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Buyers Guide – Camera Kits Yes Or No – Beware Of Scams

Central Park HDR image, shot with Tamron 18-270mm Lens © Len Rapoport

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver the years I have seen camera and lens companies market their products based on a specific price point and a specific audience.  This is something all companies do.  You can produce cameras or lenses that sell for under $100 or over $10,000 dollars so the range can be significant.  We understand that there are different skill levels in photography and different users with different needs, but I get asked over and over again by people, what camera would I recommend or what is the best lens to buy for their cameras.

How can you answer these questions without understanding the users needs, expectations or pocketbooks.  I decided to write about the growing trend to package a DSLR camera in a kit complete with a couple of lenses and a case and sell it at price point that seems to attract new DSLR users looking to trade up from their point and shoot cameras.

This article is meant to help you decide the best option for you. So the question for the average user with a limited budget should be

“Do I purchase the camera kit, or should I purchase the camera body and a great all-in-one lens?”

[box_light]DSLR Camera Kits – Let The Buyer Beware[/box_light]

Nikon D3100 Kit – Body and a 18-55mm Zoom – $650 MSRP
Body Only – $400 – $250 extra for this lens in the Kit.

Many non-professional photographers and even some of the pros use a compact camera, a smart phone or an iPad for taking pictures.  Those that want better control or results will move up to a  DSLR camera that accepts interchangeable lenses.  These beginner DSLR’s are often sold in kits and may include one or two zoom lenses.

A sampling of kits shows us that many manufacturers will include a 18-55mm wide angle zoom lens and a 55-200mm or even 300mm tele zoom in those kits.  From what I can tell, many of those lenses are cheaply made versions made exclusively for the kits and are not available as stand alone lenses.  Most of these lenses might be worth less $125-$200 each if they could be purchased separately in a store, but they are usually only available in these kits.

The entire kit might range from $600 up to $1300 or more depending on the camera body and lenses that are included in the kit.  Some of the better kits will actually come with one better zoom lens and the less expensive kits usually come with two lower quality lenses.

D3100 Body Only Kit, Selling for $200 more then the body alone without these poor quality accessories.

[box_light]Beware Of Unscrupulous Dealers[/box_light][divider]

Warning:  Some dealers on the internet will load up their kit with lots of poor quality or cheap junk to make it seem as if you are getting a great deal.[divider]

Since these dealers are usually not manufacturer authorized dealers, they can’t compete on prices with the big guys like B&H Photo and other legitimate dealers.  So they will practice deceptive advertising tricks including, bait and switch techniques, sell factory refurbished products as new, take manufacturer included accessories including batteries out of the box and then attempt to sell you those as optional items.

Some will load up their kits with a pocket or poorly made tripod, lens cleaning tissues, a SD card reader, a SD card wallet and other items that are either included in the manufacturers kit of simply not necessary to fluff up the kit. See photo to see an illustration of what those kits look like.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a young man who was upgrading and purchasing his first DSLR camera,  He told me he just purchased a camera from an internet dealer I had never heard of before. I did a fast Google search and found many complaints and realized that this dealer was one of the many unscrupulous web sites selling photo and electronic product. They sold him a Sony camera below actual cost, but then began to add on, what they termed, were items that didn’t come with the camera.

This camera didn’t have a USA warranty, so they tried to sell him an extended warranty. They stripped all the manufacturers included accessories from the box and told him the camera only came with a “starter battery” with a very short life and that they could offer him a better battery for only $70 additional. The battery they offered was a non-branded Chinese knock off that could ruin his camera and void any warranties.

They of course added so many optional items that normally are included in the manufacturers original packing that the final price was in fact higher then he would have paid going to a legitimate dealer. I suggested he contact them and try to cancel the order or refuse delivery at the door, then contact his credit card company and dispute the charge.

B&H Photo/Video in New York City. World’s largest photo and electronics dealer in the world.

He later wrote me that they wanted to impose a 15% restocking fee on any returns for any reason.  That means he could pay over $200 to return the order for any reason.  He later wrote me that he called them, had them remove most of the add on items and accepted the order. They told him there would be a restocking fee on the cancelled items and after he promised to post his problem all over the internet they agreed to let him return selective items.  I am sure he still would have done much better going to one of the major retailers instead of this shady operation.  I am not quite sure what finally happened, because he stopped emailing me, I have a feeling he was embarrassed not taking my advice to refuse the order and ended up getting stuck with a lot of unwanted garbage.

This has been going on for so many years and is hard to stop.  My suggestion is to simply do a Google search of the dealers name and add “Scam” after the name and see what you find. See this well written article that goes into more detail about this scams.

