The Truth About Gray Market Cameras

A: Gray Market -- equipment of questionable origin, from a seller of dubious intentions.

Manufacturers set minimum retail selling prices for specific markets. They also have a set price for their authorized dealers. A gray market item may be imported from a country that can legally sell the product at a lower price. The gray market seller may pass the “savings” on to you-- but he can't transfer the manufacturer’s warranty, rebates, and he won’t be there to answer your technical questions.

Gray market cameras might not be black market or counterfeit, but you still “get” what you pay for... and in the long run, you'll pay more for then what you’d get up-front from an authorized dealer.

Q: Is it worth the savings?

A: No.

These cameras are frequently opened and stripped of their most basic accessories, items that should come with your new camera. You’ll be paying extra to get these accessories back... and the cost will add up quickly.

‘Did you want a battery with your camera? How about the battery charger, the adapters and cables? Oh, and the lens... that might come in handy! Do you know that the component cables can cost more than $50.00... and you’ll need BNC adapters with that too?’

We can go on, really!

Many gray market sellers will also push you into buying additional parts and accessories -- things that you may or may not need, at an overly inflated price. ‘Don’t you want a Cheapo™ tripod that will fall apart after a few uses, at twice the price it’s worth? How about some filters. They’re not the best, but oh well. What do you mean you already have a tripod and you’re not interested? In that case, we forgot to mention that the camera is “out-of-stock.”’

That’s right, the gray market seller will take your money right away... but the item might not be in stock, and can stay on back order indefinitely.

Because of local copyright laws, you may find that certain operational features are disabled in gray market goods, since they were intended for sales and use only in their countries. This also includes differences in the packaging and accessories.

Gray market cameras are sold without a USA warranty. We’ve sung praises on how well designed and stable the HVX200A is, but things can -- and do -- still happen. As an Authorized Gold Panasonic Service center, we can assure you that the parts alone on a major warranty repair can quickly eat up whatever “savings” there were on the gray market camera. For an investment on equipment worth thousands of dollars, who wants to take that kind of a risk?

What if Panasonic recalls the product because of something that fails and they’ve made an improvement? If you own gray market, you’ll be stuck paying for the parts and labor out of pocket.

Some gray market sellers will offer a 3rd party “US warranty” that is not supported by Panasonic or USA Authorized Service Centers. If you want your camera to go to a service center that repairs, say, microwave ovens and have never touched a high-end camera, then by all means. It’s your money... and your time. We’ve heard reports of some repairs taking up to three months -- only to be returned with the same problems because the service center has no knowledge of the camera.

All Panasonic USA warranties and rebates DO NOT apply to gray market cameras.

Just remember: if it sounds too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.

Here is what one of our clients said about gray market sellers and his experience with our company:

“The problem I had when trying to get a good deal in gray market, is that the camera shops (and I use the term loosely) won't sell you the camera unless you buy an extra $1000 dollars worth of plastic filters, cheap tripod, camera bag, etc. etc. If you say you just want the camera, they usually just hang up, or tell you that it will take a really long time to get the camera. [...] I bought my camera from Spec-Comm [Specialized Communications Corp.] and got a very competitive price, probably the lowest of all the authorized dealers. Camera was at my house the next day, and came with extra battery. No hassles, and they speak English!”

Q: Can Authorized Dealers sell gray markets goods?

A: Authorized Dealers are NOT allowed to sell gray market goods per their agreement with Panasonic. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped it from happening from time to time. There have been some reports of some dishonest Authorized Dealers selling gray market equipment. If the price looks out of the ordinary, and it is being advertised as new, confirm with Panasonic that it’s a valid US camera. You may need to get the serial number from the dealer and contact Panasonic to confirm it for you.

Most, if not all, US cameras include the letters ‘TC’ in the 3rd and 4th digits in the serial number. If these two letters are different then the serial number should definitely be verified. Also, legitimate US cameras will have the full model # ‘AG-HVX200A’ printed on the outside of the box. The ‘J’ might be stamped on. This does not guarantee that the camera is gray market, however, if the model number does not end with ‘PJ’ then it almost certainly is.

Q: How does Panasonic feel about gray market sellers?

A: Jan Crittenden Livingston (Product Manager for the HVX200A) says:

"The problem with buying from these gray marketers is that your camera will not have a warranty in the US; it will have a warranty, just in a different country. One of the shadiest practices that I have seen them do is that they say "US warranty" and the unsuspecting customer thinks a "Panasonic US Warranty" when in reality it is through some third party that has no relationship to Panasonic but they happen to be in the US. Another thing is that all countries do not package the DVX100 or HVX200A the same way. Here in the US we offer the 5400mA battery; this is not true of all countries.

But the warranty issue is a real problem, I mean you really do not want to find out you have a bigger problem than the problem you may already have because the camera is not working properly. That in my opinion is a real problem. Save the worries for something bigger, just buy from an authorized dealer."

Jan Crittenden Livingston
Panasonic Broadcast & TV Systems
Product Manager,

Q: What exactly do I get in a Specialized Communications package deal?

A: Take the AG-HVX200A package for example. For $3750 you get:
  • A factory-fresh (sealed) AG-HVX200A with ALL standard accessories (CG-AD54SE/1B Lithium-Ion 7.2V / 5400mA snap-on battery, AG-B15 AC adaptor/battery charger, microphone holder, component video cables with RCA-BNC adaptors, remote control, shoulder strap and instruction manual)
  • One of our own better-than-standard SCPAN-6000 Batteries – FREE!
  • Barry Green's HVX Book - FREE!
  • 1-year manufacturers warranty against defects supported by Panasonic and its vast network of USA service centers (including Specialized Communications Corp.!)
  • Ground shipping (insured) within the continental United States -- FREE!

Q: Sounds good. But why should I buy from Specialized Communications?

A: You get all that we've listed AND our commitment to YOUR satisfaction. We won't sleep until we know you're happy.

Our advertised prices are the actual price -- there are no surprise “credit card fees” or “handling fees” tacked on to your invoice.

Specialized Communications Corp. not only has impeccable sales experience, but also has a fully staffed, trained, and certified service center to repair the equipment we sell. We are equipped to fully support you and your needs.

Please, feel free to check out our 100% Positive eBay feedback and glowing recommendations on -- see below!

Q: I’m still not convinced. What do others think of Specialized Communications Corp.?

A: Here are some links of just a few examples of what folks in the real world think of Specialized Communications Corp.


Q: How can I purchase a camera package from Specialized Communications Corp.?

A: You can give us a call at 1-800-359-1858 / 1-301-790-0103 or drop us an e-mail:

Andrew Hoffman:

The package listed above and many more products are also available on our web store:
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