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Sign of the times

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Gr8Tr1x, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    I mentioned Charlotte Camera choosing not to carry the Nikon line a few months ago. They just closed their doors on March 31 and this article appeared in the paper today.


    From the article:
    As owner of a camera store that had been a Charlotte mainstay for 20 years, Myriam Breedlove faced a serious question: How long do you stay in a business and industry that seem to be dying?

    Last month, she decided to let go. The store closed March 31.

    Breedlove said the store had struggled with a variety of factors, the most pressing being the industry's switch from film to digital. Professional photographers, the store's most dedicated customers, weren't coming in as often because they no longer needed to buy rolls of film and darkroom equipment, which had amounted to about 25 percent of the company's inventory.

    And when the store moved to Ballantyne Commons in hopes of broadening its customer base to amateurs, it encountered pricier rent and consumers who preferred to shop online or at big box stores, Breedlove said.

    Charlotte Camera's challenge is one that other independent camera stores face as the cost of digital cameras drops and price wars among stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Circuit City make it difficult small stores to match those prices. Meanwhile, online sites like eBay are grabbing consumers who want used equipment.
  2. This is sad but true. The locals compete in a world wide
    market and cannot match prices with volume dealers. They cannot
    expand to volume levels because of the small population base. A local music
    store survives by offering entry level gear with service and with knowledge.
    The last remaining 'camera' store has only very mainstream gear and
    and a couple dslr plus a few high end p&s and bits of accessories. Their survival is dependent on the portrait studio run from the same store.
    At one time they were the 'go to' guys for anything photographic. Now the
    cameras are a sideline business. They do not print anymore either.
    Sign of the times I suppose.
  3. Schlitz


    Apr 22, 2006
    San Antonio, TX
    Dave Talboys
    You know, it's a shame that the mom & pop stores can't compete anymore. I really long for the days in the past when you could go into a store or a restaurant (it didn't matter what kind) and the folks who owned or merely worked in the place knew that customer service was number 1 and they knew their products inside and out. These days, customer service doesn't count for much, and the only things the clerks know for sure is when their next break or quitting time is. Guess I'm just getting old...
  4. Low self worth, and bad customer service go hand in hand. Pay employees absolute minimum wage and what incentive do they have to work hard.

    Thats the main reason I think the big box stores are cheapening the economy, Minimum wage workers can't afford to waste their meager salary on "service and feel" To maximize their "livelihood" they will shop for the cheapest deals. Aka a rotating circle of employee's working and shopping at minimum prices/wages.

    The problem is I work for one of these places, unfortunately for me and the rest of the economy, I am helping perpetuate the cycle. Because I am a "flexible student" I will take a lackluster job like this (Working at a large grocery store) And provide basically cheap labour. I will go out of my way to help a customer especially at the expense of my employer, (I also know the union contract by memory in order to maximize my income and priviliges (And other workers)), but overall I really dont' care about the store, I know if it shut down I could find another similar job that pays the exact same or maybe more.
    But because of the massive amounts of people in my situation (Students, retirees, second jobs; Where we don't need a living wage) We let the employers offer lower than Living wages, therefore driving our buying power down, and forcing us to relly on the stores that so employ us.

    The real winners are the unions (HUGE union dues for crap benefits at places like these) And the companies that own these chains.
  5. bett


    Mar 31, 2007
    New Hampshire
    Sheesh, The Internet is wonderful, but.....

    Joshua, I feel your pain

    I've been thinking about this too! I just sent my D2h to Melville yesterday.
    There is no place local anymore.

    I used to go to this place called Pro-Cam. They closed up last summer.

    My daughter came home from school, and told me she had chosen
    The history of Photography as her subject for "Project sleuth". project
    sleuth is really a great way to teach the kids how to do research, and
    make a presentation. They need to hand in a written report, build a 3-d
    model, and do an oral presentation. Parents are encouraged to help.

    We decided we'd build a pinhole camera for the 3-d part. Off to pro-cam
    for some 120 film or whatever else might work. We knew it would be a great
    place to do some research.

