Robert White purchase question : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Ok, R. White price for Schneider Symmar APO 120/f5.6 is $100 less than any US quotes I received.

What do I need to know about purchasing from Robert White? Customs? Import fees or taxes? Long wait for shipping? Tricky exchange rates?

Is there a catch? or is R White really just a better deal....

I really want a 120mm (or 110mm at the widest), for landscapes. Been searching for a used deal, but gotta make a purchase in the next few days. As new lenses go, the Symmar seemed like a pretty decent lens. I'm an amature, and will be shooting strictly outdoors kinda of stuff. Any other lenses I should be considering? I still need some money for gas...

-- Douglas Gould (, May 24, 2002


Generally speaking Robert White is just a better deal. However, frequently it is NOT enoughof a better deal to make it worthwhile over what is generally the best deal in teh US ... Badger Graphics. I shop both places but usually find that when I need a lens it makes more sense to shop at Badger. First, when you add in the shipping costs the difference between the Badger price and the white price is usually very small. I am willing to pay 20 or so dollars more to be able to deal domestically. This,does not necessarily hold true on all items but does on most.

make sure you know the shipping costs from White and if you haven't checked prices at Badger, do so.

-- Ted Harris (, May 24, 2002.

Everything that the above poster has said is true, there are also many items @ RW that are almost half of what they are here in the U.S., RW is also above board about delays if he needs to order something, will tell you if they're any problems @ the manufacturers end that may cause further delays.

Besides the items you need, check out the rest of website and compare prices between his and U.S. and there are some big markdowns. The catch is that he is honest as are a number of folks here in the U.S.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 24, 2002.

I bought my Ebony camera from them and had nothing but a pleasant experience. Great communication and prompt service. They have a listing of estimated shipping costs.

-- Matthew Cordery (, May 24, 2002.

I bought a Gitzo G1570M head from RW and had no problems. It was cheaper than B&H even with shipping and customs (and sales tax aside, since I'm in New York), and was shipped quickly.

-- David Goldfarb (, May 24, 2002.

I have purchased from Robert White and been very satisfied. There are some items where his prices are better than anywhere in the USA while some items he is certainly not competitive. Look at his price on Fujinon lenses for example where is very high priced. I have purchased items from him and saved money even when you include shipping costs and currency costs. He does require payment in British pounds (don't know if he'll accept Euros now or not). Depending on your method of payment there may be charges incurred in getting US dollars converted to pounds, some banks may charge a service fee for example. When I have dealt with him the e-mail communication was very prompt and courteous, shipping was quick and everything has arrived as promised. I wouldn't hesitate to purchase from him again. I have also purchased from Badger Graphics with great satisfaction as well.

-- Dave Schneider (, May 24, 2002.

You also must be aware of possible import duties that may be assessed by the shipper. I have received letters from UPS on about a 4% inport duty and also was hit with this cost at the door by the UPS man.

However, even with the duty, it was a great deal.

I have had a couple of problems with merchandise that needed to be returned and Robert White was very good about making sure that I got what I wanted and was happy. Like the previous respondent, I check with Badger and if it is not a large price differential, I try to support the niche dealerships in the US.

-- Michael Kadillak (, May 24, 2002.

Schneider Symmar APO 120/f5.6 image circle is very limited for 4x5(179mm @ f22), the 110 xl is an excellent lens (288mm@f22) but expensive !

-- dg (, May 25, 2002.

If the price differential is only $100 then it is possible that Robt White is not the best deal.

You asked about how long shipping takes. That is part of the problem in the cost. By default, White ships via UPS air express (or something similar--I cannot remember) because 1) it is very fast and 2) it can be tracked. But it is also expensive. If you ask, he will use the British post office thence to the US post office but then the package cannot be tracked and is quite slow. If you e-mail White with any questions, you will get a quick and glib answer.

If the $100 more expensive source is Badger, I'd go with Badger. In fact I did about two weeks ago on a lens with about a $110 differential Badger vs. White.

B&H is, near as I can tell, no longer a "discount" source. Often B&H is at or very near full retail.

Customs (the only issue here; there are no taxes or import fees) is a pig in a poke. It may be zero, or it may be $50. UPS may bill you or the driver may collect COD. It is a complete governmental mystery. White can closely estimate shipping by the various methods; but who knows about customs?

-- John Hennessy (, May 25, 2002.

I'm very fortunate in that Robert White is only a 3 hour drive away. But I regularly buy gear mail order from him and can report thus: items are usually received next day if in stock (I appreciate that this will not be the case if ordering from outside the UK ) so his shipping is first rate. The item, no matter how small/cheap is always exceptionally well packaged. If an item is out of stock Robert and his staff will endeavour to get it quickly and to give you a realistic wait time. The "service" is second to none, oh yes, and the prices are excellent too!! THERE ARE NO CATCHES!!

