's another $200 to have a 100% new, untouched camera? After thinking about it, I was thinking that if anything went wrong I'd wonder if it wouldn't have if I had bought a new one. Now, if it were half off, that's a difference story. If it breaks, just buy another.

  • Mandy

    July 2, 2009 07:24 am

    I hadn't considered refurbed products before, bascially because I didn't know where they had come from. The word refurbished tends to make me think of something that has had some kind of problem and consequently been fixed.

    Obviously I am wrong!

    And as someone on a budget and looking to expand my lens this is really good news. I have to say this article has definitely changed my mind and I'll be exploring the recommendations given here as well.

    I am now VERY interested in refurbished products! Thanks for this post...

  • Scott Johnson

    July 1, 2009 04:50 am

    The proper link for the Canon eStore is: http://estore.usa.canon.com/.

  • homebrew

    July 1, 2009 04:02 am

    Scott -- I'll jump on the used/refurb bandwagon. I've purchased a used lens from Adorama and in a nifty bit of timing I bought my first refurb yesterday, also from Adorama. I recommend them with no hesitation whatsoever for either product, In particular, this refurb looks box-new, seems to be performing perfectly so far, has a one-year warranty and was two hundred bucks cheaper than the new one.

  • Aris

    July 1, 2009 02:29 am

    Eric,

    Canon L lenses are not a volume product - the L stands for "Luxury" (supposedly). Do you know for a fact that Canon do not test every L lens, or are you just using your experience with other products?

    Most computer chips are tested (often to the extreme) before shipping, and many Luxury cars are road-tested before shipping too (Ferrari to name one - each one is road tested on their track). I know these are extreme cases - but Canon L lenses are supposed to be the best of the best that they sell - and they charge for them accordingly.

  • Eric Mesa

    July 1, 2009 02:23 am

    @aris - while that's a nice thought, it's just not sustainable at volume. It's standard practice on everything from computer chips to cars - which cost a lot more than $1k

  • Aris

    July 1, 2009 02:20 am

    If you are paying > $1000 for a lens, I would hope that they would test every one to exacting standards. I'd be curious to hear from Canon insiders exactly what kind of testing is done.

  • Eric Mesa

    July 1, 2009 02:01 am

    @Zack Jones - makes perfect sense. I've worked in manufacturing and it's impossible for them to test every single lens that comes off the line. They test a sample of them. This is why you can sometimes buy an item (CPU, camera, lens) that's a dud. But if it's refurbed, they are working with that one lens, so they can make sure it's good quality.

  • Zack Jones

    June 30, 2009 04:32 am

    This line really jumped out at me

    "Camera Service standards are more stringent than the Manufacturing Standards of new product coming off the assembly line."

    Are you saying a refurbished item is actually better than a brand new out-of-the-box item? I find that hard to believe or if that's the case Canon needs to tighten the belt on their manufacturing process. I've bought several used lenses but never a refurbished one

  • Arul

    June 30, 2009 04:23 am

    Hi, Thanks so much for all the comments. I am not a big fan of Re-furbs, but this article and the comments has change my mind-set of not getting a Re-furb peice. If I had read this article a while ago I would have saved some more bucks for few more lenses :-). Thanks anyways.

    -Arul

  • Stephen DesRoches

    June 30, 2009 04:23 am

    nice photo. ;) Thanks for the credit

  • Scott

    June 30, 2009 04:01 am

    HI Helen,

    Thank you very much for your extensive answer(s) and clarifying the difference between "used" and refurbished lenses. Your answer(s) have provided me with a confidence purchasing a refurbished lens or camera particularly from Adorama.

    Best regards,

    Scott

  • Scott

    June 30, 2009 02:58 am

    Hey Ed, Thanks. Where did you purchase your refurbished camera and lens. I live in Ottawa and have Henry's and Vistek as the main retail stores. I have yet to go to a one of the consignment stores. If I do I would want to take the equipment to be examined by a specialty company in town that deals with camera equipment. My caution is related to bad experiences with used electronics - although not camera equipment - in the past.

    Thanks,

    Scott

  • Ed V.

    June 30, 2009 02:34 am

    Scott--I purchased my 40D in-store at Cameta. It was refurbished by Canon USA. I've been very pleased with it so far. I also bought a 17-85 IS lens refurbished from Adorama, same story--no issues.

  • Scott

    June 30, 2009 12:56 am

    Thanks Amandalynn, completely missed that

  • Justin

    June 30, 2009 12:16 am

    Thanks for the info. I may have to look into a refurb for my next lens.

    What's with the grammar police showing up in these comments? I'd rather deal with some grammatical errors than deal with people who correct every mistake someone makes.