[box_light]Small Profit Margins Mean Add On’s , Extended Warranties, Bait & Switch[/box_light]

You have to understand that camera retailers work on very narrow profit margins on the cameras and lenses, they make their money on the accessories and the extended warranties.  Do Not, I repeat, Do Not fall victim to these offers.  In most cases there is no need for the extended warranty.  Most manufacturer warranties are 5-6 years.  After owning a digital camera for 6 years, I can assure you it will be time to upgrade to newer equipment.  Do what I did for added protection.  If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy, call them and ask them to add your equipment to your policy.  It is usually added on a floater rider, similar to the type they use for jewelry and other valuables. The cost is quite low, about 2% of the value of your equipment. It may be worth the small cost for the added protection against accidents or theft and especially useful if you travel.

Take that extra money you just saved by refusing the extended warranty and other add on’s and put it toward the purchase of a better lens for your camera. Never let a salesman try to high pressure you into purchasing anything you didn’t intend on purchasing when you place your order.  If in doubt, tell them you will not place the order now and check out the other items they wanted to sell you and get back to them. At that point forget these guys and go to a reputable dealer.

One of the many online photo and electronic dealers. Would you really want to purchase something from these guys?

For over 40 years I have seen the same bait and switch from these dealers. Before the internet, photo publications were filled with ads from these scam artists and although they tried very hard to clean up this mess, it was impossible.

Important Tips:

  • Deal with the well known, legitimate dealers when purchasing your equipment
  • Don’t always look for the best price on photo equipment, remember margins are small on the cameras and lenses
  • Check an online dealers reputation, easy to do online with a simple Google search.
  • Avoid dealer made camera kits unless you know exactly what the items in the kit are and can verify their price and the quality
  • Read the fine print on their site, especially those that deal with returns and restocking fees.
  • Pay for any purchase with a credit card.  Many will help you if there is a problem.  Often they can’t if the Terms of the Sale are met by the dealer.
  • If you feel they are pushing you too hard to purchase other items, hang up the phone or don’t place/cancel the order.
  • Many internet sites ask you to order on their site, but they will always follow-up with a phone call to try to push other items. They may inform you that the item you wanted was out of stock and then suggest other items at higher prices or lesser quality. Remember, they are dishonest and will attempt to con you one way or the other.
  • See what these Brooklyn internet dealer operations really look like here

Remember the old saying “If it looks too good to be true, it usually is”

[box_light]The Better Way To Purchase A Camera And Lens[/box_light]

Tamron 18-270mm with Polarizing Filter © Len Rapoport

So lets go back to our discussion about these kit lenses.  Some kits are  a good choice for many consumers, but for others, purchasing a kit with one or two zoom lenses may seem like a great deal, but in fact may not be.  I have found that many of these “kit lenses” even from major companies like Nikon, Canon and Sony are a lesser quality lens then those sold as individual lenses by the same companies.  You see these are made specifically for these kits and they must be made at a lower cost to make the kits attractive.

The kit lenses usually have a very small zoom range which are essentially useless and a challenge to use.  Because of all the extra elements in a zoom, the lens is not as fast as a fixed focal length lens. This means it requires more light to take the same image as a fixed lens might require. So if you want a faster lens, for low light or fast moving shots, or for its ability to give you beautiful soft bokeh, then you may be better off with a fixed focal length lens. Read my article on Bokeh here.

Some photographers may only select one of these lenses on their camera and find out they are limited in what they can shoot because of the very narrow zoom range of each lens.  In the Nikon D3100 Kit (now replaced by the newer Nikon D3200), the body could currently be purchased for around $400 without the lens.  The lens included in the kit is basically useless because it is really a very minimal wide angle to normal lens.  Remember that on this camera, we are looking at a zoom range that would be similar to a 35-75mm lens on a 35mm camera.

I know that some people that purchase these kits, never take the kit with them when they go out to a photo event. They prefer to leave the camera case and extra lens, if they have one, at home.   Because they don’t want to carry all the gear, they may miss a good  photo opportunity because they took the wrong lens with them.  They also realize that they will have to switch lenses on a constant bases, which most find difficult and annoying. No one likes to lose a great photo opportunity because they had to stop and switch lenses, that is why the pro’s often carry two cameras.

Many believe they must now live with this packaged camera, lens combo,  not realizing there is a better solution.

I have spoken to a number of people, including my own sons who have purchased these kits.  They both tell me, as the others have, that they would prefer to have one camera and one lens for their DSLR cameras.  Manufacturers have found that the two inexpensive zooms are actually less costly then one good all-in-one zoom lens.  I suppose they assume that the average customer moving up from a point and shoot camera won’t realize the difference in the quality of these less expensive poorly constructed lenses. I think they believe the consumer will perceive they are getting great value when they pack two lenses, a camera and a inexpensive case in the kits and offer the kits at reasonable cost.

