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Where to Buy a Camera

(in the United States) by Philip Greenspun, 1997 (updated January, 2007)


This page assumes that you live in the United States or that you live in Europe and will be mail ordering from the United States. If you are visiting Japan, you probably want to read Buying a Camera in Japan.

I want to support photo.net

Photo.net was started in 1993 as a personal website. Today the site attracts close to 6 million visitors per month and the server processes more than 10 million requests every day. We have a staff of full-time employees working on editorial, programming, system administration, and customer service. Please help support Photo.net by making your photography equipment purchases through one of our retail partners below.

  • The Photo.net store - Check prices from our partner retailers. Every click and purchase helps to support Photo.net.
  • Amazon.com - A great place to purchase just about everything under the sun, and photo supplies too! In addition, your purchases (of any Amazon item) help keep Photo.net running.
  • KEH Camera - KEH is the worlds largest used photo equipment dealer, and a dedicated photo.net partner.

I want new gear cheap and I want it here fast

  • Buy from Amazon - The well known internet superstore that we all know and love. Carries all the most common cameras and lenses from point and shoot to high end professional. May not have hard to find gear such as Large Format equipment or dedicated studio accessories, but they are always worth a look.
  • Buy from B&H Photo Video - One of the two giant New York mail order companies. Has virtually every photographic item under the sun. If they do not have it, you probably don't need it.
  • Buy from Adorama - The other giant New York mail order company. Same deal as above, if they don't have it, you probably don't need it.

For new equipment, if someone is claiming a significantly better price than these three stores, it is probably a scam. They are honest, fast, and have the best prices you are going to find. Do keep in mind that both Adorama and B&H have orthodox Jewish owners and are closed at various times of the year for important Jewish holidays.

If you are traveling to New York, you really should stop in and visit Adorama or B&H. It's a neat experience that every photographer should do at least once if they get a chance.

Adorama
42 West 18th Street
(between 5th and 6th Avenues)
New York City, NY 10011
Voice: (800) 223-2500
overseas voice: +1 (212) 741-0052

B&H Superstore
9th Ave. @ 34th St.  
New York City, NY 10011
Voice: 800-606-6969
overseas voice: 212-239-7742

Grey Market?

One thing that a big New York retailer can do that your local camera shop cannot is to go to Japan or Europe and import cameras themselves. Suppose that Nikon USA is selling F5 bodies to retailers here for $2500. Adorama has enough volume that they can fly to Japan and buy a bunch of F5s from a wholesaler there for, say, $1800 each. They bring them back to the US and sell them as "grey market" (parallel import) for $2200. It is exactly the same camera but you get a lower price. You will miss out on any rebates that Nikon USA is offering and the Nikon USA warranty, though the US retailer will give you its own warranty. Camera bodies are very reliable, lenses are even more reliable, and the authorized importers usually offer extremely slow service to consumers. Hence, it is probably not worth paying more than $25 extra for a "USA" model. Sometimes grey market bodies even have useful features that are disabled in US models due to patent problems.

I want to get screwed

Place an order with any store offering a camera for less than 90 percent of what the stores above are charging. When you have finished reciting your credit card number, they'll say "oops, that price was for the grey market version; right now we only have the US version in stock and that is $200 extra." Another popular fraud is to add a $150 shipping charge to an order for a camera body and two lenses.

You'll find more stories about bad (and good) retailers in the photo.net Neighbor to Neighbor service.

I want to buy a used camera

A tree in Petrified Forest (north-central Arizona).

If you don't see anything you like in the photo.net Classifieds, then you'll want to talk to the good folks at KEH Camera, the world's largest used camera dealer. KEH has great prices, gets consistently high ratings from your fellow photographers for customer service and the condition of their used gear is typically higher than they grade it at. In addition, they offer a 6 month warranty on all used equipment. That's something that you aren't likely to get anywhere else on a used camera and in my book, is reason enough to make KEH my first stop when I'm looking for something used.

If you don't find what you are looking for at KEH (which is unlikely) you should try Midwest Photo Exchange (commonly referred to as MPEX). MPEX is another highly regarded source for used gear. If that still turns up nothing, then you should look at Ebay or your local Craigslist. Though beware, neither of those will offer any sort of warranty or promise that you won't be sold junk. When buying used, you want to buy from the most reputable source you can find.

I want to see it in a catalog and have it explained to me

Try Calumet, based in Chicago at 1-800-CALUMET. Their sales people tend to be patient and experienced. Calumet caters to professionals and studio photographers. Calumet is not competitive for common items such as the Canon or Nikon systems. They tend to push their house brands even when the consumer would be better served with a name-brand product. For example, their view cameras aren't much cheaper than equivalent Sinar products, but any working photographer would be much better off with Sinar (see "Choosing a Large Format Camera"). A friend bought two of their house-brand flash packs. They had some nice electronic features and were a bit cheaper than equivalent name-brand flashes, but neither triggered reliably when one hit the test button or used the sync cord. By contrast, I've seen lots of cheap strobe packs that didn't have the features of fancy Broncolor packs. But the cheap packs always worked.

I want an intelligent recommendation for serious equipment

Talk to Jeff Hirsch at FOTOCARE, 136 West 21st Street, NY, NY 10011. (212) 741-2990 ( http://www.fotocare.com/). Don't ask him which point & shoot to buy, but he rents all the good large- and medium-format stuff plus studio lighting. Because he rents and uses this stuff, he knows what matters. This is the place to buy weird but essential stuff, e.g., ballheads, quick releases, etc. Jeff's prices on those items are often identical to B&H and Adorama.

I want to trade a Hasselblad and a Leica in for a new Linhof

Petrified Forest (north-central Arizona). Gil Ghitelman, www.gilghitelman.com used to be a psychologist in the Montgomery County public schools, where I suffered through 10 grades, but I won't hold that against him. He started collecting Leicas and then decided to go into the family camera business. You can trust Gil; he'll go the extra mile to make sure that you get what you need, and you might pay less than you would at B&H.

Although Gil is hidden away in Weston, Connecticut, he is a pretty high-volume Hasselblad dealer and has an in-house repair service (forget what anyone says; 'blads need a lot of maintenance). He also stocks oddities like $800 English camera bags.

I've bought a bunch of Linhof stuff from Gil, new and used.

I want to take a picture like this

Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park

Talk to Leonard Lee Rue III and Len Rue, IV. When they aren't out chasing wildlife or sitting in a blind with a 600/4, the Rues operate a mail-order service for wildlife photographers.

They've personally used every piece of equipment in their illustrated catalog and don't sell it if it doesn't work. Much of the stuff you'd be unlikely to know you needed. If B&H has the same item, it will be somewhere between the same price and 25% cheaper.

Leonard Rue Enterprises, 138 Millbrook Road, Blairstown, NJ 07825, (800) 734-2568, http://www.rue.com.

[Note: Bear photo was taken with Nikon 300/2.8, FOBA ballhead, 8008 body, Ektar 25 film, 1/60th at 2.8 under overcast skies. From Travels with Samantha.]

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



John Raabe , January 17, 1997; 10:32 P.M.

There is a pretty good and active auction in used camera equipment on the auction web (http://www.ebay.com/aw/list.html.) I bought a nice simple autofocus point and shoot camera for my son ($11 + shipping).

Glen Johnson , January 30, 1997; 09:15 A.M.

Unless the laws have recently been changed, you do not want to use a debit card when you place an order with any mail order company. Credit cards are safer because the laws limit your liability should the card numbers get stolen or used for a purpose that you have not authorized. A thief with your debit card numbers can drain your account and you have no protection. No wonder banks promote their use!

Credit card companies generally stand behind the consumer in rational, well documented disputes. I've had uniform support from American Express, Visa, Master Card, and Discover in disputes - even over things like delayed charges for long distance calls to Mexico and the like on hotel phone bills.

Be careful with COD too. A dishonest merchant can ship a partial order with COD charges for the full order. When you complain, they will explain to you that they are going to send you the backordered stuff later with no additional shipping charges. If you don't mind them having your cash while you wait indefinitely for the backordered items, then it doesn't matter.

Don't buy on price alone. Check to see what the restocking charges are. Check to see what the shipping charges are. To ship a 35mm SLR body with normal lens, insured for $1000 by UPS ground service, costs less than $10 between any two points in the 48 contiguous United States. It often costs less than $5. If the company charges $29.95 for shipping and handling, they are using the shipping department as a significant profit center. Restocking fees are also pretty silly, especially when they are applied to things that the company shipped to you in error. Good companies with a focus on customer service do not need restocking fees to make a profit.

Watch for bait and switch and also watch out for sales personnel who try to sell you filters, extended warranties, and the like. Don't buy anything that you hadn't intended to buy when you called them. If you think you should change your buying plans, hang up and give yourself time to decide what you really want to do. Formally ask if the product has a US warranty from the manufacturer. If you just ask about a US warranty, they will say yes, even if the warranty is provided by some unknown repair service in New Jersey or by the store itself. With Canon gear, this isn't an issue because Canon USA will honor the warranty on any Canon stuff, grey market included, as long as you have a sales slip from an authorized Canon dealer that shows the date of purchase. Other companies are not so generous, and getting service on grey market gear can be a pain.

The sales person is not your friend. His or her goal, stated in the simplest of terms, is to get you to spend your money. Do not buy things based on your "friendship" with the sales person.

Until you've established a good working relationship with one or two companies, it is useful to follow the Check Rated rules in the back of Popular Photography. These rules don't eliminate the weasels. There are a lot of weasels that advertise in Pop Photo. The rules basically just give you a little more leverage in a dispute because you can bring Pop Photo in on the complaint and this may help you get satisfaction in difficult cases. A lot of the companies appear to operate on the principle that they will do whatever they can get away with. Since many consumers are too tired to fight, or are unsure of how to fight, the bad guys win often enough to allow them to continue to operate as bad guys.

Even good companies can change over time. Executive Photo used to be a very honest business, and you could count on them. They would always do exactly what they said they would do. In recent years they became one of the businesses that were routinely mentioned by people with complaints, and in 1996 it appears that they went out of business.

On small items - entry level bodies, modestly priced lenses, point and shoot cameras, and the like - you may be better off just paying what it costs to buy the equipment from a local merchant. If you're going to save less than $100, why not provide support for the folks who will be available to answer your questions and help you make the best possible purchase decision?

If you want higher level gear, the potential for savings are greater - and, more importantly, because of mail order operations, many local camera stores can't afford to keep stocks of high end equipment around. Fewer than half of the lenses and none of the camera bodies that I currently own are stocked by any of the camera stores where I live (Dayton, OH).

Good luck with your equipment purchase. Be sure to save enough money out for a tripod, ball head, lupe, light box, and FILM!

Rolly Kent , February 10, 1997; 03:19 P.M.

On the West Coast, one of the best places to get an honest deal is at Simon's Camera, 1316 North Western Ave. LA 90027, phone 213-463-8585 or fax 213-463-8691. I know I got the best deal in the US on a new Contax G2, and their prices across the board in other brands are easily the best in Los Angeles. Plus it's a small family business, here since the early 80s, and they are charmingly uninterested in having websites and doing the whole computer thing. Simon and his son Paul run the place, and while they certainly do mail order, they won't take credit cards or out of town checks. On he other hand, they know their cameras, stock or get anything you want, and are good folks.

Glen Johnson , February 11, 1997; 11:58 A.M.

I thought I would record a few specific anecdotes about experience with B&H.

Some good things:

Often the price that they quote on the phone is lower than the advertised price, especially on EOS gear.

If you order the rush service (overnight or 2nd day air) they expedite your order and do a better job of checking on backorder status.

Each of the bodies I've purchased from them has come with a free Domke pro level strap, in addition to whatever strap was provided by the manufacturer.

Whenever I've returned something, they've credited my card within two weeks of their receipt of the item. I send things back registered mail with return receipt, or by UPS Groundtrac service (depending on size).

Mr. Posner is always ready and willing to help out if complications arise. He is genuinely concerned about customer satisfaction.

B&H has one of the best stocked wharehouses in the business. Chances are they will have what you want when you call.

Some bad things:

I bought a camera and lens kit from Morris once and he quoted me a price that was $65 lower than the price in the ad, and he included a "free" extended warranty from Canon. Later I found out that the real price was $100 dollars less than the price in the ad, and that Morris had conned me into buying a $35 extended warrantly.

I bought a lens from Morris once and he offered me an extended warranty on it. The extended warranty was not from Canon, but was "from B&H" according to Morris. When the warranty came, it was really from some outfit in New Jersey that I had never heard of. On the bright side, I was able to return it with no hassle and no restocking fee.

The verification department can be a pain in the neck. I got entered into their system as two different customers, and this caused all kinds of problems in getting shipments released until Mr. Posner was able to get to the bottom of it and straighten things out.

On several occasions they have told me on the phone that small, strange items were in stock, and then when the shipment arrived they were back ordered. The only time you get good information on back order status on the day that you order is if you have asked for rush service.

If you just order ground service, they sit on your order for a day before sending it out. They claim that this isn't a formal policy, but it might as well be. If you don't pay for the rush service, your shipment is not likely to go out until the day after you've ordered it.

Once they shipped me the wrong thing by overnight FED EX. It took 20 minutes of arguing and two phone calls to get them to reship immediately by overnight without making me place a second order for what my card had already been billed for. On the bright side, they did eventually do the right thing.

In summary:

B&H is a good supplier. But they are human. Don't expect to have everything to go perfectly. Sometimes you have to be patient.

When I first started calling them, I thought that if I developed a relationship with one salesperson, that that salesperson would "take care of me." I was wrong. I have used at least 5 different sales people . Each has had good points and bad points. They can't "take care of you" because B&H is so large that the whole place is compartmentalized. You need a friend in verification, and a friend in shipping more than you need a friend in sales. The guy who runs interference the best is Henry Posner, but he can be overwhelmed sometimes too. B&H does an incredible volume of business, and the percentage of happy customers is pretty high, but even a small percentage of disgruntled customers can take a lot of time for the folks who try to trouble shoot.

One thing I've learned is that you should not expect them to break their own rules very often. A business as large as theirs has to be rule based or it will become chaotic. If you are going to try to get them to accept an order back after the two week trial period, or if you are going to try to get them to get Nikon or Minox to honor warranty on a gray market product, or something similar, it just isn't going to happen.

Overall, I would give B&H a high passing grade. I like Roberts Distributors in Indianapolis and Calumet in Chicago too. Both are run ethically. But B&H is run ethically, and offers very competitive pricing and convenience. They are a good bet - but don't let your guard down in any mail order business transaction.

Peter Dunner , February 12, 1997; 09:25 A.M.

I must second the above comments about B&H. Out of all the monkey business that goes on from advertisers in Pop. Phot. they are clearly above the rest in their dealing with customers and honesty. Perfect-no but certainly the best out of the lot. I thank the author of this page and the other people who responded for some valuable information. For those in the Washington DC Metro area, there is a small unadvertised store that comes fairly close to NY prices-Vienna Camera in Virginia. Decent folks who sell a wide array of camera and dark room equipment.

Lee Raudenbush , February 23, 1997; 03:55 P.M.

At one time you could deal with Midwest Photo on cameras and lenses, but recently they have become as bad as most of the lower priced groups. I purchased a lense from them and when it turned out some terrible pictures, tried to trade it back in for a better and potentially more profitable (to them) lense. They told me that the lense worth had dropped by $300. When I asked why, the salesman replied that That lens would rent fo $25 a day!! I thought, pretty good rental fee for a 150 3.5 MC Bronica ETRSi lens. They have lost my business permanently. The best I have dealt with are B&H for new and KEH Camera for used equipment. Never have been reamed!! The worst of course is AAA and you can e-mail me for my lengthy letter on the old bait and switch deal they pulled!!

Glen Johnson , February 24, 1997; 11:24 A.M.

I can relate to Lee's thoughts on Midwest. They may be great for some things, but my experience with them is that they will try to take you to the cleaners. Since they are stereotypical "traders," if you keep your own wits about you, you can come out OK. But if you let down your guard, you could get reamed.

As for KEH, their prices on eos used gear aren't significantly cheaper than B&H prices on new gear, and sometimes they want MORE for their used stuff than B&H wants for the same item new. Still, they do seem to be pretty honest and they will do what they say they will. You won't find them playing bait and switch or misrepresenting their gear.

William Bell , April 02, 1997; 12:23 P.M.

I would like to add Abbey Camera to the list of good folks to deal with. They advertise in Shutterbug and list only a store in Philly, but opened a store in Baltimore about two years ago as well. They have a pretty good catalog, will try to match quantity prices on soft goods (at least the Baltimore store will) and have a good stock of paper and chemicals (with some odd omissions). A few years ago I was printing for a show and ran out of a specific Forte paper I was using. Abbey in Philadelphia was the only place I could find it and they offered ot to me at 100 sheet prices even though all they had was 25 sheet packs. Helix in Chicago also used to be pretty good, but I haven't used them in a while - does anybody else shop with them?

Bill

James Massie , April 06, 1997; 06:27 A.M.

I live in Japan and Have visited all ofthe shops you have discussed. Regarding the Yokohama Yodobashi shops, the main shop is the biggest, but it doesn't carry as many item examples as the Shinjuku store. From what I could derive from the saleman in Yokohama, the Shinjuku store carries an example of all the merchandise. Be warned, it is very cramped. There are also a variety of used stores here. (directions-Take the Keikyu line to the Shinagawa Station from Yokohama. Buy a JR line and goto to platform one/two of the Yamanote line. This is a circular line so you can't get lost get off at Shinjuku and exit through the north or east exits. Yodobashi is across fromthe station in the big open roundabout/square. The square is closed to vehicle traffic on Sundays. The points card for Yodobashi in now a six percent discount.) I also know of some more camera shops in Ginza with great prices and/or good variety. E-mail back if you want directions. Lastly, most of the used shops give trade-ins, especially in Ginza and Shinjuku. I got a 30,000 yen (yen rate about then was 100 yen-$1.00) discount last year on a new EOS55 (ElanIIE-QD) for a Canon T-90 and AV-1. James Massie

Agnius Griskevicius , May 14, 1997; 04:14 P.M.

I have dealt with B&H for past half a year (and ~$5000) and so far been quite pleased with them. There were 2 times when there were problems with my order, and both times they were rectified in quick and just manner. (They replaced a cracked plastic development tray at no charge). However, once they shipped me a bottle of NH-4 developer instead of Permawash, and when I complained, they shiped me my Permawash, but charged for it. Anyways, I ended up keeping and using the NH-4 later. Also, they are doing a great job with thei web site, give it a try at . They also say that they will "honor" lower prices on the net, even if it contradicts their catalog. I saw the price of EOS-1n to be ~1100USD, and then "jump" to standard ~1400USD. I guess somebody bought it at "reduced" price... So keep an eye on those prices.

Agnius

Randi Ellingboe , May 23, 1997; 01:38 P.M.

I haven't spent a lot of time comparing KEH and B&H prices, but since KEH prices look good to me, I will unabashedly plug them. My photo prof here recommended them to me while I was doing research to buy--he's used them for many years. I had called B&H, but found them much less helpful than KEH was--with B&H I got transferred around and grunted at. KEH answered lots of questions, didn't rush me, made useful and non-pressuring suggestions, and was very clear about details like shipping, batteries, etc. so I didn't get any surprises. I've ordered stuff from them several times by now and have always been pleased. That's my 2 cents.

Rob Smallwood , July 17, 1997; 02:04 A.M.

Have dealt with Thompson Photo Products (www.thompsonphoto.com) several times. The service has been excellent, the used equipment I have bought has been in like-new condition and the prices the best I have found. In summary, rating of 10 out of 10.

Donald N. Daien , July 19, 1997; 09:46 A.M.

I got a fair price on a used 4X5 and a great price on a 240 G-Claron from Del"s Camera in Santa Barbara, CA. Everything was as stated. No complaints! If you quote a B&H or Adorama price to Calumet they will often make an accomodation. They won"t meet the price but they may narrow the gap to the point where the difference is worth it due to the reliability factor.

Joel G Altman , July 24, 1997; 05:16 P.M.

Houston camera buffs can find a good deal at the Houston Camera Exchange. Now housed in a defunct nightclub, they claim to be the largest used camera store in Texas and, from what I've seen, I don't doubt it. Their display cases are old, poorly lit, and crowded with cameras, bodies, and lenses. They say they can do mail order, though I've always gone to the store. I've half a dozen cameras and outfits from them. My last purchase there (21 July 1996) was a remanufactured Nikon 35Ti for $US499. If you are in southeast Texas and need a camera, I suggest you give them a call. Their number: 713 789 6901.

david schoffstall , August 11, 1997; 08:35 P.M.

Had a recent bad experience with Marine Park. In a nutshell, they told me they had a particular lens in stock which would be sent immediately. After several calls, they said it was being dropped shipped from Nikon. I called Nikon who said that was a lie. I finally called and cancelled order after repeated lies. They finally admitted it was back ordered. Now I have been screwing around with them to get credit on my card. I have fulling around with this since June. I have found B & H and Camera World to be the most reputable although I think many of the B & H staff tend to be pushy and arrogant while Camera World is very friendly. But, I find them both to be truthful.

Merlino B. Picar , October 15, 1997; 08:35 P.M.

I bought a Minolta 400si last Sept. 04, 1997 and a 28-300mm Vivitar last Sept. 03, 1997 from Abe's of Maine in New York. I received these merchandise after 15 days thru UPS. (Why is it a very very delicate that's why it took 15 days?) They charged 20 dollars for the S&H for the Camera and 40 dollars (40 dollars!!!!) for the lens. (What is this! making profit?) When I tried to use - Whooooh - the autofocus is not working. I tried to focus on a bright object - too dark. Even I'm going to use the manual focus. Just like I'm on the dark room. I called them and they said that I sshould contact Vivitar. 20 or more minutes or arguing. They said that I have to send it back. (Why! to charge me 40 dollars again when they send the new one! No way!) I'm just like a tennis ball with a lot of players playing with me. Connecting to the Manager, sales person etc. etc. I told them tfor a refund. Man, I sent thru US Postal Service - believe it or not. I just spent 12.35 (w/ ins.) dollars and it took 3 days only from Ca. to N.Y.

Benjamin Carlson , October 19, 1997; 05:03 P.M.

I just bought a Nikon FG, and 35-70mm f/3.3~4.5 zoom from National Camera Exchange, the body price matched B&H ($240.00), and the lens was about 25% less than B&H ($165.00)!! They were extremely helpful, since they called all of their other stores looking for this particular lens. I went back the following day to get a copy of the owners manual and a tripod, they gave me the manual for free, apologized for not thinking of it, and then proceeded to spend an hour trying out tripods with me!! Maybe this guy just didn't have anything to do that day, but he ensured that I'm going to be a repeat customer!!!

call them at: 1.800.873.1979

They also have free shipping!!

Ben

Mike Buschmann , October 28, 1997; 01:15 P.M.

Jack's Camera in Muncie IN. (765)282-0204 Run multiple page ad in Shutterbug. Buys, sells, trades. They have a large used area with an inventory that ranges from modern to antique, mundane to exotic, subminiature to large format, lighting, darkroom. They travel to major shows like most big used dealers and will try to locate specific pieces with no extra finders fee. They are honest and fair with no big company excuses. I've bought from B&H and Dell's, and donated several hundred dollars to Cambridge (which I am still mad about after 15 years), and as good as B&H and Dell's are, if Sean at Jacks can't find it for me, then I guess I didn't really want it.

john -- , November 16, 1997; 05:54 P.M.

I don't doubt that people were screwed by various mail order companies. My exterience with Smile was not a bad one. i got my F3 5 yrs ago, my 500 mirror lens 4 yrs. ago, and my girl's pentax 115 2 yrs. ago. All very cheaply priced, packaged well and arrived quickly. I've had good fortune 3 outta 3. Texas

Bruce Hansen , November 17, 1997; 12:48 P.M.

Another magazine is available besides Shutterbug. Camerashopper(P.O. Box 1086, New Canaan, Ct. 06840, email; camshop@aol.com) is only $20 a year, and their ads only cost 10 cents a word. I have bought many cameras from their ads. Unlike Shutterbug, the magazine is dedicated to used cameras. They have excellent articles about used and collectible cameras. The prices in the ads seem to be a little lower than they are in Shutterbug. I have sold cameras through their ads as well. The best results I've had were from ads that listed items that I want to buy. At 10 cents a word, I can afford to write an ad and I can write it out more thoroughly than I could afford to in Shutterbug.

Thomas R. Vetter , January 22, 1998; 02:57 P.M.