  • Scott

    June 29, 2009 11:52 pm

    Has anyone purchased an in-store display camera lens or camera? I purchased my Canon 40D with two lenses etc. and am very pleased - from Cameta Auctions see their Ebay store. When I phoned their sales department they recommended saving some money by purchasing so called used, or in-store lenses. I didn't want to get "burned" so I did not purchase. However, after some time thinking about it, I think it might be worth a try. Thoughts anyone?

    Scott

  • Helen Oster

    June 29, 2009 08:55 pm

    Art: great article, and thanks for the Adorama mention.

    Bill: If you are searching for "referbs", that may be the problem. Try "refurbished", or contact me directly.

    matejMM: Adorama ships internationally!

    scott: refurbished is not necessarily the same as "used". There is a big difference between the Adorama refurbished and used departments. The used items we hold in stock have been purchased from members of the public, and are held in the Manhattan warehouse - graded to indicate quality, and with a 90-day warranty.

    Refurbished items are held in our New Jersey warehouse, and have been delivered there directly by the manufacturer who has carried out the refurbishment. In the past Adorama warranted Canon refurbished for 90 days; since 1st May, all Canon refurbished products from Adorama come with a 1 year return-to-Adorama warranty; 14 days from date of receipt for a full refund, and the balance for repair or replacement.
    Refurbs from Adorama may be ex-store demos, possibly used in field tests or sales displays, or are items that have been ordered in error and returned to the retailer (who can't then sell them as 'new' so they have to be sent back to the manufacturer for refurbishment). They can also have simply been pulled from the production line if something appears faulty, or which haven't passed the final inspection.
    Most of the time it is a very minor issue that needs correcting, nevertheless, once they are pulled from the normal flow of production, they get flagged as a refurbished model, so you may actually get a model straight from the factory that really has never been used!
    A refurbished item will have been checked over by the manufacturer by hand, inspected very thoroughly, diagnosed, and calibrated by experienced technicians, and could therefore turn out to be more dependable than a new item - which will only have been checked by a process of systematic quality control protocol (ie by random sampling as they come off the conveyor belt).

    I hope this helps, but please don't hesitate to contact me directly if you have any queries regarding either Adorama Camera or AdoramaPix.

    Sincerely

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador

    helen.oster@adoramacamera.com
    www.adorama.com

  • servo101

    June 29, 2009 08:05 pm

    I fail to see how useful this article is. Sorry.

  • Aris

    June 29, 2009 06:35 pm

    I'm a Canon user too - and would be curious to hear from an insider why we often hear about 'sample variations' and new lenses having to go back to adjustment. Does it have something to do with QA, or how items are shipped?

  • Jeff Plum

    June 29, 2009 06:14 pm

    @Paul: Sigh. Even DPS is not safe from trolls.

  • Paul Saulnier

    June 29, 2009 05:15 pm

    omg ...how stupid can you be ....if you cant find canon refurbished ...you dont deserve a canon ...and another thing ..i have 2 canons rebel xti ...one new ...800$ and one refurbished 400$....the 400$ dollar one ...well i cant do manual white balance ...i go ripped off ...just found out about a month after the guarantee finished ...but its ok ...i can shoot in raw ...so screw it ..

  • Amandalynn

    June 29, 2009 03:45 pm

    Scott - Click on the "Canon eStore" logo on the right side of the main Canon page, then on that page under "search by interest" click "refurbished products"

  • Bill

    June 29, 2009 01:57 pm

    I also went to Canon and could not figure how to find the referbs.. same on othersites.. I wrote Canon and Adorama an email.. we'll see

  • Scott

    June 29, 2009 01:50 pm

    I went to check out Canon's website, but I can't seem to find any refurb stuff. What am I missing?

  • Peter

    June 29, 2009 11:36 am

    Very nice provision... thank you DPS... = )

  • Scott

    June 29, 2009 10:38 am

    Thanks for the links to used equipment and lenses. I am very hesitant to purchase used, but am changing my opinion as it is likely the only way that I will be able to add to my existing lenses.

  • OsmosisStudios

    June 29, 2009 09:48 am

    Spellcheck and grammar fail. The idea is there: linguistic skills, not so much.

  • matejMM

    June 29, 2009 09:38 am

    Thanks for very useful info. Nice to know that from somebody "inside". Does anybody know where to find refurbished lens in Europe?

  • Brandon Oelling

    June 29, 2009 08:36 am

    I couldn't agree with you more! I'm a big fan or re-furbed lenses in particular.

    Without this option, I would have NEVER been able to upgrade/exchange lenses as quickly as I needed to - brand new lenses can really break the bank for some folks.

  • Helen Oster

    June 29, 2009 08:21 am

    Really enjoyed your article, and thanks for mentioning that Adorama Camera sells refurbished by Canon cameras and lenses.

    I'm always delighted to answer questions or respond to queries (or complaints....) regarding Adorama Camera or AdoramaPix, whether concerning Canon refurbished photographic equipment or any other items that we stock.

    Sincerely

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador

    helen.oster@adoramacamera.com
    www.adorama.com

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