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.

  • Sky

    Well, you get what you paid for.
    Why a post for that? Is that even surprising?

  • Peter “Pots”

    Unfortunately, you are not alone…everyone that has tried to “save” ends up at some time taking a bath. Technical stuff is best obtained from legitimate sources, so you have someone to listen to your “sad” stories and will fix the problem(s)!

  • Zeroblamp

    I’ve used several third party grips, batteries and AA’s with my Canon gear for almost five years now. Never had a single issue, not even a faulty battery. Just bad luck, really bad luck.

  • lord eels

    try explaining this to the sigma 35/1.4 people. ugh. most likely they are “first prime other than a 50″ folks, coming right from zooms lenses, and only obsessed with sharpness. News flash, sigma cheapskates, ANYONE CAN MAKE A SHARP PRIME, look at samyang or the iphone! sigmas miss focus way more than OEM. if you don’t have focus, you don’t have anything. the lens is cheap, THATS why you bought it, period. shut up about ignorant sharpness comparisons with far superior overall glass. it just makes you look stupid. you bought a sigma because they are cheap and so are you.

    you fell for the typical sigma trap, somehow sigma convinced you that their generic lens is “better” AND cheaper, for the first time in photo gear history, lol. they always do this, they provide some straw man feature and charge half price and act like TERRIBLE TRADEOFFS weren’t sacrificed. lol.

  • BrokenHelix79

    Actually, it is surprising. I’ve had nothing but good luck with the third party gear I’ve bought over the years (I do draw the line at certain items, such as memory cards).

    Besides that, it’s an interesting article that gives some behind-the-scenes insight into a pro photographer’s bad luck.

    I wish, for once, we could read an article somewhere on the internet and not have cynical/snarky/resentful comments waiting for us at the bottom of it.

  • lord eels

    continue to whine

  • Anthony Thurston

    You have obviously never used the lens if you are spouting off such garbage about it. Older Sigma lenses had AF problems yes, but the new ones are much better in that regard.

  • lord eels

    somehow “this time” sigma finally figured out OEM AF. yeah.

    sigmas are cheap and so are you.

  • Anthony Thurston

    My thoughts exactly, this guy just has terrible luck. I’ve never had a single issue with my third party grips or batteries. Though I have also never bought the absolutely cheapest of the cheap, and I always read reviews.

  • Anthony Thurston

    Lens snobbery is just that, snobbery. No lens is 100% accurate with AF, period. No offense but I am perfectly OK with missing focus a few times out of 100 shots if the lens saves me a $1000 over the OEM version. If you are really someone who needs the absolute best AF performance $ can buy then by all means, buy that insanely expensive OEM lens with mediocre optical performance… but you hit your focus 97% of the time instead of 95%, good for you! I’ll take my extra $1000 and invest in another lens that blows yours away.

  • Steve Oakley

    Why are you not using rechargeable AA’s in your flash ? I use ZERO single use batteries. its just economical and its very environmentally unfriendly. I’ve used several 3rd party batteries for my canon’s and they work fine. as for not carrying at least one spare camera battery in your pocket for quick changes, thats photography 101.

  • JH

    I think there is a direct relationship between amount of use and failure. I’ve bought nearly everything “cheap” that he bought, but I’m not a pro. Everything has worked OK because I don’t shoot weddings or push the equipment very hard. Spend the money if you’re a pro. Simple.

  • Claire

    great post. Just goes to show, buying the cheaper option of the real thing is NOT saving us money after all. Ty for this :)

  • Anthony Thurston

    I think this is key, the cheaper stuff was simply not designed to be put through the abuse that a professional shooter puts their gear through. If you are a Pro you should have the money for the brand name stuff, if you are not a pro then the cheap stuff will normally work just fine.

  • lord eels

    nice backtrack. you just pulled that entire post out of thin air. support the 97% vs 95% or be quiet.

