Adventures in Capitalism : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi Guys and Gals -

If you're not aware of it, there is a forum on that allows anyone to describe their experiences with photographic retailers, good and bad. It's raw, unfiltered data, so don't take everything you read as gospel. But, the large-scale trends are probably close to the truth.

I bring this up for a couple of reasons. First, It's a valuable resource if you're planning to make a purchase. This kind of data wasn't readily available in the pre-internet days.

Second, it's a good place to send people when they ask "should I buy from Klik-Klak Kamera"?

Lastly, as consumers, we should be in the business of encouraging (and rewarding) fair and ethical business owners. As a case in point, I recently made a small purchase from a company called Focal Point in Sanford, Fl. There was a misunderstanding about exactly what I was getting (truth be told, it may have been MY misunderstanding, not his). Anyway, there was no argument; he assumed I was correct and telling the truth, and immediately resolved the situation in my favor, no questions asked. He may have even lost money on the deal. But, you can be sure that if I ever need similar items, he gets first crack at my business. He's already shown me that his interests lie in good customer service.

I took a minute to thank him, and them made a positive comment on the forum. It didn't cost me anything, and it might steer some business his way. A good expereince for both of us, in my mind.

I understand that this is not strictly a large format issue, so why am I bending the rules to post here? Most of us don't mind spending money on our obsession. As a community, we have amassed a substantial database of experience, and it reflects a good bit of buying power. We can't eliminate all the unethical businesses out there, but maybe we can steer a few customers in the right direction.

Thanks for listening.

BTW, to find the forum, go to, click on the “Community” menu, and select “User Recommendations”.

-- Kevin Bourque (, April 13, 2002


I just got through checking this out, and it's must reading, especially for folks new to buying/ordering gear.

I almost got burned very badly by one of the outfits that everybody has given a 'thumbs down' on, and I'll tell anybody who'll listen, don't buy from them, C***** Camera.

I saw their ad over the 'net about a Mamiya C330S TLR which they called Mint-, for $400 and change and I bit. That's after calling to confirm that it was Mint-, they told me point blank that it was not a wedding camera that had been beaten to death, that it was quite the opposite with only a 'mark' on the back near the bottom. They assured me that I had a 6 month warranty.

What I got was tired, worn, and someone had pried open the back at one time. There was severe corrosion at the bottom of the camera, 'red looking rust', it was that bad. I didn't bother opening the camera or testing it, I put it right back in the box and shipped it back.

I called them, told them I didn't like what had been sent, and that I wanted my money back. They told me that their idea of a solution was that they thought that I should keep the camera and take $75.00 which was about the best they could do. They said that they didn't have the camera back anyway, which was a lie because it had been a month between my return of their camera and my call.

I waited another month, called and asked them if they had the camera, they said yes but they were upset because I had broken the camera, and that a refund would not be coming. I told them that I had broken nothing, that if necessary, that I could fly to NY to get my money, and that I wasn't going to go away or settle this for peanuts. They talked some shit, and then two weeks later I got my money.

There's a long list of 'good guys' that took the 'bad taste' out of my mouth, Robert White, Mr. Cad, B&H, Ries, Equinox, Freestyle, Steve Grimes and I'm sure others can add to this list.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 13, 2002.

We're talking large format here. There are only a few photo dealers in the U.S.A. where you can find sales people that even know what large format is. Every dealer and manufacturer that advertises in View Camera magazine is honest and reputable. I wish I could say that for the advertisers in all photo publications. I use that guideline for my purchases of new and used equipment. Purchase everything by telephone and use a credit card. Don't expect the person that takes your phone order to know anything about the item you are ordering. Do your research before you call and give the order taker the catalogue number, if possible. You may see a large format camera, lens ,etc. on display in a camera store,but don't expect anyone in the store to have any accurate info about that item. It will probably be priced un- realistically. I speak from over 50 years experience with photo dealers.

-- Eugene (, April 13, 2002.

"There are only a few photo dealers in the U.S.A. where you can find sales people that even know what large format is."