Without rehashing previous letters, I have found B&H to be downright civil lately, though not likely to give free advice. Camera World lately seems to be harried and overwhelmed. For used Nikon stuff, I have found Ritz (Phoenix), Glazer's (Seattle), Thompson (Knoxville) and Charlotte Camera to be good, honest and helpful. Midwest Photo can be a little slippery but quick to haggle, so it pays to know the market (talk to Stu to make a deal).

Burt Gelberg , January 30, 1998; 11:34 A.M.

I must relate a bad experience with B&H Photo. I ordered a Minolta camera from them because of the recommendation from this site. The camera I received was defective right out of the box. I guess that can happen, so I called them and was told to return it to them. Then the trouble started. I returned it Fed-Ex and I know when it was received and who signed for it. However, daily calls to their return department resulted in being told they were too busy to look for the camera, and anyway, it would have to be returned to Minolta for repair. This was unacceptable. I wanted a new camera that worked, because that was what I paid for. After a week of being told they didn't know if the camera was in their return department, I sent a letter to them as well as e-mail to Mr. Posner. I have never received a reply. If this is how they handle customer relations, then I think they need to do some soul searching. I finally had to notify my credit card company not to pay their bill, and I ordered the camera from another store. Be aware that these stores are not always what they claim to be.

Keith McLaren , February 16, 1998; 06:27 P.M.

Although I am in agreement that B&H is an great shop with some great prices, I disagree about Smile being on the "Don't Trust" list. I have never ordered from Smile mail order, but have purchased many items in person from Smile. This shop is the only one of the batch which takes time out to answer questions and assist someone with questions about their products. Although Smile may be a few dollars more, their expert advice is worth the extra money. B&H is honest and has a good price, but the hardly have time to take your credit card number, no less answer a question. Wait on the line around the corner at lunch some day and you will see why.

Also, for good information, check out Wall Street Photo. They will also take time out to answer your question, But they are a little on the more expensive side. You get the service you pay for!

Jeremey H. Spoken , February 17, 1998; 02:11 P.M.

With out a doubt, CCI & Beach Camera are the biggest crooks. If you find an good deal at these store, it is not true. There latest scam is to advertise rock bottom prices on quality merchandise. When you go to order that item, they will try to talk you into a similiar item by a different manufacturer. These other items are usually pieces of junk and they will try to charge as much as twice the list price. If you question them or the item, they will act like your friend and tell you that they will give it to for below cost. This is not true, the price is still way too high for an item of questionable quality. For over a year, Beach Camera has been advertising a Minolta 5400HS for $247. THEY NEVER HAVE IT IN STOCK AND IT IS ALWAYS ON BACK ORDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you do not go with the junk they offer you instead of the item you called for, they will eventually take your order for the item you wanted originally. They will charge your credit card and never even attemt to mail you the item you ordered. Until you call them and cancel your order, they have your money!!

CCI runs the same scam.

Helix camera in Chicago, IL is an excellent place to shop. They are more expensive than B & H, but they are always happy to answer questions. I always buy my low-cost items at Helix.

I have never had a problem with B&H.

-- -- , March 24, 1998; 11:17 P.M.

I had an interesting experience with Del's Camera, Santa Barbara, CA. I bought a 210 Rodenstock 4X5 lens, with shutter, but received it with a press shutter, somewhat less useful than the standard Copal that you can cock and have less chance for camera shake, etc. I did talk to them and they were very clear that I could return it for a full refund... no questions asked. Very informative in the large format arena, and appear to be a bit pricey but honest. Anyone want to trade a standard Copal for a press shutter?

Krystal Knapp , March 25, 1998; 02:23 P.M.

After reading good reviews about B&H, I went there to purchase a Minolta FZE this week. While they are probably not the worst of the lot, my experience was not exactly great. The salesman was not particularly friendly or helpful. The price for the FZE was $165, even though it was listed in the Pop. Photo and their own catalog for less ($139). He said that was becasue it was a different model of the Minolta FZE 28-70 with date stamp, and that the cheaper model did not have many of the features of the expensive one, and that he wasn't even sure they had the cheaper one in stock. I asked to see the manual that comes with the camera and he said they did not have it available and that he didn't understand why when he could answer any questions. When I said I'd take it (I'm leaving this week on vacation and said I'd take the more expensive model - out of sheer frustration and lack of time and the fact that none of these places seems any better) he pulled one right out from the shelves, but I was not allowed to open the box, look etc. until I paid for it up at the register. He also tried to convince me to have it shipped, because I would save a few dollars because of the sales tax. Although I did get it for less than I'd pay here in NJ and the camera works well and all and I would probably even shop there again, the service and attitude were not what I'd expected and I think even with them, you have to be cautious when you read ads listing low prices and find out exactly what you are getting for the price. I don't know if they were more patronizing to me becasue I'm a young woman, or what, but that's how I felt they were.

Krystal Knapp , March 26, 1998; 11:41 A.M.

I just wanted to add, in fairness to B&H, that Henry Posner from B&H contacted me and was very reasonable apologetic etc. etc. and I was very satisfied with how he handled my frustration. I feel that my one not so great experience should not effect me or anyone else going to B&H. In fact, I will go there in the future and, as Mr. Posner pointed out, if I'm having trouble, ask to speak to someone else. This did sound like an isolated expereince and everyone I've talked to at B&H since has been very good, and other people I know, after making inquiries the last few days, have been very satisfied with them. The camera works great, I'm happy with the pictures, and I think this is a great site (along with it's related sites!)

Adam LaPierre , April 08, 1998; 12:35 A.M.

Man do I wish I had seen this page earlier. I got screwed bt those sons-of-bitches at Marine Park. They are very good at the bait and switch...in fact I didn't realize I'd been screwed until my order was placed and it was too late! When I realized I'd been duped I tried to cancel my order...try that one some time! Marine Park has a mysterious "customer service" Manager which is really just a voice mailbox...calls never get returned and letters go unanswered as well. Take it from someone who learned the hard way, DON'T BUY FROM MARINE PARK UNLESS YOU ARE READY TO GET FUCKED!!! Pay more and buy locally if you can...then you can go down to the store and raise hell if you need to...man is my ass sore...

Jodi Miller , April 15, 1998; 10:23 P.M.

In regards to B & H. Ordered 500 sheets of Illford Multigrade Fiber Based Photography Paper from B & H last month. Both Boxes (comes in boxes of 250) had seals on all four sides of box. All were broken. Who knows what shape the paper was in. So sent the whole shipment back and demanded that they replace with boxes that have intact seals. Also wanted them to pay for shipping back to their warehouse. They said ok! But in order to speed up process of getting the new shipment of paper I had to buy a second shipment on the assurance that B & H would credit my account. They credited my Visa minus all shipping charges. I had to call and complain. They credited my Visa again minus the shipping charge I had to pay to get the first set of boxes back to their warehouse. I had to complain again. They credited my Visa again but not full amount of shipping charge I had to pay to ship their boxes back. I had to complain again. I am still waiting for the credit. So, they have cheap paper, bad service if you don't know what you are doing. If you do know what you are doing, you are gambling if you order through them.

Jonathan Byron , May 07, 1998; 01:14 P.M.

Another Scam:

Beware of this mail-order ripoff:

About 12 years ago, I was a photo novice and ordered a Cannon T-70 set... I don't remember which company, but this ploy is common. The "electronic flash" had a chart on the back of and the photographer was supposed to calculate exposure based on distance to the subject, film speed, focal length of the lens and ambient light. But hey, the flash had a transistor inside it, so technically it was electronic. Not the least bit automatic, not able to communicate with my camera, but electronic as promised.

The lens included in the package was a 28-90 zoom from a manufacturer ashamed to put their name on the product. Strange pictures when the lens was close to either extreme of the range.

If you are buying a package, don't assume that you are getting components from the camera manufacturer unless each item is specified. Look for brand i.d. and part numbers.

Gay Burkhart , May 17, 1998; 04:58 P.M.

My most recent encounter with B&H was as close to being pleasant as I have had. Their staff is undoubtedly the rudest, short, sharp-spoken of all. I will say they have dealt with me honestly so if you want fair and thrifty, try B&H, if you want civil, try somewhere else. And, for Pete's sake, don't ask any questions!!!

I love in the Indianapolis area and am blessed to have Roberts Distributers (Paula, Chuck, either of the Mikes). Although I order film from B&H, I have found that it is well worth some little extra to have people who are willing to talk, help and have fun. I have not had an occasion to mail order from them, but can't imagine their being any different.

Eugene Crumpler , June 25, 1998; 02:33 P.M.

Cambridge took an order for an enlarger and did not ship it for a month. At the end of the month, they tried a bait and switch, trying to charge me $200 more for accesories that were supposed to come with the enlarger (Durst). I told them to put the order where the sun don't shine!

I complained in writing to Shutterbug and Pop Photo. I got a post card from Shutterbug acknowledging receipt of my letter. That's it!!

Ordered an Omega C760 XL from B&H. It arrived in TWO days!!!

B&H has all of my business now! Their new professional catalog out in April is a wealth of information on MF and LF and lots of gadgets!

Lee E. Probst , June 27, 1998; 09:56 P.M.

With respect to buying used equipment, KEH is an excellent source. They will probably never be the lowest place around; indeed, they are more likely to be the highest. But, they are honest. I have dealt with KEH over some years now, and I have been completely satisfied. Their ratings of equipment are super-conservative, their sales staff will go out of their way to tell you about any defects they are aware of, snf they will absolutely honor their guarantee. There is, in fact, little risk in buying from KEH. (I have never tried to sell any equipment to them, and I would guess that like most, their offers will be maybe 40% of what they will turn around and ask for the same equipment, but I am speculating.) By all means get their catalog. Unless you are jhooked on new equipment, you will do well to buy items from KEH. (P.S. I do not have any interest in KEH.)

I Krughoff , August 07, 1998; 01:05 A.M.

A visit to NYC would be an eyeopener to many who have posted information about various camera stores. B&H looks like they could convert it to a shoe store in about 25 min. But depite its lack of any photo soul, its neat, easy to navigate, and indeed offers great prices! Film on ice, at the lowest prices!

Wall Street Camera looks there might be several thousand used cameras in a 5'x10' space....it's either a delight or frightening depending on how you like to shop, nothing else like it in the world.

Cambridge will scare you, so will Olden, but there are still some amazing bargains on used equipment at Olden. They both look like they might be going out of business tomorrow, but I promise they will be in business until the apocalypse!

Anyone who stays in some of these stores would find a visit to a war zone comforting.

There are places like Lens and Repro and Ken Hansen Photo that are so wonderful, and so NYC, that you understand why this is still the photo capital of the world.

Hey this is NYC not Peoria....order with care, and have fun.

Ellen Osborne , August 13, 1998; 09:24 P.M.

Well everyone has a zillion nice things to say about B&H. However, I had a different experience. I called them up to order a Nikon 6006. They told me that that model had been dicontinued and I should buy another MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE Nikon. Then, I called J&R. They were out of the 6006 but were getting more in the following week. Then, I called FOCUS Camera. They had 34 in stock and the best price of anyone. I bought one by mail order and had it two days later.

Jana Mullerova , August 21, 1998; 10:31 A.M.

This page is very informative. If American readers of photo.net don't mind making this topic a bit broader (please say if you do mind), I'll appreciate if European readers of photo.net provide experience with mail orders on this our funny old continent. Currently I'm living in Denmark - probably the worst place in the world to buy photo equipment. (Example: Canon lens EF 70-200/2.8 USML. B&H US price $1440, gray market price $1230. The lowest price in Denmark equals $2150. If I order from overseas, I'll pay some 30% duty.)

I want to try TechnikDirekt in Germany or Cyberphoto in Sweden. (No duty within the EU.) Any experience? Other ideas?

Tim Byrd , October 31, 1998; 09:34 A.M.

What a nut. Jay at Giftime Discount Center is a screaming blooming idiot. I called told him to price Pentax ZX-10 with 28-80 Tamron lens in kit with 4 year extended War. He started asking for other prices I already had, and for my credit card number. I told him to quote me a price and he went crazy.What type of operation can Gifttime be running to ask for your credit card number before you even get a price. Stay away from Giftime and That idiot Salesman Jay The Screamer.

David Parmet , December 07, 1998; 01:23 P.M.

I've had some unsettling experiences at both B&H and Adorama. Nothing specific but I guess they seen I'm not in there to buy an F5 so they treat me like I'm not there to buy at all.

I live in Westchester County New York and in the past year, I've pretty much bought everything from a new N90s to misc. darkroom chemicals from Arista Camera of Bronxville. A bunch of nicer guys never sold a lens, trust me.

Gary -- , December 20, 1998; 07:02 P.M.

A negative experience with Adorama: I called the place earlier today to ask them whether they had the P&S camera I was looking for. They said they did, and quoted me a very reasonable price. When I came there a few hours later, they said that they only have the date model of the camera (which was ridiculously more expensive). When I confronted them rehaarding what they told me on the phone, the salesman started being overly defensive and saying that he alone sold 15 cameras today, so maybe they did have it earlier in the day.. He couldn't tell me when they'd be receiving a shipment of new cameras. When I asked to look at the date model, he took it out of the box, but refused to put they battery into it(!) even though the camera came with the battery, which was in the box. I lost several hours going needelessly to the City... quite unpleasant.

Brian Ring , December 24, 1998; 12:00 P.M.

Discovery Cameras in NYC is run by a group of sheisters. I ordered an Elan IIe from them and received the Elan IIe (TWO months later!!!), but with a Sigma 28-80 and 100-300. I had specified only the advertised special USM 28-80. So they gave me inferior lenses and then hit me with an extra $300 charge. I called them and they told me that's what I ordered. Then I sent the Sigmas back and contested the whole event on my credit card. I don't know what the credit card company worked out with them.

The worst part is that I'd called B&H before and compared their best price with the price at Discovery. B&H said they'd match the price, until I told them it was from Discovery. The man on the phone told me that Discovery was not legit, so he couldn't match them. I went with Discovery over a $10 difference. Let me tell you how stupid I feel.

Dana Morrison , January 14, 1999; 03:56 P.M.

I purchased a camera from Camera City (CCI) and they were a rip off. First of all, they overcharged me. Within 2 hours of my purchase I called to rectify the situation and they claimed that the order had already been shipped. To return the order, you are out 15%, plus the 9% that they charge for shipping. What a rip off. I was able to get the same camera with a better lense at Tri State Camera & Video at a lesser price.

Scott Hickman , January 28, 1999; 10:18 P.M.

I found B&H to be very professional and efficient. They had what I wanted in stock and shipped it out the next day at the price I expected. Two days later I received exactly what I wanted.

Daniel Mountin , January 31, 1999; 01:29 A.M.

For used equipment, it can be easy to get ripped off, especially if you're dealing through the mail. Of the advertisers who are regularly in Shutterbug, I can highly recommend two, Cameta Camera in Amity N.Y., and KEH Camera in Dallas, TX (No relation to KEH in Atlanta). I recently bought a complete 4x5 System from Cameta, and it was actually better than advertised. I was quoted a shipping charge, and they actually ate the additional charges, only charging me what they quoted (About $40.00). And, I dealt with the owner, a definite asset. All in all, it was a pleasant experience. As for KEH, I've been buying and selling from them for six years, and I've never had a bad experience with them. Vern, the manager of the store, is a working pro photographer and is always willing to chat, and all of the other employees know their stuff. They are also extremely conservative with their ratings. Many times, equipment I might consider to be be excellent, they've rated as user. And, they've never failed to take back defective equipment (for store credit). KEH/Dallas, TX is a first class outfit, and an outfit you can trust. Hope this helps all of you used buyers.

Marjan Tkavc , February 01, 1999; 01:29 P.M.

I was buying a new camera a few weeks ago. And I found a good on-line shop New York Camera (www.ny-camera.com) from Europe (Germany) with good very low prices and what is even more important an excellent customer support (prompt e-mails, fulfilling special wishes regarding shipping and taxes, multiple language support, fast shipping, etc). I really am satisfied and I recomend them to anyone!!!

Julian Svedosh , February 04, 1999; 12:00 P.M.

In addition to B&H, the following have earned my trust: Wall Street, Cameta, Midwest (in contrast to other's experiences -- mine have all been good, and KEH (although their prices are never low, they sometimes have stuff no one else carries). By the way, the KEH folks in Atlanta indicate that the Dallas store has the same ownership, but independent management.

John Miller , February 04, 1999; 06:01 P.M.

Screwed by Photographic Camera & Video in NYC. I originally placed an order for a Nikon SB-28, The gentleman advised they were out of the import version, however they could sell me a "better" flash @ $249 a Sigma EH-430. He advised this was their better flash for my Nikon N90S. ( fact: they only make one OEM flash) I called back within a hour to cancel after I found the flash for $189. They had already charged and shipped my flash. Shipping was 7% of 249 so $17 to ship a flash via US Mail to Alaska !! It only weights about a pound if that !! So much for priority mail rates. At this time the flash has not arrived, and it's been a week. I did send them a certified letter canceling the order and advised my Visa bank that I will dispute the charges both shipping and flash. So my advice is shop around, Don't be fooled by low prices, check the dealer out if possible. Stay away from these guys !!

Ansel Ho , February 06, 1999; 02:42 A.M.

If you like to argue for your refund, please go "Camera Care at Philadelphia". In fact, they just want your money, but, they don't care about their service and refund policy...REPUTATION!!!. The first time experience that I had was on last May,1998. I requested the refund by using different ways and from different persons. Actually, they(from staffs to manager, Steve) were a tough guy to talk to. And they were impolitely(using foul language) to talk with thier customer. You'd know I tried more than 40 times during a month to talk to these immoral persons for only $480. After 45 days, I believed I had to write a letter to my credit card company to explain this case and ask her to take care this refund. Eventually, I got back my refund...but I will never do a purchase with this "Camera Care...they really don't care" company. The address is: 908 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Phone # is 215-925-7805.

Ansue

James McNalley , February 07, 1999; 12:01 A.M.

I'm just getting into photography, and am not impressed with B&H Photo-Video's walk-in store.

I walked in on Sunday afternoon and found the store packed with people, signs and transparent partitions. I was rather worried that I wouldn't have any time to talk to the salesperson and consider my purchase. Instead, the salesperson was simply uninformative. I wanted to get a wide angle lense for my Pentax ME-Super. The salesdroid recited the Sigma catalog to me, offered no suggestions or advice that I couldn't have found in Sigma's literature or on the web.

On a Sunday afternoon in late December, I walked into a photo shop in a mall in Oregon. There place was prety sleepy despite the pre-Christmas rush taking place in the rest of the mall. It was a much more relaxed environment, a place where I could escape from the mad rush of the rest of the mall. The salesperson I spoke to told me about the Nikon vs. Cannon debate (at that time, I was thinking of getting a new AF body, didn't know my dad wasn't using his Pentax anymore) and even suggested that a large format camera would also be an interesting place to start (the store didn't carry any large format equipment, but he named another store which did).

As a beginner who is still learning a lot, I like to get my hands on things before I buy them. A local camera shop seems to be the way to go. Unfortunately, B&H Photo-Video is now my local camera shop. The one new equipment guy I spoke with was no more helpful than a printed catalog. Unfortunately, local camera shops don't tend to carry much more than a few of the most popular cannon/pentax/nikon/minolta bodies and a handful of lenses.

In conclusion, B&H had a very impressive stock of equipment, but the customer service was only pleasant. Any of the local (small) camer shops I've been to have had far more informative employees.

Hao Wang , February 08, 1999; 05:22 P.M.

I agree with James' comments about B&H. I was there this past Sunday and it was packed with people. I was hoping that I can play with a few SLRs I have chosen for my first camera and I only got about 10 minutes on a Canon and a Nikon (that's body only). However, I think this might have something to do with the fact that they are closed on Saturday so people who has the weekend off can only go visit the store on Sunday. I will stop by there one more time during weekdays see if I have a better luck.

Maurice Weed , February 17, 1999; 06:27 P.M.

I live in Texas and have purchased several (lost count when I include pt & shoots) cameras and lenses from B&H in New York during the past six years, the last being a Canon EOS1n in '99. They get an A++ (my highest) from me. Once I got past the NYC accent and style, I did fine. Second choice is Camera World of Oregon, but they do not trade and will sometimes"lean on" you with some sells. My one serious BAD experience (had to mention a lawyer!) was with SMILE PHOTO. Caveat emptor big time folks. Maurice Weed

Michael Edelman , February 23, 1999; 12:03 P.M.

Why I'm not particularly impressed with Adorma:I was in a small camera shop in the Detroit area yesterday when a fellow from Adorama dropped in on what looked to be a buying trip. He was dressed rather shabbily (other than the embroidered "Adorama" shirt) and driving a cheap rental car, and spent a lot of time looking aorund the store, much to the amusement of the shop owner. After a while he started making inquiries about a certain camera. You care asking how much? Ah. Interesting. At that point he whipped out his cell phone and dialed what we were supposed to think was a call back to the office. "Hello, this is (name deleted to protect guilty). Do we have any of (camera name)? Oh, we have two? I didn't know that. So we don't need one? Yes. Thank you." Well, I spent some time in retail dealing with guys like this, and the shop owner hadn't exactly just fallen off the turnip truck, either. For one thing, we both know you have to dial more than seven numbers to call New York City from Detroit ;-) So I shot a gesture to the shop owner- the universal signfor "he's jacking you around"- and said owner, who was already close to cracking up, had to turn around to keep from laughing out loud. This little play having been completed, Mr. Adorama left noting he'd be back the next day. He'll no doubt come in saying well, you know, we don't really need that camera, but I'll offer you (ridiculously low price) and maybe I'll buy that opne, and that one... I'm just sorry I won't be there to watch what happens next ;-)

Michael J. Kravit , February 23, 1999; 03:03 P.M.

Recently I called Cambridge Camera Exchange to get a price and "possibly" order a new lens. They told me they do not quote prices over the phone. I would have to shop around and then they will beat the lowest price I received.

I called back, they beat B&H by $5. Told me the item was in stock and proceeded to add $40 in shipping charges onto a UPS ground order. Now, considering that UPS only charges $5 for the shipping these guys are not really beating the B&H price.

Buyer beware, I thanked them and moved on.

Harry Saddler , February 24, 1999; 04:24 P.M.

Another warning about Photographic Photo in NYC. I ordered some stuff, the clerk was very nice, and accepted my request for 2nd-day air; I called 2 days later for a tracking number and... the whole thing is back-ordered 4-6 weeks! Bastards! Given his reaction on the phone, it's clear this is standard practice with them. I instantly called my credit-card company, and the creeps (Photographic Photo) hadn't yet charged it... but I'm planning on extreme vigilance for a while.

Anan Lapsuksatit , February 26, 1999; 12:54 P.M.

Just want to add a comment for www.cameraworld.com The best shopping web I ever seen. Recently I bought a sunpak 355AF, $54.99 from www.camera.com It disappointed me with the quality of the product, but I found out something very interesting. I got an email from its president giving me, as an existing customer (from SUnpak $54.99), a promotional code for 10% off for everything on the web, even the already discounted one. Wonderful....!!

The code is good until the valentine's day, and I ended up with more than $6,000 order, including 2 Nikon F5 for $1754.99 each. Absolutely US warrantee, AF-S 80-200mm F/2.8 (the new one) for $1,349. Moreover, the shipping is free..... I saved morethan $600 for my order..

Its web is very convenient to search, well organized, and updated very often. I give 9 out of 10 for it. (the 1 left is due to the poor order checking status which is not automatic)

Their customer service is very nice, even difficult to reach sometimes. (I used to wait on the line for more than 10 minutes)

What I'm really surprised and I have to give Cameraworld "Excellent Award" is that they credit me back for the Sunpak 355AF, I returned by regular mail without any tracking number. ( I asked my friend to ship it for me and I forgot to tell him to use the shipping with tracking number) They can just ignore my return and say they never seen any box returned back, but they are honest. At first, I thought that I lost this flash in the mail already...

To sum up, I believe www.cameraworld.com is the best online shopping web on earth. Their site is very cool. Their prices are reasonable, and with the promotional code, unbelievable.

I wish I will get another promotional code from them again. (Hope they don't cut me off the list since I bought too much)

Today, I just placed a $2,000 order with B&H. I had to order B&H because Cameraworld doesn't have grey market. This order is for my friend going back to his home country, so the grey is the best deal. I'll tell you more once I got my order.

PS F90x I just ordered from B&H is $710, higher than $674.99 (with promotional code that is not available any more). I'm so sad that I didn't order with cameraworld before Valentine's day and get the US-warrantee at the lower price..

Andy Baird , March 06, 1999; 06:19 P.M.

"The 'electronic flash' had a chart on the back of and the photographer was supposed to calculate exposure...But hey, the flash had a transistor inside it, so technically it was electronic. Not the least bit automatic, not able to communicate with my camera, but electronic as promised."