    After talking for a bit, I was asked why I was still shooting film.
    "well, I don't like playing hide and seek, then 20 questions with a camera.
    When I release the shutter, I... (you know the rest). Well, he grinned at me,
    went behind the counter, and cranked a lens on what must have been one of the very first D-70's and sent me out in the parking lot.

    When I came back in he and my daughter had plans for a pinhole camera.
    Instead of film, she was to cut a large square in the back, and cover it with
    wax paper. Simple!,Brilliant!

    Now all I needed was $1000. yeah he got me!

    This past summer I read in the paper they were having a going out of business
    sale. My heart sank. I remember going there with my dad. So,I took a ride over after work, and had trouble finding a place to park.

    Another one bites the dust!
  6. JMartin

    JMartin Guest

    I too feel your pain. I have one decent photo store here in town, but they are very small and never carry the things I am looking for, rightfully so, because keeping an inventory that is wanted by so few people is senseless. Yet it is sad that now with digital so big, you never see the cars or amount of people there for the prints or folm they used to come in for.

    God bless him, but MarkM who is a coworker/friend and also a member here, supports his local store, buying from them all the time. They are more expensive than the online stores, but they give him breaks where they can, but he prefers the face to face transactions!

    It's not just the camera industry either unfortunately. I too prefer to go into a place that I frequent and have the employees know me by name, but those type places are becoming few and far between.
  7. No queston that the bigbox stores are driving out the small dealers, but I think a significant point missed is the paradigm shift in photography. Like buggy whips film photography has evolved to a drastically smaller community. The allure of near zero time feedback on one's images is irrresistable and digital photography fills that need.

    Here in the Washington DC area almost every photography related store is still in business; they adjusted to digital and people continue to patronize them. The two I can think of never "got it"; their stock and displays continued to feature film cameras and related equipment. The market changed and they missed it.

  8. In todays economy it is all about service. There are so many buisnesses that have a lot of the same product and services and are very competitive in price or a better price. Because of that, it is all about service. Anyone can sell you any product - camera, lawn mower what ever - but when it counts is the after sales service. The Bitterness of Poor Service- Quality-Performance- Remains Long After the Sweetness of Cheap Price is Long Forgotten. The best price is not always the best deal. Sure lots of people will buy that camera or computer from that "Pimple faced high school kid" because that store has the best price. What you are not paying for or getting is their knowledge, experience, service that most will require long after the sale. The best price is not always the best deal. To proove my point go to any big box store and stand near the camera counter and listen in on someone shopping for a digital camera. Now dont take this as a slam against pimple faced kids or box stores but you are getting what you are paying for. They are cashing in on the high volume low service easy buck. Therefore squeezing the "Professional Dealers" out. The stores are telling us what we need and how we need it. It should be the other way around. I will pay more for something locally than buying it on the net because then my dollars are staying in my community supporting my friends, neighbors, and local economy. Saving 20 bucks to buy something from a dealer across teh country is not really gaining anything. Now if I have a problem with said product it is a lot easier to deal with a guy over the counter than over the internet. How many times do we see the post "Who has bought from this dealer or bought this warranty?" It is not worth the 20 dollars savings on many levels.
    Sorry for the long post but when I get on a topic like this so many thoughts come to mind that I could go for a long time.
  9. Brian-S


    Feb 10, 2007
    Bay Area, CA
    Thanks for the nice read, everyone. It is sad. Here in SF, the two big ones I can think of are Calumet (bigbox/national w/ bit of photo attitude) and Adolph Gasser (single store, but very different feel). Everytime I've been in to Gasser, no one is at the film dept, and hardly anyone's even in the digital section. I wonder how long they're going to last.

  10. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    I purchased my D200, MB-D200, and batteries from a brick'n'mortar store (Odessa Camera) in Odessa in west Texas. The store is owned by George and Runé Scott, and they gave me a fair price on the camera body, etc.

    Note, I said, "fair price". I'm sure that I could have purchased it for less money, but they shipped me the camera within days of the release of the D200, have always played well with me in terms of support, and are genuinely nice people to deal with at every turn. Whenever I visit the store, I'm warmly greeted, and given every bit of customer service, even if I'm not buying anything at that moment.

    I don't live in Odessa, although I visit regularly on business, but my supporting that store was a win-win for both me and the store.

