Cheap Gear, Pricey Consequences: One of the Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned


I have learned many lessons in my years as a professional photographer, but if there is one that really sticks out it is that every time I have gone for the cheaper option is has cost far more than I have saved in the long run.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Purchased generic batteries rather than Nikon originals for my D700 saving £30.
    Net result – Even though it was showing as fully charged the battery died half way through a wedding ceremony. Luckily I had spares in my bag but I lost key shots while changing it.
  • Purchased bulk Duracell AA’s for my flash from eBay saving £2-3 per pack.
    Net result – Batteries were fakes and leaked in my flash. Cost of a new SB910 £318.89. Not covered on insurance as it is ‘contamination’.
  • Purchased 3rd party grip for my D700 saving £200.
    Net Result – The cheaper grip was not properly regulated and fried my camera mid wedding. Cost of repair £400 as it invalidated my warranty.
  • Purchased a 3rd party battery pack for my SB910 saving £120.
    Net result – this ALSO wasn’t properly regulated and fried my flash. Net cost another £318.89 (although my insurance did pay for this minus my excess).
  • Purchased a D700 from a supplier that were the cheapest locally saving £50.
    Net result – Turns out it was a grey import and had no UK warranty. When it developed a fault on the hot shoe I had to cover the repair. Cost £150.

In total I am nearly £700 down through trying to save a few pennies. Sure, you could just say I was unlucky. Repeatedly. Each purchase was well researched and the items had plenty of positive reviews but as a result of these problems I now only buy Nikon original gear, I only buy direct from Amazon (NOT resellers on their site) and I don’t touch eBay with a barge pole. It turns out that I can’t afford to be cheap.

About the author: Adrian Spencer is a professional wedding photographer and enthusiastic traveller based in the North of England. He made the leap into a career in photography in 2010 after being made redundant during the downturn which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. Currently living on the borders of the Peak National Park and can often be spotted at sunrise and sunset around Kinder Scout foraging for good light.

You can find more of his work on his Manchester Wedding Photography website, Facebook or Twitter. This article originally appeared here.

Image credits: Penny Pincher by theilr.

  • Nathan Caulford

    Bummer to hear, Adrian. In my experience, it’s much more important to buy gear from a trusted seller than to buy the most expensive, or name-brand gear. There is a whole slew of 3rd-party hardware out there that is high quality. Every story you’ve shared was not about just any 3rd-party stuff, but actual “rip-off” stuff. This is a very important distinction.

  • Marcellus Wallace

    Rubbish troll 1/10

  • Slvrscoobie

    Duracells from Ebay – that aint “Professional” Bro. maybe you should not be charging people to shoot if your gonna skimp and miss key shots…

  • Jason Kustra

    Although I have been lucky with mine, I know I am gambling that I MIGHT have those issues you did. Luck has been on my side though apparently.

  • Dan

    I’ve used the Canon 35mm 1.4 and the Sigma 35mm 1.4 during the same shoot, and I preferred the sharpness, IQ, and focus speed of the Sigma. I guess I’m cheap AND not a complete idiot. Troll on, my friend!

  • Peter Griffin

    Thought he would have learned his lesson after the second or third time; idiot!

  • beautox

    You mean Nikon gear nover goes wrong? Maybe I should switch because I’ve had plenty of things go wrong with Canon cams. The truth is that things break, fail, are badly manufactured, etc. And it happens to the big box with their expensive gear as well as cheap low end things. Even Leicas are not reliable I’m told.

  • Timuçin HIZAL

    Generic batteries= Buy phottix. 3years old batteries %20 lost performans.

    DuracellAA= Really?? Buy a eneloop by sanyo. Rechargeable thousand.

    Grip & batt pack= Get trustable brand. look at and

    grey market= for £50? just for £50? in my country saving £600. sorry but big mistake.

    3rd part is not low quality every time. Just must know which brand which product.


  • David Sr

    Wait, the photo is of an American Penny, and the article is all in British pounds. I am so confused! :P

    I use Batteries from reputable Ebay suppliers with 3 yr warranty, 3 generic batteries for the price of 1 Nikon. I have had good luck for over 10 years, since the D100’s, and still in use. I will continue using Generic batteries. They last as long as the Nikons for me. Same charger same rotation, same temperatures, etc. I had a Nikon battery die after 6 months, crap happens!