-- paul owen (, May 25, 2002.

Robert White has long enjoyed a sterling reputation for friendly and effective service, one that is well deserved.

The low prices are a bonus .... the customer service and knowledge alone are reason enough to buy there. Robert is very frank about shipping and other charges, so ask them directly.

-- Michael Mahoney (, May 25, 2002.

Robert White has the best service and support you can find anywhere.

-- Manuel Gomes Teixeira (, May 25, 2002.

What do you mean glib??.....RW has never been glib to me or to anyone I know. If you're dealing with RW himself or Jon White, they'll reply personally to any and every e-mail you send, how many dealers will do that?

Even if it means losing the deal, they'll tell up front about a serious delay. If there's a $100 difference after shipping, duties, whatever, they you get the deal and keep $100 in your pocket. If the diff is only $20, I'll give the folk here the business.

RW and his folks are not glib, they are very sincere, and very respectful.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 25, 2002.

If the $100 is based on looking at RW's price and comparing it with the best U.S. price you've found, I'd forget it. You're going to pay three separate charges with RW that you wouldn't pay when buying U.S. - significantly higher shipping charges, an import duty or fee or tax or whatever you want to call it (unless you luck out, as happens sometimes but not others), and a charge by your credit card company for the currency exchange and international transaction. On the last purchase I made from RW (a carbon fiber tripod that cost about $500) I paid an import duty of about $35, about $40 more in shipping than I would have paid in the U.S., and a $15 "transaction fee" I think it was called to my credit card company. On the tripod it was still a good deal because the purchase price was only a little more than half the U.S. price. It also was a good deal on my 210 mm G Claron lens for the same reason. But if the opening savings are only $100, I doubt that you'll net much more than maybe a $30 savings if that (unless you get lucky and don't get charged the import duty, which seems to be kind of a hit or miss proposition).

-- Brian Ellis (, May 25, 2002.

Brian....that goes without saying, but if you could save $100.00 free and clear after all the gyrations, I'm sure you would go RW just on GP, which is what I'm saying. I think we're all agreed it's not worth the trouble to save 20 or 30 bucks to go out of the country.

I never charge my card anymore for camera equipment, a couple of folks here in the US decided to change their price(and their word), after the transaction was long over and charge it to my card, neglecting to tell me about it. I now pay by cash, U.S. Postal money order, or Bank Draft B.R.P. or Euro for out of the country.

I would say also Brian that you consider that the price issue notwithstanding, ordering gear from out of town is pretty much the same for me regardless if it from B&H or RW, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're not charged a duty on camera/lenses but everything else when ordering from the U.K/Europe.

Having said that, I've saved some big chunks 5 or 6 pieces of gear. What irritates me is some folks attitude that they are doing me a favor by taking my money. Even B&H, which is absolutely first rate, prompt honest, and polite, still I'm always left with the feeling that were in hurry to get me off the phone so they can get to the next customer.

RW, Ries, Steve Grimes, Photomark, Mr. Cad and others have talked with me for as long as I cared to stay on the phone, treated me like a human being, and charged a lot less than most, and no tricks. Mr Cad who is also out of the U.K. actually called me long distance in response to an e-mail. What really attracts me to these folks is that they are not greedy.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 25, 2002.

FWIW I would suggest that anybody who is fortunate/unfortunate enough to have credit cards to go over you paperwork with a magnifying glass, I decided to do this no long ago, and found more than a dozen charges on my cards of $20 here and $30 there that I/my wife had not authorized, small enough charges that would've slipped through, because initially I thought my wife made these charges and of course she thought that I had.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 25, 2002.

I found the remarks above about B&H (no longer a discount store) to be amusing. The fact is that B&H does not carry gray market Schneider or Rodenstock like Badger Graphic. They only carry Schneider or Rodenstock equipment that is imported by the official USA distributor. B&H does sell gray market Nikon and Cannon equipment, as well as the official USA versions of Nikon and Cannon. I suspect that most of Schneider and Rodenstock sold by B&H is for professionals who want the USA warranty.

On other equipment, where B&H and Badger are buying from the same distributor, I think you will find B&H prices very competitive, if not lower than most other places.

-- Michael Feldman (, May 25, 2002.

I've just been checked the websites of both Robert White and B&H and here's an example of what's possible depending on what gear you want. Say you want a Toyo 810MII and a film holder, B&H sells the Toyo for $4180.00, the film holder for $143.00 for a total of 4323.00.

Robert White sells the same exact camera for $2878.76, and the film holder for $77.00, for a total of $2955 and change. That a difference of $1445.00.

Say you want Mamiya, a Pro-SD 67 from B&H is $1359.00 and the 180KL lens is $1399.00 for a total of $2758. The same camera from Robert White is $816.00, the lens from RW is $712, for a total of $1528.00. A diff of $1230.00. The Robert White prices are in U.S.D.

Big time savings.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 25, 2002.

But Mamiya and Toyo are both coming from the same distributor in the U.S., if I'm not mistaken. RW is better on anything that B&H gets from Mamiya USA, Gitzo, Schneider, and perhaps a few other European manufacturers. I'd be surprised if they were that much better on Nikon or Canon or Pentax or Minolta, if at all. B&H certainly does better on film.

-- David Goldfarb (, May 25, 2002.

Agreed.....I haven't quit doing business with B&H, when it's to my advantage to buy from B&H, I'll buy from them in a heartbeat. The gear I mentioned is for the benefit of anybody where their budget gets them into LF or MF depending on the difference in price.

I'll buy from anybody, I would love to have had RW a U.S. dealer, but this is a world market now, and I be stupid not to take advantage of some of these deals out there.

Robert White gives deals when he can, and he still makes good money, so what does that tell you about everybody else.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 25, 2002.

Both Toyo and Mamiya are imported into the USA by Mamiya America Corporation (MAC). This has been discussed "ad nauseam" in other threads (see the archives). B&H Photo gets their Toyo and Mamiya stock from MAC. Robert White gets their stock directly from Mamiya Japan and Toyo Japan respectively. I were buying Toyo or Mamiya, I would probably buy from Robert White, although I can understand why some professionals may put a high value on the warranty and repair services offered by MAC. But I think it is incorrect to say that B&H Photo charges list price or is somehow ripping off consumers.

-- Michael Feldman (, May 25, 2002.

RW, far from being the good guy that he is (I'm not saying that he is not a good guy), is merely the lucky beneficiary of questionable usurious pricing by Mamiya USA and HP Marketing. RW's prices on these products are no better than what can be found around the world or any other UK agent like Teamwork Photo, for example. With so much free press from this and other forums and being one of the first to capitalise on e-commerce, it pays RW to provide good service to his American custonmers.

Certainly, it has never occurred to the Americans to attempt to knock down his prices further; his prices look like a relative bargain compared to American domestic prices so it has never occurred to an American to bargain him down. Many are too happy to accept what RW offers.

It is amazing that Mamiya USA and HP Marketing have not responded to this in an appropriate fashion i.e. to make their prices fall in line with international pricing. Their recalcitrance has benefited RW the most and every day that they dawdle RW gains by not even trying.

-- Erik (, May 25, 2002.

Nobody said B&H is ripping off anybody, you're saying that. B&H is reputable, firstrate, and prompt, and they are simply trying to get as much money as they can for their product as businessmen. My remark was not a veiled implication towards anybody being a thief, it's to suggest that everybody can make money while give us a break, anything else is putting words in my mouth.

You're right about this issue having been done ad nauseum, the issue is very clear, there is choice now where there didn't used to be, we can pick and choose, which is one of the redeeming qualities of the internet.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 25, 2002.

Jonathan, my initial comments were directed at John Hennessy, who said "B&H is, near as I can tell, no longer a 'discount' source. Often B&H is at or very near full retail.

Your subsequent comments may have been made based on your assumption that I was talking about you, but I am not sure why, because I specifically said "I found the remarks above about B&H (no longer a discount store) to be amusing." This obviously did not refer to anything you said.

-- Michael Feldman (, May 25, 2002.

Compare US and RW prices on Linhof have you?

" HP Marketing have not responded to this in an appropriate fashion"

-- Bob Salomon (, May 26, 2002.

I always use RW for all of the reasons already mentioned. What intrigues me however, is that RW is able to offer great deals on MOST of the stock he sells and still makes a profit! Something to be said about NOT being greedy! Whatever the "politics" behind manufacturer/dealer/grey market - the truth is that "greed" (not just profit) drives some to hold out for more bucks. RW seems to have solved the problem! As long as there is this level of "greed", the likes of RW will benefit and so will his customers!

-- paul owen (, May 26, 2002.

Bob, all your statement proves is that there is a distributor in the UK (Linhof & Studio Ltd.) from whom RW much purchase their stock, and that they jack up the prices just as much as HP Marketing. In the case of Mamiya, Toyo, Schneider, and others, RW is the direct importer and purchases directly from the manufacturer.

-- Michael Feldman (, May 26, 2002.

What in the world are you talking about/

"all your statement proves is that there is a distributor in the UK "

have you compared current Technorama 617, TK 45 or Master Technika 45 or Technika 2000 prices in the U.S. from authorized dealers VS RW prices/

Not printed prices but the price they give you when you buy one?

-- Bob Salomon (, May 26, 2002.

>and a $15 "transaction fee" I think it was called to my credit card >company.

I'd look at changing my credit card company then!

Living in Canada where there is a dearth of LF camera stores (and I'm 1000 miles from the nearest city anyway...) I buy from the US and UK all the time. Using my Visa, the price is paid in pounds or $US and converted (obviously at a rate preferrential to the card company) but NO extra charges.

Dump the card and get a decent one.


-- Tim Atherton (, May 26, 2002.

Hi Michael (Feldman),

RW is not the direct importer of all their brands. There is a Mamiya UK for instance. RW buys its Mamiya stuff from it just like any other UK dealer. The profit margin is already built in and selling them to Americans at those prices RW still makes a healthy profit. RW is not giving away the farm here. Recover from your shock. This only means that Mamiya USA has been way over-pricing their products. There are also the respective Schneider, Toyo, Rodenstock, etc. UK distributors. About the only brand which RW imports directly is Ebony Camera from Japan.

It is not because RW is undercharging. Mamkiya USA and until recently, HP Marketing have been over-charging.

HP Marketing has actually lowered its Linhof and Rodenstock prices to keep more or less in line with international pricing recently. This is to be applauded as a consumer friendly move.

To some extent, I can understand the plight of the USA distributor as the bulk of the world's professionals are working in this market, the highest fees are paid here, the biggest photography market is here, they sell mainly to professionals, so why not charge them higher prices than elsewhere. It goes with the territory.

The internet has pretty much put paid to that idea as borders dissolve. You got to take the bad with the good and expect service levels to fall though. Remember that their American service and sales teams have to eat and want to live well too. This cross-border buying certainly has an impact on them.

-- Erik (, May 26, 2002.

I believe that Mamiya is imported into the UK by Johnsons's Photopia, but your point is well taken that most of products (but not all) sold by RW are imported by other companies. So I stand corrected on that point. However, I don't know why you think I would be shocked about that. I never suggested that RW was forgoing a healthy profit. If you can find statements from me that suggest otherwise, please point them out.

I have clearly stated, and previously given many examples, of the high cost structure of Mamiya America Corporation and HP Marketing, which are partly due to a very high level of service they provide (which not everyone wants to pay for) and the basic inefficiencies of their distribution model. The extensive amount of marketing they do in the USA also may account for additional costs. Finally, there is the question of greed by the USA distributors, but since they are mostly privately held companies, their financial statements are not publicly available.

For USA customers buying from RW there is an immediate 17.5% benefit of not paying the VAT. Some of the equivalent taxes (but not all) in the USA are built into our corporate income tax structure (federal and state) and cannot be avoided. I also suspect that the UK distributors do less marketing and have a more efficient distribution model. I am not shocked about any of this.

-- Michael Feldman (, May 26, 2002.

> To some extent, I can understand the plight of the USA distributor as > > the bulk of the world's professionals are working in this market, > > highest fees are paid here, the biggest photography market is here, > > they sell mainly to professionals, so why not charge them higher > > prices than elsewhere. It goes with the territory.

Not entirely correct - in many ways the European market for photography in many areas is much more healthy than the US, with greater demand for images, more value placed ont he photographer and higher fees paid.

The European market is a pretty darn big market, with a lot of pros in it.

-- Tim Atherton (, May 26, 2002.

Someone read far too much into my calling White's e-mail relies "glib". I meant nothing negative at all. I always look forward the wit, fluency, articulation and facility of responses from Robt White or the staff there. They are completely honest and seem to enjoy themselves too. For instance:

me: Can you ship an AS B1 now?

them: We don't have the balls for that just now; but expect to in a fortnight.

-- John Hennessy (, May 27, 2002.

I would second what has been said. Some things are a lot cheaper at RW some things are not. As for the Schneider Symmar APO 120/f5.6 as stated by another poster it's doesn't have very much coverage for 4 x 5 if that's what you'll be using it for. If you can't afford the 110 SS XL you might want to look into the Fuji 125 CMW. It has a Image circle of 204 and if you call Badger I think you'll find the price close to what the Symmar would be at RW after shipping, duty etc (the price is lower than stated on the web site due to a drop in the yen). I don't have this lens but I have heard good things about it. Almost as sharp as the 110 SS XL and lighter in weight. Both of those lens are really the only choices that make sense in a new lens for 4 x 5 in that Focal length that I know of.


-- Ed Candland (, May 27, 2002.

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