Any flash that uses a xenon tube instead of a disposable flashbulb is electronic by definition. An electronic flash doesn't necessarily have automatic exposure, TTL metering or any other advanced features. It's unfair to slam a dealer for perpetrating a "scam," when in fact the problem is the purchaser's unrealistic expectations.

Hokie Bird , March 07, 1999; 03:43 A.M.

This is a nice site from which I've learnt a lot helpful info. Now I just want to throw my 2 cents here on the mail-order services provided by some camera stores in NYC.

About a week ago, I's gonna buy a new Nikon FM2 body. So I started to call several camera stores in NYC, including (in alphabetical sequence) B&H, Cambridge, CCI Camera City, Coast To Coast, Discovery, Focus, Smile, TriState, 21st Century, and some others. What happened to me was almost exactly like some folks have written here on this page, when they first quote you, they will throw a very attractive price to you in order to drag you into the door; but as soon as you're ready to place the order (or even worse -- after you've provided your credit card number to them), there almost always will be some kinda girmicks coming up, eihter the just-quoted price has become "grey-market" one which is "unfortunately" out of stock at this moment (or not covered by any warranty) and you'll have to go with something more expensive, or the just-quoted price has become "doesn't include this accessory/function" or "that accessory/function". Among all the gimicks, the worst (maybe "the most imaginative") came from Coast To Coast. The "saleman" with the company, he's called Kenny (or something like that), he quoted me for $327 on the FM2 body in the first place and kinda immediately started to push me for placing an order by using my C/C, which made me pretty suspicious about his motive. I guess I've been pretty stupid through my life but just NOT at that moment. I told him I'd be driving to the store on the weekend to pay cash over the counter (as I'm living not too far away from the Big Apple). As soon as he heard that, he asked me to hold on a minute and then walked away from the phone. Later he came back telling me, "Sorry sir, the price I just gave to you was for Niknon FM2, which is now out of stock. But we've got FM2N here, the price is a bit higher, but this model is a lot better." I asked how much then, he said that's gonna be $430 ($100 more!!!). I then asked, "So can you tell me what's the difference between FM2 and FM2N?" He said, "Oh, there are some big differences. Say, FM2's top shutter speed is only 1/2000, its top synch speed is only 1/125, plus it's shutter is not all metal." -- WHAT A BULLS**T!!! The only difference between FM2 and FM2N is the material used for their shutters -- FM2 uses titanium while FM2N aluminium alloy -- all the rest exactly the same. I just felt I couldn't trust the store at all, not even to mention doing any business. Always trying to play gimicks with customers, I guess this probably is the major reason most of the stores have become hesitant whenever I told them I'd be coming to the store in person and check out the products by myself. Among the above-mentioned stores, the ONLY exception is B&H, which sounded to me like a fairly decent dealership. Their phone direction system was clear and efficient, which connected me pretty quickly to the right person who turned out to be a fairly nice guy; while other stores' phone lines were all playing "1-800-HANG-ON" game with me (more or less, well). The quotes (both "grey-market" and USA, but they told me frankly about it in the first place) given by B&H were actually a bit higher than most of the others (say Coast To Coast, CCI Camera City, etc.); however, they asserted I could drop by anytime during their business hours and would get that genuine product I's asking for at exactly the quoted price with no problem whatsoever. No any other above-mentioned store even had the guts to say a word like that, NOT EVEN ONE.

My conclusion: 1. Can you possibly land a real bargain (compared to your local) on many good products in those camera stores in NYC? The answer is "Yes". 2. Does this always and necessarily happen? This answer is "No". Based on my limited but first-hand experience, you'd better use two brains and keep your hands on your pockets while dealing with most of them. Rule of thumb: Try to stay away from those "too-good-to-be-true" quotes. There is no way for those dealers to survive in this industry while underselling by 20-40% compared to the mainstream. Hope this helps a bit. Good luck to y'all.

Jostar W. , March 15, 1999; 01:24 A.M.

As an amateur, I bought my first camera by looking through the pupular and photographic. The first store I dealt with was PHOTOGRAPHIC PHOTO&VIDEO, INC (NY). Because I never knew about sigma lens, so they convinced me that Sigma lens are better than Nikons. I bought $700 package from them include 2 sigma lens. Later on, I found out that the lens was just $100 a piece, but I bought them for $200 a piece. Finally, I returned them and 've got the charged of $200, after an every day-whole week of non 800 called. !!!their minimum restocking fee was raised from 5% to 20%!!!! the sale you must avoid were ! RUTE and BOB. Nevertheless their s&h always 7%, too. So, I went on and searched for a cheap N90, SMILE PHOTO & VIDEO seemed to be the one. First, thing they do when you call is they will raise the price at least $10-20 but it isn't stop there. I ordered the n90 - I think I was posted at $699. Then, they raised $20 bucks. After, I told the the card# they tell me $30 s&h. So, after all I bought the camera at the cost of B&H!!! Now, I want to up grade my camera, so I order F5 from AAA and that was the worst experience. The price in catalog was $1699. When I told him the card#, he ask me if i want to buy viewfinder!!! I didn't know what get in my head but I did say yes. So,now the total become $1998.95. I called B&H after the order, and found out that viewfinder always come with camera (there price was $1800). I called back to AAA but they hung up!! I called them for 2 weeks for cancel but got rejected. So right now I let the VISA deal with them -(don't know what gonna happen). Just avoid this store, the guy name Reed and RUDY- I think both are indian. Finally, I bought F5 from my friend. And bought lens from B&H. They charge $19 s&h for $900 item on 3day delivery. I stop look at the cheap ad. ever since. What can you do when half of your photo mag full of junk. The rated mark from popular photo? they are all freak.

Robert Gilbert , March 20, 1999; 08:08 P.M.

For pretty darn low prices, Focus Camera is a good alternative - Just make sure you order via USPS if you live in a rural town where only a chipmunk is there to sign for (or steal) your package. They ship via UPS with signature REQUIRED. This means that if you have to work for a living and no-one can be bothered to sign for you, you will not get what you order, and chances are UPS will lose it. The salesmen are rude and aggressive, but they have just about everything listed on their page (www.focuscamera.com) and can save you quite a bit on grey market stuff.

Sean Varley , March 22, 1999; 10:23 P.M.

It seems like everybody has had good and bad experiences at the same places. I tried to walk in to those stores in NYC to get my first camera 15 years ago, and the experience was so frightening, I had to leave. I did mail order it (can't remember which shop) and got exactly what I ordered, on time, so it does happen.

My second camera and two more lenses came from the local camera shops here in Singapore. The prices are a little higher than the mail order prices, but I cannot tell you what a relief it is to actually hold the equipment in your hand before shelling out hundreds on a lens or camera body.

The thing I don't understand is the grey market warranty on Nikon equipment. I bought my F70 here and it has a world wide warranty (yes, even in the USA). There is a warranty card, with the dealers stamp, and Nikon USA will honor it.

I mail ordered a camera for my father in law this past Christmas, and instead of the N60 I ordered, I got a F60. They claim they substituted the international model as a favor to me since the credit card billing address is in Singapore (never mind that the shipping address was to the USA, and the camera was a gift for someone living in the USA) Visa is working on that one for me. The thing I don't understand is that they say it comes with an international warranty that is still valid in the USA, but the warranty card is missing, so I have to question the validity. They claim that their invoice is suitable. Talk about a bait and switch!

Anyway, from my experience (and it is periodically supported by Pop Photo articles) you absolutely have to steer clear of their stupid battery/filter/strap/case/ offers, or anything remotely resembling a kit that does not explicitly state model numbers of all components. I am convinced they sell camera bodies at close to cost, and make their profit on support items and shipping. Not to mention shoddy service.

I guess sometimes you just have to pay a little more and go with the local camera store. You just can't beat the service and peace of mind.

Karl -- , March 23, 1999; 07:12 P.M.

Notice the link below to Beach camera--then click on the guy who entered it and notice his email domain. Interesting

Cassandra Kenfield , March 28, 1999; 08:31 P.M.

Since New Orleans is such a mecca for tourism, I thought it would be helpful to add a warning about the shops on Canal Street. They have been "outed" a number of times by local news people, and share the old "bait and switch" and "black-to-grey market" practices of the worst of the NY ripoffs. My own experience when I lived in NO was that I went into one of them once (I forget which) and had asked some "tricky" questions about prices and warranties and had a rude and obscene remark made by the salesperson..naively, I asked for the mgr, who came out, got more obscene and told me to get out or they would tell the police that I was trying to shoplift! (I am a nice, well-dressed, reasonably middle-to-upper-middle class lady..for whatever that's worth!) Scary, n'est-ce pas? Add this sort of customer service to the rest of it and I would suggest that you STAY AWAY from any electronics shop on lower Canal STreet! Check with the local BBB for recommendations or with the French Quarter Business Association for camera supply shops!

Sandra Verdavoir , April 08, 1999; 09:46 P.M.

I just wanted to warn all of you who are looking to buy camera equipment not to even consider PHOTOGRAHIC PHOTO &VIDEO unless you enjoy getting screwed. I ordered a Canon Rebel G with a 28-200mm Tamron lens from them and have been fighting with them ever since. I ordered out of an ad in Popular Photography and when I called they immediately took the price up $30 stateing that the price advertised was a rebate that had expired. I was going on vacation and was anxious to get a camera so I agreed with their price. I asked if the 1 yr USA Warranty that was advertised was a Canon USA warranty and Morris assured me that it was. I then asked if it was in stock because I wanted it right away. Morris checked and said it was. I requested next day shipping as advertised and was quoted a $30 price for shipping. To make a long story short after many hours on hold and discussing my dissatisfaction with Brad at Customer Service, I received my camera( a European version) 4 days later with a $70 shipping charge. When I called and spoke to Brad again he told me in order to get the Rebel G I would have to pay $10 more plus shipping plus a $70 restocking fee. I was furious and said I was just sending everything back. He said I could not send it back because he refused to give me a Return Authorization # and hung up on me. So much for "26 day Satisfaction Guaranteed". I have sent everything back and I'm not disputing the charge with my insurance company. I have never in my life been treated so badly by a company in my life. And I thought Customer Service was created to provide customer satisfaction! LOL

Jeff Harville , April 10, 1999; 10:24 P.M.

I have bought lots of camera gear from B&H over the past 3 years. I have had no problems at all. Sometimes they will be extra friendly, but when I place orders from them I always know what I want and what I want to pay. They tell me if it is in stock and how much the shipping is. I would recommend them to anyone who needs pro gear and knows exactly what they want. I have used Calumet Photographic, they are very friendly and very willing to answer your questions. They will send you any information that you request. I would recommend them to anyone also. They both are great places to buy pro film.

Fred Keene , April 15, 1999; 02:50 P.M.

I was shopping for a particular Minolta camera which was listed in the PopPhoto add of Cambridge Camera Exchange with CALL instead of a price. When I called their listed 800 number a guy answered with "What's your order". When I asked for the price of the camera he curtly told me to call a 212 number which is long distance for me. When I called that number and asked for the price the conversation went:

CAMBRIDGE: Yes!

ME: What is your price of the Minolta ....

CAMBRIDGE: Why don't you look in our add.

ME: The add says Call and that's what I'm doing.

CAMBRIDGE: Just come into the store.

ME: I live in Virginia and it's a long walk

CAMBRIDGE: We don't carry that camera any more

ME: I'm glad because I would never order from you

I then called Camera World of Oregon, and talked with a very courteous saleman who answered all my questions, after which I ordered the camera.

From this experience, Cambridge is the last place in the world that I would buy from. How do these guys stay in business?

Mario Giberti , April 18, 1999; 05:08 P.M.

Well, it was a lot of work, but with any luck, I just saved $225-$280 by mail ordering an Elan IIE QD system (28-105 USM lense, 380EX flash, BP 50 grip) from NYC compared to buying from my local camera shop. First I called Family Photo. They must be new, because no one I can see mentioned them in these posts. They tried to bait and switch me. Their gray market camera and lense were from Malasia. I told him I didn't care, ( from posting I know Canon USA would honor the warranty.) The clincher was that he wanted me to buy a Sigma lense instead of the 28-105 USM Canon and he wanted to charge me $25 MORE!!! He said the warranty was only for a month! I knew this was bullshit, all you need is the camera and the receipt to get a 1 yr warranty service from Canon, from what posting I have seen. I said no thanks, just ship me the gray market. He then said that the gray market camera and lense would be drop shipped from Malasia, expect a 5-6 wk wait! At the beginning of the call he said the Canon camera and lense were in stock. I told him no thanks. I called Abe's, where I was told that the lense was grey market with no warranty, but the camera body was US. I probably should have bought it, knowing Canon would honor the waranty with the sales receipt. I called Focus, and paid about $80 more total, but was told this was all USA equipment. Their shipping was a flat $22.50, which was $15-$50 less then the shipping charges that I was quoted elsewhere. We will see what comes in the mail. My credit card company is very good about taking off charges. Focus was rude, wanting credit card numbers before discussing price, or even what I wanted! They would not give me a final total. They answer their phone "Hello", as if they have more then one business operating from that location. The guy was kind of pissed when I wouldn't buy a battery.

The rebate thing is very misleading. They will show $359 for the camera body, and when you call it is $389, as they have netted out a $30 rebate you have to send in. But if the lense is grey market, you will never get that rebate! They know this, yet lie. Will advise of future outcome! MJ

Marcus Wilson , April 19, 1999; 02:23 P.M.

I had a strange experience in New York about two years ago when I went to see some of these camera stores. I was looking to buy a 20-35mm EOS lens and I went into one store (I can't remember the name) and was getting the runaround about how the lens needed a filter and the price was 20 percent more than what was in the ad, etc. At this point I received a message on my cell phone and while reaching for it I uncovered my pistol (I worked as a part-time private detective then). I took the call walking away from the counter. I told my friend on the phone where I was and you could here a pin drop! When I ended my call I went back to the counter and guess what? While I had been on the phone the prices had changed back to those in the ad! I didn't need a filter, and the U.S. Warranty -- from the manufacturer -- was included in the price. There had been a mistake. To make up for it the "manager" was going to take another five percent off the normal price. I told them no thanks. I had all the information I needed and that some of my associates would be around to talk to them about some legal matters. I can't say for sure, but they looked kind of worried when I left. I wanted to look back, but I was trying to keep from laughing.

The next store I went to, before I went in I stood outside and pretended to make a call, and made a big showing of trying to adjust my weapon. Needless to say when I entered the store I had a most pleasant time and was offered "unannounced bargains and discounts."

It's one of those things that make you say, "Hmmmmm!"

Marcus J.

Jeff Silvey , April 20, 1999; 02:24 P.M.

I had a negative experience with AAA Camera. I was looking for a Leica M6 TTL with .85 view finder so, like most people, I called around and checked prices. After some haggling I found that AAA Camera had the best "gray market" prices so I placed the order. I quickly found that the reason AAA had the lowest prices were because AAA doesn't ship what you order. AAA Camera has a new twist on the old "bait and switch" they take your order and then they send you some cheaper product. In my case they shipped me the Leica M6 TTL and .72. view finder, a nice enough camera, but the wrong camera. I ordered and paid for the Leica Ever-Ready Case 'M', they shipped some cheap off-brand camera bag. I ordered and paid for a Leica UV filters and I didn't receive any filters. I should also mention that all the prices charged on the lens, filter, grip, case, and flash where all rounded up to some higher amount ($249.00 to $249.95) than originally quoted. When I called AAA Camera to return the items, that I didn't order, they to tried to charge me a $507. restocking fee. Yes it's amazing, you order one thing and AAA sends you something else and then they want to charge you to take it back. And let me also tell you, I faxed, called and e-mailed them plenty. Phone calls didn't get me anywhere, all they did was put me on eternal hold. I turned it over to my credit card company for dispute resolution. I also wrote the editors of Popular Photography magazine so that they are aware of the questionable business practices of their advertisers. Maybe they will adopt a minimum standard for advertisers. I will never deal with AAA again. If you have to deal with AAA, do it only in person, inspect the goods before you pay for them, and take immediate possession. AAA did finally give me a Return Authorization (RA) number and did agree to take it back without a restocking fee, but not without some pain and suffering on my part. A Mr. Link was the guy who finally gave me the RA number, so if you're having the same problem ask for him and by-pass the rest. Just thought you should know.

Walter Burkett , April 26, 1999; 10:09 P.M.

I am collecting examples of improper and deceitful experiences customers have had with purchasing camera equipment from AAA Camera Exchange located in New York. This information will be presented to the attorneys General of New York and to Popular Photography. A possible class action lawsuit may be filled based on the information generated. Please send them to me ASAP. I will include you in the suit if it occurs and with your permission.

W Burkett Jr.

WBurkett@ibm.net

Earl Grey , May 02, 1999; 11:19 A.M.

I just wanted to comment on Family Photo. I called them today and found out that they are rude and not clear in answering my questions. I asked them for the price of few Canon lenses and they gave me the prices and asked for my credit card number. When I said that I did not say I was going to buy, they hanged up. I don't understand how these people get a check mark from Popular Photography magazine!

D. A. Karp , May 11, 1999; 09:50 P.M.

Avoid "Camera City" (http://www.ccicameracity.com/) at all costs. They are thieves and liars, to put it delicately.

First of all, I've called several times to verify their prices and availability, and have gotten different shipping information every time. I've determined that they calculate the shipping based on how much of a break they're giving you on your purchase. For example, they offered to cut $60 off the price of a Nikon body & lens (as an incentive to buy), only to then raise the shipping charges by $90. They actually wanted a total of $140 to ship three pounds of merchandise to me.

There's more. I called to buy a lens they had advertised on their web site. After I had given them my shipping and billing information, I was informed that the lens (a brand new, non-gray market Nikkor) actually had plastic elements, and a serious photographer such as myself would be a fool not to prefer the "glass" version. This upgrade would cost me $130 more, which he tried fervently to sell me. He all but refused to sell me the so-called "plastic" version. When I obviously wouldn't be coerced, I was then informed that the shipping (reported to be no more than $30 at the beginning of the call) would now be $140 (no lie). Can you guess how many "versions" of that lens they really had?

Even with the inflated shipping charges, if you think you're getting a good deal, note that shipping is non-refundable. So when you've paid $75 to ship a $400 Nikkor lens, which turns out to be a Mikor, and want to return it, you'll only get back $380 (they have a 5% restocking fee). In case your math is bad, you'd be out $95.

It was an interesting experiment, but luckily, they didn't get a penny of my money. Anyway, beware, or get ripped off.

Gib Robinson , May 12, 1999; 12:47 P.M.

For photographers interested in either new or used Leica equipment, there are some knowledgeable dealers who specialize in Leica. The three individuals listed below are people I've dealt with and trust. They know the equipment and can tell you in detail the differences between apparently comparable items such as lenses of the same focal length and speed but from different generations or camera bodies (especially important in Leica R equipment). In my experience these folks are reliable, honest, and fair. Their prices tend to be lower than the larger dealers (like KEH, Tamarkin, etc). In some cases, way lower. If they don't have the lens you crave (perhaps a used 400mm f/6.8 telyt made after 1984 in ex+ condition with perfect glass), they can notify you when one comes in.

Don Chatterton 253-549-7900. http://www.donchatterton.com

Jim Kuehl: 515-225-0110, 515-226-0295 (fax) 8527 University Blvd, Suite 9, Des Moines, IA 50325

Sam Shoshan: 888-534-2272 or 203-334-2272, Fax :203-384-2545. http://www.classicconnection.com

Sunil Patel , May 16, 1999; 12:08 P.M.

AVOID CCI Camera at all costs!

I wanted to place an order for a Canon 540EZ Flash unit and a Sigma 28-80 Lens. The guy took all my info including cc number and then tried to convience me that I should get a Tamron lens instead. Then he told me that the flash is made in Tawain and the Japanese unit would cost 25 dollars more. He said shipping is 15% of the order and I can't cancel the order since he had my number. He wanted to charge me a restocking fee. He was extremely rude and asked why am I wasting his time also.

Ronald Buchanan , May 24, 1999; 10:49 P.M.

after reading about the frustration and bad experiences that have been related here, just wanted to pass along the name of a camera store that I have recently had a good experience with "Classic and Used Cameras" (at www.classic-cameras.com). The store seems to be the semi-retirement, internet-only operation of a gentleman named Bill Green.

About 3 months ago I was preparing to go on my honeymoon and wanted a simple, manual camera to shoot 35mm b&w. Mr. Green sold me a Fed 5. He warned me about the spotty quality control of Russian cameras, but assured me that if it worked it would take fine pictures.

I played with the camera enough to figure out how it worked, only to find that it didn't work when you loaded film (the shutter-cocking, film winding mechanism tended to become de-coupled). Anyway, about 3 weeks later I returned and decided to call Bill. I assumed that I would get to pay a restocking fee as I was outside his stated time limit for a no questions asked returned. Mr. Green said that he would be pleased to take the camera back and give me a full refund (minus shipping, fair enough). I was prepared to just take credit towards another camera he had in stock (a Yashicamat). He also offered me a reasonable price for another old camera that I had lying around (and gave me no trouble about it after he received it). When I received the 'Mat it was exactly as he had described. (He also doesn't overcharge for shipping.)

So please drop by his site sometime, he doesn't have a large stock, but if he has what you want, I wouldn't hesitate to deal with him.

Jack Yau , May 28, 1999; 12:52 A.M.

For used cameras, lenses and other photo gear I highly recommend Cameta Camera. Their sales staff is friendly, and will answer any questions you may have. They are also low pressure, if an item that you are looking for has been sold, either you can ask them for an equivalent item in the same price & quality range or they may suggest another item to you, but at no time have I ever felt pressured to make a purchase. I have bought several cameras and lenses from Cameta and have been completely satisfied with my purchases. Their product descriptions and quality rating is very accurate. Cameta has also implemented a "new arrival" email mailing list, so that you can keep track of their latest offerings. Another thing that Cameta has going for them is that they are open 7 days a week, unlike other New York camera stores. They also have a 6 month mechanical repair warranty on parts and labor for ALL of their used camera equipment. Does this sound like I'm really rooting for this camera outfit? You bet it does, I haven't had one complaint about them. You can find Cameta on the web at www.cameta.com or call them at (516) 691-1190 (I wish they had a toll free number though).

Brian Aderer , May 29, 1999; 03:48 P.M.

If cameras treated you like camera stores did:

I'm sorry sir, but I can't autofocus that image. But, for an extra 50.00 I can automatically switch you to manual focus. No??!! -click, dial tone-

What? You turned on the metering but you don't wanna take a picture?!?! -click, dial tone-

Sorry, I don't have a working shutter button in stock at that price. Try again later. -click, dial tone-

I like my local store WB Hunts. Prices are a little higher, but when I can pay them I do.

Chris Costello , June 01, 1999; 06:08 P.M.

Ritz Camera has always been good to me. They have never pushed the most expensive camera on me, but the most useful one ... and after I bought it, and I had problems they fixed it without even asking for a receipt. Very classy.

Chris

Alex Tarlavsky , June 04, 1999; 02:15 P.M.

Just got a package from B&H Photo. I have ordered Canon EOS Rebel 2000 with 28-105 USM Canon zoom and BP-200 battery pack. Quoted camera price $259, the same as on the web site. Quoted price for the lens is $249, $30 less then on the web site. I wanted to by gray market lens, but they dont have them in stock. Battery pack wasnt listed on the web so, I did ask for it. Price for BP-200 is $30, comparable to what others can offer. I did place an order through their web site, no problem. While placing an order decided to by UV filter, and added it to the order list. Got e-mail order confirmation next day. Filter not listed, in a footnote they say: Items not listed are no longer available. Have to be smart next time and request e-mail confirmation for everything I need before placing an order. E-mail order confirmation came next day. Shipping charges were $9.70 for FedEx Saver. Goods were delivered on a third day after placing the order. My overall experience with them can be rated 9+.

Shop online, but beware of penguins ;)

Alex.

Hamilton Yuen , June 05, 1999; 09:04 P.M.

Photographic Photo and Video should be avoided.

A week ago I was shopping for a Canon Elan II outfit. I called them up and the sales guy wanted me to buy the new version of the 28-80 lens (USM V) instead of (USM IV). So I asked what the difference is, he said USM V has better optics, faster and quieter. He said it will be 60 dollars more. I didn't trust him so I hung up. Then I called B&H only to find out that there's essentially no difference between the 2 versions, only difference is the cosmestics.

What a fucking liar that guy at Photographic was!

I ended up buying my Canon kit from Camera World of Oregon. $14 for shipping and I had my shipment in 3 days. Excellent service.

