Best time to buy a camera: shop smart and save
When is the best time to buy a camera? In reality, there is no ‘one best time,’ but if you want to save money (and who doesn’t?), there are certainly some great sales and events to keep your eye out for throughout the year. As a result of the ongoing cost of living crisis, our budgets are tighter than ever and we are unsurprisingly less keen to part with our cash.
Fuel and energy prices are constantly rising, and for many beginners and hobby photographers, now isn’t a good time to justify spending thousands of dollars on a new camera. Here, we will discuss when you can expect to find the best camera discounts, which seasonal sales and photography events to keep your eyes peeled for and which websites to check out and compare.
We’ll discuss when camera brands usually slash their prices and how to make the most of the photography community. Finally, we’ll consider whether you’re better off just buying from the used market.
When to find the best discounts
(Image credit: Getty)
Knowing when the best sales occur throughout the year can be really beneficial when you’re looking to buy a camera. There’s nothing worse than making a big purchase and then discovering it’s on sale days after you purchased it. If you’re new to photography, you might not want to splash the cash straight away. Waiting for sales is a great way to pick up equipment for less than the recommended retail price. The most significant sales events to be aware of throughout the year are:
Post-Christmas/January sales – this also often includes Blue Monday. Retailers are often looking to clear out any excess stock at this time of year.Easter holiday sales (March/April)Amazon Prime Day (June/July)Black Friday/Cyber Monday (November)Most national holidays. Brands use every opportunity to try and make you part with your cash.
Make sure you check out Space.com’s deals hub for the best discounts on cameras. We’ve rounded up the best camera deals from Amazon, Walmart, Adorama, and more. We also have dedicated pages during the more significant sales where our editors publish what they think are the best deals of the day. See this example where we saw a whopping $500 off the Canon A7R IV or this, where we found a cheaper than Amazon Prime day deal of $600 off the Canon 6D Mk II.
Another great time and place to purchase cameras, lenses, and other accessories for discounted prices are at photography shows and conventions. You can often try out any gear you want to add to your kit at these events. There are a lot of different camera retailers under one roof, and they all want to sell you something. Generally, the retailers offer competitive prices to encourage you to spend your money with them.
If you’re in the US, check out the ClickCon (opens in new tab) photography conference. If you’re a UK reader, consider getting tickets to The Photography Show (opens in new tab), held annually in Birmingham.
Timing is everything
change (Image credit: Getty)
Being smart when looking to save money on your camera purchase, goes a bit further than just knowing when the best retailer sales are. While that does help, you should also be mindful of what time of year your chosen brand will release any new models.
New camera releases often mean that older models can drop in price dramatically, both in the new and used markets. Some older stock may even be getting discontinued, meaning even more considerable savings are likely. Other brands may even discount their stock at the same time as another brand’s release date as a bid to maintain their customer loyalty.
The January Consumer Electronics Show is usually where new camera releases are first announced, with the release dates being some time in February. Keep your eyes peeled around this time, as there’s a good chance you’ll find a great bargain with the older models being reduced in price. The second-hand market will also likely reflect that price drop when new models come out.
Shop around for the best deals
An example of a warehouse clearance time-limited offer over at Adorama (opens in new tab). (Image credit: Adorama)
You may not have to wait for the seasonal sales to grab a bargain. Many big websites have regular deals throughout the year, so make sure you’re always keeping an eye on those. Although Amazon has Prime Day and other big yearly sales events, their prices continuously fluctuate weekly. In fact, many sellers will inflate their prices just before a big sale to give the illusion of a great deal. You can adjust your settings to get notified when items in your watch list change in price, meaning you won’t miss the best deal.
You can also use a web browser extension such as camelcamelcamel (opens in new tab), which records product prices over time so you can see if it has been cheaper or if it is a genuine deal.
(Image credit: Getty)
If the retailer has a ‘Live Chat’ function on their website, ask if there are any discount codes available. Sometimes they may offer a percentage off as a gesture of goodwill. There is no harm in asking.
Other big retailers to keep an eye on are B&H Photo (opens in new tab), Wex (opens in new tab), Adorama (opens in new tab), and Walmart (opens in new tab). With flash sales, warehouse clearances, and ‘deal of the day’ offers, you’ll often find better prices than Amazon (opens in new tab). Comparing prices across numerous retailers before adding a new camera to your basket is worth the extra few minutes of checking and could literally save you hundreds of dollars.
Signing up to the newsletters and mailing lists of companies you are interested in means they will keep you updated with their sales. Sometimes flash sale discount codes are given out solely on brands’ social media platforms to encourage more engagement, so it’s worth giving them a ‘follow’ if you’re in the market for new kit.
Use your connections
(Image credit: Getty)
Talking to your local community photography groups can be another great way to find discounts. If you know any photographers, or your friends and family are also into photography, not only can you ask them for recommendations of kit and where they find discounts, but if they are planning on upgrading their own cameras, they may well want to sell their current gear to you for an attractive price.
You may know some photographers who have brand ambassador discounts codes for specific brands, you might also already follow someone on Instagram or Facebook who are associated with a brand. These people get a commission whenever someone uses their unique discount code, so they are usually more than happy to share. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. A 10% ambassador discount may not sound like much, but when you’re possibly going to be spending upwards of $1500 on a camera, that’s a sizeable saving.
When you’re looking for camera discounts, check out discount and coupon websites. Although they are often littered with expired codes and false deals, you can occasionally get lucky, though we wouldn’t recommend spending too much time on them. Cashback websites like Quidco and Top Cashback are more genuine, they refund you X amount of your purchase total once you have ‘clicked through’ and purchased from the retailer. You’ll have to wait a little while for the cashback to be credited, usually after the fairly common 30-day returns period, but you’re still saving money.
Choose wisely and look for pre-loved
(Image credit: Getty)
Sometimes, the best way to save money on new cameras and photography gear is to shop the used market, regardless of the time of year. When asked, ‘What’s your best money-saving tip?’ the majority of seasoned photographers will say to buy used gear.
There are some caveats to this, though. It goes without saying that you need to make sure all components of the camera are in good condition and in full working order. If you’re buying directly from another person on an auction website like eBay, or on Facebook Marketplace, ask to see footage of the camera in working order and how it writes to the disk, etc. The risk of buying from a private seller is that there are no guarantees or warranties in place should the camera malfunction, which could leave you out of pocket.
Websites like Wex have a dedicated used section (opens in new tab) where the used products are rigorously checked before sale, and come with a 12-month warranty. Similarly, B&H Photo (opens in new tab) offers 90-day parts and labor warranties on used items. We’d always recommend using them over private sellers.