    Buying fake crap on Ebay has never happened to me. This seems a different topic than the title of the article. [knock on wood] I have had excellent results from off brand products. But I am a careful shopper. (I’d never buy a knock-off vert-grip though)

    Bottom line, shop carefully.

  • Mark Nakib

    You got destroyed on Reddit and for some reason you haven’t yet been destroyed here, but let me reiterate. You learned the lesson of researching your product, not of buying first-party. There are third-party accessories that are *better* than first-party AND cheaper. It has nothing to do with money, it has everything to do with the individual product. Stop being lazy and not doing your homework before a purchase. If you shop like an idiot, expect to get burned.

  • Rob S

    What the heck are you talking about? Sigma makes excellent lenses.

  • Rob S

    Sony ones are even better. Once I started using the Sonys my Eneloops got relegated to the tv remote.

  • Rob S

    So let me get this right…..You are a “professional” shooting paid gigs like weddings and you are cutting corners on your the gear you make a living with?

    You need to decide if this is really your profession or something you are doing to make money until you can do something else. Professionals don’t skimp on the tools of their profession.

  • Rob S

    Funny you mention memory cards because SanDisk memory cards are faked all the time:

    Amazon “generic” memory cards are excellent and I have yet to have one fail.

    The real issue here is that this “professional” has so little care for his profession that he is cutting corners on gear. And this is not just a matter of buying 3rd party. As others have mentioned there are lots of good third party suppliers. I use Wasabi batteries and have never had a problem. But cheap bulk AAs? Are you kidding? I would be more surprised if the WERNT defective. And what “professional” doesn’t remove batteries as soon as a shoot is over?

    Im reading about someone who bought a bunch of “professional” equipment in a most amateur way. You know why “professionals” buy 1st party equipment with full warranties? Because their living depends on their equipment working. You know why first party equipment cost more? Because they have full warrantees.

    Ive spent the cost of an SB-900 on a pair of boots. Why? Because Im a PROFESSIONAL soldier and boots are kinda important to what I do. Ive spent a battery grip (1st party) worth on a holster. Ive spent a fast prime worth on a rifle sight. Were there cheaper alternatives? Yup. But the consequence of them failing when I needed them were a tad high so I spent the money. Its what PROFESSIONALS do.

  • Richard Lurie

    I use single-use batteries, but not alkalines. I keep a set of lithiums in my bag for backup. They also work better than rechargables in the cold.

  • James

    I think the real lesson here is that you should ALWAYS know your gear BEFORE you try to rely on it to do some kind of big once in a lifetime shoot.

    I almost always use 3rd party batteries, why? they last just as long you can buy 5 of them for what a single OEM costs. Yeah the battery meter wont work perfectly in older cameras but you get a little warning and will likely carry more because they’re cheap as dirt.

  • Mike McKallicuffy

    Nikon is more compatible with Apple and Canon can be used with everything. I like android phones.

  • josteinr

    And I have for my Nikon D300 and D700. Never had an issue.

  • josteinr


  • David C

    Though initially it sounded like a case of extreme bad luck – I have pretty much the same type of gear and never a hint of a fault – the more you read it, the more it comes across as a thinly veiled “buy Nikon” advert.

    Sorry, either your writing style has let you down and you’re genuine, or this is just a big waste of time.

  • DafOwen

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to buy 3rd party equipment.

    Sure you could go for the cheapest of the cheap and likely end up with results like the above – but the sensible option is to go for 3rd party but still a reputable company or check reviews specifically ones where you can leave the review after some amount of use.
    E.g. I have D800 battery grip and SB800 battery packs from Pixel – both work fine. Just recently bought a car charger from Hohnel

  • Rob S

    I think we have a limit population (like one) of idiots who think Sigma is the same as a knock off grip.

  • Vin Weathermon

    I have purchased many “off brand” items over the years; it can be a hit or miss. The research and source do matter always. He is extremely unlucky. And grey market gear has been known to be “unwarranteed” for at least 30 years now…should have known better and bought a warranty for his grey market stuff.

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    this has not been my experience with after market batteries..the worst case scenario for me has been that sometimes one of two of them won’t hold a charge very well. I bought a Sigma DP1M….purchased 3rd party batteries for 1/12 the price of new..they are awesome…Sigma simply added a little notch on their version of these batteries…..sooo….my question is…who put you up to this article?

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    I like turtles.

