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Grey market deals for the Sony A7S II

The Sony Alpha 7S II is a professional MILC that features a 12MP sensor. It was launched in September 2015 at a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of USD 2999. Over time and in particular once a successor model appears on the horizon, camera prices tend to come down. Yet, while waiting for the discounts to kick in, you might have seen some very attractively priced offers from online sellers that advertise international versions of the Sony A7S II. Are these grey market deals too good to be true?

Sony A7S II

What are grey imports?

Grey market cameras are products that are imported outside the manufacturer's official marketing channels. They are sometimes also referred to as parallel imports. Like other camera producers, Sony sells its imaging devices world-wide, but prices them according to prevailing exchange rates (which change over time) and local market conditions. As a result, the Sony A7S II can be found in Japan or other Asian countries at a substantially lower price than in North America or Europe. These pricing differences are exploited by grey market vendors, who buy the cameras in low-priced locations and ship them to countries where Sony via its in-country division and its authorized retailer network maintains a higher price level.

The term "grey market" places parallel imports somewhere between manufacturer authorized trade of cameras (the "white market") and trade in illegal or stolen goods (the "black market"). This terminology should, however, not be taken to imply that a camera from the grey market is of somehow inferior quality or of shady origin.


Are grey market transactions illegal?

Grey market imports are subject to the same border taxes and regulations as officially authorized imports of the A7S II. The products are not smuggled into the country (which distinguishes them from black market merchandise), and they do not represent counterfeit or refurbished goods, but genuine new items. Buying or selling a parallel-imported camera does not violate any laws. However, Sony obviously tries to discourage grey market imports, as the latter undermine the company's pricing strategy and squeeze its profit margins.

Is a grey market A7S II different from an official A7S II?

Gray market

Grey market cameras are technically identical to officially marketed ones. They are brand new, probably originate from the same production line, and have passed through the same quality control checks as a camera from an authorized retailer. They also generally come with the same set of accessories and in similar packaging. However, the cameras might be customized for their target markets. This customization might be most visible through the menu languages that the camera's firmware supports. A grey market Sony A7S II might feature several Asian language options alongside English and Japanese, while a camera that comes from an authorized retailer in North America or Europe would complement English with other European languages, such as French or Spanish. Also, the instruction manual that comes with the camera might be in a different set of languages. Sometimes, grey market sellers will modify the original camera set and replace or add a non-original power cord or adapter to localize the camera to the electrical plug standard in the target market (e.g. add a US plug for a camera sold in North America, or add a UK plug for one sold in Britain).

In some cases, grey market retailers will break down camera and lens kits and sell the individual components separately. The latter will then be shipped in white box packages, rather than the standard Sony packaging.

Does a grey market A7S II benefit from the official warranty?

Sony discourages grey market imports and does not provide any manufacturer's warranty for these products. So, if the camera fails due to a manufacturing defect shortly after its purchase, Sony will not repair or replace it for free. That said, most grey market vendors are providing their own warranty, so that the buyer can send his or her A7S II back to the seller for fixing or replacement if the camera is faulty. This seller warranty will normally be backed by an insurance company, so that it will be valid even in the case that the seller meanwhile discontinued his or her business. In addition, some buyers find it advantageous for reasons of peace of mind to additionally buy the extended warranty policies that some shopping platforms, such as Amazon or Ebay, offer.

Sony states on its website: ... consumers may find that grey import products do not meet their expectations because the products were not configured and tailored for their local market; and further: Grey imports are not covered by the Sony repair policy and therefore service support will not be covered by the Sony manufacturing guarantee.

It should be noted that both the Sony warranty and the seller warranty are limited warranty policies. These limited warranties protect the buyer from any manufacturing defects, but they do not cover any damage from user error or neglect. So any harm that the owner has done to the camera through mis-handling or accident will not be covered under a limited warranty. The owner will have to pay for the camera repairs, even if the incident occurs before the end of the warranty period.

Will Sony repair a damaged grey market A7S II?

Some camera manufacturers, notably Nikon, keep track of serial numbers and refuse to touch any grey market cameras. Their authorized repair facilities will not even fix them against payment if broken. Sony, however, will repair a faulty or damaged grey market A7S II for a service fee.

Do grey market vendors provide good customer service?

Best price

Grey market sellers compete primarily on price. Most vendors will process transactions quickly and accurately. However, grey sellers tend to have very limited staff and run a tight stock management regime. These constraints can sometimes lead to stock-outs and delays. Hence, if you are unlucky, your Sony A7S II might arrive a couple of days later than you had been hoping for. Also, it is probably advisable to be conservative with respect to the quality of the phone support that you can expect. The transaction is all about getting the best price...

