Everyone has done it, you search for the camera or lens you want, and you see a company selling the same product for less, but it is from Hong Kong or some other country that you don't live in, and the big question is: should you buy it?
Buying a product like this from the "grey market" is always a little bit risky, but that savings can be quite big, so it is worth weighing these things up.
Here is an example:
The Tokina 11-16mm ATX Pro has an RRP in the UK of 630 UKP, most UK based online retailers actually sell this for around 500 UKP but you can get this lens from Hong Kong from Digital Rev for 350 UKP. Saving a few hundred pounds on a lens is obviously a big deal.
Firstly there is the risk of buying the goods abroad, is the company reputable, will you actually get the lens, is the lens genuine. I think with big players such as Digital Rev in Hong Kong, you don't need to worry about receiving the lens, they are a decent company and stock genuine products. With any other supplier it is worth doing a bit of reseach on line to make sure.
The next big issue with the grey market is the waranty and returns policy. The product will have a serial number that indicates where it was bought, a Hong Kong serial number will usually mean that the distributor in your country will not repair or replace this lens for you if there are any issues (unless you happen to live in Hong Kong). So, what happens when you buy a product from Hong Kong and it breaks under waranty? There are a couple of options 1) You send it back to Hong Kong for repair, 2) You send the product in for a quote in your own country, send the quote to Hong Kong and get them to cover the costs. The major factor with both of these options is time. In both cases, you are looking at weeks to get the problem sorted, if you are an amature film maker or photographer a few weeks might not be an issue, if you make your living by using this product, you probably need a third option (by far the quickest) 3) pay for it yourself.
I recently had a lens repaired at PJ Camera Repairs Direct http://pjcrdirect.co.uk They are based in the midlands in the UK and provide a fantastic service.
So to answer the original question about buying products off the grey market, if you are buying a product that is reasonably cheap it could be worth the gamble, if it breaks in warranty and you get it repaired, you probably still won't be out of pocket as the savings are pretty big. That said, I defintitely wouldn't consider buying more expensive items such as a camera body as I would prefer to get these serviced locally.
I urgently needed my Tokina repaired so I had it fixed by PJC direct in the UK, after a few emails with Digital Rev they agreed to pay the costs in full.