My advice is that unless you wanna take the risk of agonizing over these cunning business practices, you are better off dealing with someone who charge more but with better reputation. It ain's worth it.

Michael Cunningham , June 09, 1999; 04:38 P.M.

I have had great experiences with buying from ritz camera stores although I am not picking up professional level 35mm equipment. It is still decent equipment. I cant get into talking with sales droids over the phone about cameras. I like to hold all the things I am buying in my hands before laying down big bucks. Once I used B&W to pick up a ikelite video camera housing and I had a great experience but I would have bought it from a shop if it wasnt such a specility item.

Mike

J Viray , June 11, 1999; 01:04 A.M.

Hmm, Cameras West in Seattle was OK. As are most local stores. But I bought a used A2e for only $50 more than an Elan IIe. Turns out that if I had used that money at B&H or CWO, I would have been able to get a new A2e with 28-105 lens. When I asked if some sort of compensation was possible, they became very hostile and finally when I ceded to their demands I ended up losing more money. If you are reading this then you are on your first step to real photography. Get a real tripod and primes. If only I could do it over...

James Hicks , June 16, 1999; 01:23 P.M.

I want to add a positive comment about B&H. I bought a used Canon 200 2.8L from them a few months ago for what was a very reasonable price. Without telling me, they included the hardcase for the lens - which was very nice of them. Also, the lens had been serviced by Canon and B&H included the paperwork with the lens.

In other words, they went out of their way to include items I didn't expect. That's customer service.

OBTW - it's a wonderful lens.

Will Crawford , June 19, 1999; 11:30 P.M.

I just noticed the comment in the main text about Calumet's "lame" web site. This was certainly true until recently, but my latest Calumet catalog had a promo for their new site at http://www.calumetphoto.com. I logged on and found a complete e-commerce site selling everything in their catalog. It's still a little hard to find things just by browsing, but the search mechanism is very good. I just ordered a bunch of film and two rolls of seamless backing paper (107"). I got an immediate order confirmation with the name of an actual sales representative (and a reply-to header that forwarded responses to him). I'd mistyped my phone number so I sent him a note about that and got an immediate (and polite) personal response, followed a few minutes later by a shipping confirmation.

A very impressive online shopping experience. We'll see what shape things are in when they get to me after a few days in the care of UPS. (Looking back on this comment a few months later, I can report that they were shipped the morning after I ordered them and arrived a few days later in excellent condition.)

I've always liked B&H's web site for the catalog listings, but find their lack of on-line ordering support unpleasant. I've also had some very so-so telephone conversations with B&H sales reps, including a guy in the studio lighting department who was actively rude.

sasha eysymontt , June 27, 1999; 10:21 P.M.

I have to add another positive comment about B+H. I live in New York, and fortunately work close to the store, so I have the opportunity to drop in quite frequently. Last week, I decided to splurge on a Hasselblad 500c kit, with 80mm Planar lens and A12 back -- $1400 dollars with tax, for a rated 8+ camera. After about 5 days of using the camera, and generally being happy with it, I was offered a 500cm from a friend of mine with a T* lens for 1300. I went back to B+H today, spoke to the same gentleman in the used department (whose name I don't recall, unfortunately). He took back the return with no questions asked, and said that he hoped the 500cm worked out well for me.

Really nice guy, and a pleasurable experience in general. In the many times that i've been in there, the worst complaint that I can register is semi-gruff service occasionally... but hey, it's NY :)

-s

Matthew Castaneda , July 15, 1999; 12:29 A.M.

I am having a bad, or as I have been reading, a typical experience with AAA Cameras.

Here are excerpts from my experience bear in mind I was calling about once a day:

On June 16, 1999 I ordered a Black Nikon FM2n. At the time I was told that it would be a 7 to 10 day period for delivery.

I called them on Tuesday June 22 to make sure the order was being processed and to see when I might expect delivery. I was told by Philip that it was shipped on the 21st and that I should have it by the 23rd.

The 23rd came and went and no camera. I waited until the 25th then called back to see where the camera was and was told again by Philip that it should have been there already and he would put a trace on the package, I was told it went by U.S.Express Mail.

I called again on the 29th and told Philip that the shipment had not arrived, he said that if nothing came in by the 1st of July he would send another Fed-Ex.

I called on the 1st and told Philip there was no shipment yet, he said he would send one Fed-Ex that evening.

On the 2nd nothing came in so I called to get a tracking number and was told by Jerry that Philip was off for the holiday and that the "Shipping Dept" was closed for the holiday and that he could not look up how it was shipped and that I should call back on the 6th and ask for Jerry and he would help me.

July 6th, I called and asked for Jerry and was given to Phillip who told me he would send out a Fed-Ex that day and when I asked for a tracking number he said that he did not have one yet but that the shipment should be there tomorrow (the 7th).

On July 8th I called again and was given to Frank who said that no Fed-Ex went out and "To be honest with you I don't have a black one in stock, I have a chrome on but the black one should be coming in any day" I should call him on Monday the 12th to see if they had come in yet.

On the 12th I called and talked to Frank and again was told that the black one had not yet come in and that I should call him at the end of the week.

On the 14th the first thing I did was call my credit card people and start dispute proceedings, since no delivery or shipment has been made the process is on my side, not to mention the fact that I called them almost every day to try and resolve the situation and that they stated that at the most delivery would be made in 7 to 10 days and that it had been almost 30 days.

I then called AAA and a person calling himself Mr. Green said he would be handling my case and that he was on the suppliers for having shipped two chrome FM2ns and not one of each and that I should call on Monday the 19th to see if a black one had come in.

I don't know what they think I am going to do just go away and let them have my money or maybe let them ship something I did not order and charge me to take it back?? I'm not sure what to do should I cancel the order since no shipment has been made or just wait for the dispute process to take its course??

Bill Akata , July 16, 1999; 06:04 A.M.

I'm new to this whole internet information exchange thing but if I had read all of your comments beforehand I certainly wouldn't have spent so much time and money buying magazines and going through the listings from all those camera stores in New York. I live in New York but travel to the Orient quite a bit I have found some good places to buy equipment...and some places to avoid....

1. Avoid Japan. I am Japanese and speak the language and know my way around the block, but prices are consistently higher than other cities in Asia and often the U.S. Reason? High overhead.

2. Avoid all Duty Free Shops. With the rents they have to pay, they end up charging more than a normal store.

3. Do buy in Hong Kong. Even the Japanese come here and buy cameras. Especially for top end stuff. I have paid $775.00 for a Contax TVS, $735.00 for a Contax RX, $789.00 for a Contax 28-85mm, and $892.00 for a Contax 300mm F4. My latest coup was a Gitzo 1228 as recommended in photo.net for $323.00 AND get this, an American made Lowepro Reporter 500 for $110.00. My recommendation to anyone coming out here is to avoid the camera shops on the main shopping streets (the ones that look like they belong in New York City) and look up specialist stores that the locals go to.

4. If you must buy on the street, beware of bait and switch. In Hong Kong, shop space is very limited so stores own very little inventory. Even the stock in the windows usually do not belong to the store but are samples on loan from the camera distributors. (If the store has the sample shrink wrapped rather than naked, they usually own that piece and you can bargain for it.) The camera distributors are in a nearby location and will deliver within ten to fifteen minutes. The clerk will entice you with a very low price on a camera in the window, get you into the store and try to switch you to something they have in stock. You have to remain adamant about the camera you want and never give them your money or credit card until you physically see the camera you want with box, papers, case etc. Do not let it out of your sight from the moment you approve of it to the moment you step out of the store. Let them give you a shopping bag and you put the box with the camera inside it into the bag.

5. Another twist that I recently tried was buying mail order from England. After having read all about the Ricoh GR1 I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. The best price I could get in Tokyo for the new GR1s with the hood was about $540.00 (higher than my local camera store in New Jersey). B&H had a very good price in the magazines but told me that the camera was not in stock, and the local distributor in Hong Kong had none. I saw Robert White's ad in one of the British photo magazines and realized that the price would be O.K. if he deducted the 17.5% VAT by shipping it overseas. Ended up paying $385.00 for a GR1 Date by having it shipped to my Hong Kong office (no duty here).

If anyone reading this is coming to Hong Kong and wants some store names and addresses, you can contact me at: akata@hk.net

Something ironical about this hobby. It's all about art and beauty but there seems to be a lot of sleazeballs of all nationalities in the business.

Bill Akata

a.p. spadaro , July 17, 1999; 11:10 P.M.

I used to play a game with Abe's of Maine (of Brooklyn) I would call up and tell them I wanted one of the lenses they advertised in PopPhoto. They would tell me it is a piece of crap and I shold get this wonderful other lens instead. I would be adamant and insist that I wanted the one in the ad. They would go through a thousant reasons why I should get the other lens. After about twenty minutes -- really! I would say "I guess you're right. I think I will get the lens you recommend. "Great! What's your credit card number?" "Well, I see it's 25 bucks cheaper at B&H (Adorama, Olden, whatever) so I'm going to get it from them." I always heard them calling "WAIT! WAIT!" as I hung up the phone. I recommend this game to all who have ever put up with these crooks in the past. And remember -- you don't have to really buy anything at all.

Katherine Queen , July 19, 1999; 12:19 P.M.

I'd like to add a positive comment for B&H. About a month ago I was searching for a Nikor 75-300 (the older version - I really wanted the older version). Some of the mags listed the lens as still being available new so I called a few and got the old switch-a-roo to the newer lens. I knew B&H did not have a new one but I took a chance and asked to speak to someone in their used equipment area. A gentleman (Paul I believe) took the call a stated he had one in 9 condition. He then asked if I needed any filters and I said yes, I wanted a UV and a polarizer. He asked what other lenses and filters I had - I told him. Then he said (get this), "Well miss, I'm not gonna sell you another polarizer -- you don't need it because all your other filters will fit this lens". What a nice guy! Honest and helpful. He charged my account for $240 for the lens, hood and filter. When I got the lens it was perfect. It still had that new lens smell (if you know what I mean), better than a 9 in my book. Another good instance is when they shipped an R4 developing kit to me. It arrived with only about half the chemicals usable, some had drained out. I emailed them with a digital photo of the box and contents. They shipped another kit to me and I had it in my hands within 3 days. No additional charges. I deal with B&H for all my mail-order shopping and so far (knock on wood) no problems - in fact, very good service.

Bucky Goldstein , July 19, 1999; 03:53 P.M.

Thank You. THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! By sheer luck of stumbling umpon this page, I saved myself from making an expensive and dangerous mistake. I ALMOST bought a Nikon F5 from CCI. Like many others, I too was taken in by their low prices. But that little voice in my head said "it's probably too good to be true". Now that I've read your comments regarding CCI. That pretty much proves it. Instead I went to a very reputable local dealer. I have my Nikon, I love it, and I can now sleep at night knowing that I didn't get ripped off. Thanks again!

Michael Tkach , July 21, 1999; 12:56 A.M.

I like this page, but after reading all the comments about mail orders (mostly negative), I'm probably going to have nightmares as I await my Nikon 24mm AF D lens USA I just ordered today from Adorama. Please tell me everything will be all right, so I can sleep peacefully this week.

Syd Beckman , July 22, 1999; 11:56 A.M.

I have just read this lengthy thread and thought I would add a few comments. I, too, have had good and bad experiences. I wanted an Elan IIe setup and called every mailorder place looking for best deal. Finally tried to order from Marine and they tried to tack on other products, etc. But the biggest problem is that they REQUIRED insurance. I said, UPS doesn't require insurance and they told me that THEY did. I asked who was the insurer and they gave me a name but couldn't give me any details of the company (so WHO would I make a claim to if the goods were damaged) The rate was extremely high. It was, in my opinion, a way to make up the difference on the price. I then tried B&H but they were rude and high. I tried Camera World, but was dissappointed when the WOULDN'T match prices.

I ultimately bought from SAMY's in California. They were helpful and shipped what I ordered at the price they quoted and it arrived well packed and on time. I have since ordered from them. No, they aren't always the lowest price. But remember, you get what you pay for.

James Kelly , July 27, 1999; 12:28 A.M.

Reading the last 100 or so posts, it seems a common occurence for someone to shell out several hundred if not thousands of dollars on a camera outfit, then order it from the lowest possible bidder in order to literally save a few bucks. In my experience visiting camera retailers in NYC, other then perhaps Adorama the only worthwhile retailer is B&H - as to the others (Cambridge, AAA, Abe's of Maine in Brooklyn, Marine Park, etc), let the buyer beware!

C Froome , August 03, 1999; 12:08 P.M.

Everyone who 'seems' to be in the know says "buy at B&H" (at least the pros and pro lab staff I have spoke to think that way). But, I thought I was being clever by spending some time last evening making a table comparing prices quoted in magazine ads for N90S plus a couple of lenses. This morning, I got on the 'phone to fill in some gaps. B&H (as chance would have it) was the first on my list. The price quoted for an N90S body was higher than those quoted in other suppliers' ads. So, in defiant mood, I said "you guys aren't exactly the cheapest are you?" (red rag to a bull...?) The answer surprised me but (particularly since reading through most of the comments on this site) pleased me no end... The person I spoke with told me to go to www.photo.net to see which suppliers I should consider as reliable (warning me that the business is full of con-artists). I think he was right... Now I have to see if B&H will deliver the goods... One last point - he did have the courtesy to describe a couple of features about tripods and answer other (inane sounding?) questions. He need not have spent all that time with this novice but, in doing so, he was certainly a credit to the sales profession. So far, thumbs up to B&H.

Marsha Y. Turner , August 03, 1999; 07:21 P.M.

I must say that I have had good luck with B&H, though my last order had some back ordered items. I got all I ordered within a reasonable amount of time.

I must add that I found a used shift lens (28mm) through Shutterbug at Brooklyn Camera Exchange. When I called these people, I found that it is a family owned and operated company. The people were friendly, and I received my lens in beautiful condition. I continue to receive a monthly newsletter from them with listing of their products. I heartily recommend this company.

Marsha Y. Turner

Peter Shaw , August 05, 1999; 05:18 P.M.

With regard to B&H, I placed an order today from the UK. Although obviously the story's not over yet, so far it's been 'interesting'. Firstly, calling from the UK ain't the cheapest way to buy, and I got quite familiar with their classical hold music. I also got a bit of a run around on the 'in stock one minute, strangely out of stock the next (and will this more expensive alternative do)'. I have to say the item I finally bought was $4 cheaper than their advertised price (!), and although us international customers have to jump through several hoops to get an order placed (like faxing back & front of our credit card - what's that all about?), the price was right and they've promised delivery on Monday. We'll wait and see - I need the lens for the Eclipse!

Peter Shaw , August 06, 1999; 11:24 A.M.

Ah, and now it starts to come apart at the seams. The product I ordered yesterday on a priority FedEx to the UK, I was today informed wouldn't ship till Monday - and since I need that equipment for shooting the Eclipse over here in Europe, that cuts it a little too fine - and frankly was not the delivery I was promised when I ordered the product (ie, delivery on Monday, not shipping). Sorry B&H, I'm not impressed.

Mario Medina , August 06, 1999; 01:06 P.M.

I just bought $800 worth of equipment from B&H. The sales guy seemed in a hurry to get my CC number and finish the sales. I took my time, asking questions and prices, and could sense his nervousness. However, I got everything in 3 days, as promised. No bait and switch, no used equipment. Definitely recommended if you know what you are after.

Mario Medina

Roy LaFaver , August 16, 1999; 01:49 A.M.

I live in a small town in Wyoming. Therefore, mail-order is my only option. If you are going to place a phone order, stay clear of NYC (with one exception, B&H). DO NOT order from CCI. If you have and the ream has begun, don't mess around. Write to your credit card company, the BBB, Consumer groups, magazines, and Bill Clinton. And make sure that everybody knows who you have written to, including CCI. B&H salesmen are sometimes curt, but they always give me an answer. My experience has been that they ship what they advertise at the stated price, and the freight rate is very low. CameraWorld seems unwilling to show prices ("CALL") and when you call, they are high. I will plug a camera shop in Baton Rouge, my daughter's home. Southern Camera always seems to have plenty of helpful people behind the counter. They don't sell gray market, but I believe you can count on honest service. Ask for Paul.

John Clasen , August 16, 1999; 01:09 P.M.

I had an awful experience with United Camera in NY. Their ad listed USA cameras, they sent an import. Of course there would be an additional fee for the USA model, (slightly less than I'd be losing to the restocking fee if I was to abort the whole order). However, they promised to pay half the shipping costs of making the exchange. The exchange made, I called & asked about the credit that was supposed to have been granted. "Excuse me" the fellow said, "while I take care of the credit right now." I was on hold a second. He returned, "It's all taken care of." Two calls later over the the next billing cycles of my credit card, & the credit still hasn't shown up. Ugly folks. Has anyone done business with LeCamera in NJ? Called recently about a camera & was told up front they were out of stock. Seemed honest; didn't push me to order.

Ed Buskirk , August 16, 1999; 01:53 P.M.

I have only seen one comment about Brooklyn Camera Exchange, so I thought I would add one. I have purchased several items from them over the last couple of years and have been totally satisfied each time. It is a small operation, and the service is very personal. When I recieved my first order from them, a Bronica S2A, I found that I didn't know how to remove the back. I called them, and was told, very politely, how to remove it. I was then asked if I had any other questions about this camera. When I placed my second order, the gentleman on the other end of the line (I believe it was the owner), spent several minutes talking to me about how a family with my last name lived next door to him for several years. This might seem a little weird, but I myself have only met one other person with my last name (Buskirk, not exactly common). Every item I have purchased from them (all for the Bronica S2A) has been in the stated condition or better, and the lenses had both front and back caps, even though this was not mentioned in the ad or over the phone. One lens (a 200mm Nikkor), even came in its original box, with the close-up lens, lens-case, and the original warranty cards. The prism-finder also came in its box, complete with case. Again, none of this was mentioned in the ad, and the prices I paid were the lowest I found for these items. Many stores would have charged higher prices for just the lens or the prism, and most places tack on even more for caps, cases, and usually charge an outrageous amount for items in their original boxes, especially if they are going on 30 years old. Also, I recieved each order within 5 days, with reasonable shipping charges. I believe Brooklyn Camera Exchange to be an excellent and ethical business.Ed Buskirk

Kel Harris , August 19, 1999; 09:45 P.M.

I recently bought a Nikon F70 qd from Photographic photo. I found that the salesperson Morris to be very confusing at times. I fell for to upgrade on the lens and the camera warranty. I went from spending $450 to $630. Then I didn't receive my full shipment but I can say that the customer service rectified that problem within 2 days. I learned alot from this buying experience. I hope that more people take their time more when purchasing a mail order camera.

Kel. Harris

Shaun Gordon , August 23, 1999; 12:39 P.M.

If your on the Westcoast Samy's Camera (323) 938-2420 or www.samys.com has been providing me wonderful service and great prices.

gary mccourry , August 23, 1999; 05:50 P.M.

It is to bad these comments can only stay as comments and nothing can be done about them. But I also had hard core problems with Abes of Main in Brooklyn (owners of AAA and also next door per quote from salesman). In 1996 I had researched a simple purchase for a minolta 600si. After the great debate of purchasing from a local store I had to decided to purchase through Abes. I had asked about the warranty several times during two calls to the sales department(i don't know the name of the salesman)and I was told "The warranty was included in the purchase price". When I was transfered to purchasing I gave him the info from my card. Then he asked me if I wanted to buy the u.s.a warranty for $50.00 extra. At that time I told him to forget about the sale because I was lied to by the sales dept. about the warranty. After about 3 seconds into my arguement he told they will charge me $50.00 restocking fee. I've just been scammed!! The next day after thinking how to avoid a long drawn out problem I called them back to keep the order going. Then I asked when I will recieve the cammera. About 4 to 5 days they replied. After about four (4) 1,2,3,4! yes 4 weeks passed and phony UPS tracking numbers given I had called my card company to declare a fraud. then one week after there investigation I finaly recieved my new 600si camera body in good condition. I should have gone to the local camera shop and paid $100.00 more and saved that much on ROLAIDS.

gary mccourry , August 23, 1999; 05:58 P.M.

It is to bad these comments can only stay as comments and nothing can be done about them. But I also had hard core problems with Abes of Main in Brooklyn (owners of AAA and also next door per quote from salesman). In 1996 I had researched a simple purchase for a minolta 600si. After the great debate of purchasing from a local store I had to decided to purchase through Abes. I had asked about the warranty several times during two calls to the sales department(i don't know the name of the salesman)and I was told "The warranty was included in the purchase price". When I was transfered to purchasing I gave him the info from my card. Then he asked me if I wanted to buy the u.s.a warranty for $50.00 extra. At that time I told him to forget about the sale because I was lied to by the sales dept. about the warranty. After about 3 seconds into my arguement he told they will charge me $50.00 restocking fee. I've just been scammed!! The next day after thinking how to avoid a long drawn out problem I called them back to keep the order going. Then I asked when I will recieve the cammera. About 4 to 5 days they replied. After about four (4) 1,2,3,4! yes 4 weeks passed and phony UPS tracking numbers given I had called my card company to declare a fraud. then one week after there investigation I finaly recieved my new 600si camera body in good condition. I should have gone to the local camera shop and paid $100.00 more and saved that much on ROLAIDS.

Jay Hargett , August 24, 1999; 04:39 P.M.

I work for a local community college northwest of Houston, and in purchasing camera equipment, I'm required by state law to get 3 bids from vendors, and am required to purchase from the lowest bidder. This presented the obvious problems for the purchase, because I'm very familiar with the "tricks of the trade" that exist in the NYC camera merchants. If your in the "system" long enough, you learn to write the specs in favor of the prefered vendor; in this case B&H. What helped was the PROFOUND incompetance and outright attempts at fraud on the the part of the other merchants that even bothered to reply to the bid request. B&H got the bid, and has been getting the bids on both photo and A/V equipment ever since.

Robert Rhode , August 25, 1999; 01:45 P.M.

Just thought I'd chime in with a favorable experience at Camera World of Oregon. I knew what lens I wanted and how much I would pay for it, and I got it in under a week. I have nothing against B&H, except that I live in NYS and the state gov't gets enough tax money from me already. CWO's quoted price was higher, but they came down to match B&H.

Martha McLaren , September 01, 1999; 04:22 A.M.

My daughter has very limited use of her hands due to muscular dystrophy, so after checking out all of the different cameras at local stores, we settled on the n90s as being the most suitable for her photography class. The local store priced the n90s at $995. Like everyone else, I called all of the ads in Pop. Photo. for a price. I eventually settled on The Camera Club. The salesman, Mark, must have spent hours with me. He matched the best price that I had found, then told me about the grey market, which I thought was a good idea. My daughter wanted 2.8 Af 35-70 & 70-200 lenses. He had these lenses loosened so that she could use them easier. Our order arrived in 3 days. With the exception of one of the U.V. filters being the wrong size, everything was as ordered. I called Mark. He shipped a new filter that day, before getting the first one back, and returned the price of shipping as well. We have been very satisfied that we got what we wanted, at the price we wanted, and with great customer service. Mark also called back after a couple of weeks to be sure that we were happy and that my daughter was able to use all of the equipment.

Eric Mitz , September 03, 1999; 01:54 P.M.

I wanted to reaffirm the negative review of Smile Photo. They are inconsiderate, truth-stretching, manipulative SOBs. I won't bore you with the details (email me for them if you wish), but needless to say I would you suggest you stay as far away from these con-men as possible. You can't believe a word they say. To top it all off, these boys are a little too rude for this southern gentleman. They fit the NY street vendor "fuhgitaboutit" stereotype. Avoid Smile Photo!

Joe Russell , September 04, 1999; 12:16 A.M.

I did a fair amount of research on the internet before ordering a new SLR. This was my 4th camera in 30 years. I have purchased them all through mail order.

I don't remember where I bought my 1st camera, but I purchased my 2nd camera from Olden Camera in the early eighties and was satisfied with their service. I purchased several lenses shortly thereafter from Cambridge with the same results. I chose both companies purely on price and accessibility by phone. I knew what I wanted and was only placing an order.

Christmas of 1998 I purchased a camera package from Discovery for my daughter. I had researched what I thought was the best price, but added a few accessories during the phone order. They soaked me $30.00 for a "long life" battery, and I forgot to ask about shipping. When I recieved the camera I opened it and put the batteries in and started to play with it before I checked the invoice. They had soaked me $30.00 for EACH battery (they lasted a few months and my daughter replaced them BOTH for less than 15 bucks), and $32.98 for shipping. I think I learned a lesson right then and there.

