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What makes for a different review? 99% of reviews come out immediately so that they can attempt to direct traffic to their websites. The reviews are little more than posting of statistics released by the manufacturer with a few added sentences gushing “best camera e-vuhhh!” and a link so that you can add to the revenue stream of the site in question. Not too useful. The pictures taken with the product in question are inevitably of a brick wall (demonstrating “sharpness”) or some crappy snaps taken hastily outside. If the reviewer even has the product in question. What makes this review any better?

I actually own a Nikon D810, and I actually use it.

You’d think that this wouldn’t be a particularly bold statement, but here we are. I also own a D800, which is going to be the basis for some of the comparisons I’ll be making.

Since many of you are in the North American and have no possibility of actually getting one because of the lineups, you might be wondering how I got one. I bought one the first day it was available in stores by doing two things: I booked one ahead, and I got it cheaper than anyone else did. There was no secret to it, it involved a little bit of shopping around and some telephone calls. Here in Canada, it’s not easy get access to the latest and greatest for a reasonable price. In fact, it’s usually impossible and I don’t waste my time. Here’s why. Let’s go online shopping for an example. If I want to get a D810, I’ll try Henry’s here in Canada. A Nikon D810 retails there for $3,499.99 (by the way, retailers should really stop giving prices with cents since we don’t use them anymore in Canada). Let’s do a quick calculation.

Retail price: $3,499.99 CDN
HST in Ontario: 13% (Ontario charges 8%, with the Federal Government of Canada taking 5%): $455
Total price: $3,954.99 CDN

I live in Quebec where it would be even more expensive, the sales tax is an even more outrageous 9.975% plus Federal GST of 5%. But let’s assume I can get the “cheaper” Ontario rate.

I travel to Japan several times a year on average, and two things immediately become apparent. The prices are cheaper there, and they don’t have to order the products because they always have them in stock somewhere. Let’s try a few Japanese prices (which include taxes in the price, so no extra calculations are involved.

Bic Camera: 322,500 yen ($3379.78 CDN) Let’s assume I can’t get the current rate and some dastardly bank charges me a bunch of money, bringing the price up to the same as the Canadian $3,499.99. I’ve still saved $455 CDN by not doing anything other than buying it in Japan.

A quick phone call or two reveals that Kitamura Camera is selling it for cheaper, 313,470 yen. I’ve done nothing and already saved 9030 yen. A further chat reveals that they are also having a junk camera event where if I drop off any kind of old camera, they’ll give me a 3000 yen discount on a new one. OK, I’ve saved a total of 12030 yen ($124.58 CDN) by doing very little. In summary so far, I’ve saved $579.58 by buying my camera in Japan and shopping around a little. But wait, there’s more. Buying in an official tourist area in Japan lets you make your purchase tax free. You used to be able to do it almost anywhere, but apparently some stores have been abusing the system. No matter, present your passport whilst buying, and just ask for a tax free purchase. In this case the camera was reserved at Kitamura camera’s Narita location for an easy pickup.

Original price: 313,470 yen.
Tax free price: 290,250 yen.
– junk camera discount: 3000 yen.
Final price: 287,250 yen ($2974.73 CDN)

That’s right. $1,000.00 CDN off the price. It’s this kind of staggering difference in price which makes me wonder why Canadian retailers are even still in business. I’ve just saved the price of a low season ticket from Quebec (YQB), Canada airport to Narita (NRT) airport, Japan. Naturally, as a good citizen of Canada, I’m going to declare my purchase at the airport since it’s way over the limit. Using the handy calculator provided by Customs and Border Services (http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/mobile/est-cal-eng.html) I find out that as a resident of over-taxed Quebec I owe $431.23 on my new camera. It’s still more than $500 CDN cheaper than buying in Canada. Madness. That’s half a Zeiss lens purchase, which you can bet I’ll be buying in Japan and not Canada. I’m in the market for a Mac Pro, and I’ll be buying that in Japan, too.

And as a quick taste for Part 2, here’s an example of what the D810 can do (in the right hands, of course):