a guide to importing digital cameras from Hong Kong

Previous visitors to http://www.onlinecamerawarehouse.co.uk will recall that this used to be a camera superstore. I used to import cameras from Hong Kong and sell them in to Eurpope. I had a great supplier and by bulk buying, I was able to offer fantastic prices. As mentioned in a previous post;  I no longer import cameras from HK. A lack of time on my behalf, combined with the fact that my love is for photography, not retail; meant that i gave it up. I have instead started this blog, with the aim of sharing my knowledge and love for the subject.

I stand by the fact that importing cameras from abroad, especially now in the internet era, can have many benefits for the camera shopper. Around a year ago i wrote the below article and placed it on ezines. It is somewhat of an impassioned defence of camera importing, and it also sets out to highlight the benefits. I have left the article untouched, and as such it contains something of a marketing message for what this website used to be:

The internet era has lead to a massive increase in cross-national trade. The world has become a marketplace in a way which was unforeseeable to our forefathers. The benefits of this are numerous, but there are also some pitfalls.

As an amateur photographer and camera trader, I take a keen interest in the market for digital cameras, digital SLR cameras, camcorders and the various accessories which are used in conjunction with these tools – namely the various lenses, flashes, remote controllers, storage devices and so on.

It came to my attention some time ago that a large number of these items are now available from far flung parts of the world, namely Hong Kong. The UK internet marketplace is full of cameras from Hong Kong, and these items are available at fantastic prices. I wondered if these items can be bought safely by customers in the UK (and elsewhere), or were these ‘bargains’ really too good to be true? If so, what were the pitfalls? And were there any hidden costs to be factored into the final price (and if so, how high would the costs be?)

My research lead me to conclude that customers from places like the UK can pick up a fantastic bargain purchasing these cameras – but they need to do so with their eyes wide open. In this article I am going to go through the procedures, and explain how you can purchase these cameras. Where there remain risks, I offer ways to overcome them or at least to minimise them, and help point you in the direction of safe places to purchase your goods.

What are the benefits of purchasing from places like Hong Kong?

The first major benefit has to be the price. Hong Kong is the home of cheap, brand name electronics and the prices we see on the internet today highlight this fact. Many top Digital SLR cameras are available at a fraction of the cost of what you are asked to pay on the British high street, and represent fantastic bargains, if they are purchased correctly. In many cases savings run between 20 and 50 percent of what these items sell for in the UK, so the attractiveness of seeking these items on the internet is obvious – especially once you consider the fact that the price of a good digital SLR camera can cost many thousands of pounds.

Unlike their Chinese counterparts, the items you see from Hong Kong are legitimate. They are not poor quality imitations, they are the real deal. If you check with the seller, you will find a large majority are the English models, which means you get everything you would get from purchasing in the UK. You get the same camera, the same software, the same instruction manual and the same box. You are not left floundering with foreign instruction manuals, trying to get your kit to work – everything is the same as purchasing in the UK (in terms of the item itself). This is obviously a great benefit as it means you really can compare the item like for like with what is on offer at your locals Jessop’s store

So we now know that we can buy a camera from Hong Kong, which is identical to the ones that we can buy from the shops in the UK (or elsewhere), at a fraction of the price. So surely there must be a downside, or at least some pitfalls?

Purchasing from Hong Kong – what are the downsides?

1) Import tax – Most online sellers do not charge tax, as they sell to many different countries, which have differing taxation systems. They therefore leave the tax up to the customer. If we take the UK and a digital camera as an example, we can investigate the tax situation. There are NO import duties on digital cameras to the UK from Hong Kong, but there is a VAT tax liability. VAT, currently set at 15 percent, can be charged on your purchase. Many online traders use differing methods to try and avoid – or at least reduce the Tax liability, but it can never be taken as given that an item will not be taxed. I recommend that you adopt a “plan for the worst, but hope for the best” attitude towards VAT. If you happen to avoid it, then fantastic – see it as a bonus, but don’t plan your purchase around not been charged VAT. After all, your purchase price is still far lower then in the UK!