This web page gave me some important tips and recomendations, so here's what I did. I e-mailed several of the companies that I had found on the internet. I asked them to reply to me by e-mail with prices on two specific cameras I was looking at, and what their recomendations were on lenses. No high pressure sales tactics here, and you find out right away who wants to work a little for a sale.

I got exactly two replies. Period. One from B&H Camera and one from Adorama Camera. From their lens recomendations I did some more research. Then I sent them both an e-mail and asked for an exact quote with shippng charges for what I wanted. I mentioned that I was interested in the speed of their reply as a reflection of their customer service. They both replied the next day.

B&H was almost $70.00 higher in price. I sent them one more e-mail comparing their price to Adoram's and asked if they could come down a little, because of the recomendations on this page I would have split the difference. They immediately replied that they had already offered their lowest price. I respect that, no inflated prices to start with. But I couldn't justify $70.00 for the same items.

I e-mailed back to Adorama and told them that they had the best price...but asked them to FAX me a written quote with shipping prices included, and verifying US warranties with no grey market goods. I recieved the FAX, put it on file and proceeded with the order.

At the time of purchase they sold me TWO batteries for $12.95, a Tiffen UV filter for $24.95 and shipping was $17.00. I received my order exactly one week later as described. I checked the invoice BEFORE I opened the camera and started playing with it. I'm not a big player in this market, but they got over $500.00 from me and I'm HAPPY!

Talk to Fred Wasser at Adorama, and don't be afraid to tell him what you want. He's courteous, has a sense of humor and followed through. 800-223-0052

Joe.Russell@wport.com

David English , September 09, 1999; 01:45 P.M.

Just wanted to add to the previous comments regarding AAA. I am currently going through what appears to be their typical scenario. I ordered a Pentax P&S through AAA and it was defective (turned self off and on when bumped or looked at hard). I returned it to AAA and they (surprisingly) didn't charge restocking fee. However, instead of getting another of the same camera I decided to exchange for an Elan II. I called a couple times early on and they sounded like they actually forgot to ship it. Finally they said it was shipped and I am still waiting 4 weeks later, today AAA said that they were overnighting via FEDEX and I should see it tomorrow. Of course they have had my money for 4 weeks. This is supposedly the 3rd time they have shipped this. I will believe it when I see it...

David Polott , September 13, 1999; 09:07 P.M.

I obtained a top-notch used Leica lens from Jack's Camera Shop in Muncie, Indiana (tel. #765-281-2786) recently via mail order. Working with them on the purchase was a dream come true. It was a wonderful experience. They did an excellent job at minimizing my apprehension with buying used photographic equipment through mail order. Buying used photographic equipment through the mail sight unseen is often an invitation to being ripped-off. Not with Jack's Camera Shop. They were very candid and took all the time that was necessary to fully describe the condition of the used Leica lens I was interested in.

In conclusion, I sensed wonderful small midwestern town hospitality when working with Jack's Camera Shop. This type of hospitality is totally absent from my home town of New York City.

I highly recommend contacting Jack's Camera Shop for your needs.

D.P.

tamer sayin , September 22, 1999; 08:16 P.M.

Living in City like New York must have put a lot of stress on people therefore it must effect the attitude of New York salesmen who work in camera shops.They are in a hurry to get your order and not friendly at all.I tried to buy a AF-S 400mm f2.8 lens,they were rude very rude on the phone,I quickly discovered how assholes these people were.If I will do a $8000 purchase I can't rush it this is not a steak sandwich man I got questions to ask,is it grey market,is the box opened,does it include the hood the case the strap,come on tell me something make me feel good,I am nervous to spend this much money on something over the phone without seeing it begin with.OOH yeah send me a AFS 400 f2.8 and throw me couple of 600 f4s and here is 20 grand bye!!What is the problem with these new york camera shops???Might be the water.

Michael O'Neill , September 30, 1999; 08:51 A.M.

Wish I'd read this BEFORE I ordered a camera from AAA Photo in NYC. They never shipped the merchandise, and after two weeks I cancelled the order. Now a month later, I see the charges on my card, and the nice folks there insist that they sent the camera kit, etc. They have been nothing but evasive, and irritating in my attempts to get this resolved. The saga continues. I have since ordered a camera from B&H, and received it with no problems.

Keep up the good work on this site - too bad I didn't see it before I placed an order.

dave c , October 04, 1999; 11:29 A.M.

WARNING!!!!PHOTOGRAPHIC PHOTO. I have just recently purchased a camera kit from Photographic Photo in NYC. Since this was my first camera purchase, I was eager to get what I thought was the best price. I ordered a Nikon N70 with a 28-200 tamaron lens. The salesman talked me into the deluxe package ($100 more) that came with a year warranty and a Sigma 28-200 lens. Later,I found out that the sigma is about 100 dollars cheaper than the tamaron. They charged me 100 dollars more for the cheaper lens and 20 dollars for batteries. Then, they said Id have it in 3-5 days (i paid extra for this). A week later I called and they said they never shipped it. Then a salesman got on the phone and said it was shipped. I demanded a refund and he did everything possible to talk me out of it. He claimed that I'd get a full refund in 5-6 days but Im not holding my breath. WHat i thought would be a $535 purchase turned out to be a $830 purchase. I wish I would have read this page before I tried mail order.

David Polott , October 05, 1999; 10:05 P.M.

Have you been calling photo equipment dealers for mail order and had the feeling you were about to be ripped-off or baited-and-switched? After reading all of the postings on this website, bad experiences ordering photo gear via mail order seems to be the norm rather than the exception. I decided that I wanted to make my contributions to this website. Well, have I got good news for you! I know of a well-stocked neighborhood photo shop located in the downstate New York area that will treat you very well and in a very honourable fashion. I give my thumbs down to Tamer Sayin's comment about New York dealers being "assholes" because the dealer I am about to recommend is in New York. The name of the photo shop I am describing is Neptune Photos Inc. (www.neptunephoto.com, tel. #800-955-110 or 516-741-4484). For countless years, I have been getting my film developed there. When I decided to make a significant upgrade to the photo gear I owned, I decided to discuss this with Neptune Photo. I am very glad that I did. Before deciding to make the purchase in the new photo gear, Neptune Photo allowed me to use the equipment for a weekend to see how I liked using it. I even offered (and expected) to pay a rental fee for using the equipment, but they refused to accept the rental fee! I ended up buying into the new photo gear's system without any regrets to this day. Their staff is very amicable and very knowledgeable and helpful. They will bend over backwards to steer the customer in the right direction (which seems to be very very rare in this day and age). I recently found out that Neptune Photo is geared for accepting mail-orders as well as the traditional walk-in customer orders. I strongly recommend giving Neptune Photo a call prior to finalising a decision on a major photo equipment purchase no matter where you live. It is very nice to know that top-notch quality-minded businesses (such as Neptune Photo) still exists despite the ultra-competitive business environment.

jeff parker , October 06, 1999; 11:12 P.M.

Do not order from Discovery. They switched me to a different brand and then lied about its features. Stuck me on the price. Way over charged for shipping. I could send it back but the shipping will still make the deal a bad one!

John VanderMyde , October 09, 1999; 12:20 P.M.


Bodie Island Light, Nags Head, NC

Do not buy from Photographic photo & video!

I wish I had read this page first, if you are, then you are much better off.

Classic bait and switch:

Ordered Nikon F100, 24-120 lens package #4. Got all the way to my credit card info until the salesman made a persuasive pitch and switched me to a sigma 28-105 f2.8 lens. Sounded good on paper, but after I researched it, turns out lens was $300 less than Nikon 24-120, and he was charging me $50 more!

Called back, was told what I had originally ordered was out of stock, and he would give me $50 off to keep me as a customer. I said cancel the order. He spent 10 minutes arguing with me, then told me I would have to call Customer Service to cancel (only open 11-2). I said "that's a good one" and he played dumb. Called customer service the next day, was put on hold forever, when rep finally came on, I asked if my order had been canceled, he asked my name, and then without taking time to check anything, said yes it had.

I am waiting for the charge that may or may not come.

Ended up with Cameraworld.com, OK prices, OK service. I asked if there was any discount on accessories as part of a large order - he said yes, offered discount on Nikon UV filter, but I asked for Tiffen and did not really trust the salesman when he said the tiffen filters were only $1 over cost. Good website, but had problems ordering over it, so I had to call. UPS air shipping only $16. Hoping my order arrives intact.

Tip: check better business ratings - they have most NY stores online. You can find the link on the Cameraworld.com site.

Moral of the story? Use B&H given the other reviews here, but do not expect to find a trustworthy camera store, period.

-John

Mike Michaelson , October 09, 1999; 04:15 P.M.

SCAMS!

One I have not seen mentioned is what WorldWide Photo did to me. I called to order a camera (Nikon N6006) and lens (Tamaron 28-200 Super) They had a package deal for $600 something that included some extras. When I called I ordered the package and asked about some filters. This is where is all started; the salesperson told me I needed such and such filters and that there was a special package deal. They also got me on a battery (double the cost from Wal-Mart), the Strap (a cheap one too), the filters (one was not what I needed and I paid too much), Shipping and handleing, extended warrenty (I see no need with name brand cameras).

Tri-State tried a similar thing when I ordered a Nikon N-70 later, but I told the salesperson I could get stuff cheaper (like the battery). He called me back with a lower total price (shaved it out of S&H I think). Still ended up paying more than I should have.

Stick to bigger companys with a good reputation like B&H or Adorama (someone is bound to have problems with even the "better" dealers, but better problems with them than some of the other cons and scams out there). Also Adorama has resonable S&H compared to most, so even if the item prices $10 or $20 higher, you'll probably save $30-$40 in S&H.

BE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO ORDER BEFORE CALLING ANY MAIL ORDER STORE. DON'T BUY IF YOU ARE UNSURE OF THE PRODUCT OR IF THE PRICE SEEMS TO HAVE SKYROCKED ON YOU. AND ALWAYS RESEARCH BEFORE YOU BUY.

Taranath Sudabathula , October 14, 1999; 11:31 A.M.

I bought Nikon N70 from Beach Camera, Rt 22, NJ. It is a pretty good deal, I think. It is NOT A MAIL ORDER. After reading so many messages in this page, I felt like writing couple of lines. Most of the times customers being cheated in the mail order. This is the reason I ended up with Show room. Before going there I know what I need, neither I asked them that what are the models available nor I asked them about their features. These can be found on the internet or go to stores like Wiz .. etc. First decide on what do you want, then call them and find out the price, and whether it is IN THE STOCK OR NOT.

Initially I ordered N70, and Nikkor 28-200. I bought N70, but they said 28-200 will be available within a week. So I paid for N70, and 30% advance for lens, then I waited till 7th day. I was told that they could not find it. As I can return N70 only within 7 days, and even I don't know whether it is working or not, so I have returned N70, and started searching for Nikkor 28-200. Atlast I got lens in Ritz Camera. Then I went back to Beach Camera and bought N70 again. I did not find any problem with Beach Camera. Attitude of sales person is same everywhere. I felt that in Beach Camera also.

Never bother about the attitude of sales person. An example, I went to one of the show rooms, and asked them for what are the makes availabe, another sales person said, show him Honda. Just I smiled at him, that's it.

Make sure it is not a grey market piece. If somebody says that they are giving N70 for $249.99, do not believe them, find out it has US warranty or not. Do lot of research before buying, and decide what do you want to buy. Do not change your mind while you are in the shop, come out think overnight, if you want you can always go to the same shop the next day. Never buy anything immediately after you have decided, always wait for a day, mean while you get lot of other ideas in your mind.

Larry Purviance , October 16, 1999; 02:16 P.M.

After seeing some of the laughable prices used equipment was going for on e-bay, I decided to write this hosanna to the lowly local pawnshop.

Although many pawnshops have a rightfully seedy reputation, some around here are very very good. Plus you get to see and touch the actual goods and rate them yourselves before you buy. In addition, some local camera shops will check them out before the typical one-day full refund return day expires.

My experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I am not a dealer. Here are some examples of prices I recently paid at pawnshops for various stuff, including original asking price and price that was eventually haggled to. Don't be afraid to haggle, some shops almost feel insulted if you don't. I have bought enough from one pawnshop that his starting offer is typically 30 percent below the posted price. Good luck,

Minty Canon AE-1P with mint canon 50 mm lens and 75-200 mint Sigma lens. With new camera bag, asking price was $200, I bought it for $139.

Excellent Canon T-70 with Canon 100-200 Mint FD lens and New Camera Bag and excellent dedicated Sunpak 933 flash $150 paid, asking price $229.

Mint Nikonos V with standard lense. Asking price $600, I paid $400 (including sales tax) along with a not so nice bag.

Mint Nikonos 1V with standard lens with big pretty scratched up Pelican case with complete very nice Sea & Sea underwater strobe set. Asking price $400, stole it for $300.

BRAND NEW Bogen 3131 Tripod (retails for at least $125). Asking price was $69, I got it for $30!!!! In addition, the same day and place, got a BRAND NEW Garmin GPS transponder (retails for $300) for $70, with pouch and all warranty cards unsigned!

New, with unsigned warranty card, Samsung Maxima 145 QD with Schneider lens. Asking price was $129 (Retails at B & H for $229) haggled it out for $80!!

With all the cameras, I haggled for and got filters for all lenses thrown in.

I think these prices are reflective of what anybody could do. These deals were made at four different pawnshops in my area. I am not naming them, because I want to keep the prices low. I have no axe to grind, and nothing to sell. See for yourself. Remember, pawnshops buy very very low and set prices rather high, so there is quite a comfortable margin for haggling with them. I suggest bringing a copy of shutterbug magazine, and comparing prices with the used prices therein. Start by offering 40 percent below shutterbug prices - you will be surprised how often you get a taker.

EBAY sucks, man!

Kurt Havemann , October 29, 1999; 01:21 P.M.

Even before finding this page I did not trust buying my N90s through the mail. I found a local San Diego dealer who, despite a general desire to sell independent lenses, took time to talk to me about features, prices, and options. I paid for this, a fair penny too, but I am happy with my purchase and like the dealer. They will take a look at what you have and even tell you why you do not need to spend money.

Robert Mossack , October 30, 1999; 12:45 A.M.

After much searching through the ads in Shutterbug, I decided to order my Nikon F4s and 85 1.8AF nikkor from Dels Camera in California. I dealt with Del himself, and he was very friendly and helpful. I ordered c.o.d. The equipment arrived as promised two days later, and was very well packed. And the F4 was actually in better condition than described in the magazine ad ( it was listed as a 7, I would rate it as an 8+ ), and the lens was also in superior shape. I realized too, after looking at the paperwork, that I was actually charged about $100 LESS than quoted in the magazine for the F4. I had paid the c.o.d with a cashiers check, and actually made it out for $1.00 too much. Not a big deal I thought. Well, Del's actually went to the trouble to make out a check for $1.00 and sent it to me. How many other mail-order retailers would do that? Not many probably. Will I order from Del's again? YOU BETCHA!!!!

Timothy Breihan , November 02, 1999; 02:21 P.M.

B&H is a wonderful store. I recently bought a used Nikkor 300/4.5 from them because of a superior price that they advertised. I was a bit wary of purchasing used equipment without first seeing it (as the kind folks at W. Schiller in St. Louis will attest, I am stickler) but the lens was exactly as promised and arrived exactly when I was told it would. Schiller's is still my favorite shop, but for mail order, B&H is the only choice as far as I am concerned.

James Phillips , November 05, 1999; 10:11 A.M.

Wish I had read this page before I ordered from AAA Camera Exchange. Stay away from these guys! I called around for a good price on a Vivitar V4000, and "Harry" at AAA offered to match my best price, so I sent AAA my order. Two weeks later, it had not yet arrived, so I called AAA. Here, pretty much word for word, is the conversation:

AAA: We sent you a postcard to tell you that price is for the camera only, not with the lens. Me: Harry told me that price includes the lens. (Other advertisers list it with the lens for only a dollar or two more than AAA...) AAA: Well, why are you ordering the V4000 anyway? The new V3000 has a 1/2000 shutter speed and the V4000 is only 1/1000. (In truth, it is the exact opposite.) Me: No, my literature says the V4000 is 1/2000. That's the camera I want. AAA: Well, we can't sell it to you for that price, not with the lens. Me: I want my money back. Send me my money back. (I had sent them a bank money order. This may yet prove to be a mistake.... I don't use credit cards.) AAA: What made you pick the V4000 anyway? Me: It was recommended in the latest Consumer Guide. (Recommended as their best Budget Buy. I just want a basic SLR.) AAA: Well, the new V3000 is a better camera, with 1/2000 shutter. Me: Just send me my money back. Harry said the price included the lens. AAA: Nobody told you that. Me: F**k you. AAA: There's no need to talk that way. Me: You have no business telling me what someone did or didn't say to me. Harry said the price included the lens, so send me my money back, and f**k you. (And I hung up.)

Please pardon me for the language, but I consider "Nobody told you that" to be the start of the abusiveness. I spent 11 years in sales, and I would *never* say that to a customer. Thanks for listening to my tirade. Jim Phillips

George Feucht , November 06, 1999; 12:01 A.M.

Samy's Camera: Good stuff. I live in L.A. and was on tour with a young promotional company as their photographer/videographer. I had been using a 35 year-old Minolta, which was dying due to the abuse of touring. Plus, I decided that it wasn't in my interests to kill my own equipment for the amount I was being paid.

Anyway, I convinced them to buy an A2E. (I first tried to convince them to up my salary so I could buy it and own it, but no luck.) Anyway, we had a big press event a couple of days after I got the green light to get the camera. I called Samy's and said that I needed it delivered to our hotel in Denver, with a AmEx card that wasn't in my name and addressed in New Hampshire. That posed a few problems, but we worked through it (change of shipping address for the AmEx.) Anyway, the camera, bag (picked out by the Samy's employee), 2 lenses (28-105 and 50mm F1.4) arrived on time (he even threw some film in the order, which they normally don't do).

So, I was quite happy with the whole deal, and I stop in there anytime I need camera stuff in L.A. The crappy part of the above story is that my hotel room was not in my name, and the camera was sent back by the hotel. After 15 frantic calls to every possible department of UPS, they delivered it the next day... after both events I needed it for. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. But Samy's is cool.

Wes Y , November 12, 1999; 03:23 P.M.

CCI Camera City:

These guys are out and out slime balls. They don't have what they advertise in stock, or will substitute your order with different merchandise(even after confirming it with you on the phone). I didn't even get the correct color bag I ordered. I spoke with Jack at CCI - the man is a bastard. If it sounds too good to be true, it's definitely CCI trying to seperate you from your cash. I felt so dirty after dealing with them, I'd rather sell this bag on photo.net at a discount as a service to it's members than have to deal with CCI to return it.

WYK

beijing ren , November 24, 1999; 12:40 P.M.

this page helped me a lot, so i'll posting my experience, hopefully it will be of use to some one.

i wanted to by a Nikon N70QD/Nikon AF 28-80 F3.5-5.6D kit. with the information i got from this page, i contacted the following stores:-

called up CameraWorld. the salesman told me it's out of stock. he also seemed to be in a hurry to get my credit card number, so that i could be on the backorder list earlier. their price was about $10 lower than B&H's.

emailed Adorama. didn't get a reply for 3 days. when the reply came, their grey market price was only $10 less than CameraWorld's US warranty price. i asked whether they would give discount on grey market items, the reply was no, and rude.

emailed B&H. got a quote the same day. i requested a shipment term to be included in the quote, "within 2 days of order" or some thing like that, and never got a reply mail on that. so i called and punched in their quick dial code for the relevant department. the salesman gave me the price which was about $10 more than CameraWorld's, answered all my questions, promised immediate shipment, and suggested i place order with credit card, for it will be processed faster than fax orders.

i ordered with credit card tuesday morning. the package showed up in Fedex's tracking page the same afternoon. (B&H's webpage has a link to it.) friday morning, i received the package. every thing was as promised. i was only a little disappointed to find out the lens is made in Thailand. but that has nothing to do with B&H's service.

i'll only state the facts here, and leave the judgement part to whoever wishes to make one.

Happy Shooting!

Jeremy -- , December 02, 1999; 09:25 P.M.

I have had great experiences with the new and used departments at B&H. I go in and they treat me very well, it seems they have no problem showing me what I want to see and explaining things.

Blake Sartin , December 06, 1999; 09:50 A.M.

Re: Thompson Photo Products (www.thompsonphoto.com)

I have bought two used Canon cameras from them, an AV-1 and a T50.

I also bought a 50mm f1.8 and a Sunpak auto 144 flash. The flash still works even though I broke off the foot, the lens is crystal clear, but both cameras have been complete CRAP. The AV-1 refused to shoot at temps below 55F (a _slight_ hindrance during winter) and would often bind itself for hours. It was sent off for warranty repair three times, each time meaning six weeks without a camera. I guess that I got to use it maybe a dozen times in 1.5 years. I finally sold it back to Thompson (at a loss) and bought the T50 as a stopgap measure, it was all that I could afford. Now it too has given up the ghost, six months later. The motor no longer works. So here I am, two years later, having shot a grand total of 20 rolls of film between two cameras. Neither one has been any good, and I'm over the whole experience. I expect that I can sell it back to Thompson (at yet another loss) for another go-round, but I'm giving up and buying a NEW Pentax zx-m from B&H. Thompson's prices on new stuff are outrageous.

The kicker to the crappy camera ordeal: THOMPSONS IS STILL TRYING TO SELL THE POS AV-1, !!THE ONE THAT WON"T SHOOT IN THE COLD!! on its website. You will know it because the link says that it has a non-original winder. DO NOT BUY THIS CAMERA unless you enjoy being screwed in a most regal sense.

The behavior of TPP in dealing with this KNOWN crap-ball camera makes me question the quality of all of their other used equipment. I would make sure to inspect each piece in person before buying such items. Caveat Emptor.

Irving Ramsower , December 08, 1999; 05:13 P.M.

After my camera was stolen, I turned to the net for info before purchasing my new one. I came across this page and it has been invaluable. Here is my experience.......I researched all the cameras and lenses that I was interested in and could afford. After deciding which brand I would go with I contacted the four stores that were mostly recommended here, B+H, Adorama, Camera World and Samy's, by e-mail. Only B+H and Samy's responded back. I ended up placing the order with Samy's over the Web on a Wed. morning. I e-mailed the clerk I was working with that I had placed the order. He responded a short time later saying he had the order, filled it and that it would ship that night. He said I would have it on Fri. Sure enough the package showed up Fri. I was almost afraid to open the box based on the problems I had read about. Fortunately, there weren't any problems (as far as I can tell, still working on the first roll) and all the US warranty cards and other contents were there, as promised.

One thing that I felt was good about this experience is that I had all my correspondence in writing because of e-mail. I had a copy of everything that I was promised. It may be slower than the phone when trying to get questions answered, but could save you in the end.

Good Shooting.

Donald Schindler , December 23, 1999; 03:04 A.M.

I am very grateful for this page. I've been researching a 35mm purchase for some time now. It was between the Nikon N90s, Minolta 800si, and Canon A2E/Eos 5. I chose the Eos 5 for a variety of reasons.

Had I not found this web site, I probably would have ordered from Discovery, Photographic, CCI, AAA, Abe's of Maine, or one of the other disreputable "vendors" that advertise the lowest prices in the back of photography magazines. After reading all the good reviews of B&H, Camera World of Oregon, and Adorama, I learned that B&H sells the Canon EOS-5 (better version of the A2E) for $500 (less than some of those thieves "sell" the A2E.

I placed my order on 12/20 and I received my camera body, lens, tripod, grip, and remote cord today 12/22. I made two phone calls to B&H. I talked to Eddy and John. Both were very courteous.

I recommend B&H strongly over the aforementioned camera dealers. I was in Cody's, a Berkeley, CA bookstore, tonight when I noticed someone checking out the advertisements of those shady dealers. I warned him about some of their dishonest practices, recommended alternative sources, and told him about your website.

Great job!

Martin Pham , December 29, 1999; 07:52 P.M.

I was kinda dumb at first though...my first experience buying a camera, I looked through Pop Photo of course, trying to compare all the prices...and like most naive people, I chose Discovery over other places because of a couple dollars difference.

Bad idea.

First of all, the salesman lied to me about the quality of different lenses, then charged me 100 bucks shipping (I calculated it myself later shouldn't have been over $35 for overnight FedEx). Then, after waiting 4 days with the package not arriving yet, I called them up, got a tracking number, and found out they sent it UPS Ground. That's not the worst part: I live in Irvine, Southern California...and instead, they shipped it to San Jose. California, yes, wrong direction. I called them up, and they gave me a runaround, "sorry for the mistake, sir," and now I have to wait to see if they charged me on my credit card.

