Where do I buy photographic equipment – o let me count the ways!
I have found that peoples’ preference to where they buy camera equipment is as much of a personal decision as is which camera brand they choose – and they will vehemently defend both equally. I personally have made the rounds throughout the years, and I’ve given everyone a try. I’ve found that some spots can be better than others, more convenient than others, more practical than others, or less expensive than others. The last being a factor that always has to be considered.
B&H PHOTO & VIDEO – NEW YORK CITY
Let’s get the obvious out of the way – B&H Photo & Video in NYC. They have it. That’s all that needs to be said. If they happen to not have it, they can get it. A huge superstore which is the whole block on 9th Ave. between 32nd & 33rd St., is only dwarfed by their practically bottomless website. I have bought so much gear from B&H that it’s probably funny. Their delivery is stellar – there have been many times that I place an order one day, and it arrives at my doorstep the very next business day (keep in mind when I write this that I am in NJ.) But, still, their organization is such that orders come in through the web and can get picked, packed, and shipped within hours. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for an $8000.00 lens or a $7.00 LCD shield for your old D100, the newest 256GB CF card or a roll of T-Max – they have it.
A trip to their Superstore is something anyone interested in photography should do at least once. The whole 2nd floor is photography. They have whole demo islands for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and other brands where each camera body currently available and a variety of different lenses are on display that you can try out and examine. If what you are looking for isn’t out, you can get in line for a rep. at the counter and he or she will get your item off their floor to ceiling shelves for you to check out. Plus, you have all the other items on the shelves throughout the department if you like to browse. AND – I was just in the store in January looking for my Domke F-1x bag, which wasn’t out for display. Ask a floor rep, and within 5 minutes that bag is out at the counter for me to check out. And, yes, I bought it! And, yes, I love it!
ALLEN’S CAMERA – PA
Allen’s Camera is on New Falls Road in Levittown, PA, just over the Burlington-Bristol Bridge. A friend told me about Allen’s Camera years ago, and I’ll bet Allen is happy that my friend took me there one day. That little shop in Levittown ranks #2 as the camera shop that got the most of my camera money. And I definitely don’t say that in a bad way! They have a fantastic selection, and being local, you can drive right over there to check out a lens or accessory that you’re not 100% sure on. Just standing at the counter and staring at the Nikon section, with all of the gold boxes glinting at you, is drool-inducing. I used to go to Allen’s for fresh film back in the day. Allen’s repaired my old Canon A-1 to the best shape it was ever in. Allen’s accepted trade-in’s toward upgraded lenses as I moved from DX digital to FX digital. It was in Allen’s that I found my killer photo backpack for my Alaska trip. I stopped at Allen’s one evening just because I was passing by, and I found an old discontinued lens (one of my old favorites that I no longer had) brand new in its box up on their shelf. They actually had to go back and look up what to charge for that lens!
But, my favorite story from Allen’s goes back to the Nikon D200 release in 2005. There were rumors that this new camera was coming one day while I was in Allen’s shopping. I mentioned that I wanted one, sight unseen, when they came out. So Allen said he’d put me on a list. That camera was eventually announced as being available from Nikon on December 16th of that year. Friday December 16, 2005, 11:00am, I’ll never forget it, I get a phone call, “Hey Chris, it’s Allen’s Camera. We have a new D200 here for you.” You can’t beat that kind of service!
Calumet Photo has a great website and stores all across the USA and in Europe. We are lucky enough to have a store right here in Philadelphia. Calumet was always known for their lighting equipment, and they still are. But, they also have much more than just awesome lighting and stands. My tripods are all Calumet, and I’m in the process of changing all my tripod heads to Calumet brand. When I’m using my reflectors, you’ll see the Calumet name emblazoned across their covers. I was just in Calumet back in October and I cleaned out their supply of Kodak T-Max 3200 film. Whenever I’m over in Philly, I’ll try to stop in Calumet up on Columbus Ave. to see what’s new, since they change their displays often.
THE SAD UPDATE: Calumet Photo is no more. Just a few weeks after posting this page, Calumet Photo abruptly closed its doors and declared bankruptcy. What a shame to lose such a great photographic store.
And here’s my honorable mentions…
Adorama, located also in NYC, but on W. 18th Street. They rate up there with B&H as far as selection, price, and availablility. I haven’t been to their store in years, simply because I rarely head down that way when I’m in NYC. I have ordered from them online recently, though, and I never have a problem.
Unique Photo is in NJ. The only problem with that is that you will be charged NJ sales tax when you order from them. I know, that’s a poor excuse, but c’mon, if you’re spending $3,000.00 on a camera, you try and save a couple of bucks somewhere! I have been to their store up in North Jersey and they do have a great selection. I’ve also ordered from them online a few times in the past couple of months, and the orders arrive correctly and quickly. Plus, and I cheated here, they had the best price on the MB-40 for my F6. I ordered that item and had it shipped to MT, where I was going to be the following week. So I was able to get the better price, I got free shipping on it, and I avoided the NJ sales tax! Know the system, man!!
One last that I’ll throw out there is the Photo Center in Brick. I actaully found them by accident, digging around for a D2x. They had a used one listed in primo shape, and they were close enough to go check it out. What a great little camera shop! Tucked into a little shopping center up in Brick, they have a load of stuff, a great used selection, and they were a bunch of really friendly people. I am sorry to say that I haven’t made the time to drive back up there, but I want to soon. Oh yeah – I did buy that D2x. It was in stunningly great shape, and has become my favorite digital camera to shoot with.
There is one more that I’ll just mention quickly – KEH CAMERA in Georgia. KEH is known for buying and selling used equipment, something that is definitely worth going into in another article!