My Grandson’s First Photo Shoot – Tamron 60mm Macro Lens © Len Rapoport

In some cases they may be right, but for many that soon discover that their deal was not such a good deal. As they begin to use these kits, they find that they have poor results. Poorly focused shots because of poorly designed motors in the lenses, out of focus images because the auto focus lenses just don’t seem to focus properly.  Exposures could also be off with many of these lenses and they assume it is the camera, not realizing it could also be the lens.  The  limited zoom ranges on each of these lenses force the user to swap lenses every time they take their camera out to shoot some stills or videos.  So we see that even lenses from the top camera manufacturers may not be the best choice.

[box_light]So Many Choices – See My Lenses[/box_light]

Tamron lenses offer a six year warranty, no need to purchase retailer extended warranties

I shoot for my business and my pleasure. My professional assignments don’t require me to provide those larger then life image files for print or for a client, because we publish our work on our online publications, not print.  For others that are  casual photographers that simply wants a great shot of the family, friends, the places they visit or even for some commercial use then they also want a quality lens too. Many new and more experienced photographers that have come to understand the difference in a quality camera and lens are prepared to make the investment in a better all-in-one lens that offers quality and reliability over the years.

Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f / 3.5-4.5 DI II Zoom Lens

Now if you are one of the many photographers that are now turning into HD videographers using your  HDSLR camera to shoot amazing HD videos, then you too understand that the DLSR offers you much more then the average video camera can.  On a DSLR, you can select your own lenses for a particular project.  You can use a lens that offers you a great zoom range or an extreme wide angle or tele lens, with video cameras you get what they give you and have no choice. DSLR users want the ability to use a lens that for a specific use and now the videographer has that same ability.  So the market for the one lens, that can be used for still or video work, the all-in-one zoom lens for many, has heated up and Tamron is a manufacturer that continues to lead the pack.

Tamron’s AF18-270mm F_3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD
15.9 Ounces – 3.5″ Closed

With all the different types of photographers, all with very different needs, can they all purchase the same lenses for their cameras and be happy?  Well the answer is maybe. Just look at some of the latest offerings from Tamron like their  AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD AF, that has a street price of $549 after a $100 rebate at B&H Photo in New York.

I personally use and have gotten to love this lens. I  use this lens for both my personal and commercial use when I shoot still images or video’s.

For over 40 years I have tried and owned other cameras, but I like my Nikon’s best of all.  For some reason they just fit my hands better and I like the way they feel. I always tell people, you have to hold a camera in your hands and see how it fits.  Ergonomics is important when purchasing a camera. Try not to buy a serious camera without seeing it and handling it first.  The internet is a great place to shop, but be sure you know what you want before you buy it.

Each year I attend the PDN Photoplus Show in New York and it gives thousands of photographers a chance to actually see the latest equipment being offered by all the major manufacturers and accessories from the smaller companies too. If you have a good photo store in your area with extensive selections, then that is a great way as well.  But please, please take the camera in your hand, have someone show you the features of the camera and only then determine if it is right for you.

I do shoot travel, shows, media events and now, lots of grandchildren photos and a good amount of HD videos.  I selected the Nikon D7000 as my main DSLR camera.  When I go on assignments, I want to try to keep my gear as light as I can. The older I get, the more I try to get away from taking lots of lenses on each assignment, so I appreciate Tamron’s latest compact and light weight lens designs.

Nikon D7000 DSLR Camera

Of course packing light is not that easy because many photographers are now shooting video too.  This means we have to add equipment to our bags.  I now require not only my Nikon flash unit, but a Manfrotto ML840H Maxima-84 Hybrid+ LED light.  I certainly need better sound equipment to replace the built in mic on the D7000 especially when shooting in a noisy environment. So I pack my RODE Video Mic Pro and of course need to add my Norbert accessory frame and some other accessories, so traveling light is often a challenge.

I shoot with four lenses depending on my assignment.  Three of the four are Tamron lenses, I have their 10-24mm zoom, a 60mm Macro and of course the 18-270mm.

Now the article is about other lens options too.  Since the latest lens I own is the new all-in-one 18-270mm Tamron lens because of its wide zoom range, light weight, compact size, new Piezo motor and vibration compensation. So you may ask why I need four lenses.

Tamron AF 60mm f/2 SP Di II LD [IF] Macro
Well the answer is simple, I shoot a wide range of subjects and now shoot HD Video too. So for my professional needs, I need an extreme wide angle lens, I use the Tamron 10-24mm zoom for those assignments (travel, architecture, groups, etc.).  My all in one Tamron 18-270mm has now become the on camera lens for much of my every day shoots.  The 60mm Macro is used for those wonderful flower photos I do, also use it for beautiful portrait work and for extreme close-up photography as well as fantastic video work. My fourth lens is a Nikkor f1.8, 50mm lens, very low cost, but doesn’t require much light and gives me beautiful shots with great bokeh, so I use this lens for some of my product shots and candid portraits.