B&H on the other hand...they are simply the best. I ordered a Canon EF 28-135 IS USM lens over the phone, got it the next day 10am from Priority Overnight FedEx shipping, like I asked for. Just the other day, I accidently ordered a Sand Colored Domke Camera F-803 Satchel (when I wanted black); called them up, asked them if they could possibly change the color to Black for me (since I called them on the day they were supposed to ship it out). They said sure, sure, told me my order number, said they'd do it, and that was it. I was kinda skeptical about whether they would be able to change the bag before it was packaged and shipped (inter-department communication here)....but I received an email confirmation later that day, telling me my order number again, my FedEx tracking number, and a personal message that stated: "The Domke Camera Satchel we shipped is the black color as you requested."

Simply the best. Lower prices than local stores (if you don't live in New York), high quality equipment, RELIABLE SHIPPING (san JOSE, dammit...), and extremely good customer service. The only place you'll ever need for photo equipment.

www.bhphotovideo.com

Peter Neame , January 04, 2000; 05:49 P.M.

It's so nice to see fellow sufferers in the game of bait and switch. Doesn't make me feel so stupid. I think I've been permanently scarred by the point-and-shoot that I bought. This was Marine Park. They were very good about sending me a replacement when the first one didn't work, however. Still was a lousy camera. I did have a reasonably pleasant experience ordering a "gray market" camera from one of the rip-off joints using a purchase order, and that actually went reasonably pleasantly. Recently I ordered a lens (Canon 75-300 IS USM) and and filter from cameraworld.com. Fast, pleasant, arrived when I expected it to and cost what I expected it to. They seem to be the way to go.

willie holdman , January 04, 2000; 09:06 P.M.

Never buy from SMILE!!! They told me I was getting a USA Nikon F5. When I got it, I tried it out and found a very disturbing problem with it. I could never finish a roll of film! It would also read it as being at the end of the roll when it wasn't. No, it wasn't the batteries. I called them up and they said sorry, it's not under warrenty! What? A 2500+ camera one week old with no warrenty! I send it back to them and after threatening to sue they said they would fix it. Got it back. Did the same thing. Send it to Nikon. They won't touch it, even if I pay them to fix it because it's not a usa nikon! No one knows how to fix this camera so it's sits on my shelve collecting dust!

Rick Cardinal , January 08, 2000; 01:28 P.M.

I have dealt with B&H exclusively for years. I have never had a bad experience. Of course, their salespeople don't want to spend much time discussing the virtues of this model over that model etc, anymore than any other store does. But if you know what you want, expect honest prices and quick shipment.

Recently, I bought a $900 lens from Focus Camera. The reason I ventured from B&H was the price was about $100 less. Though the price was $90 more on the web site than in the Shutterbug ad, they instantly honored the price, verified it was in stock, and shipped the lens out UPS blue. This was the Wednesday before Christmas. The sales guy, cautioned I may not get it before Christmas, because of the heavy demand on UPS etc. I said that was fine. I received the lens on Friday, as promised. So, I would have to recommend Focus Camera. The sales guy was courteous, but I knew exactly what I wanted, and knew the price. I suspect anyone who needs information only, would not have quite the experience I had. I think this is true of most mail-order houses. You are trying to get the lowest possible price. If you need information and hand holding, see your local camera dealer.

Chris Taylor , January 14, 2000; 05:02 A.M.

I saw very little on this page other than ..."mail order sucks!" or the half-dozen fairly good experiences. I too, am grateful for the page because I have been tempted quite a few times by seeing the prices BEYOND COMPARE at the many mail-order shops. Ritz Camera, while most of their walk-in stores won't have exactly what you're looking for if it's uncommon, does have comparable prices on great equipment...not to mention knowledgeable associates. They also have a site <http://www.ritzcamera.com> that you can order most hardware from (and return if need be!) They have been great to me and a slew of regulars for the past 30 years!

Jeff Gertie , January 14, 2000; 09:46 P.M.

I have purchased or tried to purchase equipment over the years at several mail order houses. The two best that I have dealt with is Camera World of Oregon and B&H. The New Yorkers of B&H can be short and seemed rushed when compared to the West Coast's Cameraworld but both their prices and treatment are pretty fair. The worst are Cambridge, Coast to Coast, Abe's of Maine and Marine Park. I had problems with shipping charges, lies, restocking fees, getting credits and getting items promised, so I won't deal with them anymore. They drag things out as long as they can and then give you what they should have in the first place. Almost everytime I call for something they are rude, obnoxious and condescending. I sent a letter about it to Popular Photography's Checkrated department and they really didn't do anything with them. They did respond to my letter and said they would file it. I also have read this month that the new president of Popular Photography is really going to go after these scumbags so we'll see.What's so aggravating about these guys is that they think they are so smart and we are so stupid.

John Baumgartner , January 26, 2000; 01:56 P.M.

Ace Photo in Sterling Virginia! I was on the verge of walking naively into the (w)retched hive of scum and villainy that is the mail order camera business. In researching, I stumbled onto photo.net. The horror stories frightened me enough that I was willing to pay $150 over mail order costs for my Nikon outfit just to get the right thing at a local shop. I found ACE Photo in the phone book and went in after work. They are in Sterling Virginia under the clock tower behind the Ford dealership. They were well stocked and the guy was friendly and polite. The best part was that the asking price for my camera & lens was only $20 more than B&H without shipping charges! Wow! I considered the price for milliseconds before taking it. The guy also kept me from buying a book that I didnt need. My experience with Ace Photo was surprisingly pleasant. Two thumbs up!

greg gooding , February 02, 2000; 11:14 P.M.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! Two weeks ago I decided to jump feet first into buying a camera from one of the New York shops. Just to show that God takes care of little children, animals, and really dumb people(I probably fit into at least two of those catagories) when I tried to call the company with the "cheapest" price the line was always busy so I decided to wait till the week-end was over and try again. In between that time I was fortunate to discover this web page and after reading all of the comments on the HORRORS of buying from the various shops I realized how lucky I was not to get through to the company I was ordering from(SMILE, by the way). I decided to go with the most reccommended company, B & H, and I was not disappointed. I ordered a camera, large lens, and a battery pack from them Monday morning and received it Weds. afternoon as promised. Each item was just what I wanted and surprise, surprise it was even a little cheaper than quoted. Thank you one and all for taking the time to log on and help those of us that are just learning. I only wish there was a way to make this a required reading site. Good luck to all in the future and remember, IF IT SEEMS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT PROBABLY ISN'T...

Anthony DeBellis , February 05, 2000; 07:27 P.M.

Arista Camera in Bronxville is Overpriced. But, So What!

Most small camera shops are over priced. Big deal. They are in business to make money. The customer should have a good idea of what they want and what it should cost.

That is not my problem with Arista Camera.

Do not trust JERRY from Arista Camera. I Repeat: Do not trust JERRY from Arista Camera. I Repeat: Do not trust JERRY from Arista Camera. I Repeat: Do not trust JERRY from Arista Camera.

Jerry from Arista Camera is a very bad guy. He will cheat you any way he can. He will out and out lie to you. Bait and switch. Stall you for time. Prevent you from speaking to management. Put old used equipment in your bag instead of the new equipment you just paid for. Try and take up your time so you get frustrated and leave with stuff you never wanted.

He did all of this to me in an episode so bizzar and confussing I am not even going to try and explain it here. E - mail me for the whole story.

If you shop at Arista Camera: Beware of Jerry.

Do not trust JERRY from Arista Camera.

I shop at B&H Photo now. I am very happy with B&H.

Anthony DeBellis

Andy Smith , February 16, 2000; 05:54 P.M.

Cambridge Camera just got another sucker! Me. Called to order a lens and bag and they talked me into a different lens. When it finally arrived it was not the quality or of the same price range I ordered. Called the company and they would only answer on the toll number and would lay the phone down until I hung up. I keep calling until someone would talk to me. He became very irate I wanted to return his junk. 15% restocking on the item lets them make more than they would otherwise. Got a quote from another person there for significantly less. Called the credit card company to contest the charge and they said the company had already been paid. No wonder it took so long to get the partial order. They charged me for both items, shipped one, charged shipping for both, and will not give credit for the unshipped merchandise. I looked at http://www.bbb.com and their rating on http://data.igic.com/xreport.xcgi?01690 is awful, along with AAACamera and several others. Adorama and B&H are the only nonchain stores I checked that had a good rating that were from New York. Wolf Camera also was good. Wish I had found this site and the BBB before my order. Its all in the hands of the credit card company now, hope they do not disappoint me too.

Andy Smith , February 16, 2000; 05:55 P.M.


Cambridge Camera just got another sucker! Me. Called to order a lens and bag and they talked me into a different lens. When it finally arrived it was not the quality or of the same price range I ordered. Called the company and they would only answer on the toll number and would lay the phone down until I hung up. I keep calling until someone would talk to me. He became very irate I wanted to return his junk. 15% restocking on the item lets them make more than they would otherwise. Got a quote from another person there for significantly less. Called the credit card company to contest the charge and they said the company had already been paid. No wonder it took so long to get the partial order. They charged me for both items, shipped one, charged shipping for both, and will not give credit for the unshipped merchandise. I looked at http://www.bbb.com and their rating on http://data.igic.com/xreport.xcgi?01690 is awful, along with AAACamera and several others. Adorama and B&H are the only nonchain stores I checked that had a good rating that were from New York. Wolf Camera also was good. Wish I had found this site and the BBB before my order. Its all in the hands of the credit card company now, hope they do not disappoint me too.

Kyle Jones , February 17, 2000; 01:37 P.M.

My wife bought me an EOS Elan IIE for Christmas and, in trying to accessorize the same, I have recently purchased items from Cameraworld, B&H and Abes of Maine. All the experiences have been positive. I was reluctant to buy something from Abes of Maine based on what I have read/heard but they really came through just fine. It was similar to my several recent and past experiences with B&H. I got an outstanding deal with no hassles whatsoever. Realize I knew what I wanted and did not accept alternate recommendations. I also clarified how much shipping would be before I confirmed my order. In short, they came through very well and I would definitely order from them again.

Overall, I like Cameraworld the most based on my three experiences with them and would buy from them if they have the item in stock at a competitive price. They seem to be the most customer friendly and efficient operation. You don't have that lingering doubt after you get off the phone that they may not deliver what they promised or that you just bought yourself several weeks worth of hassles. My only gripe with Cameraworld is that their film prices simply cannot compete with B&H or Abes. I don't know why film costs so much more in Oregon.

Gavin . , February 17, 2000; 10:58 P.M.

For those people who are going to buy camera gear in Tokyo: if you want a relaxed, large store to buy your cameras in, simply don't shop in Tokyo at all! Instead, get a train to Machida and go to Yodobashi Camera there instead; it's only 45 minutes from Tokyo. The store is large and is pretty empty during the week, and not amazingly busy at the weekend either. The entire ground floor is cameras and associated equipment, and it's the only Japanese camera shop I've been to where the aisles are more than 2 feet wide...

Dave Giordano , February 20, 2000; 10:11 P.M.

After getting screwed by Abe's of Maine (they sent me they grey market Rebel G when I wanted the USA..don't ever shop there) I went to Beach camera http://www.beachcamera.com The person who took my order was actually friendly and I had no hassles. My only advise is to be sure that you know exactly what you want and DO NOT let them talk you into buying something that you had not planned.

Dave Giordano , February 20, 2000; 10:16 P.M.

After getting screwed by Abe's of Maine (they sent me they grey market Rebel G when I wanted the USA..don't ever shop there) I went to Beach camera The person who took my order was actually friendly and I had no hassles. My only advise is to be sure that you know exactly what you want and DO NOT let them talk you into buying something that you had not planned.

Lane Olson , February 29, 2000; 12:36 A.M.

Well, here is my story. If you have read any of the above, you now realize how terrible a company AAA Camera Inc,/ Cambridge (they are the same) are to deal with. I wish I had read this letter 2 months ago..... Dec. 30th---ordered a Canon 200mm F1.8 for approximately $4000.00. Told them I needed it by the Jan 5th, 2000. Jerry guaranteed it was in his hands as we spoke and would be shipping that same day. Jan 5th--no lens. Call AAA--was hung up on. Called back--when I say my name, I am put on hold for over 20 minutes until I finally hang up. Over the next days, I call several times. Every time they find out who it is, they put me on hold and don't ever pick up.

Ordered a lens thru Calumet. Had exactly on time. Jan 15th--Flew to Bora Bora on a vacation/photo excursion. Jan 28th-still in Bora Bora lens arrives from AAA Camera. Feb 3rd--Back from Bora Bora--ship lens back unopened. Feb 21st--call to see why they haven't credited my visa yet. Was informed I'd be charged a 15% "restocking" fee. When I tried to explain the situation to customer service, I was insulted several times and hung up on. I have since contacted the NYC Attorney Generals Office (no reply yet),Visa, Kodak, PPA, Canon, among others and now am in the middle of a big mess. I never thought I would be taken by a scam like this. They tell you everything they need to in order to get your Visa # and when they do, look out, 'cause you are screwed. Jerry lied, lied , lied some more and then finished his performance on my original order by lying some more. How can this company continue? Is there a lawyer willing to go after these guys? How many times must this happen to consumers before something is done? If anyone has any suggestions other than what I am doing, please mail me asap. I could use a little help with this company.

Leslie Ivey , February 29, 2000; 05:35 P.M.

Be sure to shop around! Even for the smallest of items. I just purchased a Bogen tripod, a Tamrac Convertible Photo Day Pack, and a few other items from National Camera in St. Paul. I was really surprised when I looked at a few sites, especially B&H because of the price difference. I paid $100 for the same tripod that B&H sells for $70. I paid $130 for the day pack that they sell for $93. I overpaid by about $67. I was going to purchase the Bogen tripod bag and the strap from National Camera until I found out how much they charged! B&H charges $22.50 for the bag and $14.50 for the strap. National Camera wanted $29.00 for the strap and $46.50 for the bag!!! That is about a $40 difference for two small items. I will save about $77 if I use just B&H (excluding the shipping).That's extra film!

I overpaid for the used camera and lenses that I bought by AT LEAST $100. I was going to purchase my next telephoto lense there but I believe that B&H is going to get my business. I wonder how much they overcharge for their other camera equipment? They also overcharge on their film and their customer service isn't that great and they are ALWAYS too busy. I always end up waiting a long while when I am there. There is a large lack of decent camera stores here in the Twin Cities. Please help if anyone knows of some good ones. Thanks!

Frank B. Baiamonte , March 08, 2000; 01:59 A.M.

Recently purchased a used lens (Pentax SMC-A 135 2.8) from Cameta Camera. Saw their ad in Shutterbug. Arrived as promised, in even better condition than expected. They described it as "boxed/mint-", and it looks like it just came off a dealer's shelf, complete with all paperwork incl. warranty cards etc. Very good experience, can recommend Cameta. Wonder what happens if I send in such an old warranty card?

Bernard Johnson , April 07, 2000; 02:27 P.M.

STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM AAA & CAMBRIDGE

I Did a little searching on the internet to purchase a few Cameras and accessories. You know the 50 websites compared on an Excel spread sheet with URL's embedded, etc. I was specially looking for a Canon EOS A2E/5 with a few telephoto zoom lenses and a Sony Mavica FD91. I am currently living in South Africa and could use some quality camera equipment to make the most of my stay here.

Once I narrowed down my search, it came down to two Vendors. Cambridge World and AAA Camera Exchange. On their website, I saw the EOS A2E advertised for 485 with a lens kit (EF 35-80mm f1:4-5.6 III). It was the same lens kit that comes standard with a Rebel G body ( I already own one). To be honest with you I could not understand why, or more importantly how Cambridge was able to sell a Body and a lens kit (regardless of how basic the lens were) for the same price as their closest competitor. By the way, out of the 30 or so online camera stores, their website was one of the simplest, most extensive and fastest site I checked, so I was already impressed

So, I figured I must be reading it wrong or the advertisement was a mistake. But that competitor (at least so I thought), AAA Camera Exchange, was about a $100 less in total for the additional lens I wanted. Had that not been the case I would have just placed the order online. Also, as I stated before, I already had a Rebel G with the same lens kit so it would be of no advantage having two of the same lenses. That is why I decided to place a call to the store.

Now I took the time to call the store @ $2.50 per minute. I asked the sales person for clarification regarding the A2E and the basic lens kit that came with it. He explained to me that I did read the page right and it came with the lens kit for $485. I then asked him if he matched any competitors prices. And he said that no competitor can match his price. Now I must have struck a bad cord when I told him that AAA camera Exchange his apparent competitor has the lenses cheaper. Once I told him that, he immediately raised his voice in anger and told me if U find it cheaper then U can go with them. Then he hangs up the phone before I can explain myself.

What I wanted to explain was I was not trying to beat down prices from one vendor to another. I would much rather purchase the equipment all from one source and if he can match the quoted price of AAA exchange or come close to it or even explain why your prices are a little cheaper I would make my purchase right there & then.

I think the way that was handled was absolutely unacceptable. He could have easily explained that the extra I am paying for on the zoom lens makes up for the basic lens that is not provided with AAA's A2E body. A second alternative was to explain the higher prices are incorporated to ensure eceedingly high standards in customer service. Or he could have asked me what exactly I am using the camera for and begin to explain the do's and dont's of camera purchasing. I can think of endless ways to respond to my initial question before hanging up in my face.

After emailing the store to lodge my complaint, someone by the name of Adam Harris responds to my complaint by email and tells me the person I dealt with was fired and I should call and ask for Gary.

So once again I call @ $2.50 per hour and ask for Gary. I asked him why he was able to sell the camera for so much cheaper and he he says he just could. OK, fine! Then I explain that I wanted an entry level Canon EF Zoom lens with my purchase of the EOS A2E body and asked him why the 100-300mm AFD was so much more than the other lens. This is after I specifically remember reading on Photonoet that the AFD is inferior to the ring ultrasonic. His response was "its a better quality lens". So after a few more questions, he puts me on hold for too long ($2.50/minute) and I hang up to call AAA. And guess who answers the phone?

"AAA Camera Exchange, this is Gary speaking." I immediately hung up the phone just to compose myself from the laughter. So then I took a look at the websites to compare the address and phone numbers for each store just to realize they are next door and share the same fax number.

Moral of the story;

STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM EITHER AAA OR CAMBRIDGE!!!!!!!!!! These people, including myself are not lying. Its called fucked w/o the grease

stephen ramanauskas , April 24, 2000; 05:27 P.M.

Hmmm... A couple of weeks ago I was going to spend a few hundred on a niceish pointandshoot, and a quick net search showed the best price to be at AAA. I rang, and the item was in stock and at the price on the net. I live four blocks from their store on 17th Street in Manhattan: can I come pick it up at the shop? No, they say, only delivery. I protested that it's daft to pay $20 in shipping charges for a five-minute stroll, but they insisted, and offered to waive the shipping charge. When I told them to ship it to their shop on 17th, and that I'd be by to pick it up, there was a very long silence on the other end. The clerk could come up with no good reason not to, but lamely kept insisting that this was the way they do things. This felt a little odd, so I defered the purchase. And having read the above, damn glad I did.

Narayan Natarajan , May 02, 2000; 10:24 A.M.

I too wish I'd seen this page before. Marine Park tried very hard to screw me. First it was bait and switch - which I promptly fell into because of their "first time buyer" bullshit. Second when I received my "grey" market canon (which canon now explicitely will not warranty) three elements - a spring clip, the plastic screen (what do you callit?? with the etchings on it..can't remember), and another piece fell right out of the camera cover. So I called 'em back and the guy started screwing around with me saying the camera was okay and I was lying. Well after nearly 4weeks of constant battle to have them send me a camera, I called Citibank Visa, my credit card people, and they said that they would go ahead and dispute it. So I wrote them a LONG letter explaining my experience with the unscrupulous lowlifes at Marine Park, shipped all the crap back, and in a month I had my money back. I don't know if citibank got their money back from marine park, but I am happy I am with citibank visa.

hey, if this sounds like an endorsment of Citibank Visa, then it is.. they saved my ass from getting shafted for nearly $600!

Jeffrey Wishik , May 03, 2000; 11:54 A.M.

BEWARE KING ST PHOTO -

In late December I tried to place a phone order for a Gitzo tripod. Supposedly it was in stock and would be shipped on December 27, but I was told to order from their website. I did. After more than a week passed without delivery I called and was told it was back in stock (!?) and would be shipped. I was reassured that it would arrive before I left for a trip on January 10. On Friday January 7, still no tripod. My girlfriend called and was dealt with in a very rude manner. E-mails have gone unanswered and a letter to the president has produced no response.

At least they never billed my credit card.

Jeff Wishik

Garth McElroy , May 05, 2000; 10:42 A.M.

I just hung up with the rudest sales person I have ever encountered. The company was Adorama. This guy just about started yelling at me when I'd ask a question, all he wanted was my credit card number. Needless to say I told him he was rude and even though they had a low price I would not give them my money. My advice is if you want to a camera try and buy from a local dealer you know. You may end up paying $100 more, but in my opinion it is money well spent!

Alex Grigorian , May 16, 2000; 07:21 P.M.

Just got off the phone with cameraworld.com What a great experience! I was "trying to spend" over $1600.00 for the last 3 hours. The item may not be as related to this discussion (Sony DCR PC100 digital camcorder), but I just want to share my experience. I did a search on cnet.com and pricescan.com for a cheapest price, and got variety of results from $1525 to $2099. Naturally, I started calling the .coms and ... here is the kicker: either the sales-person on the other end was talking to me like I called to ask him/her for money, or like I was trying to talk to them about religion. All what I was looking for is: confirmation of the price, appearing on their (cnet, pricescan) site, stock availability, how much on shipping, and some courteous service. After more than 3 hours I ended up calling B&H and Camera World, where I finally got courteous/friendly service. I ended up buying from cameraworld (just a bit cheaper than B&H - web site had a wrong price), and plus extremely friendly, not-pushy attitude. Haven't received yet (placed the order few minutes ago), but I would highly recommend to anyone. Salesman's name was Mike, and I asked him to keep me informed on 1V prices in the next couple of months.

Jeff Friedman , May 22, 2000; 12:19 P.M.

I went to the Beach Camera showroom on Rt. 22 in NJ to buy a Canon EOS Elan IIE having checked prices, including through www.pricewatch.com (a very useful site). Beach had the lowest price on the body and also on the Canon 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS lens according to Pricewatch. They were also lower than B&H. More importantly, Beach's Pricewatch prices were $10 and $25 lower, respectively, than the prices on Beach's web site. I went to the showroom where they honored the Pricewatch prices with no questions. I also picked up the 550EX Speedlight which they were competitively priced on. In short, I had no problems with Beach. The key is knowing what you want and not letting yourself be talked into something you really didn't want in the first place.

Jeff Friedman

John Sully , May 28, 2000; 06:22 P.M.

I want to add a positive comment about B&H, and a comment about their website. I recently ordered a Canon EOS-3 and a Sigma 400/5.6 HSM. I found that their website, although it eventually provides all the information you need, is a bit of a pain to navigate. It is also amazingly slow. I order late evening PDT and the order was shipped the next day via FedEx priority. I had the order on Friday, as promised. Although the box appeared to have been damaged in transit, everything was in good condition (this is really FedEx's fault) and I accepted the package.

I have also had very good experiences with Kirk Enterprises (www.kirkphoto.com) for tripod stuff. Their website is also painful to navigate, but they stock a wide variety of tripods, ballheads, lens and body plates, flash brackets and other types of camera support goodies. Prices for legsets are not as good as the NY guys, but I have always gotten what I ordered at the time promised. The Kirk branded plates are of high quality and they are much much easier to deal with than Really Right Stuff (they accept credit cards and take orders via phone or over the web, for one thing!)

Finally, I want to put in another good word for Camera Club. They are my local camera shop here in sunny Santa Cruz, CA. They've always been good to deal with and do match the NYC prices for the most part (they use B&H as a reference for pricing and will generally meet the USA goods price in the B&H ad in Shutterbug). I've purchases 3 bodies and 4 lenses through them. They have a pretty good stock of used equipment also.

Chris Grady , June 07, 2000; 08:02 P.M.

This page is an invaluable asset to anyone buying photographic equipment. Before finding this resource, I use to dread stepping into the salesmans viper pits from company to company to buy photographic equipment over the phone or online.

The pure balls of some of these photographic retailers is truly amazing. I once tried to buy a Macro lens and a rechargeable battery set for a digital camera (the Olympus D-600L). The guy told me that I needed an adapter for the lens. Knowing the general price range of adapters I didn't think twice and just said OK. Out of curiosity I stopped him in the middle of finalizing the transaction and asked "How much is the adapter?" He said $249 USD !! When I told him to cancel the entire transaction because there wasn't a snowballs chance in hell I was paying $249 dollars for a f$%^#$g adapter ring he said "Hold on I think were having a special on these today."