How about Pro Camera - White River Junction, VT, E.P.Levine Boston, Symonds, Hartford, Ken Hansen Photo, Ken Mar, Foto Care, Photo Habitat, Photo Gizzmmo, Lens & Repro, RIT Bookstore, Hahn, Rowe in NY, Camera Care in Philly, Pro Set, Dover Photo, Fishkin in N NJ, Gasser, Bear Images, K&S, Samys, Bel Air, Cals, Pauls, Nelsons, Glazers, Helix, Mid West, Quality Camera, F11, PPR, Photomark, Arlington Camera, Abbey Camera, Mid City, Schillers, S&S Optika, Optecs, Casey's cameras, Central Camera, I.P.A,.S, K&R, Mile High, Mikes, North County, Photo Barn, Classic Camera, Reimers, there are many dealers who know large format and how to use and sell it in the U.S.know and sell large format in the U.S. Perhaps you have limited your contacts so you are not aware of them all? I certainly have not listed them all here.

-- Bob Salomon (, April 13, 2002.

Bob, I had the feeling that you would bob-up on this one. Over the years, I have either dealt with, or visited at least twelve of the HP marketing clients you listed. Have you ever gone into those stores as a customer? I have, and except for Rod at Photomark, Jim at Midwest, Jeff at Quality, and Jeff at Badger Graphic. I stand by my statement. Arlington Camera --- are you serious??

-- Eugene (, April 13, 2002.

Sorry, Eugene but yes I visit all of these stores, and more. As well as seeing many of them at consmer shows.

There are far more good dealers then I listed above and those, as well as the others give professional service.

-- Bob Salomon (, April 13, 2002.

I have dealt with Rod and Photomark, I had a substantial deposit with him for gear, and decided to go in another direction, they promtly and cheerfully sent me back my deposit, no hassle, no sweat.

Their prices are great, and in the future, I wouldn't hesitate to use them. Chalk it off to a bad memory, I didn't think of them firsthand, but I have great respect for how they treated me for a deal that didn't go through.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 13, 2002.


With all due respect, your experience with the dealers on your laundry list is as a supplier - not as a customer. Note: Eugene did NOT ask if you've visited these dealers, he asked specifically: "Have you ever gone into those stores as a customer?" While I don't dispute for a second that you have had positive experiences with these dealers as a supplier, those experiences are totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand - which dealers provide friendly, knowledgeable services to their CUSTOMERS.

In my personal experience, I have gotten the best service from dealers who specialize in large format (i.e. Badger Graphic, the F-STOPS here) or at least have a large format specialist on staff (Midwest Photo Exchange, Robert White). Although I try to buy locally when possible, the amount of LF gear displayed in my local dealerships is almost non-existant. Even among the dealers in the NW who have sales staff knowledgeable in LF equipment, the amount of actual LF gear in stock ranges from none to minimal. I realize that this is a function of market economics and although I'm not exactly located in some rural backwater, I understand that it doesn't make sense for most of my local dealers to stock ANY new LF gear, let along a selection of multiple brands and models. Camera World of Oregon, one of the largest mail order dealerships in the world, is less than 8 miles from my doorstep and they RARELY have any new LF gear in stock - occasionally an entry level Toyo monorail and/or a Nikkor lens or two. In all my years living in the Portland, OR area, I've never seen any local dealer have more than one new LF camera in stock at any given time. That makes comparison shopping a bit difficult.

For example, if I was intertested in comparing say a Canham DLC to an Arca Swiss F Line to a Linhof TK45S, I'm confident that there isn't a single dealer within a 600 mile drive of my house that would have all three of these models in stock if I walked through their doors on any given day. If I wanted to compare top of the line wooden cameras, say Wisner, Ebony and Phillips, I'm sure that distance would grow to over 1000 miles (likely substantially more).