    Yes, I'll buy some things on-line, but I find the personal service side of the equation very important, especially on the "big ticket" items. I know that if I run into any problems with my gear that I'll have the store in my corner.

    And on another related item, I get my service done by a Nikon-authorised centre in Albuquerque (AP-T Camera Repair). I just had my 28-70mm AFS f/2.8 cleaned and serviced there, and it's just a treat to deal with folks who do good work, explain what's been accomplished, and, when something can't be done, don't snow you with excuses.

    There are distinct and large advantages in many things to deal with a brick'n'mortar institution. I feel strongly enough about these two locations that I've recommended them to people locally and afar.

    John P.
  11. Jaws


    Mar 27, 2007
    Columbia, MD
    I have the same sentiments that PJohnP has toward my local camera stores. I also realize that if I don't patronize these stores, that they may not be here very long. That would be a real loss.

    I find Service Photo in Baltimore to be great. The salespeople are real friendly and knowledgeable, and the prices there are great too. In fact, they will match B&H's prices if you show them a B&H ad or a printout for that item from B&H's website. One time I forgot to bring the B&H documentation with me, and they looked it up on their computer and matched the price. Service Photo is my favorite camera store.

    Penn Camera is also near me, and they also have a nice business. I've also supported them in the past.

    It's just so nice when you are considering a new item that you can go into a store and actually see it and use it and get good info about it from a knowledgeable salesperson.

    And if you purchase from them, they also are a lot easier to go to if you need warranty work done over trying to deal with someone on the internet or the big box stores. I've heard real bad things about Best Buy when you have something wrong with your item and want to return it. So, those few bucks you saved may end up not being worth it in the long haul.

    The local camera stores also have a lot of camera bags, accessories, etc. which you can also physically see and touch when evaluating them.

    I like B&H too, but I only buy from them if the local camera stores can't supply me with what I am looking for as sometimes there are items they don't carry.

    My next purchase will be the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens, and I will wait until one of the local camera stores can supply that to me. Even though I might be able to find someone who can supply one sooner, I rather support my local camera stores because I really appreciate having them. I don't know how many times I've heard people on photography websites say that they wish they had a local camera store where they could go see an item which they are considering instead of having to buy it off the internet and then have a greater chance of not liking it or seeing that it's not really what they wanted/expected and then they have to return it.

    Support your local camera stores! If not, you will regret it when they are gone. Sometimes those few extra dollars you saved isn't really worth it.
  12. I grew up in Midland (20 miles from Odessa) and lived there until a couple years ago. I wish I had known about that good store right down the road. Midland didn't really have one, or at least there wasn't one where I didn't know more than the owner did. It's kind of hard to get advice in a place like that.

    When I bought my first SLR in '72 it was from a fairly small mom & pop store in Dallas called Doc Miller's. The old man gave me a roll of film and a few quick instructions on how to use one of the brand new match-needle cameras and sent me outside to shoot up the roll. When I finished, he took that roll of film into the back and developed it right then and there to see how I did. Needless to say, I was sold on the place even though it 350 miles from home. He ended up making hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour for that time he spent with me. Sadly, the store later expanded and got a little ritzy on me. The service dropped to that of a typical strip mall store since no one was around but the usual salesmen for hire. I don't know if it's even still there any more because I haven't tried looking.

    Nothing against old Doc, but that seems to be typical of many places nowadays. When the almighty dollar starts to take priority over everything else, personal service seems to go out the door. Strangely enough though, I get pretty good phone service from the guys at B&H. You might have to wait to get the right person on the phone, but when you do they know what they're talking about. I live in a small town now without a real camera store. If I could find a small place like Docs again, they would sure get my business.
  13. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    I've had to return items to B&H once or twice, and although they do quiz you over the 'phone, they will issue an RMA. Given their volumes of internet and telephone sales, I suppose that they have to be careful on this point. Like you, I've purchased things from B&H when I couldn't get them from a favoured store.

    Best Buy et al want to charge a "re-stocking fee" when their goods are faulty, something I had to go almost toe-to-toe with a manager over when I had bought something that was DOA when I opened the packaging. They didn't have another of the item, and wanted me to take a different brand item. When I was unwilling to do this, they whipped out the "re-stocking fee" option to try and force my hand.