  • Alan Klughammer

    If you paid less than half price, or the cheap product lasts more than half as long, you have saved money. I buy a lot of 3rd party stuff, from gaffer tape to flash. Know what you are buying and how it compares to the name brand. In other words, like many have said here, do your homework…

  • Alan Klughammer

    Very generalized opinion, and largely mistaken. There is an accounting term called good will. You can charge more for an item if you have a good name. In fact many “off-brand” electronic products are made in the same factories as the name brands.
    When I worked at RadioShack years ago, I once opened a case of Radioshack brand AAs. One of the blister packs contained Panasonic batteries (Radioshack brand batteries are/were made by Panasonic, but were about 25% cheaper).

  • David

    “Lord eels” YOU ARE A DOUCHBAG !

    Go somewhere else to make useless comment, please!!!!

  • Karen

    Cynical/snarky/resentful coming up: Despite the claims, you really haven’t done your homework or enough research:
    Why use Duracell generic consumer crap when you can get Eneloops for your flash that a rock solid and will last you for at least few years (not to mention they will beat any battery in consistent, fast recycling times)
    A generic grip??? Why would you need a grip in the first place? C’mon, if you need ergonomics, get D3, they are still available new. Any battery grip (including genuine brand) will introduce slack and sway when mounted on a tripod, why would you want that?

    Extended battery life is absolutely no excuse. It really is common sense to keep an eye on battery levels and swapping one over from my coat pocket takes less than 5 seconds.

  • RMJ

    The author is frickign idiot or just dont’t know how things work…

    – I have been using off-brand batteries for Nikon since 2008 without any problem (other than one dead _Nikon_ battery 2 months ago)
    – Who the f*ck buys batteries online to save 2 bucks ?
    – I have had 2 off-brand grips since 2009 and neither have had any problems. Even the insurance company was “happy” to buy new one when one was stolen (with a camera).
    – All my flashes takes only batteries so can’t comment about the flash part… I use cheap batteries tho… Oh, and the flashses are all Nikon branded.
    – Why did you not ask about warrant when bying the camrea ? I understand that it’s iffy when you buy second hand but from a store… Use your brain ? Please ? Pretty please ?

  • BrokenHelix79

    Just…shut up. Please.

  • arachnophilia

    it’s not that you get what you pay for. it’s that quality is expensive. there are still plenty of ways to pay a lot of money and NOT get quality, though.

  • arachnophilia

    bad luck, maybe. but professional use places gear under a lot more strain than casual use. if you’re shooting 10K pictures every week on each camera you own, stuff is GOING to break. the questions are how soon and how often.

  • Eugene Chok

    bought 5d mk iii’s from taiwan instead of canada, result? saved myself 1600 dollars and got a free canon battery grip :D caveat emptor, we have all been bitten at once !

  • Photo pedant

    Did he pay PRS LM (Limited Manufacture) Licence for the copyrighted music used on his wedding videos?

  • vetec

    If you dont know where to buy replacments dont do it. I have good experience with chinees stuff. Bateries have around 75% of power compering to originals, but they cost 3-4 times less. For the price of one I have 3 to replace.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    I’d love to respond but I’ll forward this to my brother. He’s a much bigger juicier photographer than I am.

  • Syuaip

    you made a good point. the middle ground is perhaps, if the ‘downtime’ is acceptable, 3rd party is fine. otherwise, reduce the chance of issues by getting the proven one.

  • Adrian Spencer

    Author here. No BS. Every single thing listed above happened to me over the course of 2 years. Hand on heart.

  • Alan Klughammer

    if downtime is unacceptable, you will have to have a backup anyway, so the 3rd party may still make sense…
    Maybe the middle ground might be to buy the name brand and a 3rd party for backup…

  • Michael Della Polla

    Man thats bad luck… Dont touch the author!! bad luck is CONTAGIOUS!!!

  • RMJ

    It’s not my fault if your articles sucks a ss.

  • Leif Sikorski

    “Turns out it was a grey import and had no UK warranty.”
    Some other companies give a worldwide warranty for their cameras. If they believe in the quality of their products it shouldn’t matter where it was bought.

  • Leif Sikorski

    True, I’ve also been using third party batteries for my Canon and Olympus gear since years. I never buy the cheapest, but with known companies like Ansmann I’ve never made a bad experience.

  • BrokenHelix79

    My articles? I didn’t write this article, or any others on this site. But I do take issue with your idiotic blathering.