Semi-professional and professional digital cameras are capable of incredible image fidelity, but the high prices of the best digital cameras mean a lot of consumers will be comparing digital refurbished cameras vs open box.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Open-box cameras can be top-of-the-line models at deep discounts, but they don’t come with warranties that guarantee they work and can’t be returned if defective or damaged
  • Refurbished digital cameras are often a great deal on a slightly older model that’s been repaired and restored professionally and is promised to work as intended.
  • Despite the risk that comes with an open-box camera, only 5% of returns are actually defective, so if the discount is large enough, the risk is often worth taking.

Differences Between Refurbished Digital Cameras and Open Box Cameras

Refurbished cameras can be a great deal for a slightly older model, and open-box deals can mean saving a lot on a more or less brand new camera. What are the pros and cons of each?

Insider Tip

A refurbished camera is a fairly safe bet if you’re looking for functionality over form.

Condition

One of the most obvious differences between a refurbished and an open box digital camera is going to be the condition. An open box item is an unused item that has been partially or completely removed from its packaging and returned to the vendor, who then offers it for sale at what is often a significant discount- that means that an open box item should be in the same condition as a brand new one.

A refurbished item is one that a manufacturer has repaired and restored to working condition- generally with a guarantee of functionality. It’s generally a slightly older model item and has been used previously, so it’s not going to be in like-new condition, at least cosmetically.

Functionality

While an open box item should be in like-new condition, it won’t come with any guarantee from either the manufacturer or the vendor. High-end digital cameras have many small, delicate parts that can be easily damaged, so while cosmetically, an open-box camera will be pristine, there’s always a chance there may be internal damage. This is especially relevant if you’re trying to decide between a digital slr vs. a point-and-shoot camera.

Refurbished cameras will generally be slightly older models, and maybe show signs of wear and tear, but will come with a warranty either from the manufacturer or the vendor ensuring the buyer of their functionality for a reasonable period of time. It’s a good idea if you’ve decided on an SLR model to compare SLR cameras so you can know the best ones to look out for.

Value

When it comes to which is the better value, functionality again has to be considered. A refurbished camera will come with a manufacturer or vendor warranty guaranteeing its functionality, though it will be a slightly older model and may have fewer or even some obsolete features, or possibly missing accessories originally packaged with it.

An open box camera is more likely to be a newer or top-of-the-line model complete with all the newest features, but there will be no warranty to guarantee there’s no internal damage to the electronics that could limit its functionality- making refurbished a safer investment, on the balance.

Warranty

This is a more clear-cut difference- a refurbished camera will come with a warranty by the manufacturer or vendor guaranteeing its working condition, while an open box camera is sold to customers as-is without any warranty.

Resale Value

Again, this is fairly simple- a refurbished item, being previously used and likely an older model, will have a much lower resale value than an open box item, which will be a newer model and likely in better cosmetic condition- unless, of course, it’s non-functional.

Warning

Open-box cameras are often top-of-line models in perfect cosmetic condition, but they aren’t guaranteed to work.

F.A.Q.S

What does “Open Box” mean?

“Open-Box” refers to an item that has been returned to a seller or manufacturer partially opened but never used and put back for sale at a lower price, but without any warranty covering functionality.


Why shouldn’t I buy Open-Box?

Though buying an open-box camera may mean a brand new, top-of-the-line camera at a deep discount, it comes with risks, since generally open-box items can’t be returned and do not come with a warranty in case they’re defective or damaged.


How is refurbished different from used?

A used camera will generally be sold as-is and usually without a warranty, while a refurbished camera is an older model that has been professionally restored or repaired and comes with a warranty guaranteeing functionality and often including a return policy. Vendors like Amazon may have additional rules and restrictions for the sale of refurbished items.



STAT: Open-box cameras tend to be sold at a discount of around 20%, and sometimes more. (source)

STAT: Despite the inherent risk involved in buying open-box, only about 5% of retail returns are defective items. (source)

STAT: Discounts of 50% or more on open-box or refurbished cameras can often mean an item that’s not quite what it’s advertised to be. (source)

Jed Smith

I'm a musician and recording engineer and live in Queens. I have a cat. Her name is Elsa. I love to write about consumer tech and musical instruments.

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