Point being, that unless you live in New York, Los Angeles, or one of a few other select cities fortunate enough to have a LF speciality dealer, the internet and reputable mail order dealers are the only practical way to shop for many of us users of LF equipment. I think that's one reason why the online LF community is so active and the sharing of information so generous and free flowing. Given the fact that I'm not going to be able to comparison shop locally, I rely heavily on the opinions expressed on this forum, the reviews on Tuan's site, and reputable mail order dealers (like Badger Graphic, Robert White, Midwest Photo Exchange and the F-STOPS here - BTW, I don't mean to purposely exclude other dealers like Photomark and Quality Camera, it's just that I don't have experience buying gear from them. I believe that is the spirit behind Kevin's post - the sharing of good and bad mail order experiences, and while Bob has provided us with a laundry list of dealers that carry his company's products, what Kevin was asking for was feedback from CUSTOMERS.

As a customer, my favorite dealer is Badger Graphic Sales:

They have a great selection of LF gear and carry many brands not available elswhere in the US. They have great prices and very knowledgeable service. They ship promptly and stand behind what they sell. All in all, I can't imagine a more perfect combination of selction, prices and service.

Based on my personal experience, Robert White in the UK offers service on par with Badger Graphic.

With online shopping and reliable, affordable international shipping, I do not hesitate to buy from this "overseas" dealer.

I have also received great service from Midwest Photo Exchange:

and the F-STOPS here:

I'd also like to include a plug for my favorite local dealer, Pro Photo Supply:

Although they don't usually have much new LF gear in stock, they do usually have a decent selection of used LF lenses on hand at reasonable prices (I've bought several from them over the years). They also have a well stocked rental department, and a great selection of LF film in their walk-in refrigerated film room - along with all the other non-LF specific items I crave (books, magazines, filters, presentation and storage supplies, etc.).

Standard disclaimer, I have no affliation, other than as a satisfied customer, with any of the establishments I have mentioned in this post. I appreciate good service when I receive it and will continue to reward these suppliers by purchasing my equipment and supplies from them. I urge others to do likewise. LF is a niche market. Those dealers who make a commitment to supporting the LF community deserve our support.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, April 14, 2002.

"With all due respect, your experience with the dealers on your laundry list is as a supplier - not as a customer"

With all due respect Kerry this is rubbish!

Like anyone in any business, plumber, engineer, lawyer, physician, dentist, is very easy to see the differences in knowledge, experience, service, etc. from one dealer or rep or salesman to another.

Besides also buying camera equipment since 1954 from camera stores and selling to camera stores since 1973 I am fully cabable of determinig dealers that provide quality service.

As one who sells to dealers I, and every other person who sells to camera stores, sees not only owners and buyers (frequently the same person) but also sales people in the store (frequently also the owner or buyer).

We see how they sell, we see the depth of their knowledge of equipment and technique by watching them wait on customers. We are used to, and expect to, having to patiently wait while they attend to customers. Frequently waiting for hours for all customer needs are attended to before buying needs. We see from in store sales trsining who can answer customer questions and who can't.

The myth that large format or professional camera stores are only in NY or LA is pure crap.

Your favorite dealer is in the backwoods of WI. Not NY. Pro Camera is in VT, Robert's in Indianapolis, Jack's is in Muncie, MidWest is in Columbus, K&R is in KY, K&S and Bear Images are in Palo Alto, Camera West is in Monterey, Dover Photo is in Dover, NY, Fiskin in Perth Amboy, Camera Care in Philly as is Mid West, Photomark is in Phoenix., Glazers and Optechs are in Seattle, Looking Glass in Berkely, Gasser in San Francisco, Dealers in Hartford and Stamford, Ct..

Quality, knowledgable, professional dealers who sell large format are located all over the country. As many as 20 years ago? No. But there are many all the less.

Do all stock what you use? No. Do all stock the large format cameras that I sell? No. But that doe not mean that they are not there to give you - the customer - service.

After all camera stores stay in business - and some of these stores are approaching or have past 100 years of being in business - by fullfilling customers needs. That means they have to give service. They do not stay in business by ignoring customers needs and questions.

-- Bob Salomon (, April 14, 2002.

Thanks for your support Kerry. Your willingness to share your knowlege of Fujinon lenses convinced me to up-grade to Fujinons.I sold off my Nikkors and am now waiting for Jim, at Midwest, to bring me a Fuji 75SWD from his buying trip to Japan next week. As for Bob, just allow him the last word and let him rant and rave. A wise man once told me " Just because you've suceeded in argueing a man down, does'nt mean that you've won the arguement". By the way, Bob, I began buying photo gear and supplies in 1946. I bought my first large format camera from Detroit Camera in 1948. I was studying Photojurnalism at Wayne University. Enough, already!!