After a 5 minute dog an pony show of looking up "special prices for special customers" he said, "I can give you that adapter for $12.95 how does that sound." I said "It sounds like the same adapter, I'll take it.""It's not the same adapter, it's an off brand" he said.

Needless to say when I got the shipment, sure enough, the adapter was an Olympus and not an off brand."

After reading this article by Philip and the comments of the people who took the time to tell their stories, I haven't had to deal with scam artists since. I might suggest a photo.net "Photographic Retailer Hall of shame"

- Chris

Bob Lee , June 17, 2000; 03:23 A.M.

This is my grossly overdue compliments as to B&H's service.

It's been over eleven months since I took my savings and ordered up more than $4800 in Minolta gear and accessories from B&H. I went with that company based only on the comments I found on this page as to their service. My shipment arrived the next day via Federal Express overnight delivery with only one item missing because it was on back order. That missing item eventually arrived several months later without any additional delivery charge.

I have since ordered at least $2000 in film and equipment from B&H on four occasions. Each time, more or less, their salespeople were businesslike and no-nonsense. I have the impression that it doesn't hurt the transaction if the buyer knows exactly what s/he wants to order. Each time, my order arrived within a day or two via Federal Express.

I suppose I could experiment and try ordering from other mail order companies. On the other hand, given some of the horror stories posted here, I'm inclined to stick with a company that hasn't failed me yet.

-Bob Lee

john mckay , July 02, 2000; 07:58 A.M.

IT IS IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO AVOID CAMBRIDGE CAMERA. PAY FULL PRICE IF YOU MUST OR SHOP ELSEWHERE. IN EARLY FEB, 2000 I ORDERED A NIKON 24-120 LENS AND MY CARD WAS PROMPTLY CHARGED. NO LESS THEN 10 TIMES I WAS TOLD IT WAS IN STOCK AND WOULD BE SHIPPED "TOMORROW, I PROMISE". FINALLY 4 MONTHS LATER I TURNED IT OVER TO THE FRAUD SECTION OF MY CREDIT CARD COMPANY AND HAD A FULL REFUND TO MY ACCOUNT. THIS MAY SOUND LIKE A HAPPY ENDING BUT THOSE DIS-HONORABLE PIECES OF, (USE YOUR IMAGINATION), HAD THE USE OF MY MONEY AND I HAD TO PAY THE C.C. INTEREST RATE FOR 4 MONTHS. PLEASE SAVE YOURSELF A LOT OF GRIEF AND SHOP B&H OR SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL MERCHANT. IN THE END YOU WILL BE HAPPIER AND FIND IT LESS PAINFULL. YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY I WAITED 4 MONTHS TO ACT, I GUESS I CAN ATTRIBUTE THIS TO IN-EXPERIENCE AND TOO MUCH TRUST IN MY FELLOW MAN. I HAVE LEARNED A VALUABLE LESSON AND I HOPE IT`S AT THE EXPENSE OF CAMBRIDGE CAMERA.

Andrei Borisov , July 17, 2000; 10:34 A.M.

I totally agree with John Mckay about the Cambridge Camera. The other day I wanted to buy Canon SpeedLight 380EX for my Elan II. I phoned them in the morning to find out if they had it is the shop. The answer was YES. When I came to their shop they told me they did not have it there, but there was one in their warehouse. They could ship it to me the next day or take a cab to get it from the warehouse for additional $15 for me. Is this a service? I decided to buy the flash in B&H, a bit more expensive but more reliable as well.

carlos soler , July 19, 2000; 01:52 P.M.

I would like to add some quick praise for my favorite mail order company. KEH.com. I have spent $1000's this year on new and used equipment from them and everything has been perfect. No bait and switch issues(I usually place orders over internet), very quick response to orders and prompt replies to email questions as well.

They usually have a good stock of used canon eos and mamiya equipment at very competitive prices.

Ask for Jeannie Cox, she has helped me with just about every order. Tell her I said so.

Good luck.

Carlos

Alan Macmillan , July 20, 2000; 02:13 P.M.

Just wanted to re-iterate what has been said above concerning Cambridge Camera Exchange. In search of rock bottom prices I found their website, and called, trying to place order for Vivitar 19-35mm for Canon Manual focus. "Ah. we don't have that in stock right now, but we have a much better lens, just what you want sir, Cambron 18-35", "can you order me a lens from vivitar" "no" "why not?" "they no longer make that lens" [i later found out that this is completly untrue, the lens is still being produced and is available in many places] The red light should have been flashing by now, but instead I got taken in, and placed an order for the more expensive lens, and was told it would arrive in 7-10 days. 10 days later, no lens, so I call. "hello, i have a question about an order" click... i'm on hold, minutes pass, "hello" "hi, i have a question about an order" click... this happens several more times, and I am standing just laughing to myself, stunned that I'm being treated this badly, finally, "Hello" "Don't put me on hold [this is the only way to actually talk to someone], i have a question about an order" i eventually am told it will be shipped tomorrow, "can you guarantee that, as I am going on a trip and i need it" "yes sir" "just to check, you can guarantee that?" "yes sir".... 10 days later, no lens, so I call back, demand not to be put on hold, and discover once more, it will be shipped out tomorrow. At this point I cancelled my order. They had taken the money out my account two days after the initial order, who knows whether I will get it back.

I found this page too late. It seems like a victims' support group of people who've been reamed, sharing their horror stories. I have never encountered such blatant con-artists. Its opened my eyes a bit, and has made me think twice before being tempted by alluring bargain prices. In a way its like a little moral fable - you get greedy, trying to save yourself a few bucks, and this is what you get, these are the kind of people you are exposed to.

John Henderson , July 27, 2000; 12:43 P.M.

I have placed several orders with Tri-State and B&H and have been satisfied with both, and agree with the warnings about Cambridge. Cambridge had a price for a Sekonic L-508 for about $20 less than anyone else had listed in Shutterbug. I called to place an order and was asked, "Do you want the US Warranty for $X extra?" Smelling that they were going to send me a gray-market camera if I said no, I said, "Oh...I think I'll have to reconsider my order," to which the man immediately mumbled something like, "No. I'll give it to you." I kept my fingers crossed waiting for the package to arrive to ensure that I did indeed receive a US market product - which I did. Turned out all right, but I don't like people not being upfront with me. I appreciate those who list their products as "US" or "gray." I have no problem with them selling gray market products as long as they're not trying to sneak it on you. I don't like wasting my time calling places with good advertised prices to see that they don't have what I want.

John L. Shelton , July 28, 2000; 01:26 A.M.

I've had one very good experience with WolfXpress, the internet order division of Wolf Camera. Their selection is somewhat limited, but the prices I've checked out have been very good. My order arrived right on schedule, and I got exactly what I wanted. They have free ground shipping for some orders, and no sales tax (except to GA.)

Various Wolf Camera locations have been remarkably helpful, friendly, and reasonable. Selection is again somewhat limited, but they'll order almost anything and ship it free if they don't stock it, and I've never had any hassle about an exchange.

I've spent about $6k total at Wolf and WolfXpress in the last few years and am completely satisfied. When visiting one of the snooty camera shops nearby (K&S in Palo Alto), I feel treated like an annoyance. When shopping at Wolf, I feel like a valued customer.

=John=

Bob Lagno , August 01, 2000; 10:09 A.M.

AVOID REGENCY CAMERA!!! I was almost classicly screwed by them! The salesman was rude and forceful, and wouldn’t accept no as an answer. After ordering, and reflecting, I called back the next day... I tried to cancel the order, since the items were out of stock (I was told that they were in stock), and the person said “what the f_c_ is the problem now!?!?” Their add in Pop. Photo says “Friendly Staff, No Questions Asked.” In a way, you should follow their advice: do not ask them to sell you anything mail order!

Kimball Corson , August 01, 2000; 12:56 P.M.

I have been buying, using and selling 'Blad, Leica, Contax and some other equipment for many, many years. The most reliable and honest vendors, IMHO, are B&H, Tamarkin (both in New York) and, the very best of all, Jim Kuehl & Company in Des Moines, who deals only in Leicas, 'Blads, Nikons and little else. AAA is truly bad, based on experience, Adorama, too often iffy, Sunset, a problem waiting to happen, and Cambridge and Wall Street Cameras, uneven at best. I have fared well with Jack's Camera Shop in Muncie, Indiana, however, and have gotten excellent service from Le Camera in Lawrenceville, New Jersey (They once chased down a discontinued, mint, German, Carl Zeiss f/2 28mm Contax lens for me and then did not gouge me on price.) Sorry I do not have the inclination to say more or expand further, but I really have bought and sold a lot.

Kimball Corson

Jeffrey Wozniak , August 10, 2000; 11:32 A.M.

KING STREET PHOTO

I strongly suggest avoiding King St. Photo in S. Carolina (they also sell online). They billed my credit card as soon as they got my order but I still have not received the items. When I called, they told me on two occasions to e-mail. I got no response to several e-mails. When I called again, the salesperson told me that the item would be picked up by UPS that day. He reluctantly gave me a tracking number which turned out to be a bad number. Upon another call, he then argued with me on the phone, changed the store's "policies" many times in the same conversation, blatently lied, and refused to send the items via next-day mail when I asked him to do so. When I suggested that giving tracking numbers is a customer service, he disagreed and explained to me that they are a "multi-billion dollar company" (I actually think that they are a small storefront operation) and that they didn't need my suggestions. I should have been suspicious when I first called to check if they had the camera that I wanted and he immediately said "yeah, we have those in stock" without even checking anything. My recommendation: Avoid King Street Photo! They cannot deliver what they say they will and their customer service is unbelievably bad.

Jeff Wozniak Minneapolis, MN

Tsairbor Yen , August 18, 2000; 02:29 A.M.

I had some experience with Camerworld,B&H, KEH and DEL"s. For new item, the B&H and Cameraworld are good places to order, but the service quality depends upon the salesman.

KEH might not have the lowest price, but quite honest for used equipment and tend to more friendly than B&H used dept. They are willing to spend more time to talk to you. B&H offer the Fedex saver shipping for lower cost, but KEH does not.

Del's has the higher price than most used camera stores, but they offer longest guaranty and inspection. Their shipping and handling are higher than KEH for the same item (5 dollars more). Although they claim that they are the best, I had to returned a used Nikon lens rated 95% condition by Del's, because the second front glass contains a visible thin unknown residule on surface (for this 9.5 rated condition lens, it should not happen.) No one is perfect. In the website, author tell everyone that you can have confidence to buy used gears from Del's. ?????? I think you should be always more conservative. However, the person in Del's was very friendly to me at all.

I had a bad experience with B&H Used department. I ordered a used Nikon AI 80-200 f4.5, but they sent me a non-AI modified version to me. I did reconfirm the AI version twice with their service and used dept, but they still sent me the wrong one. The modified C to AI lens(rated as 9.0) showed that it was just modified by the fresh rough cutting surface and dirty particles are everywhere of lens. What can I say? Cheating or Honest? I then returned this lens to B&H used dept.

By T.B. Yen March 1999

Joe DiAngelo , September 10, 2000; 08:00 P.M.

Thank you very much for this page!! I think I am going through a scam right now from broadway photo and video. I have waited a week for my nikon n60 w/ tamron 28-200 kit and they just now told me it was on back order. You better bet your ass I am calling tomorrow and canceling my order, quick!! I believe I am going to go with B&H or the Camera Club on this one. from what I've read from all of you, these are 2 that seem pretty reputable. Thank you all very much... happy shooting and try to stay away from the scams!!

O Y , September 19, 2000; 10:20 P.M.

I had a positive experience with ADORAMA. B&H lost me as a customer. They both do not give reasonable information and guidance ( on their web site ) to those who buy with a non-us credit card. B&H did not really bother to help me out and resolve the situation. ADORAMA staff made a real effort, followed my order up, made phone calls abroad to get everything sorted out, and shiped what I needed. That is what I call a good customer service.

Robert Jones , September 30, 2000; 06:02 P.M.

I recently purchased a Nikon N80 Camera Body at Canoga Cameras in CA, and had a very nice, and pleasant transaction with them. The camera arrived quickly in perfect packing, and above all, they matched any pretender pricing from NY, as well as gave me free shipping to WA. Kudos! Canoga Camera is awesome. Also, check out Camerasphere for the best prices I have found on lenses.

Lucian Morse , October 03, 2000; 05:21 A.M.

``

Mark Wilkins , November 05, 2000; 04:30 P.M.

After the discussion above, why is there a huge link to Beach Camera under "Related Links?"

Jonathan Lundquist , November 08, 2000; 01:39 A.M.

AVOID "The Camera Zone". I purchased a Epson 2000P from them because their price was almost lowest at $748, and they were highly rated at cnet.com. You can complete your order at their web-site, but at the end they state that your order will not be processed until they contact you to verify your credit card. That's when the dreaded up-sale begins! I must be a sucker, I now have a $3,050 charge on my credit card. A big chunk of that is that I bought a film scanner, which I was planning next. However, I would have made a better decision, and probably purchased a different scanner, if I had not been on the phone with an aggressive salesman. The other big chunk of it is papers and inks, all stuff I'd supposedly use eventually and supposedly got cheaper buying in larger quantities. I'm not so sure... I lost track of what I was spending in the up-sale. Even though my card was charged the full amount a week ago, so far I've only received two rolls of paper, and it's Premium Glossy for the 870/1270, probably *not* even compatible with the 2000P. I at least thought he was only pimping from the 2000P accessory list! Needless to say, I'm sticking with B&H in the future!

Lee Shively , November 27, 2000; 09:10 P.M.

I recommend B&H without reservations. A couple of years ago, when I had rekindled my photography interest, I decided to buy into the Canon EOS system. I wanted to try to buy the most for the least, so I called Abe's of Maine. They did not have in stock two of the lenses I wanted but they did have the camera body and one of the lenses. Their prices were as advertised; however, to ship them to me they wanted $90.00. I said "no thanks" and called B&H--a place I have used for about 20 years. They had it all in stock, I got the shipment in 3 days and it cost $18.00 to ship. The price of the equipment was more than Abe's but the difference in shipping more than made up for the higher price. The service is excellent, as well. Recently I ordered a grey market Canon 400mm lens from B&H but in about one week the manual focus ring jammed. I was afraid there would be problems in exchanging the lens but I got a new lens in less than two weeks. The replacement lens turned out to be a lens with a Canon USA warranty! This place is good.

Graham Perks , December 06, 2000; 10:01 A.M.

The Photographic Mail Order Survey is an excellent resource. It is posted monthly to the Usenet newsgroups rec.photo.misc and/or rec.video, and maintained by Douglas Blondin.

This site maintains a copy: http://www.cmpsolv.com/los/pmos.shtml

It rates many, many dealers and continually updates with new purchase experiences. (Submit your own!)

Deborah gibson , December 24, 2000; 12:18 P.M.

Hi I had a very good experience building my Mamiya system with harrysproshop.com. They are in Canada. I ordered on 4 occasions. Delivery was fast, shipping was reasonable and I never had to pay duty. I saved about $2000.00 by ordering from them. Highly recommended because the service was great. Deborah Gibson.

Gary Wilson , January 01, 2001; 06:03 P.M.

New to studio photography, and after searching through countless threads of information on what was recommended in a system, I finally decided on a SP Studio Systems' Excalibur 1600 monolight (mfg. p/n: SP1600, from SP Studio Systems, of BKA). It looked like a good deal that fit my budget.

My purchase decision was based on the product description given at their website, regarding the SP1600 monolight, which is wrong. All of the "corrected" information I present hereinafter is from the instruction manual sent with the monolight (which is written for both the SP1600 and SP3200, and compares and contrasts the two rather nicely). BKA's misstatements on their website, and my comments on them, are as follows:

1. The SP1600 monolight has a 100W modeling light. It does not. It in fact uses a 60W modeling light.

2. The SP1600 modeling light intensity is "stepless" control from 1/8 to full power. It is not. It is "switchable" from 1/4 power to full power (three settings only).

3. The SP1600 flash power control is "stepless" from 1/4 to full power, with switch. It is not "stepless," but is in fact "switchable" from 1/4 to full power. (Stepless and switchable are two different birds. You can have one or the other, but not both. The unit has three setting, 1/4, 1/2, and full power. The operating instructions list the unit as switchable only.)

4. The SP1600 monolight is equipped with an audible flash confirmation signal. The SP1600 does not have an audible flash confirmation signal.

Most of this information does apply to the SP3200 monolight, but not the SP1600. I do not know if these misstatements are intentional (I hope not) or oversights, but in either case, they are wrong. I emailed the company with my concerns, but to date have not received a reply.

I bought the outfits at B&H Photo, which incidentally also misstates some of this same information, but do not offer a full account of all misstated options, as presented above.

Ed Pollock , January 21, 2001; 12:13 P.M.

I ordered a Canon L lens from CameraWorld of Oregon on the net last Saturday. They called Sat. afternoon to confirm. Tuesday I was sent email confirming the order shipment along with a link to UPS for tracking. The order came on Friday as promised. Package was very secure and heavily foam protected. Price was nearly the same as New York and free shipping. Quick, easy, great communication and all as ordered. Great business people and a good website.

Kat Walsh , February 05, 2001; 05:48 P.M.

I thought I would add the complete novice/beginner perspective... I just got my first camera a year ago. A Pentax IQ 160 Zoom. Knowing *nothing* about cameras other than that a friend had that one and I liked it - I went where she got it from, Service Merchandise. No problems, but they couldn't answer anything about it. Luckily, it's a p&s, so it was a simple transaction.

Recently decided it was time to move up a notch. After a lot of internet research, I decided to get the Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom (my main subjects are wildlife, so zooms are important!). I looked all around, and did a "My Simon" search for lowest price. I didn't trust a lot of the "cheap" places at the back of mags just from my own personal skeptism. And the same when I was looking online. I automatically skipped the first few "lowest price" places if I didn't know the name already. I ended up going to Tri-State Camera in NYC because they had a low price online *and* a nearby retail store, and I wanted to try holding the camera and see what it felt like (I can't handle heavy cameras well and this looked bulky). The gentleman helping me was nice, although the some of the people there seemed very unprofessional (one guy was just screaming into the phone the whole time I was there). The guy who was helping me couldn't answer many questions for me, he had to keep going to their website and reading it to me (well, hello! I could do that!). They did offer the various bells & whistles, but I have this thing where I automatically say no when pitched to, so the only extra thing I got was a filter kit (and that was because I was curious about filters anyway). But they weren't rudely pushy, and the guy let me play with the camera and did *try* to answer my questions, so I did leave with an ok feeling about them, and I would go back again.

I have also gone to B&H, although I have only bought little things from them. Maybe it is because I am just a beginner, but I found them completely overwhelming! They seem to have everything under the sun, but make you jump through hoops to get them! You have to wait in a different line for everything (and god forbid you try to ask someone a question!), then get slips for them, to go wait in a line to pay, then get another slip, then go wait in another line to pick up the item. Shesh, it took me over 2 hours to get some film, negative sleeves and to try to ask a question for my boss. Overall though, I am now looking to move into the SLR field, and I will probably go to them anyway. I will just make sure I know what I want when I go in (and that's where Photo.net comes in!).

Yuhang Wang , February 15, 2001; 12:04 P.M.

I would like to share my buyinng experience from Tristate Camera. I placed the order of a Nikon N80 on 2/9/2001. The company charged my credit card but did not ship till 2/14/2001. I inspected the camera when I received it today (2/15). The tripod socket on the bottom of the camera clearly showed usage. I called the company. One of the supervisors there, Mr. Avi Boroch, told me that they would not exchange the camera for me but could give me a refund. It would have cost me $30-$40 because of all the shipping charges (they don't refund the shipping fees). As I see it, the company is selling used cameras as new to customers. If you are reading this, don't buy cameras from this company.

Garth McElroy , February 21, 2001; 08:15 A.M.

Now that I have taken the plunge into serious photography I can say B&H Photo is the best company to deal with. I usually get my order within a day or two, they have good prices and shipping rates. If you know what you want there web site is also great. Customer service is also respectable. I ordered an Elan 7 that turned out to be defective and B&H replaced it within a week. I have since ordered L series lenses from them and have been very satisfied with there shipping and packing methods. HIGHLY RECOMENDED!!!!

Mal. Stevens , February 28, 2001; 07:16 P.M.

Simons Camera in Los Angeles CA. Has a new address since an earlier comment on this page as to the knowledgable and good service from Simon and his staff. It is Simons Camera, 1213 North Highland Ave. Los Angeles CA. 90038 Phone number is 323/463 8585...This number has not changed since the move. I have been a customer since 1975 and I am happy with the service and his competitve prices. They also have many excellent new and used cameras and accessories at competitive prices.

Bill Somerville , March 01, 2001; 02:18 P.M.

For those who want to purchase the classic Olypmus OM-1 - or who want lenses to go with one you already own - you should first go to KEH Camera Brokers. They almost always have a decent supply of OM bodies and Zuiko lenses, as well as fair prices and honest ratings. Take a look at the prices, and THEN go to eBay. Olympus OM stuff is up for auction ALL the time. Go in assuming that you can't really trust the seller's assessment of condition, and bid accordingly. I've only been misled once out of my eight eBay camera-stuff purchases... mostly lenses. If the bids keep getting close to the KEH price, give up and buy from KEH - it's certainly safer. But you can sometimes get the same item for 50% less on eBay if you are patient and lucky. Place a maximum bid of, say, 75% of the KEH price... and don't go over. There will always be another of the same item coming up later.

Ara Anjargolian , March 04, 2001; 03:38 A.M.

I always had great luck with B & H photo and Adorama. From time to tme, when money was tight, I've shopped at less reputable places like Smile Photo, AAA Photo. Though I've never been burned by these places, I have had to do some haggling and was hassled some until I got what I wanted.

Shayok Mukhopadhyay , March 12, 2001; 06:17 P.M.

Now is this classic editorial integrity, or did Adorama turn over a new leaf the moment it started paying commissions to photo.net? I dont know if Phil's data model allows for versioning of static content, but as far as I can recall the original version of this article had a sentence that went something like: "I havent personally been reamed by Adorama, but if you check Neighbor-to-Neighbor...". Also, the original version of the sentence "I know many satisfied Adorama and B&H customers who have never set foot in the United States " used to only mention B&H.

FWIW, I have bought a couple of things from Adorama without having been reamed; also, putting my money where my mouth is, I'd be willing to make donations to photo.net if only it helps sustain its traditional no-holds-barred editorial style.

sefrioui reda , March 19, 2001; 10:29 A.M.

i second what Shayok said. Come on Phillip, that's not being partial. OK, maybe to get comissions is the only way to keep photo net but you could find other deals, no? also the 2 new links.....dealtime? you'r jocking right that just give you the cheapest(the ones we have been complaining all about).. also Photoalley , great but i wonder why there name is photo, they don't have anything...much.

Otherwise i read several good reviews on the net of Adorama, i have yet used them but i might soon. i used both KEH and B&H. I thrust both of them but B&H could really improve on customer skills. Basicaly it seems that one of the only consistant store for new is B&H if you don't mind getting insulted(no jocking they did and hang up on me....but i use them because i never had any eq prob and great delivery). For used i use exclusively KEH geat choice and courteous service, realy happy about them). I Know that they both have new and used, but i guess that's too much for my little brain...) ..no really i fing that KEH is best for used AND B&H for new . ciao

chris calabro , March 29, 2001; 08:18 A.M.

I agree that the belated support of Adorama by Photo.net looks bad. But the reality is that Adorama is worthy of the plug. I have done large volumes of business with both Adorama & B&H. I mention B&H because they are the defacto standard by which all others are measured. My experience has been that other than one shipping via UPS and the other by Fed Ex, I can't tell the difference. I would even give the slight edge to Adorama on prices for Eos gear. I have read somewhere that B&H will lower the price to meet a internet price of a competitor. I would qaulify that statement with "sometimes". I actually called once and had them work up a quote for $10K in Canon Pro Gear. The price was neck in neck with Adorama. I came down to a domke bag. The price difference was $50 between the two stores. I mentioned this, waited while they confirmed, and got back the following. " We will meet you 1/2 way on the bag". I reminded my salesperson that we had a 10K order going here and it seemed that $25.00 was small potatoes in the scope of the order. He did not agree, I said thank you and placed the order with Adorama. Not only did I get the Domle bag for the lower price, when I told the sales guy (Fred) to sharpen his pencil in advance because we were heading for 10K he consistently lowered every price. In the end I saved at least another 10% on the order. In came in 2 days as promised complete. I ahve had several other dealings with Adorama since. I am very happy. I would say that B&H has a better selection of used or refurbished gear.

