It’s no secret that camera gear is expensive. Fortunately, saving money on gear isn’t as hard as it might seem.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a handful of ways to keep photography costs (relatively) low. No, my methods won’t let you grab a camera or lens for free – but they can significantly reduce costs and help you purchase dream gear much faster than you would have managed otherwise.
So before you buy that next camera body, lens, or accessory, read up on these money-saving tips, starting with:
1. Look for discounts and deals
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you should always, always, always be on the lookout for sales or discounts. Retailers such as Amazon often run sales where certain photography products are heavily discounted for a few days – and if you’re not on top of your sales game, then you’ll miss out.
If you have particular gear items in mind, I’d recommend bookmarking the product pages on Amazon and checking back daily. (Make it a part of your morning routine!) That way, if a sale does go live, you’ll see it immediately.
You should also subscribe to photography blogs and websites like Canon Rumors, Nikon Rumors, and Sony Alpha Rumors. In addition to bringing you the latest gear-related information on upcoming camera specs and release dates, these sites frequently post top camera, lens, and accessory deals. (They’re fast, too; they often seem to know about the best deals before everybody else.)
Another tip is to wait for certain sale “holidays.” Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day almost always result in massive gear discounts, so I encourage you to mark them in your calendar and determine the gear you want to buy in advance. Then, when the holiday rolls around, you can snap it all up!
2. Buy your gear just before or after a new release
Most camera manufacturers have a fairly regular product release cycle. Many full-frame and APS-C camera manufacturers release a new product every two years, while GoPro releases a new Hero every year. (The steady release cycle of cameras has been disrupted somewhat by the turn toward mirrorless technology and COVID-19 supply-line issues, but if you do careful research and/or follow rumor sites, you should be able to expect new models before they hit the shelves.)
Why is this useful?
While purchasing a camera or lens right after the public release won’t save you money, previous models often receive a big price cut. Additionally, current owners will be looking to sell, which means you can get great deals on sites such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace. And if you know in advance when new models will launch, you can start putting aside money and plan for the moment you can take advantage of the bargain prices.
If you’re serious about purchasing the new model, you can also save money by waiting six months to a year after its release. Then you’ll start to see deals pop up. Not only will the price likely drop, but camera stores are also likely to create product bundles that throw in extra goodies such as Adobe Photoshop subscriptions, memory cards, camera bags, and more.
3. Consider third-party options
There aren’t many third-party camera bodies out there, but there are plenty of third-party lenses and accessories, and I highly recommend giving them a look.
For a long time, third-party products were seen as inferior. However, companies such as Sigma and Tamron have really upped their game. They’re now producing high-quality lenses that rival the quality of those made by original camera manufacturers – and they’re often significantly cheaper. (Also, third-party brands sometimes offer unusual items that are difficult or impossible to get via original manufacturers, such as soft-focus lenses.)
So the next time you’re looking for a new piece of glass for your camera, definitely consider the third-party options out there. You might find a great lens for an even greater price!
4. Buy used or refurbished
Cameras and lenses are made to last. As long as they’ve been well-cared for, they hold their value and their quality.
So if you’re in the market for camera gear, definitely consider buying used or refurbished products, which often come at bargain prices. The process can seem (understandably) intimidating, and there are several ways to go about it, each with its own degree of risk.
One option is to buy locally via an online store such as Facebook Marketplace. This is the most dangerous option; you’ll need to evaluate the product in person, and there’s often little chance of a refund if the product is defective. However, this method also gives you the most wiggle room for negotiating a better price, and because the selling platform doesn’t necessarily take a cut of the sale, prices can be especially low.
Another way to buy used or refurbished is to look on major resale sites such as eBay. (Amazon is another good option with a slew of used product listings.) These websites will back your purchase with various guarantees, but you do need to be careful and ask plenty of questions before buying. You’ll also need to thoroughly inspect the product upon receipt; sellers won’t necessarily disclose (or even recognize) issues, so you need to be hyper-vigilant.
Finally, you can purchase gear from a camera store. Nearly all major online camera retailers – including B&H Photo and Adorama – have a “used” section with discounted gear. And there are also websites such as KEH that specialize in buying and selling used gear.
The benefit of using a dedicated photography site is security. In most cases, your purchase will be covered by the store, the gear will be inspected by a technician for flaws, and you’ll be able to return the item in case of a defect. However, prices tend to be on the high side, plus there’s no room for negotiation, so the price you see is what you’ll have to pay.
5. Rent gear
Maybe you’re traveling to Africa and you know you’ll need a blazing-fast camera and a long lens. Maybe you’re planning to shoot your friend’s wedding and you want a bag full of fast glass.
You plan to just go online, find the right equipment, and just hit that “Buy” button.
But before you do, ask yourself: “Do I really need to own that?”
If you’ll only be using a camera, lens, or accessory for a single photoshoot or trip, it might be better to rent the gear temporarily and return it once your project is complete. This is especially true when using specialty lenses such as super-telephoto zooms that retail for $10,000+.
If you like this approach, find a nearby camera store and see if they offer gear rental services. Another option is BorrowLenses, a website that specializes in renting out camera gear for reasonable prices. (They also sell used gear, so you might consider making some money-saving purchases while you’re at it!)
6. Use credit card rewards
If you’re diligent about paying off your purchases each month, it might make sense to apply for a credit card with a good rewards system. There are camera-specific credit cards, such as , that reimburse you for sales tax. And there are more general credit cards that allow you to get points or money back from a wider variety of purchases. card
Personally, I’m a fan of the Amazon Prime Store card. It gives you 5% back on all items plus the option to finance big purchases (i.e., cameras!). Either way, do your research and see if you can find a card that suits you. Of course, be sure to pay the card off on a regular basis; otherwise, it will cost you money.
How to save money on camera gear: final words
Well, there you have it:
Six ways to save some money on cameras, lenses, and photography accessories.
Hopefully, you can use these options to make bigger, better, cheaper purchases!
Now over to you:
Do you have any tips to add to the list? How do you plan to save money on camera gear? Share your thoughts in the comments below!