-- Eugene (, April 14, 2002.

Actually if you here,... you get you get customer feedback on all these realated areas.....Books (24) Camera Repair (291) Camera Shops (4141) Individuals selling photo equipment on the Internet (4183) Miscellaneous (191) Processing Laboratories (929) Product and/or Manufacturer (365) Wedding Photographers (39) Workshops (68)

Most of the LF dealers discussed in this forum are in the section dealing with dealers. I figure that a good dealer ought to be able to satisfy 8 out 10 customers, and human nature being what is, that includes 1 knucklehead out of the 10 who couldn't be sastisfied no matter what the dealer does, and one knucklehead who's agenda is some kind of payback.

It's all facisnating reading and ought to go into a book.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 14, 2002.


You are probably right, but here goes anyway (I should know better).


>"With all due respect, your experience with the dealers on your laundry list is as a supplier - not as a customer"

With all due respect Kerry this is rubbish!<

So, you are an actual paying customer of all 48 dealers mentioned in your original laundry list (and all those you have mentioned since)? Amazing (and I thought I bought a lot of camera gear). If you are, I stand corrected. If you are not, then my statement is 100% accurate and your experiences are as a supplier - not a customer (which is what the original poster specifically asked about). >The myth that large format or professional camera stores are only in NY or LA is pure crap.<

I never said any such thing. My exact words were:

"that unless you live in New York, Los Angeles, or one of a few other select cities fortunate enough to have a LF speciality dealer, the internet and reputable mail order dealers are the only practical way to shop for many of us users of LF equipment."

You have named a few other "select cites". And of those dealers you mentioned, how many stock a decent selection of new LF gear. Seriously, if I were to walk into any of those dealers mentioned (outside of NY and LA) tomorrow morning, how many of them would have a Canham DLC, Arca Swiss F Line and Linhof TK45S in stock for me to compare side by side. Maybe Badger, maybe Photomark, any others. Any within 500 miles of where I live? 1000 miles?

I think we're arguing two separate issues here - service and selection. The best service in the world is useless if the dealer doesn't carry the products I want (and I'm not asking about obscure brands here, the Canham, Arca and Linhof are three of the best selling high end 4x5 cameras made). This is why I buy most of my LF gear mail order (from the dealers mentioned in my previous post). If I can't do a hands on comparison within reasonable driving distance of my home, what other choice do I have - and more to the point, why do you have a problem with me stating this fact? If I have to mail order anyway, it makes no difference where the dealer is located. So, I use the same criterion I would for evaluating a local dealer - service, selection and price. Based on those criterion, I stand by the dealers I previously recommended. If you had poor service AS A PAYING CUSTOMER from any of the dealers I have recommended, please feel free to share that experience with the rest of us.

>After all camera stores stay in business - and some of these stores are approaching or have past 100 years of being in business - by fullfilling customers needs. <

Totally irrelevent to the discussion at hand. I'd bet most of them stay in business selling things other than large format (35mm, digital, C-41 processing, etc.) Again, they may be perfectly reputable dealers, and some may even occasionally have a small amount of new LF gear on hand, but unless they offer a decent selection to go along with that service, it doesn't do me any good as a large format user/buyer. If they do indeed offer reputable service, I hope they all stay in business another 100+ years, but unless they carry the selection of gear I need, I won't be shopping there.

The internet has changed the world (from my point of view - for the better). Dealers that carry the latest Nikon and Canon pro 35mm and digital gear are plentiful (there are more such dealers within 10 miles of my doorstep than there are LF dealers with a decent selection within 1000 miles). Again, I realize that this is market driven and there just aren't enough buyers of new LF gear where I live to support a comparable number of dealers (or even one, evidently) with a decent selection of new LF gear. So, I buy mail order and am thankful to have dealers like Badger Graphic, Robert White, Midwest Photo Exchange, etc. They may not be local, but they meet my needs. That's why I patronize them with my business and recommend them to others. I have no vested financial interest in the success of any of these dealers. I would like to see them stay in business so I can continue to obtain the same level of service and selection they currently provide - but again, that is just my opinion as a paying customer (which is what I thought this thread was about).


