My favorite camera stores are B&H Photo, Adorama, KEH Camera, and Amazon. I will tell you why I like them, and why you should be wary of so many other online camera stores.
First, flight-by-night online camera stores rip people off every day. I get emails on a regular basis from people who were over charged, billed for outrageous shipping charges when they were told shipping was free, the stores refused to refund their money, and thanks to the vagaries of U.S. consumer protection laws, the credit card companies did not refund their money. So they were stuck with camera gear that did not work or was not what they ordered and they did not get their money back (see the articles linked below). Some of these companies have a U.S. address and phone number, but the address is just a mail box and they are based in Asia and beyond the reach of the U.S. legal system. InÂ other words, you are no safer when you make a purchase than the integrity of the company you are buying from.
Now, on to my favorite stores.
B&H Photo and Video in New York City is one of the biggest and most respected camera stores in the country. They have very knowledgeable staff. When you call and need information or advice, the odds are very good you will get excellent advice. They also have about the best prices you can find on new camera gear with a USA manufacturers warranty. If someone is advertising an item at a price well under the B&H price, something fishy is going on. They are probably passing off gray market gear without telling you it is gray market gear. And some shady companies will lie and tell you it isn’t gray market gear when it actually is. Someone might sell a lens for $20 or $30 less than the B&H price and still be legit. But if they are selling you a lens for $100 less than the B&H price, you are going to get ripped off. I trust B&H.
Adorama in New York City.Â Everything I said about B&H applies to Adorama. I could write the same paragraph all over again with the exact same words. Adorama and B&H are the standard for the best prices on new camera gear with a USA manufacturers warranty. I trust Adorama.
I have been buying camera and other gear from B&H and Adorama for years.
KEH in Atlanta is my go to place for used camera gear. Everything they sell has been checked out and works and they provided a used warranty on their gear. If there is a problem within the warranty time period, they will make good on your purchase. (Not every used online camera store does that. I have heard the sad stores). KEH is also the place to sell your used gear at a fair price. They grade on a stricter scale than most other used camera dealers. Whay other stores might call “EXC+”, KEH calls “EXC”.Â What another store might call “Like New” KEH will call “EXC+”. In other words, if you buy something that is rated EXC+ from KEH, it will be in better condition that what other stores call EXC+. That also mean an EXC+ item from KEH will cost a little more than an EXC+ item from another store becuae you are getting an item in better condition.Â I have purchased used gear from KEH and sold used gear to KEH.Â I trust KEH.
When I want something used, I usually go to KEH first.Â If KEH doesn’t have it, I check the used equipment departments at B&H or Adorama.
Amazon. I have been buying new gear from Amazon for a long time. I have an Amazon sponsored photography store to make it easy for people to find the gear I recommend. You get the same great Amazon prices and I make small commission that helps support my web sites. But you get no advice at Amazon so you need to be sure about the quality of what you are buying.
It pays to be careful when you order from Amazon. In the right hand column, look for the words: “Shipped by Amazon. Sold by Amazon.” That is important.Â I am also ok it if says “Shipped by Amazon. Sold by Adorama” as long as the “sold by” company is someone I know and trust.
If it says “Shipped by XYZ. Sold by XYZ” I usually don’t order unless it is an inexpensive item and XYZ has excellent ratings.
There are other good camera stores around the country. When I lived in Kalamazoo Michigan I shopped at Norman Camera. When I lived in Columbus Ohio I shopped at Midwest Photo Exchange. Each of those stores had one or two really knowledgeable people working behind the counter.
But local camera stores are a very mixed bag. I travel a lot and I have dropped in to various camera stores around the country. Some have some really excellent people behind the counter who provide good advice, and some have people behind the camera that pass out terrible advice. Sometimes the advice may have more to do with the profit margin than what the customer really needs. I will name no names but one photographer I know was sold a $1,000 camera with a terrible interface (menu system), when a $500 camera would have done a much better job and had an excellent, easy to use menu system. If you have a great local camera store that gives excellent advice, by all means support them.
If you are going online, choose one of the companies I recommend above, or go to Amazon, or better yet to my Amazon Store.
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyerâ€™s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.