Saturday, December 26, 2009

Digital Killed the Camera Store

Wandering through my local camera store earlier this week, looking for a tripod mounting plate with a 3/8 ths screw instead of the usual 1/4. This is the part that screws into the bottom of the camera, that would mate with the tripod head. The bigger screw is used for heavier cameras than the usual SLR sized bodies that are so prevalent these days. I found the smaller ones, but none of the plates with the bigger screws. Asking a salesperson provided no help and after he disappeared in the back for a few minutes, he came back and told me that the bigger sizes were only used in Europe and it would take a long time to get here. Recognizing a load of spin, I made a not so witty comment and walked out without buying anything.

On the way home, I was thinking about how often I'd been disappointed by this particular store. At one time time they were the type of store where you could walk in and find all sorts of cool things. Usually a clerk who had been there a while would be able to find some obscure item stuck in a back corner. Now, most camera stores you walk into have more in common with Best Buy. They seem to be more interested in selling cameras than the incidentals.

I personally think the advent of cheap digital cameras forced the change. Film cameras lasted a long time and new models were introduced infrequently, sometimes in excess of 8 to 10 years. Compare that to todays 8 month release cycle for a point and shoot, to a 1 year cycle for a mid range camera to somewhat longer timeframe for high end cameras. With this type of release schedule and the accompanying hype that convinces a large proportion of photographers to buy a new camera, the stores can survive by stocking cameras, lenses and the bare minimum of other essentials. They don't have to stock anything else to stay in business. That and tax laws on unsold inventory didn't help either.

It's too bad most of the old style camera stores couldn't survive. The nearest one I know of is Central Camera in downtown Chicago. Since I tend to want what's considered to be more exotic stuff these days, I mainly do mail order. While I usually support local businesses, I'm finding it impossible to do so nowadays.

It's just too bad.....

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