2) Warranty – The warranty that comes with an electrical item is usually only valid in the country of purchase – in this example Hong Kong. Some sellers will offer warranties, but these often have a dubious legal standing. All good sellers will offer a 14 day DOA warranty, which will cover the purchase as it travels from Hong Kong to you (and for a few days after you receive the item). This will give you piece of mind after your purchase. Most sellers will require you to send the item back to their address in Hong Kong, and from there they will deal with any problems. Of course whilst the lack of a longer term warranty is a concern, it is offset by the cheaper purchase price, so this is a decision that ultimately will come down to you. Certain items are less of a concern then others when it comes to the warranty situation. Where, an item such as a digital SLR camera would typical have an excellent performance record (with a failure rate of around 1 percent), it is debatable as to whether other items such as TVs, laptops or stereos have the same record of performing well and without failure.

However, if the lack of a warranty is a major concern for you, there a number of companies which offer to take on a warranty for an additional fee. These companies can provide warranties which cover the item for up to 3 years, and make for an excellent investment. It is worth enquiring with the sales team from the company which you either bought your camera off of, or are planning to buy off, to ask if they work with such a company. They should at the very least be able to put you in touch with such a company.

3) Delivery – an item being delivered from Hong Kong will obviously take longer to arrive then an item been delivered from a mile down the road. In my experience, you are looking at a 7-10 day delivery time from Hong Kong, although many sellers can manage to deliver faster (we ai for 5 days). The use of quality delivery companies like FedEx and EPS helps the cause, and in some cases mean that your item can be delivered within a few short days of your purchase. The key judgement criterion for confirming companies when it comes to delivery is probably the dispatch time. The best companies out there will dispatch an item within 24-48 hours of completed purchase and payment. If this is the case, the item will typically be delivered 3 days after dispatch.

So we have seen that we can buy a legitimate, branded, digital camera from Hong Kong, which provides a potentially big saving on the high street price. We have however seen that there are a number of downsides or a least points to consider. We know that in most cases the item will have a limited warranty, and there are also possible VAT costs as well as longer delivery times to contend with. So how ca we minimise these risks and make the process as fast and safe as possible?

Purchasing an imported camera safely

There are many ways to do this. EBay has a wide range of cameras imported from Hong Kong, and there are no shortages of websites which offer imported cameras. Many of these sellers offer PayPal as a payment method, and this is beneficial because you are then covered by their buyer protection scheme. I would always recommend seeking a site which offers PayPal payments, especially if you haven’t dealt with the site before. Many websites (and EBay traders) will also offer different payment methods, such as bank transfer. These methods often include a discount, which is because the seller is saving on PayPal fees, and is willing to pass this saving on to his customer. This can be a great way to go, especially when you have either previously dealt with a seller, or if you have built up a relationship with the company either via email, the phone or online chat. The savings on larger purchases can run into the hundreds of pounds, so it is certainly an avenue to explore.

Purchasing from Hong Kong or elsewhere can save you a lot of money, but you need to do it right, and be aware of the downsides. It is always worth sending an email to a seller or website before purchasing an item, especially if you are considering a couple of purchases, as many sellers offer combined shipping discounts, which can save more money for you.

I hope importing cameras and accessories will work as well for you as it did for me; and hopefully this guide will have helped make you more aware of the processes involved, so that you enter the deal with your eyes wide open.

I run a fast growing website which sells digital SLR cameras, lenses and accessories; as well as HD camcorders and compact ‘point and shoot’ digitals. http://www.onlinecamerawarehouse.co.uk also features a photography forum for our customers to interact with one another and share their pictures, experiences and tips.

We accept Paypal as our primary payment method which makes our site 100 percent secure for our customers. We offer Free delivery to the UK, EU and the USA on our full range, and you can find our products on google products, ebay and shopping comparision sites – where we are consistantly the cheapest provider of professional camera equipment.

so here it is! I may not be selling in this market anymore, but i do still believe in it. If you are going this route i throughly reccomend that you look into purchasing a third party warranty (search around, there are many to choose from). This way you are covered in the fairly unlikely scenario that anything goes drastically wrong. I still have a contact in HK who was absolutely faultless in all of the dealings that we had. If you would like me to get in touch on your behalf then leave me a comment on here.

~ by onlinecamerawarehouse on June 10, 2010.

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