    It was only when I said I would go to the state Attorney-General's consumer assistance branch that they relented, and very grudgingly. I buy relatively little stuff from BB as a result.

    Having praised local stores, I still didn't buy my D200 from the local one in my town. They were snotty and rude about only have the model available for their "best customers", then "everyone else will have to wait until April" (then about five months out) and "we'll see who can get one". Having purchased my D100 and some lenses from them, I found this attitude extremely unfriendly, and proceeded to buy my D200 from a better store hundreds of miles away.

    The funny part is that once the logjam on the initial release of the D200 eased, the local store seemed to think they'd have a lock on people like me buying that DSLR from them... :rolleyes:  In fact, their lead salesman, the one who'd been so rude and snotty, was significantly aggravated that I hadn't bought it specifically from him !!!

    Needless to say, I don't steer people there for new equipment, although they can have some good used stuff from time to time (several people in the Café have bought used stuff from one particular saleswoman who I find reasonable to work with).

    There are both sides to this kind of story...

    John P.
  14. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    John :

    I know Midland well. I get out to the area about six to eight times a year, and I generally enjoy it. Oddly enough, I've had some of my best waterfowl shooting in Odessa at Centennial Park (used to be called Buffalo Wallow Park, I think), and also had some fun shoots (non-birds) out at Monahans Sand Dunes State Park. The CAF at the airport is always a draw for me as well.

    Pity that you're way the heck over in the state near DFW, or I'd recommend dropping into Odessa Camera. They're located on Tanglewood, near the Music City Mall. When I'm out there on business this week, I'll likely stop in and see what's new with them. George Scott, who sold me the D200, is the kind of guy who always steps up for his customers; well mannered, well spoken, and just a great example of what customer service should be, IMO.

    OTOH, even if you're not local, they've helped several people who I've recommended to them with mail order, and they're pretty amenable to helping over the telephone. Might be worth a call... Tell them I sent you - they'll know who I am.

    John P.
  15. The chemist

    The chemist

    Jul 22, 2005

    I have to agree. While i am sure there are some great mom and pop stores out there...I have yet to experiance one in which the employees knew more than the average consumer. I recall a recent visit in which I was inquiring about a lens and how it performed. All they told me was it an L lens and top notch..nothing more..gee thanks:rolleyes: 
    Market photography classes,better service etc. something
  16. Thanks for the info, John. I hope to get back out west as soon as I can. This humidity and air pollution and crime don't suit me well. :wink:

    And I've had experiences like yours as well. B&H replaced my 1st D2H when it failed even though it was beyond their usual exchange period. I did have to remind them how much money I'd dropped in there first, though.

    When I was in school in Waco, there was basically only one place in town. They were pretty good to me until I bought a camera over the phone from NY (this was pre-internet). They knew I was looking to buy one, but they had refused to budge from their ridiculous MSRP price. Once they saw me with that camera, they treated me like......well, I can't say what they treated me like.
  17. haze2


    Mar 18, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    I bought my D80 and two kit lenses at Costco because the deal was just too good to pass up. However, I've used a local camera store for accessories, including a really nice computer/camera backpack. I don't mind paying a few bucks more to the local business, but when the savings is really substanial it's hard to say no to the big box or internet retailers.

  18. Jaws


    Mar 27, 2007
    Columbia, MD
    I agree that B&H is good at returns. Both myself and a friend who is a professional photographer have had to return things to them, and they've been real good to deal with during the entire return process.

    But they are the exception for the internet dealers.

    Today, I went into a store down the street to either get my chain saw blade sharpened or replaced. 45 minutes before closing, they would not sharpen the blade, they would not take the old blade off to measure the blade, they would not allow me to borrow a frigging wrench to remove the blade myself. Drove another 30 minutes away to hear an apology that both of their mechanics were not working today (saturday), but they would be more then happy to sell me a new blade, and here's a box of tools, and here's how remove the old blade, and here's how to install the new blade. Bought several other things while I was there.

