I ran across a few refurbished cameras (from reputable sites) and my question is this:
Are refurbished cameras normally okay to buy? (Note: I am referring to DSLR cameras that are body plus one 18-55mm OEM Lens) I ask because there are some items that 90% of the time I will not buy refurbished. But I have no clue when it comes to cameras, and if this is a safe way to start, or if it is worth the extra 100-150 I would save to buy brand new.
One other note: I am not a professional and looking to get into the world of DSLRs with a basic entry to gain knowledge and experience using a DSLR, and of course save some money.
I have bought Canon refurbish lenses and some very expensive Canon refurbished binoculars and have been exceptionally happy. I don't know about the bodies though. The cheap bodies could really take a beating. Check out your local quality photo shop. Mine (Hunt's in Manchester, NH) has a great used section, had a Canon G10, a Yashica medium format, and I've picked used L-glass out of there also. At least this way you can play with it before buying.
I bought my Canon XSi/450D refurbished from B&H about 3 years ago, and was very happy with it. I did eventually notice a bright red pixel on all of my pictures (although typically only visible in night shots). I don't blame B&H or the refurbished state of the camera for this; just the fact that pixels some times die.
When I replaced it about 4 months ago, I had settled on a T3i/600D, and I would gladly have gone with a refurbished unit again, but there weren't any available at the time from B&H. (I think I saw some refurbs on Amazon, but the price was almost the same as new.)
I think the main thing to consider when buying refurbished is the warranty it comes with. Not so much because you'll expect to use the warranty, but because how long and extensive the warranty is says a lot about how much the vendor believes in their refurbished equipment. If they only offer a 7-day warranty, they probably don't test their refurbished equipment sufficiently to stand behind it.
Before buying, I suggest making sure there are:
As long as the shutter actuation count is relatively low compared to the design limits (say a few thousand for a consumer camera, up to a few tens of thousands for a professional model) you might as well be buying new.
But, as AJ points out, do insist on warranty and having a generous return/exchange policy, and insist there be no "restocking fee" or other hidden costs associated with it (those "fees" are a great way for some stores to make money on lemons they can't get rid of).
I would suggest that acquiring dslr bodies could be very precarious, but "pre-owned" lenses is a different matter alltogether. As long as there is at least a day or so cooling off period, it should be possible to assertain the quality and viability of the lens.
Maybe, but I also don't think it's a big deal. Currently, Adorama has three refurbished camera bodies for sale, all from Nikon. These come with a 90-day warranty rather than the standard full year. The savings varies from $160 (for a lower-end model) to almost $300 for a mid-range one. This is less than you'd pay for almost any out-of-warranty repair. That's basically the bet you're making: if there's any failure, it'll happen sooner rather than later.
That's probably a good bet, so that comes down to your level of confidence. But, here's why I don't think it's important: your options in refurbished equipment are so narrow (3 bodies compared to... right now, 40 new body-only listings plus 87 used camera bodies) that it's not like you can make all your purchases this way, and the difference is basically going to be a drop in the bucket compared to what any serious or semi-serious photographer spends over the course of a few years. (At least, until you've got a hefty investment already.)
If it happens that you find a refurbished deal that matches exactly what you wanted to buy anyway, decide on whether the warranty thing is important to you.