A grey market A7S II will not be eligible for any promotional programs that Sony might run, such as special offers or mail-in rebates. Grey market sellers do not offer any such promotions.

How do I identify a grey market Sony A7S II?

Grey market cameras are rarely advertised as such. Indicators of the parallel-importing origin of a Sony A7S II would be a price that is substantially below the prevailing retail price and a mention of "international version", "direct import" or "no manufacturer warranty" in the product description. Alternatively, many grey market sellers just specify the applicable warranty terms at the bottom of the item page, stating that a seller's warranty (rather than a manufacturer's one) is provided.

How do I know a grey market seller is trustworthy?

It is always good to be careful when encountering deals online that seem too good to be true. Yet, Sony seems to realise a healthy profit from sales of the A7S II in Europe and North America, such that grey imports can undercut the MSRP markedly. Grey market offers for the Sony A7S II can be found notably on Ebay, and sometimes also on Amazon. Both of these shopping platforms provide buyer protection policies and feedback facilities. The latter make it possible to check the sales record of different vendors and weed out the unreliable ones. For example, if an Ebay shop has a history of hundreds of positively evaluated transactions for high-value items and a feedback score of 97 percent or higher, one can realistically expect a smooth sale. Conversely, if a seller has little experience with high-priced products and several of these transactions have been negatively assessed by buyers, it is probably advisable to look elsewhere. You can check the currently available offers for the Sony A7S II on Ebay and Amazon via the buttons below.

amazon.com ebay.com

Should I buy grey market?

Going for the cheaper price of the grey imports can be tempting, but might not be desirable for everyone. If your income depends heavily on your photography, you might value the assurance that comes with an authorized purchase more than the savings the parallel import offers. In particular, in case of any problems with your new Sony A7S II, you can send it to Sony and get it fixed quickly and without hassle, while calling in a seller's warranty will likely be more time-consuming and cumbersome, and, thus, could cost you dearly in terms of lost imaging income. Also, if the currently available discount of the grey market A7S II over the authorized retailer price is modest, you might prefer the peace of mind that comes with the official marketing channel and the associated customer service. On the other hand, if the parallel import is much cheaper than the prevailing retail price, you might well be willing to accept a little bit of additional risk with your camera purchase in return for the possibility to save a good chunk of money that could, for example, serve towards acquiring an additional lens for your A7S II.

Specifications Summary
Camera Model Sony A7S II
Camera Type Mirrorless system camera
Camera Lens Sony E mount lenses
Launch Date September 2015
Launch Price USD 2 999
Sensor Specs
Sensor Technology CMOS
Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor
Sensor Size 35.6 x 23.8 mm
Sensor Area 847 mm2
Sensor Diagonal 42.8 mm
Crop Factor 1.0x
Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels
Image Resolution 4 240 x 2 832 pixels
Pixel Pitch 8.40 μm
Pixel Density 1.42 MP/cm2
Moiré control Anti-Alias filter
Movie Capability 4K/30p Video
ISO Setting 100 - 102 400 ISO
ISO Boost 50 - 409 600 ISO
Image Processor BIONZ X
DXO Sensor Quality (score) 85
DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.6
DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 13.3
DXO Low Light (ISO) 2993
Screen Specs
Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder
Viewfinder Field of View 100%
Viewfinder Magnification 0.78x
Viewfinder Resolution 2400k dots
Top-Level Screen no Top Display
LCD Framing Live View
LCD Size 3.0 inch
LCD Resolution 1229k dots
LCD Attachment Tilting screen
V-logging Friendliness No front-flip
Touch Input No touchscreen
Shooting Specs
Focus System Contrast-detect AF
Manual Focusing AidFocus Peaking
Maximum Shutter Speed 1/8000s
Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s
Shutter Life Expectancy200 000 actuations
Silent ShootingElectronic Shutter
Time Lapse Photographyno Intervalometer
Image StabilizationIn-body stabilization
Fill Flash no On-Board Flash
Storage Medium MS or SDXC cards
Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot
UHS card support UHS-I
Connectivity Specs
External Flash Hotshoe
USB Connector USB 2.0
HDMI Port micro HDMI
Microphone Port External MIC port
Headphone Socket Headphone port
Wifi Support Wifi built-in
Near-Field Communication NFC built-in
Body Specs
Environmental SealingWeathersealed body
Battery Type NP-FW50 power pack
Battery Life (CIPA)370 shots per charge
In-Camera Charging USB charging
Body Dimensions 127 x 96 x 60 mm
(5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 in)
Camera Weight 627 g (22.1 oz)

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