  • Anthony Thurston

    Not sure how I backtracked at all, but ok. Those percentages are obviously made up, but the point is that OEM AF performance is not nearly as superior as you make it out to be. Is an extra 5-10% more AF performance worth $1000 to you? If so, great! For me (and many many others) its simply not.

  • KCDC

    It would be even better if you shopped at a local business instead of amazon. You can save a few pennies online too but the extra bit that you spend in a local business goes farther, benefits your community and stays within your community. Besides, the customer service is better from a human then from amazon.

  • Anthony Thurston

    I agree with this, I only shop online if the price is significantly better or if the item is not available at my local shop.

  • Kemuel Chavez

    It looks like Nikon doesn’t do well with third party stuff, or you’re just incredibly unlucky. I’ve had canons with third party stuff and never had a problem.

  • Gerson Martins

    It took some time and money for you to realize this, isn’t it?

  • Avaviel

    The props say otherwise.

  • lord eels

    I see you still haven’t backed up the things you’ve claimed. because you made them up. I laugh in your face.

  • Light Law

    Why would you not use Rechargeable batteries in your flash has lost me. i’ve used 3rd party batteries, sync cables and remote cable release with my Canon gear for years and have never had problems. Looks like your a bit naive when it comes to buying stuff of the internet.

  • Baku

    -_- one word for you “sire” and that is “snob”.
    As far as I recall the greats in photography such as Adams have captured amazing photographs with just a kodak brownie, oh the controversy of it not being a wide aperture with that “silky” bokeh. The whole trend of I want dreamy photos is just that a fad.

    Having purchased several brands of lenses over the years I’d compare a lot of the sigmas I use to the outcomes from a planar. The bokeh is smooth and circular (the less I can say for the canon 1.2 I have tried- whoever thinks that produces good bokeh think again…really bad lens quality for that price) and for the price it is of good quality it might not be like vintage 50’s zeiss and leica glass. As for autofocus honestly unless your shooting flapping birds why is it a requirement?? No auto-focusing system is perfect and from my experience I have not had an issue- though I don’t tend to utilise auto-focus very often at all anyway so I can’t fully comment…

    However I do question if you have ever shot with a Sigma and if so do show examples that match your quote that have produced by your hand otherwise how are we the readers to know you are not a marketer for a camera brand *cough* that tends to bash other lenses

  • Anthony Thurston

    I don’t have time to run around and collect data to convince you. I don’t see you providing any evidence, using your Sigma 35 F/1.4 example above, that the Canon 35mm is any better than the Sigma in AF or any other category.

  • Kristian Colasacco

    I’m going to go ahead and call B.S. on the author. You can occasionally have failure with some items but what you’re describing is Powerball territory. I’m sorry, I just flat out don’t believe you.

    And like others have mentioned, why would you buy single use batteries for your flash? Get the Sanyo Enerloops and spend all that extra cash on hookers and blow.

  • Tong Gorokh

    I’m not rich enough to buy cheap things

  • Joshua Kern

    theres a difference between blindly buying 3rd and doing 10 min of research to buy smart.
    you can find out with one phone call that any company selling less than MAP, Manufacture Advertise Price is Grey or violating contract.

  • Lee

    hm… 3rd party batteries are OK. I always buy 3-4 third party batteries and they work fine. When the author said ‘research’, not sure if he read product reviews? He is really in bad luck to have so many bad items. OK, maybe pro don’t go to photography/camera forums…. :D

    If I am to give any purchase advise, I would say the only thing you shouldn’t pay cheap in photography is tripod.

  • Tiska

    Don’t feed the troll please. It’s so obvious, and he’s liking it.

    Leave him in his misery and enjoy your lens :)

  • BrokenHelix79

    I had you pegged yesterday as a major tool, after your childish comments on other articles, and today you just reinforce that label. There are people in the world who will always jump at the opportunity to spew hateful garbage, and you’re one of them.