    My local camera shop is a royal PITA to deal with. The prices are different depending on who I'm talking with. Some of the employees are cocky, it's no wonder I haven't bought anything. Last thing was a SB-800, they didn't have any at their primary store, and refused to call any of their auxillary stores. Didn't even get into pricing. One of their stores has already closed, I suspect another soon. Then it will be the question of their original headquarters, or their auxillary store in a more affluent neighborhood going under next.
  20. BigPixel

    BigPixel Guest

    Yes. And to make things even more depressing, read this.

    The Coming Earthquake in Photography
    April 2007

    by Dirck Halstead

    If the change from film to digital was the equivalent of a magnitude 5 earthquake, the changes to photography in the next 10 years will be equivalent of a magnitude 10.

    The Digital Journalist, the monthly online magazine for visual journalism, has been predicting many of these changes for the past 10 years. In 1997 we stated that the days of the use of film were coming to an end. We also said that in the future photojournalists would no longer be shooting still pictures, but instead would be using video as their prime medium of acquisition.

    All those things have already happened. Still cameras that shoot film have already been abandoned by most manufacturers. Increasingly, newspaper photographers are being asked to shoot video for Web sites.

    These seismic shifts, as we are already witnessing, will literally change the way photographers take pictures and how they are displayed.

    Of course, in the next 10 years there could be a third world war, in which case all bets are off, but certain evolutions are already too far along to make it unlikely they will be stopped.

    First, most of the major camera manufacturers that are now associated with still photography will probably be out of business by 2016. Of the majors now selling cameras, I would put my money on only Canon to survive. That is because they have a farsighted video division, which will provide the research and development that will be a key to their survival. Already, Sony is moving to become the number one still-camera company. Their newest top-of-the line digital still cameras are based on designs from Konica, a company they absorbed.

    However, it is video that will undoubtedly become the main means of acquisition in photography. Today, almost all the manufacturers of prosumer video cameras have moved to High Definition. These cameras, off the shelf, are capable of delivering a 2-megapixel still image. The Dallas Morning News is now equipping their still photographers with Sony Z1U video cameras, and they have created an algorithm that allows those frame grabs to be boosted to 16 megapixels, which only two years ago was the maximum you could get out of a professional 35mm camera. The Dallas Morning News is regularly running 4- and 5-column front-page pictures from these video grabs. Then, they put the streaming video on their Web site.

    The financial imperative to newspapers is clear. Their salvation, in a time of plummeting ad revenues on their broadsheets, lies with their online versions. Online demands video. For this reason, we can comfortably say that in 10 years photojournalists will only be carrying video cameras.

    Because video cameras now all feature a 16:9 "wide-screen" aspect ratio, the old 4:3 box that we used to associate with movies will be gone. This has enormous implications for how still photographs will be displayed in print. The standard 8x10 aspect ratio now commonly used will be dropped. Why waste all of that horizontal information in the pictures? Eventually, you can expect to see wide-screen pictures not only on your TV screen, but in print as well. We predict that magazines (those that still exist) in 10 years will be bound on the top or bottom, not on the sides as they now are. That will allow the magazine to be opened to display a horizontal rather than vertical layout. This will accommodate all those "wide-screen" photographs. However, it is more likely that paper printing will be long since gone, and instead newspapers, magazines and books will be delivered on "electronic" paper, in which case the visual presentation would most likely be video in the first place. Today, if you go to The New York Times online, you will notice that right on the front page is a box displaying video, not a still photograph.

    Don Winslow, the editor of News Photographer magazine, has noted that vertical photographs have almost ceased to exist in the photography lexicon. It used to be a maxim of photojournalism that it was important to get as much information as possible into a small space. Verticals were the best way of doing that. However, for a generation of photographers who grew up watching television, and editors who wanted to display a photograph across a double-truck spread, the rules changed.

    With video becoming the prime tool of acquisition, audio of course now enters into the picture. In fact, it becomes as important as the video. This means that a whole new set of skills must be developed by the photographer. Every photographer has already become a computer technician, spending more time on the "post" process, such as Photoshop, than on taking the picture. In the future, editing will be done in such programs as Final Cut Pro. All of this means that photographers will have to be smarter.

    However, ultimately, the classic need for talent – the "eye of the photographer" – will never change.

    © Dirck Halstead
    Editor and Publisher of The Digital Journalist
    Email Dirck Halstead
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