Photography Show - Buying Advice

Looking to get a bargain

With the annual photography show at Birmingham NEC fast approaching I am getting the usual flurry of questions asking for my advice on buying....  Whilst this blog is not going to answer the specific questions on one lens Vs another and so on it will hopefully be useful to anyone who is attending the show thinking they are going to save a bag of loot and pick up a bargain.

The Photography show is not necessarily cheaper...

So i am going to disappoint you now by telling you that trade shows are no longer what they used to be.  The Photography Show is no exception and over the years, especially the last five years, I have noticed that the so-called "show specials" really are not that special at all.

Yes, there are some items that can be purchased much cheaper but they are far and few between at shows these days.   This is two main reasons - first and foremost the market share of equipment being sold on-line is growing exponentially year on year and the click to buy revolution has meant that companies can offer a low cost base to operate and be competitive on pricing.  

Secondly the cost to exhibit at a trade show is extremely expensive these days and starts in the thousands for just a 2 meter square stand so you can imagine the cost of anything larger where stock and products are part of the equation - this simple reality means it's much tougher for retailers to discount. 

It pays to research before you go...

My advice, over the last few weeks, to those who have contacted me asking about equipment they are thinking of buying at the show, is simply to do your research before you go to the show.

3 Tips to get the best deal

  1. Try to avoid the impulse purchase when you are there and make a list of specific items you want before you go.
  2. Check the prices of several sites online before you go to the show so you know whether you can purchase cheaper online before you get to the show (remember to take into account delivery costs)
  3. Consider the ease of returns and warranty in both purchasing online and at the show

Pro's of the show purchase

The biggest advantage of the show purchase in my view is that you get to see, handle and possibly talk to someone about the item before purchasing it.  However bear in mind that the retail stands that carry lots of equipment can be 5-10 deep of people trying to do the same so wait times can be frustratingly slow and the person serving you may be fatigued with the onslaught of questions, deliberations and pressure to sell quickly!

There are also many stands that you can just casually browse, manfrotto, Gitzo and so on which is great if actually picking up and seeing is important - particularly useful when it comes to camera bags, tripods and other items where weight and size are a priority.

Sites to check before you go...

Apart from the following sites below listed, it's worth also thinking about using a QR scanner on your mobile phone - some of the QR scanners will give you a list of sites with prices for the scanned item so you can compare them when at the show....

QR / Barcode Scanners

  • Shopsavvy for Android & Apple phone
  • Red Laser for Apple

Online Retailers

There are of course many other retailers online but I have listed the goto ones, if others know of better/other sites that they have purchased from and had a good service and price then please add those to the comments section of this post for others to research.

I hope this simple guide has helped, maybe it will avoid me answering another 20 emails in the next week but more importantly I hope it helps you get the best deals available either at the show or from another source.