Last month, my primary camera failed. The shutter button stopped firing. It was fine on the half-press, but pushing it fully would not trigger the shutter. As it was Fujifilm, the camera body had a two-year guarantee. Being only nine months old, it was still under guarantee.
Here’s where things can get awkward if you buy online. Some online stores can make it difficult to return products. They certainly make it difficult to talk directly with them. Sometimes, the only alternative is to go directly to the manufacturer. Whilst I am sure Fujifilm is great to deal with, I didn’t have to. You see, I bought my camera from a bricks and mortar store. In this article, I am going to explain why you should as well.
The Demise Of The Camera Store
When I started in photography, there were camera stores in virtually every town. They often did not stock a whole lot beyond film and a few camera models, but what they did have was expertise. That was the 1980s.
Fast forward to the 90s, and those camera stores started to disappear. It wasn’t the Internet that caused this; it was the homogenization of the high street by the national and international brands. This forced out the small individual camera stores as rent became too high.
Then, the Internet did arrive. Big box companies online had massive purchasing power and much smaller overheads. They passed on some of that to the consumer, meaning photographic equipment was much cheaper through an online purchase. Some camera stores remained, though. Let’s look at the partial return of the camera store.
The Fight Back
The local camera stores that have survived to today have done so due to two main factors. First, they embraced the rise of online selling and set up their own web stores, hence increasing their potential customer base. This also increased their purchasing power.
Secondly, they offered a much wider range of products, in store. Their Internet presence also enabled this.
Here in the UK, quite a few very good bricks and mortar camera stores exist. Some have become fairly large chains, such as WEX Photographic. Others have one or two stores but provide very high standards of service and expertise as well as an extensive range of products in store. One well-known chain, Jessops, has gone bankrupt a couple of times through the last three decades but is now back. They have fewer stores in fewer cities, but their expertise is significantly better than in their previous incarnations. But why should we use real camera stores? Surely, online is still cheaper.
Why Local Stores Are So Important: A Personal Perspective
When my camera failed last month, I immediately knew where I stood. I bought it from a store, and they had a telephone number. I spoke to a real human, in my own country who immediately understood how to deal with my problem. I was given two options: they would arrange a courier to collect the camera the next day, or I could drop by my local store and hand it in. I chose the latter as I am a sucker for a visit to any camera store.
I took it in on a bank holiday, when the stores are usually open, and courier companies rarely work. The guy behind the counter was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. He took the camera and told me they would contact me as soon as it was ready. They did, a mere three weeks later; kudos to Fujifilm UK for the quick repair as well.
But that’s not the sole personal reason. Late last year, I had an attack of the full frame FOMO. There was a strong pull in me to go for a Sony A7IV, an undoubtedly brilliant camera.
The fact that I had a camera store near me meant that I could go to them try both the Sony Alpha 7IV and the Fujifilm X-H2, side by side. The Fuji won, but the camera store also won as due to their help and expertise, I purchased not only the camera but two lenses from them.
I suspect I would have gone for Sony if I had bought it online. Having them both in my hand made me realize the Fuji was the one I needed
Other Reasons To Use Your Local Camera Store
You might think that prices are more expensive in bricks and mortar stores. Sometimes they are, but not always. If you look at the percentage price difference over your multi-thousand-dollar purchase, that difference becomes really quite small.
You get to hold the camera and lens combination in your hand for that small extra cost. You get to spend time with an expert who will guide you in the right direction for you. Good stores, such as the one I bought from, will not try to sell you the most expensive gear; they will sell you the most appropriate gear. In my case, the Sony Alpha 7iv was significantly more expensive than the Fuji, but the sales clerk still, correctly, pushed me toward the Fuji.
Beyond the actual purchase, local camera stores have good local knowledge. In my case, they knew excellent professional printers nearby, but equally, they might know local locations and even recommend photography clubs. More importantly, perhaps than anything else, you are engaging with another human, one who shares your passion for photography. Something that you will never get from ordering online.
The title of this article is why you should cherish your local camera store. I hope some of the information I suggested today resonates with you. Whilst there is, of course, a place for online sales, even in photography, if you are purchasing a camera, lens, or other high-value piece that you will own for many years, why trust it to an online bot in order to save a few dollars? Go to your local store, chat with them, and get what you really need, backed up by good service.
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