-- Kerry Thalmann (, April 14, 2002.


I'm 1000 miles fromthe nearest camera store period! So I always have to by mail order.... Since moving here 12 years ago - pre-internet buying - I'v seen the difference it makes. So much choice and acess to good dealers now.


-- Tim Atherton (, April 14, 2002.

Bob - The guys at Midwest Photo are going to be kind of pissed that you moved them from Columbus to Philly - well maybe not. I wonder where the moderator is going to place this thread in the archives? I vote for "Linhof Stocking Dealers".

-- Wayne DeWitt (, April 14, 2002.

Regardless of whether they are great, very good, good, or so,so...these dealers are on one side of the line. On the other side of the line are crooks and conmen, who have no intention of giving you what you paid for, they make life hard for the everybody.

A transaction with an honest dealer isn't all that stressfull, doesn't take that long, and is generally a positive experience. A knockdown dragout fight from long distance to get your money back from a crook is a long drawn out and stressful nightmare.

There's nothing like trying to argue honesty and integrity with people who set out to d**k you from day one. It leaves a bad taste for months. A miscommunitcation or honest misunderstanding is one thing, and these can be the fault of the customer more than the customer likes to admit, but the internet should be used to run the crooks out of business.

I once 'shot the breeze' with a dealer who told me over the phone that disreputable dealers rate stuff mint/like new/demo knowing you will be dissatisfied with what's sent you and that you will be asking for a refund, that their agenda is to let your money sit in an account and gain interest and then send it back to you after a prolonged battle.

He may have been 'pulling my leg', but I thought he was serious, in any event these forums and networking should alert everybody to these kinds of folks, get 'em out in the open. The stories on the Photo net forum of what some folks have gone through are incredible, which is heartwrenching considering the issues of vulnerability and trust regarding sending funds to somebody sometimes thousands of miles away.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 14, 2002.

I have broken my own rule a few times about insisting on a return period for gear I don't like,....never again.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 14, 2002.

"MidWest is in Columbus"

How is this Philly?

-- Bob Salomon (, April 14, 2002.

>How is this Philly?

>"Camera Care in Philly as is Mid West"

Thats how

-- Wayne (, April 14, 2002.

"Camera Care in Philly as is Mid West"

Mid City sorry Wayne.

-- Bob Salomon (, April 14, 2002.

Thanks Wayne.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, April 14, 2002.

My experience with The F Stops Here has been the opposite of Kerry's. I bought a Tele Xenar lens described as excellent from them several yhears ago. It was cosmetically excellent but that didn't make much difference because when the shutter was set on B or T it stuck open. On that one I dealt with Chuck Farmer, who worked there at the time. I figured maybe he was the problem rather than the store owner so a couple years later I bought a 5x7 Agfa Ansco camera from The F Stops Here, this time dealing with the owner. The camera was described as excellent minus. That was perhaps accurate if you ignored the fact that a previous owner had spray painted the front (chrome fixtures and all) black, with lot of excess pint getting on the sides as well. The home done paint job hadn't been mentioned in the description. Based on these two experiences I think the owner is very loose with his descriptions, apparently figuing that many people will just accept whatever defects they weren't told about rather than going to the trouble of returning the equipment. There also have been several messages posted here in the past by people who have sent equipment to The F Stops Here for sale on consignment and then had trouble getting paid or getting their eqipment back when it didn't sell.

-- Brian Ellis (, April 14, 2002.

Brian brings up a valid point. I should clarify that all my purchases from the F-STOPS here were for new items. I have never bought anything used from them, so I can not comment of the accuracy of their grading on used equipment.

A couple of my new pruchases from them were special order items that were on backorder from the manufacturers. In both cases they required a minimal deposit (less than 10%) and kept me up to date on the status of my order via frequent emails and even a phone call or two. My praise of their service is based on these experiences.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, April 14, 2002.

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