costco-amazon-slrloungeWhen we purchase equipment for our studio, we go through a list of our four favorite retailers until we find the product that we are looking for. The list you see below shows the retailers we go through, in order, until we find what we want. Hopefully this list will help you in knowing where to go for your equipment purchases.

There we used the pros and cons of each retailer to create a point total for each retailer.So that you can understand how we achieve our point scores, here is the legend:

Rating Legend: 1 – Poor 2 – Fair 3 – Average 4 – Good 5 – Excellent

1. Costco – Total points 27

Overview: This may seem strange to hear, but Costco is actually the first place we go whenever we are buying new equipment for the studio. The reason for which is simple, they have one of the most forgiving return policies in the retailing industry. To be exact, you have 90 days on each electronics purchase to decide whether or not you want to keep the item. If not, you can get a full refund, no questions asked. While their photography equipment selection is fairly limited to consumer and prosumer models, they carry a wide range of other goods that we use in our studio, such as LCD TVs, computers, laptops, hard drives, etc. If you are looking for professional level camera equipment and accessories, you’ll have to elsewhere.

Membership Fee: $45+ per year

Prices: 4 – Good (warehouse prices though taxes must be added)

Return Policy: 5 – Excellent (90 days on electronics for a full refund)

Camera Equipment Selection: 2 – Fair (primarily consumer and prosumer models)

Electronics Equipment Selection: 3 – Average

Hours and Availability: 4 – Good (stores can be found near most locations, and store hours are quite friendly)

Customer Service: 5 – Excellent

Sales Staff Knowledgeability: 2 – Fair

Other Factors: +2 (Costco products purchased online or in any store can be returned to any Costco retail location for instant cash or charge back to your credit card)

2. Sam’s Club – Total Points 25

Overview: Sam’s Club is our second choice in retailers for the same reason that Costco is our first. Their return policy is also extremely forgiving. In fact, their return policy is even more forgiving than Costco in that there is no mention of time duration in their statement “Merchandise and Membership will be refunded in full if Members are not satisfied for any reason.” There are some exceptions to the rule, like Dell computer purchases must be returned within 30 days and such, computers within 6 months, etc. We do recommend, however, that even though it doesn’t state the duration specifically for most items, that you don’t go over 90 days just to prevent any possible hassle that they might give you. However, we did list Sam’s Club second mainly because they don’t have quite as much product selection as Costco. Again, if you are looking for professional level camera equipment and accessories, you must go elsewhere.

Membership Fee: $40+ per year

Prices: 4 – Good (warehouse prices though taxes must be added)

Return Policy: 5 – Excellent (unlimited time duration with exceptions on certain items, i.e. computers are 180 days, Dell computers are 30 days, etc)

Camera Equipment Selection: 2 – Fair (primarily consumer and prosumer models)

Electronics Equipment Selection: 2 – Fair (more limited selection than Costco’s)

Hours and Availability: 3 – Average (not as many stores as Costco, but store hours are quite friendly as well)

Customer Service: 5 – Excellent

Sales Staff Knowledgeability: 2 – Fair

Other Factors: +2 (Sam’s Club products purchased online or in any store can be returned to any retail location)

3. Amazon- Total Points 25

Overview: Amazon has a decent selection of products, great tax free warehouse equivalent pricing, free shipping on a lot of items, and a decent 30 day return policy on items. So it makes sense that if Costco and Sam’s don’t have an item that we need, our next stop is Amazon. However, you do need to be careful when purchasing through Amazon that you are actually buying from Amazon themselves rather than a 3rd party seller. Otherwise, you will be restricted on returns to whatever that 3rd party seller states. Also, often times 3rd party sellers will markup items in demand far above MSRP. A quick note though, Amazon doesn’t have a sales staff that is knowledgeable about what you are looking for. So you do typically need to know what you are looking for when you purchase from Amazon.

