Disclaimer : I do not receive any form of incentive or sponsor from Paul C. Buff, this article reflects an independent opinion about them.
Who is Paul C. Buff ?
If you are a photographer living in the USA you certainly know about Paul C. Buff, but here in Europe most of my photographers friends have never heard about it.
Paul C. Buff is an American manufacturer of lighting equipment for photography, leader in the USA with 60% market share, and with a solid reputation for its product quality and low prices. Still it remains mostly unknown in other parts of the words, for the reason that its products are only sold in the US.
This has to do with Buff’s unique business model that consists of selling solely for its factory, instead of relying on distributors, dealers or camera shop that typically take more than 60% margin. One drawback of its strategy is that Buff cannot use distributors or camera shops for its customers support, and any defect equipment should be shipped back to the headquarters of Buff in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the reason why Buff does does not actively sell elsewhere than in the US, you can find more explanation about it on Buff’s disclaimer for international customers.
Still it is possible to order from Europe, it is just somewhat more complicated and will cost you about 50% more due to shipping and custom taxes. This is what I going to explain in details in this article, based on my experience of being a customer of Buff in Europe.
What should you be cautious about when ordering Buff products from Europe ?
- You can only pay your order with an American credit card, or with a direct bank transfer. Paypal is not accepted.
- If you cannot pay with an American credit card, then you cannot pass your order directly from the Buff’s website, instead you need to contact Buff’s customer service. They are very responsive and friendly from my experience.
- Because you buy Buff products from the US, they are guaranteed for 1 or 2 years depending on the products. This is unlike the mandatory 2 years of guarantee of anything bought in the European Union.
- If you need to get your Buff products repaired, you will have to pay for the shipment even if they are still under guarantee. This does not apply to customers in the US.
- Buff only delivers its products to an address in the USA, therefore you will have to use the services of a freight forwarder to collect your packages in the USA and ship them in Europe. So far I have used the services of the freight forwarder MyUS and am rather satisfied with them.
- You will have to pay custom taxes, that is 21% in the European Union.
- Buff’s Flash Units use the so called “balcar” mount system, which is not common in Europe. It is therefore difficult to find compatible light modifiers on the European market. This is nevertheless of minor importance because Buff has a very extensive range of light modifiers, of good quality and affordable price.
- The Flash units from Buff’s series Alien Bees only work on 120V AC, so are not suitable for the European market. Instead you can use the Buff’s high end flash unit Einstein E640 which works on either 120V AC or 220V AC.
- Buff equipment is provided with US power cables, you will need to buy adapters for the European wall plugs.
What is the cost of ordering Paul C Buff equipment from Europe ?
While my bill to Paul C. Buff was 1530$, the extra costs described below made up for a total bill of 2209$, hence an extra 45%.
|Description||Costs in $||Costs in €|
|Paul C. Buff bill||1530|
|USA bank Inland wire fee on Buff’s bill||15|
|European bank fee on Buff’s bill||10.5|
|Freight forwarder bill||311|
|European Customs Taxes 21%||258.39|
|European Customs service costs||49.12|
Note : The Euro to US Dollar exchange rate used in this table is from the 1st January 2016, being 1Euro = 1.086 USD.
What about the Walimex dealer in Europe ?
(added on 04/08/2017)
In 2017 the European dealer Walimex started to sell the EinsteinE640 unit for 800e, including 2 years warranty (2 years warranty is mandatory by law in the European union ). You can check their offer here : http://www.walimex-webshop.com/nl/paul-c-buff-einstein-flitser-e640-nu-leverbaar.html
So, how is that possible since Paul C. buff does not have any official dealer in Europe? Walimex is an independent dealer and does not have any particular agreement or contract with Paul C. Buff, nor the facilities to repair the Einstein unit. They simply buy large quantities and resell them. I cannot tell how they make profit or guaranty the repair, but at least they provide a simpler solution than buying directly to Paul C. Buff in the USA. Up to you to give it a try !
Importing Paul C. Buff products from Europe will cost you approximately 50% more due to shipment and taxes. I consider it is still good value for money in comparison with what is available on the European market. You might be convinced if you look at the impressive performance of their Einstein E640 Flash Unit !
For those who want to try Paul C. Buff products in the Netherlands, they are available at the rental photography studio of Sahare Imaging
And since recently (2017) you can buy the Einstein E640 unit at the non official European dealer http://www.walimex-webshop.com