Is That Nikon MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack Genuine?
Recently, I set out to purchase a battery pack for my Nikon D850, specifically the Nikon MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack. Not only does the pack serve to extend the battery life of my camera, it also ups my frames per second speed from 7/fps to 9/fps.
As I began researching my options, I found the Nikon MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack ran $396.95 on B&H, which is no small change. Always open to other options, I began searching online for the same grip from third-party camera gear shops and I was surprised to find the same battery pack on eBay, brand new and in its original box according to multiple sellers for just $99. These cheaper battery packs shipped out of Hong Kong. I examined the battery pack carefully and it looked identical to the one on B&H, I researched the seller, who seemed legit, so why the huge price difference? I always do tons of research before buying camera gear and this time was no exception. This time, however, I couldn’t find much of an answer to my question. Was the Nikon MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack from Hong Kong a fake or wasn’t it? No one seemed to know. But the pictures were identical to the images for a new one on B&H (who is a licensed Nikon dealer) and the Nikon box looked perfect. Eager to save myself a few hundred dollars, I decided to risk it and purchased the eBay version for a hundred bucks.
The eBay shop was completely professional and the battery pack arrived on time. I unboxed it and everything looked perfect, except for one small detail. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a small groove on the bottom of the battery pack in the B&H images that was missing from the pack I had just received.
I decided to do some more research. And that’s how I found out about the “grey market.”
First a Fred Miranda forum with this sad story:
“Two years ago I purchased a used, (9 rated) Nikon 24-70 F2.8E from B&H. It wasn’t listed as gray market. It worked perfect for 6 months. After a trip to upstate New York I realized the right half of all my photos was out of focus. Sent to Nikon for repairs and it was returned as grey market lens and they wouldn’t touch it. I spoke to B&H. They insisted it was a US lens and stated that they sold it new as such. B&H contacted Nikon. Nikon of course could have cared less. I was well past the return period for B&H. They tried to be helpful but other than contacting Nikon…they were useless too. Currently Nikon has still not released parts or repair manuals to third party repair shops, (my latest understanding after speaking to APS in Chicago). So for a year and a half I’ve been sitting on a $2K+ paperweight.”
It sounded so unlike B&H! And since they are licensed Nikon dealers, how could this have happened? A closer look at the B&H Used Equipment Rating System revealed this caveat in their used merchandise sales policy:
“The B&H Used Dept. does not distinguish between “grey market” and USA-warranted merchandise for any item we sell. These distinctions are primarily important for warranty purposes for new merchandise; since all the merchandise sold through our used department is outside the manufacturer’s warranty period, in almost every case, the issue is moot. You should be aware that while almost all the items sold through our Used Dept. no longer qualify for the original manufacturer’s warranty, certain manufacturers in the USA will not service goods whose original provenance was grey market, even for a fee. However, in almost every case, service is available through independent repair facilities.”
What is the “Grey Market”?
I’d heard of the black market, but what was this so-called grey market? Further research revealed an interesting answer. Basically, a grey market product is one that is imported and sold by a third-party retailer. Usually, these are in fact made by the manufacturer they claim to come from however, they are packaged and intended for other markets or regions. So, my Nikon MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack probably was made by Nikon, it was just intended for the Asian market, not a customer in the U.S. So where’s the problem? It’s a Nikon product right? I saved $300 right? There are a few issues with the product that made me rethink my purchase.
First of all, sometimes grey market products are fakes, or they could be refurbished products resold as “new.” Since manufacturers don’t guarantee grey marked products, there is no regulation in place to ensure you are getting something genuine.
The next issue, sometimes grey market products are made with cheaper materials to lower the price for a market with less disposable income, which means they may not meet a U.S. consumer’s expectations. On this note, another small difference between the battery pack I ordered and B&H’s version was the battery contact points. The grey market version had silver battery contacts, where the B&H version had gold plated contacts.
And then the real deal breaker, Nikon specifically warns consumers that third-party or counterfeit accessories could damage genuine Nikon equipment. The $300 I saved wasn’t worth risking a camera that cost me thousands.
Other issues with grey market products are the fact that user manuals might come in a language you don’t speak, be incomplete or simply be a collection of photocopies. In addition, Nikon USA won’t touch grey market products if you need to get something repaired, even if you are willing to pay them for the service. And while it isn’t an issue with a battery pack, it’s worth noting that software and power cords for grey market gear could also be copied or counterfeit too.
In the end, I decided to return the Hong Kong version and purchase the real deal from B&H. Before I repackaged my grey market battery pack though, I waited for the B&H battery pack to come in and took a few comparison shots. Hopefully, they’ll help a few of you determine if you have a grey market battery pack or the battery pack intended for sale in the U.S.
The bottom line is that grey marked camera gear can be purchased for a hugely discounted price from third party retailers and sellers on websites like eBay, but there’s no guarantee you’re getting something manufactured by your brand of choice. Non-genuine accessories could put your genuine camera gear at risk and you can’t get grey market camera gear repaired by the manufacturer. Are the savings worth the risk? Only you can decide.