Membership Fee: None or $80 for Amazon Prime which gives you free 2 day shipping and $3.99 1 Day shippingon Amazon sold products

Prices: 5 – Excellent (warehouse level prices, no taxes, often free shipping)

Return Policy: 3 – average(30 Days from product delivery. Amazon will even refund all shipping costs if the return is due to an error or DOA product. However coordinating with the shipping companies is much more of a hassle than visiting a retail store like Costco)

Camera Equipment Selection: 4 – Good (Almost every camera model and lens is available through Amazon, professional and consumer. However, they are fairly limited on more specialized professional equipment such as lighting, tri-pods, bags, etc.)

Electronics Equipment Selection: 5 – Excellent

Hours and Availability: 4 – Good (While there is no brick-and-morter store you can go to, Amazon offers several methods to get in touch with customer service including a Call Me feature where they call you rather than you having to wait on the phone for a customer service representative. Also, they respond to email questions typically in less than 12hours. We have never had any issues talking to a customer service rep when we wanted to, thus, they deserve an extra point in this area.)

Customer Service: 3 – Average

Sales Staff Knowledgeability: NA – Amazon doesn’t have sales staff to help you with your purchases, therefore you typically will need to know what you are looking for before you go to amazon. Or you can rely on product reviews, which are often helpful, though sometimes can be misleading)

Other Factors: +1 (If you make frequent purchases, an $80 Amazon Prime membership can make a lot of sense. We constantly purchase through Amazon so the free 2-day shipping and $3.99 1-day shipping make purchasing easier than going to the store.)

4. Adorama – Total Points 21

Overview: Adorama is one of our favorite places to go when we are not sure what we are looking for and need recommendations. Their sales staff are extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. Since most, if not all, of their sales staff are also photographers, they know their stuff. From which camera body to get, to recommendations on studio lighting setups, they are a great resource. In addition, Adorama carries practically anything photography related that you could possibly want. In fact, if Adorama doesn’t carry the item, you will probably be hard pressed to find it elsewhere. So, when we need specialized professional equipment, this is almost always where we end up. However, there are some negatives which are discussed below.

Membership Fee: None

Prices: 3 – Average (Adorama is required to list all products at MRP which means they are always middle of the road. While you do save on tax (outside of NY) you will be tagged with shipping on almost every purchase.

Return Policy: 2 – Fair (14 Days from the date of delivery is all you get to figure out whether you want to return something. They will not refund shipping, nor cover the cost of shipping the item back. Because of which we dinged them a point.)

Camera Equipment Selection: 5 – Excellent (Adorama carries pretty much any and everything camera related)

Electronics Equipment Selection: 2 – Fair (Adorama carries quite a bit of photography related electronics such as LCD TVs, computers, laptops, etc. However, their selection is rather limited in these areas.)

Hours and Availability: 1 – Poor (Adorama’s retail store is located in New York. Thus most of us will not have a location that we can visit in person. In addition, their hours are very limited. In fact, they are worse than even bank hours. Customer service is available from M-T 9:30am – 5:30pm and Fri from 9:30am – 12:30pm Eastern time. This means that if you are a West Coaster, you need to make sure you are calling quite early in your day. Otherwise, you are SOL which we have been on many an occasion. For this reason, we had to ding them hard in this area.)

Customer Service: 3 – Average (When you can get a hold of them, they are quite nice and fair. However, their hours make them a bit rough to reach, thus we must ding them again here.)

Sales Staff Knowledgeability: 5 – Excellent (Among all the retailers, the only staff we take recommendations from is Adorama. They are very knowledgeable and are great with recommending the right solutions for your needs. A+ in this area)

Other Factors: -1 + 1 = 0 (Adorama gets a -1 because a lot of products that they carry are often out of stock. We have waited up to 8 weeks to get an item in stock when they say it should be delivered in a couple. We gave them +1 because they are very helpful and knowledgable when it comes to choosing the right products for your studio.)

By: Lin and Jirsa Wedding Photography, Los Angeles and Orange County Wedding Photographers
If you’ve found this article informative, please consider donating below: