There are plenty of camera stores that will take your money in New York, but are you getting the personal service, attention and overall experience that you deserve? This guide will help you weigh the pros and cons of some of New York’s most well-known camera stores, and distinguish between the stores that cater to the amateur, prosumer and professional.
420 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
At 35,000 square feet, you won’t find a bigger camera store in New York, or possibly in the entire country. B&H boasts slightly lower prices than competitors Calumet Photographic and Adorama Camera, and the time you save waiting in line is an added reason to shop here. While you’re waiting, munch on the copious bowls of free sour candy located at almost every counter. This store hums with efficiency, beginning with the greeter standing guard at the front entrance to the overhead maze of conveyor belts trafficking merchandise across the store to the Hassidic-clad cashiers who take your money at warp speed. Sales people (I should say salesmen because women are never found in this role at B&H) are mostly knowledgeable and friendly. The store caters to professionals, but the staff is not below talking to amateurs looking for consumer or pro-consumer gear. Great place to buy cameras, film, lighting equipment, video gear and electronics. I would not recommend this store for film processing and it does not offer equipment rental.
22 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10010
Chicago-based Calumet Photographic was the first camera store to own exclusive rights to sell Kodak’s 4×5-inch view camera, which it did for more than 40 years. In 1980, Calumet became a full-line supplier of photographic products. Today, Calumet offers a much smaller selection than B&H Photo, but does a good job in some areas, especially with papers, printers and rental equipment. Calumet salespeople can order anything you want if they don’t have it in stock (which happens frequently) but the staff works slowly and becomes mired in mundane tasks. Unlike B&H Photo and Adorama, the store does allow folding bikes inside the store, which makes it my choice for quick runs to and from the studio. Calumet also offers classes on a range of photographic topics, including digital printing, photographic lighting and color management.
42 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
Adorama Camera offers a wide array of digital photographic equipment, lighting equipment, bags and camera accessories, but it is probably my least favorite place to shop for gear in New York. The staff is often misinformed, as was the case when I purchased slave units that failed to operate my portable strobes. The rental department staff is downright rude and unhelpful, and their rules for return are draconian.
Lens and Repro
33 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011
If you can stomach the harrowing stop-and-go elevator ride to the fifth floor, this store is worth checking out. Offering a wide range of film and digital equipment for sale and for rent, this is one of the few camera stores in New York that feels like it should be in the Midwest. Maybe it’s the small, friendly staff that once offered to buy my film for a family graduation when I forgot my wallet, or maybe it’s the fact that it still sells darkroom equipment, but this camera shop has a special place in my heart.
New York, NY 10013
Located in Chinatown just south of Canal Street, K&M offers a friendly and knowledgeable staff and a great rental department. They also have a strong collection of used equipment and will buy old camera equipment. They sell a wide variety of papers, and offer custom digital printing. The site offers helpful videos with master photographers like Steve McCurry and Gregory Heisler.