    Maybe you had a rough, abusive childhood, maybe you’re a rich and spoiled brat, maybe your parents weren’t around to teach you anything of substance, maybe you’re an addict or just a lazy, lousy human being in general. We’ll never know the truth, and no one probably even cares.

    You’ll just remain a foul, anonymous jackass, and like most of your kind, the world is probably passing you by without even looking down at you.

  • Jason Kustra

    Sorry about your bad luck with your Nikon equipment. I have bought 3rd party items for my canon cameras and have never had voltage or compatibility issues with grips, batteries, flashes or triggers.

  • umad?

    With the AF fine tuned using the usb dock I find it to be my most accurate prime. But hey what do I know?

  • Zos Xavius


  • Matt

    Ya, they are not alone in focusing issues. When I got my 5D II, I had focusing issues with my Canon lenses. My 100-400L is still not what I would expect it to be. Good thing they had the micro adjustment feature…
    I have a sigma camera now that blows away all my Canon gear…

  • wylun

    i actually enjoy my new sigma lens~ i dont have any focusing problems.. i even bought the usb dock at the same time .. ended up returning the dock b/c my lens was fine~

    sigmas new line is pretty damn good now, you should try it..

  • wylun

    you have a sigma camera??? or lens?

  • wylun

    reading the comments.. I think we should all really confirm the difference between 3rd party lens like.. SIGMA, Tamron.. etc.. and cheap accessories like cheap battery grips, batteries,

    i wouldn’t put Sigma or Tamron in the same category as a 30$ no name brand grip (instead of spending $175 canon OEM)

  • Bill

    In the morning to you sir. No Agenda fan too?

  • dexkim87

    This goes for all electronics. If all consumer electronics companies could price their products on par with third parties, they would. Most people buy into the idea that big name companies capitalize off their reputation by charging more for the same products. This is untrue. It is because the quality and cost of manufacturing are more. Third parties cut corners any way they can because they know how desperate consumers are to save a few bucks.

  • Syuaip

    i buy cheap. i buy twice.

    learned my lesson..

  • Sëan Gold

    I use nothing but 3rd party gear for things that don’t affect the image quality, such as the lens or the camera itself. Other than that, the battery grip doesn’t effect how sharp the image is, so why pay 150$ for one I could get for 30$, which I have and have been using with no issues for the past 3 years, as well as a plethora of other stuff. There’s plenty of bad luck with “brand name” gear too lol

  • Guest

    Until you have actually shot with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 you need to stop making yourself look like an Idiot by making false statements about things you have no idea about. I shoot with mostly Zeiss glass and the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is the closest Ive seen to any other lens matching sharpness of Zeiss. This lens is impressive to say the least. But then again Zeiss is a 3rd party lens maker and I bet next your gonna be saying they are garbage too!…

  • NancyP

    Some of the issue with non-OEM batteries lies in the communication between battery and camera. Recent firmware updates by both Canon and Nikon have in effect inactivated all non-OEM batteries. I am happy to use OEM batteries because I get approximately 1,000 shots per charge, and the old batteries are chugging along after years of use.

    Third party lenses are perfectly fine, as long as you can deal with whatever focusing idiosyncracies they may show. I like manual lenses.

  • snappy76

    troll – why don’t you just shut up with your uneducated comments. I bet with all your big mouth, trash talk about other equipment, your photos are actually s**t.

  • Adrian Spencer

    I do now, eneloop high capacity rechargeables. A superb bit of technology.

  • Adrian Spencer

    Glad I could help!

  • Adrian Spencer

    I don’t know, take the D700 battery. That is 10 years old and still costs £50, I am sure Nikon make a hefty markup on that.

  • Adrian Spencer

    I sure did read the reviews, I think however they were simply not rugged enough for the heavy duty work I was putting them through.

  • Adrian Spencer

    Thanks for the sympathy! I am sure I have been very unlucky with my choices.