Now you might ask why do I own three Tamron lenses.  Well they make one of the finest quality lenses in the world and they are affordable. The finish on the lenses is better then the OEM manufacturer lenses that are packed with your camera kits. The optical quality is spectacular.

Tamron AF 28-300mm f_3.5-6.3 XR Di LD VC
19.4 Ounces – 4″ Closed

The smoothness of the lenses, the speed of their auto focus systems and their compact size and affordable pricing makes them the logical choice for most of us.When I started my lens collection Tamron didn’t offer the 18-270mm lens, if they had, I probably would have only purchased the 18-270mm and maybe an extreme wide angle lens and that would be all.  But my older Tamron lens was their 24mm-300mm lens and it was heavier, didn’t offer the better zoom range the new lens has and wasn’t as compact.  You will find out more about the newer 18-270mm Tamron at my Lens review.

Now if you did purchase a kit, you still have options.  You can sell the lenses that came with your  camera kit then add some money and purchase an all-in-one quality zoom lens to replace the lens or lenses that you had.

Sunfest 2012 © Evan Rapoport for IPA

My son has a Nikon D3100 with two lenses and hates changing lenses. He often covers concerts for IPA and needs to move quickly through the crowds to grab some of his shots.  He needs a lens that can give him a steady hand held shot in a dark concert with difficult lighting and one that will focus fast and do it quietly.  The limited zoom ranges on his two lenses makes it time consuming and difficult for him to capture the images he needs. A good place to sell your lens or lenses is either eBay, Amazon.comor on Craig’s list.

Keep All Boxes On Your Equipment

I have been able to help some friends do this and we actually did quite well if we did it soon after they purchased the lenses. Remember,  keep your boxes for all of your photo gear in a safe place and keep all the paper work that comes with it. When you decide to sell the equipment, you will get more money if you state that the lens or camera comes in the box with all the original paper work.

In many cases we only had to add another $150-$200 to what we recovered on the lenses to trade up to one of the newer Tamron all-in-one zoom lenses. Right now a number of their lenses including their great 18-270mm Di II lens has a Tamron manufacturer rebate so always watch for these types of promotions when shopping for a zoom and replace the kit lenses. I can assure you that you will get much better results, be able to capture photo opportunities you would have missed with your old lenses and you won’t need to carry a photo bag where ever you go.

Since I love my  Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens, model B008, I decided to write a review on this lens.  The  review is intended to give you some general information about Tamron lenses, but specific information on this great all-in-one lens. Watch for this review, coming soon on IMPress in our Product Review section.

[box_light]Photo Gallery All Taken With Tamron Lenses[/box_light]

Heating air in Hot Air Ballon
Tamron 18-270mm Lens © Len Rapoport
Holland American Lines Ship – Tamron 18-270mm Lens
Pink Roses – Tamron 60mm Macro Lens
New York Skyline Panorama – Three overlapping images, merged to form this final image. Tamron 18-270mm Lens

You can view many of my photos taken with my Tamron Lenses at my Showcase here on IMPress. The first two pages of images were all shot with the Tamron 18-270mm Zoom, the Macro shots of the flowers and the newborn were shot with the Tamron 60mm Macro lens. As you look at others in my gallery, so are now vintage images shot on film, others more current shot with my Tamron lenses you will understand the need to purchase the proper lenses for your particular needs.  Stay away from the boxed sets and discover what you can do with the lenses that are right for your particular needs.

Read our extensive Tamron 18-270mm Lens review now, see other images and a video clip to show you what you can expect from the excellent lens. Rated 4.5 out of a possible 5 stars by IPA and IMPress Magazine.


Len Rapoport Administrator
IPA Editor-In-Chief, ID: 1000 • I am an internationally published photographer and the founder of International Press Association. As president and editor-in-chief, my duties at IPA are extensive. For over 50 years I have written articles, had my photos published in millions of publications, record album covers, books, and in the digital media. I was senior marketing and sales executive for major corporations, including my own and as a corporate communications consultant. I have taught photography and formed IPA 20 years ago. I currently work from my home office and continue to actively cover media events in addition to all of my other IPA and IMPress responsibilities.
Len Rapoport Administrator
IPA Editor-In-Chief, ID: 1000 • I am an internationally published photographer and the founder of International Press Association. As president and editor-in-chief, my duties at IPA are extensive. For over 50 years I have written articles, had my photos published in millions of publications, record album covers, books, and in the digital media. I was senior marketing and sales executive for major corporations, including my own and as a corporate communications consultant. I have taught photography and formed IPA 20 years ago. I currently work from my home office and continue to actively cover media events in addition to all of my other IPA and IMPress responsibilities.
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