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Local pricing: Canon begs to differ

Last month we published an article, ‘Huge Variations in Local Camera Pricing’, noting first that Australian pricing for cameras was pretty darn sharp compared to the US market. And second that some brands seemed to be offering real bargains locally (compared to the US) while, naming names, Canon and especially Nikon, were priced at a bit of a premium compared to like models from Panasonic, Sony, Fujifilm and Sigma.

The Australian price – even with GST included – is markedly lower than the US price (US$3699) which converts to A$5528. Without GST, the DigiDirect Australia price into the US would be around US$3000 – plus shipping.

We only looked at one camera (high end but not flagship) from each brand, and emphasised that this was by no means a definitive study. This was followed up by Canon’s senior product manager, Brendan Maher, who had several objections to the story. He pointed out that the Canon camera we had chosen was a just-released model; and that we focussed on RRP/msrp rather than street prices. He said that if customers in Australia shopped around, they could find Canon cameras in the Australian market at a considerable discount to RRP, particularly if they were not new releases.

This is not so much the case in the US, where price-fixing in the shape of Minimum Advertised Pricing reigns. Price-fixing (‘retail price maintenance’) is illegal in Australia. (Perhaps US readers can provide a reality check here – just because a product is advertised at a certain price, it presumably doesn’t stop a customer from haggling the price down across the counter…?)

In the interests of balance, and simply because Canon seemed to actually give a damn, we have had another look at local Canon pricing, this time choosing a couple of camera bodies which have been out in the market for a while, plus one low-end lens and a high-end ‘L’ series lens.

Once again it is by no means definitive, but Brendan is correct – the spread of products paints a more positive picture.

The Canon EOS R5, a high-end full frame camera released in July 2020, carries a US MSRP of US$3699, or A$5528. Add 10 percent for GST and the US price works out to A$6081. So Brendan has a point: While the RRP for the R5 was originally $6199 with GST, it is now available from mainstream retailers – not bottom feeders like Becextech – for as low as $5000. Now it’s likely that a camera that has been in the market for over two years might be superceded soon and this is a clearance-type price – but the advertised price is still a good $1000 more in the US. And that’s paying Australian GST. ‘Exported goods are GST-free if they are exported from Australia by the supplier’, according to the Australian Taxation Office. With the GST component subtracted the price to US purchasers is around US$3000 – plus shipping. (America, if you’re reading this, that’s a US$700 saving on the B&H price, with shipping to be added.)

The Canon R7 is a full-featured, six-month old APS-C format camera with a US msrp of US$1499. Convert to A$ and add 10 percent GST and it works out to A$2470. The local RRP is A$2299. Once again, it can be purchased from mainstream retailers for A$1955 – just over US$1300! That works out to around US$1180 less the GST.

Looking at lenses the picture is a little more variable for Australia’s Canon fans.

We looked at a low-end all-rounder, the RF 18-150mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM. This lens carries a US msrp of US$499, which works out to around A$820 when GST is added. The Australian RRP is $899.

US pricing is around $1000 more for the same lens as can be found locally.

Then we selected the RF 135mm F1.8 before we realised, oops, it’s a new release. But fyi, the price was around $500 cheaper in the US on a $3949 lens.

Looking for a more venerable optic, we picked a professional workhorse released in 2018, the RF28-70mm f2L USM. The US msrp on this lens is US$3099. The Australian RRP is A$4999, although we saw prices between $4200 – 4500 from reputable websites. The US price plus GST works out to just over A$5000. Once again, purchasers from the US will enjoy a saving of around US$1000 – with no GST charged on exports, plus the differential between the Australian RRP and the US msrp.

What does this all mean? Well first, to state the bleeding obvious, it’s worth waiting six months or so after a new camera, in particular, is released to get a better deal in the Australian market. Not so much in the ‘orderly’ US market. And it’s definitely worth shopping around in the Australian market.

Given the exchange rate between the Japanese Yen and the Australian dollar, local prices seem unusually low at present, vis-a-vis the rest of the world,  which should render the grey market unattractive and so give local retailers a much-needed break.

And having watched the local industry be decimated by grey marketers in years past, it would surely be tempting for some of our more entrepreneurial camera retailers, while they can take advantage of the favourable Yen-A$ exchange rate, to turn the tables and begin to market to overseas buyers with shout lines such as: ‘SAVE $500 on B&H PRICES!!’

– Thanks to Canon Australia for encouraging us to look into this further.
– Keith Shipton





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