Roberto Lins , April 02, 2001; 07:45 A.M.

My original post was a good comment about CameraWorld. Nothing against them, I still think they are trustworth, but in my comment I stated that they offer free-shipping, which is not true anymore. I moved out of the US and they don't ship stuff out, so I decided to change my post recommending B&H (anywhere) and ny-camera (www.ny-camera.net) if you're in Europe.

Joe Nonneman , April 03, 2001; 03:11 P.M.

I have purchased an F90s body, a speedlight, eight lenses, several filters, and other equipment, all from B&H, over the prior four years. I have never once had a bad experience. The shipments get to Illinois so fast it makes your head spin, and the shipping is extremely fair. Tax free plus about $10 for shipping on a gray lens or body kills Wolf or a local store by at least $200 every time on even less expensive pro-level equipment. I do not care if a less reputable mail-order firm would save me another $20. With that said, the reason that I chose B&H over Adorama in the first place was because of Philip's advice. Adorama's reception here circa 1997 was lukewarm at best (but in fairness they did have, BY FAR, the best reputation next to B&H). Has Adorama improved, or do I sense a more sinister motive?? Maybe at some point I will throw them some business to test them out. Just gotta have the new 80-400mm AF VR lens :-)

David Weir , April 08, 2001; 01:52 P.M.

The best place I feel to by photo equipment is either B & H Photo or Adoroma. The prices are about The same. And the prices in the catolog are sometimes cheaper when you go to purchase. But make sure you know what your going to buy before you decide to purchase. With a high volume store like B & H, and Adorama you cant expect to have all knowledgable staff. I've had bad experiences with companies advertising in photo magazines. Saying that their was an error by the magazine. Also waiting weeks for equipment to be shipped and having to cancel the order and going to B & H, adoroma. If you dont know what equipment to buy, and your willing to pay alot more go to store that has a knowledgale staff like DELS and CALUMET. But for the buck B & H, and Adorama still is my choice. Whatch out theirs alot of crooks waiting to steal your hard earne money.

Andy Course , May 04, 2001; 03:46 A.M.

The power of the internet: Canon 100-300mm lens £370 in the UK. Found and ordered the same lens from Adorama.com, arrived 7 days later. Including shipping paid £212.

Joe Nonneman , May 07, 2001; 11:00 A.M.

The power of the Internet part 2: Canon 20mm f/2.8 lens $620 plus 7.5% tax at Wolf Camera in Chicago. Found and ordered the same lens from www.bhphotovideo.com, arrived 2 days later (didn't have to cross "the pond"). Including shipping paid $438 (gray). If you insist on USA warranty lenses it is $488.

Mark Bentley , June 06, 2001; 04:39 P.M.

I too have my doubts about Dealtime; I'm not sure how granular their "in stock" tags are. Today I searched for an AFS Nikkor 300mm F/4.0. This lens sells for $1,200+ at the Adorama's and BH's of the World. DealTime showed me two for under $900, Camera Club and DiscoveryCamera. Following the link to CameraClub revealed that it was indeed not the AF-S version of the lens. Following the path to DiscoveryCamera took longer to resolve, as it sure as heck LOOKs like the AF-S version, and has the right mfr part number (1909) to boot. A call to them, however, showed that the item is not in stocked, and is in fact not stocked at all -- it's a "special order" item and the price would be re-quoted to me after the item arrived. Thanks, no.

Lesson learned: DealTime can show what appear to be incredible bargains. And, sure enough, they aren't credible...

Jagadeesh Venugopal , June 13, 2001; 10:34 P.M.

I had another pleasant experience with B&H. I ordered my Kodak digital camera from their website and paid $7.70 for 3-day shipping. They upgraded to two day for free. I got it overnight.

The one thing I like about B&H after so many purchases is that it is hassle free. Yes you pay 10% more than the cheapest store, but you have peace of mind knowing that they are an ethical operation. I'd rather pay the 10 or so bucks they charge extra than deal with the smile cameras of the world.

Lately B&H and Cameraworld match each other in prices. Where B&H is better is they get the product out to you by FedEx, not UPS ground.

Christopher Johnson , June 17, 2001; 03:31 P.M.

I have made about 10 purchases by mail order in the past year and a half. I started out comparing prices in the ads in Popular Photo, Shutterbug and Peterson's. Then I called around. The calling around was as painful as having your teeth drilled without novacaine. There were several that I immediately distrusted and crossed off my list due to their rude, misleading, pushy, and untrustworthy style: Smile, Abes of Maine, AAA, Marine Park. Like others who have left comments here, I was surprised to find the same person answering the phone for two different companies - that didn't exactly instill confidence. But I found a few that worked out OK - and have had one screwing.

REGENCY - I've read bad things in here, but it worked out for me. I ordered a Canon camera body (Elan IIe), saving more than $100 from Boston prices (where I live) and it was delivered promptly, as ordered, and without a hassle.

TRI-STATE - I have had very good luck with both of my orders with TriState. I bought a camera body (Elan 7e) and a lens (Tamron 28-300)- saving about $100 on each item. They were polite and prompt on both occasions.

PHOTOKINA - I bought a lens (Sigma 17-35 EX) from them and was amazed at how polite the salesman I spoke with was. The lens came in 2 days. I saved a bundle too.

FOCUS CAMERA - I bought a lens (Sigma 105 EX macro) from them. Absolutely no problem - and again a good savings over local shops.

ADORAMA - I have placed two orders with Adorama - once by phone to purchase a filter, and once on their website to purchase film and supplies. I have had a positive experience both times. Their website is fantastic - easy to use and comprehensive.

SAMY'S CAMERA - I like them. After I got screwed (see below) I called them. They were polite and totally non-pressured. They quoted me the lens I wanted (Tamron 24-135 SP) for $419. I told them I saw it on their website for $399. They honored it without question. When it came to shipping, the guy recommended UPS ground to save money if I wasn't in a rush. I wasn't - and there were no additional hidden charges when I got the invoice with the lens. It's the first time doing this that someone wasn't interested in taking more money out of my pocket! Samy's is a good deal.

WORLD PHOTO - Don't go near them. They simply are liars. I have learned to ask all sorts of questions in making purchases by phone. Assume nothing. So, as a matter of course I now ask several VERY direct questions when inquiring/purchasing such as: "Is this a grey market or USA product?" "What are all the charges including shipping?"

I asked these questions of World and they out and out lied. I asked for the TAMRON-USA 24-135 SP lens for Canon. He gave me a price. "Is that grey market or USA?" I ask. "Its US with a US warranty." I asked about a filter. "I want a Hoya UV filter. How much is it?" He gave me the price. "And that's for the Hoya, right?" "That's right, the Hoya." "And the lens is not grey market right?" "That's right, its US with a US warranty." "And how much is shipping?" "$15.00" "And what are all the charges including shipping?" He lists the price for the lens, the filter and the $15 shipping. So I order.

The lens comes the NEXT day. I was thrilled. I open it, check it out. The first thing I notice is that they sent me a Tiffen filter - not a Hoya. Next I notice that the Tiffen filter was in a ziplock bag in side the Tiffen box - no hard plastic case. Makes me suspicious. (Later that was explained that "the UV filters aren't packaged that way anymore." hmmm.) Then I check out the lens. I love it. Then I look through the paperwork. No warranty card. I call them. The salesman tells me that if I wanted the Tamron 6 year warranty that would cost me $150 more. What?!?! So I speak to the manager who says "you should've had the warranty card in the box. The cards come separately. We must have missed placing one in your box." (Uh huh.) "So you're telling me you can produce the appropriate Tamron warranty card for this lens." "Oh yes. I'll mail it to you right away." After I tell him I don't like how he does business and that I don't trust him, he said he would give me 15 days to return for full refund. I asked him to give me a date (assume nothing). I wrote all this down, and decided to give him a chance.

I hung up from him and called Tamron. Are they an authorized dealer? No. Can they produce the 6 year warranty card? Don't see how. If they can, would you honor the warranty? No. This could only be a grey market lens and we would not honor it.

I hung up and called my credit card company and went on record as immediately complaining about the vendor.

I received the warranty card. I called Tamron again. They recommended returning the lens. I did. Also - the shipping charge was $16.95 (not $15) PLUS insurance and handling of $7.95 for a total of $24.90! Uh - that's NOT the $15.00 I was quoted. A bit of sweet justice is that the return shipping didn't cost me a penny - I used their account number off the original package from them! And, by the way, the cost for UPS 2nd day air, with insurance (the same way they shipped to me) was a whopping $11.65 - not $15.00; not $16.95; not $24.95.

I am waiting to see how "full" my refund is. But, no matter, if it isn't 100% I will contest all charges with my credit card company.

Then I called Samy's - an authorized Tamron dealer - and had a perfectly enjoyable experience for only $20 more than World charged to screw me.

One other experience I had --- I called Smile once about a year and a half ago to buy a lens (early in my mail-order experience) and had asked for the price for Canon. He gave it to me. I said yes. I gave my credit card number, then he asked "Do you want that in manual or auto focus?" "Auto focus." "OK, that is $$$ more." What a shithead! I wouldn't buy it now just on principle! "Cancel the order please." "OK - you have to call..." Then he gives me a non-toll-free number. "What? You can't cancel this order that hasn't even been completed yet?" "That's right. You must call..." So I called - and gave them a piece of my mind. And what really pissed me off is that the two guys were probably sitting right next to each other!

Bottom line? Ask questions. Lots of questions. Questions that you think have obvious answers. Then pay attention to your gut! (I blew it this last time on that one.) Don't - absolutely don't give your credit card number until you are 100% comfortable and satisfied. And remember - even when you DO ask all the right questions, you can't control it if there is a liar on the other end of the phone - like World.

David Magradze , June 18, 2001; 06:38 A.M.

I have very good experience with Photo Connection Int. (http://www.photoconnection.net) and of course with B&H. You can freely shop worldwide with B&H. Even from place such as Georgia (Caucasus). Card and order conformation makes it reliable. Shipping in time. Website is simply great! Truly professionals source.

Simon Jones , July 04, 2001; 07:40 A.M.

AAA Camera - Disgusting service. In early 2001 I ordered a Nikon F65 from a US, New York based shop called ‘AAA Camera'. My credit card was promptly debited. I was told the goods would arrive in London UK within 10 working days. They never arrived. Over the subsequent month I telephoned AAA Camera a total of five times to have them try to locate the missing goods for me. Four times I was told they would investigate the issue and reply to me. I received no reply regarding my four queries. On the fifth occasion I telephoned, I was told the goods had been lost in transit and replacements were to be sent. No replacements goods have arrived. Since that time I telephoned AAA Camera a further six times to investigate the replacement goods. The staff have no knowledge of these. Additionally, I have requested a refund of the funds into my account. Each time the staff tell me the credit card machine is broken and they cannot credit a refund. I cannot believe this statement is true given that the shop had no difficulty debiting the funds from my account. Despite my efforts I can reach no resolution with AAA Camera. I must now ask my credit card company for assistance to retrieve my money. Disgusting service.

Ariel Viera , July 04, 2001; 10:50 A.M.

It is unfortunate but my experience wtih Adorama has not been the best. Three years ago I purchased a Canon USM 100-300 lens, a 380EX flash, a cheap Slik tripod and several other accesories, I got my bill and went to the cashier to pay when I noticed that the price for the whole stuff was two hundred dollars more of the actual price! I let themn know and they immediately fixed the error appropriately. It was a little strange to me that the salesperson would make such a blatant, very careless error in their favor...after a while I just forgot the whole incident. However, in recent weeks I went again and trade in my Canon Elan II and a 28-105 lens for an EOS 3 and several other accesories. I think I got a good deal for the trade in and they told that they were not charging me taxes on the trade in money I got. The money would be subtracted from the whole other purchase. However, I paid the whole thing and when I got home I noticed that they had taxed me for the trade in and at 10.2% instead of the usual 8.25% NY tax, taxing the trade-in too. I again went to the store let them know of the "error" and they fixed it. It seemed to me that the two times I have purchased (in person) from Adorama such errors have occurred. This has been my experience...two consecutive times. Weird...right??

Volkan Aktas , July 11, 2001; 02:11 P.M.

Avoid RegencyCamera.com at all costs! I wanted to buy a Sony DSC-S75 they advertised for ~$550 on pricescan.com. Then I had to call them to confirm my order and for 20 minutes they tried to sell me filters, memory sticks, batteries and a 5 year warranty that supposedly "extends to the next camera I buy, no matter what brand, no matter where I buy it from". On top of that, they told me the camera is not US version, which I was OK with for a minute, but then it turned out that the camera was going to be shipped from overseas! God knows when it would have arrived. The US version was "only $100" more expensive, which makes the price approximately the same as Amazon's quote!

Very similar story with RoyalCamera.com: Only after I called them to inquire about the order they told me that the camera I ordered was the "international version" (that would have been shipped from an overseas warehouse) and the US version cost $50 more. Needless to say I cancelled my order right away.

Luan Do , July 25, 2001; 10:50 A.M.

Leica Gallery in CA: My first experience buying a Ricoh GR1s camera from Richard at LeicaGallery.com was terrible. The advertised new GR1s with date was $399. What I received was a camera in less than brand new condition with dog-eared and torn manual in a used box. Moreover, there were a scratch on the back and on the view finder's optic, and the view finder had a blurry/distorted area that shouldn't exist. I was also charged a shipping cost of $11 for an actual shipping without insurance cost of $5.70. I sent the camera back with a request for an exchange or a full refund with an explaination for the condition of the first camera I received. I'm willing to give Leica Gallery another chance but I wonder how others's opinions sof this shop are.

Bruce McNamara , August 05, 2001; 01:07 P.M.

I heard that Del's has gone out of business.

Hilary Lang , August 08, 2001; 11:47 P.M.

No one seems to have mentioned Focus Camera too much, but I've had some great experiences with them. My favorite is when I upgraded to a Nikon F100 from a Pentax, and ordered through their website a factory-refurbished camera, 3 lenses, a flash, and some other accessories. I got a call from a salesperson there later that same day saying that they would be shipping everything but the camera the next day (which they did), he though maybe five to seven days on the camera, and that he would not charge my credit card for the camera until it was shipped. I had not received the camera 7 days later when he called back again, apologized for the delay, and explained that they still did not have the camera in stock. He offered me a new F100 instead, at $70 off the cost (only $20 more than the refurbished one would have been), and with no shipping charge. Sounds like your classic 'Switch & Bait' tactic, except that I paid around $150 less, including shipping, for the new F100 than any of the other advertised prices without shipping. Even better, my total order was $50.00 less in the end with the new camera than the original quoted price with the refurbished model.

Like at any of the other big mail-order places, these salesmen are very busy, so it's generally easiest to not go to them until you know exactly what you want and why you want it. All of these places seem to not hassle as much someone who at least gives the appearance of knowing what they are about (which I certainly did not when I started, and I had some hideous experiences with AAA and Cambridge, like so many others before me). I generally spend a lot of time researching either online, buried nose-deep in magazine articles and advertisements, on the phone, talking to manufacturers and other photographers, or sometimes even going down to a small local retailer, before I go start talking with one of the 'big guns'. It pays off in the end.

N El , August 10, 2001; 07:46 P.M.

***** "ABES OF MAINE" are LIARS ***** Protect your self from these scammers as well as those mentioned above including A&M Photo World. These people were *extremely* rude and even after I cancelled my order with the managers, the sales person STILL called me back to dispute it the cancellation.

He said that the billing department was already closed for the day at 4:30 so my cancellation could not go through. Their ad states that closing on Fridays is at 5:30pm. He came back saying that because they're Jewish, the closing times are all dependant on the sun's movement!! What an insult to consumers not to mention the religious world!

The best way to combat such greed and inhumanity is through educating ourselves as much as possible and providing support to each another as consumers. We should also stand up to this and find a way to encourage Popular Photography to stop running ads of mearchants who just want to steal from the public. I say we should send stuff to ABC News and other consumer new shows as well. This is a serious problem.

Simon Crosland , August 15, 2001; 04:56 A.M.

Another good thing about Calumet for UK and European photographers is that they have several shops and a mail order center in the UK, and so shipping (and tax) costs tend to be lower than many of the other places recommended here.

Kelly Swedick , October 07, 2001; 11:33 P.M.

I would like to add another Thumb's Up for Cameraworld in Oregon. I've had great experiences with them for years, and they will match B&H's prices should B&H ever happen to be lower - but these days they always seem to be within 5 cents of each other anyway. They're both quality businesses, but I prefer the customer service at Cameraworld.

Emet Ward , November 02, 2001; 02:28 A.M.

DO NOT BUY FROM: SUNSET CAMERA DO NOT BUY FROM: WORLD PHOTO VIDEO ONLINE DO NOT BUY FROM: PICKACAMERA.com

All three of these companies are the same company. Just try calling their 800 numbers. You get the same message or the same operators. Why else would you call pickacamera at 1-800-800-9266 and get someone that says "Sunset Cameras! How can I help you?" I bought a Canon 75-300mm USM IS lens from Pickacamera on September 24th, 2001 over the internet through ebay with Buy It Now at $199 (about $265 less than normal because they accidentally listed it under the 75-300mm USM II price (non IS)). I paid for it in full and heard nothing. Found out they were away for a Jewish holiday. Sounds fair enough, and I am promised via a phone message that my order will be shipped second day air free of charge. I wait 2 and a half weeks and still nothing. So I call. Put on hold for 40 minutes. "I have a question about an order." Put on hold. I could get five words out of my mouth and then get put on hold. What the hell are they doing that takes so long? Thinking up new ways to rape the customers? Seriously, I was getting a new operator everytime I was taken off of hold and then I would have to re-explain my situation. I was then told that internet orders could not be inquired about over the phone, but then when I tried to email the company, they said call the 800 number! What!?!?Finally I spoke with the manager and he said the lens was out of stock and that he would refund my money and let me wait to pay when the lens was back in stock. Well, I called them four times since to see if the lens is in stock and they say it is, but when I go to order it, they say it is not in stock. Not at all. They say they will call Canon to order in a new set of them. They will be in later that week. I call back. They are in. Then I say I will order. They are suddenly out of stock again. Okay....I email them under a different name (by now they know me by name...hmmm...like "uh oh, its him again. Don't sell him the lens!") and they tell me that lens is in stock but another Canon lens, a 16-35mm that I asked about is not. So by now I have determined that their computer systems are working, so they are only stringing me along. I call back, explaining I was told the lens is in. They say it is, and then I go to order and again they say it is not! Don't forget to factor in that I am on hold for about 30 minutes every time I call. Of course my interest in buying ANYTHING from this company has disappeared, but I am wanting to give them hell and make them sell me this lens-heck, it's a legal binding contract so I already have Rico at ebay helping out and what I do have to gain is a $450-600 lens for $200. It's on my credit card, so I have little to lose except for a little time (but then again I work at Ritz cameras so I have plenty of time at work to make calls like this).

IN SHORT: This is a company that hides behind multiple facades that plays games with the customer and does not honor FEDERAL ENFORCED CONTRACTS. I don't care who made the mistake in pricing the lens. They are responsible for their actions, and from other things I have heard about them, this isn't the first time they've strung a customer along. BUY FROM B&H!!! I have NEVER had a problem with them even with buying import slide film and stuff. I did buy a hood from them for the IS lens that I SHOULD have gotten from them a while ago, so so far I am out $24.95 for a hood I have no use for, but at least I got my money back.

Gary Marcos , November 27, 2001; 01:25 A.M.

I found Adorama to be very competively priced. They were not the lowest price but they were close. Also, I placed a lot of value on having a good experience in purchasing about $1,000 of cameras/accessories over the internet. After reading about the horror stories of some of the lowest bidding places, I was looking for a firm that was more ethical. I also placed a lot of value on the recommendation of photo.net. Adorama gives them a return on purchases made so I wanted to support photo.net as well. The reports on purchases from photo.net also rated Adorama quite high. So, with that background and after checking resellerratings.com, I went ahead with the purchase.

The salesman, Josh, was helpful. We discussed the need for an AC adaptor for the Coolpix 995. He wasn't sure if it came with the camera or not and double checked to ensure I was not ordering an accesory that was not needed. He did suggest ordering lenses which I had planned on doing anyway. He confirmed I was ordering the correct Compact Flash cards as well.

I did have to ask the question if everything was in stock. After checking, it turned out that the AC adaptor I wanted was not in stock. This information should have been volunteered rather than having to be asked for. However, it's not a major issue.

Their email notification and tracking was excellent. I immediately got an email confirmation of the purchase and the parts list. Shortly thereafter, I got an email with a UPS tracking number. Today I received the camera (about 6 days after ordering it) and everything is fine and works.

A couple of days ago, I recieved notification that the AC adaptor is being shipped and should arrive shortly. There is no extra charge for shipping separately.

Bottom line is that I thought Adorama did an excellent job, I paid a fair price, and I helped out photo.net. The camera itself is fantastic and I'm quite happy with it.

Ben Crane , February 10, 2002; 12:44 A.M.

I recently placed my first order from Focus-Camera after it was recommended by this site and noticing they had the best advertised prices on some items I wanted (a Canon EOS-1V, the 100 mm macro lens, and some smaller items). Unfortunately my experience with this retailer was not plesant one and I would not recommend them to others. On their website they claim orders ship within two days or they will call the customer to let then know what happened. After I placed the order their online tracking had no record of the purchase. I emailed their customer support and got no response. I called their customer support 5 days after the order was placed but usually got a recording saying all the customer support reps were helping other customers it was impossible to leave a message or talk to a real person. When I called the number to place an order I could talk to a real person but was immediately transferred back to the recording when they found I didn't want to place another order. After multiple attempts at dialing the customer service number I finally got to talk to a real person but they said the EOS 1V camera body (the international version) I had ordered was out of stock (it was listed as in stock on the webpage when I ordered it). They thought it would be available in a couple days and said they would call me back to let me know later that day. They never called back. When I called the next week they told me the order would ship in two days. Three days later the order still hadn't shipped according to their online tracking. I called again (each call took mulitple attempts through out the day to get past the recording) and now they told me the back ordered item would not be available anytime soon. I could get the same camera but I would have to get the USA version for $1589 vs. the $1355 for the international version I had originally ordered. I agreed, and they promised to ship me the order that day. Later that day they left a message on my answering maching saying the order could not be placed due to a problem with my credit card. The "problem" turned out to be that they had placed a hold on my credit card for the price of the order then placed a second charge for the order which put me over the credit limit since I was essentially charged twice for the order. It took two more days of phone calls to Focus Camera and to my credit card to sort out this problem. The order was finally listed on their webpage as shipped but with the wrong tracking number. The items finally arrived 3 weeks after the initial order was placed. When I got the order I found that they had charged me $1699 rather than the $1589 they had quoted me for the camera on the phone. Also the camera didn't work. I brought it to a local shop and they determined that the problem was with the battery (which was sold separately) and sold me a new battery. I called again to sort out the overcharge and defective battery. I talked to the very person that quoted me the $1589 price which he admitted, but said the store and raise its prices since I placed the order. But they never told me this and if they had I would not have placed the order since $1699 is higher than what almost everyone web retailer charges for the Canon EOS-1V. He said he was not authorized to refund the difference and I had to send a letter with a copy of the invoice which he would then discuss with those higher up. He said I had to ship the battery back to them at my expense since this was their policy which I did. I eventually got a $100 refund to my credit card (not the $110 they overcharged me). I have yet to receive a new battery or a refund of the battery purchase price (about $9). Again this is by far the worst experience I've had with an on-line retailer. Their customer service is awful and I felt they tried to (and did) rip me off at every opportunity.

Dan Andrews , February 11, 2002; 03:36 P.M.

Unlike most photo.net contributors, I live outside the US and typically deal with international camera shops. I seldom do mail order. Instead, I search for shops in my travels to see what's out there. Typically, what I find is quite useful.

First, in the Netherlands, perhaps the friendliest and most patient shop is in The Hague. In the downtown area, behind the Bijenkorf, is a shop called Hafo that deals in new and used gear. Their used gear is far cheaper than anything you'll find in the rest of Holland (and probably the rest of Europe.) Their new gear is pricey, but in a pinch they are your best bet. A good selection and well-informed staff round out their excellent store.

Second, in Nicosia, Cyprus, is Andreas Papaeracleous Photo Store (in the old city, about 30 meters east of the Holiday Inn, between the old City Wall and the UN-Patrolled Green Line). Andreas is not only an expert with his equipment, he also offers traveling photographers good advice on where to go for great photos ... last week he gave me directions to the major church in Nicosia and times for all of the Easter festivities. Then he knocked 10% off my film purchase because of the holiday. If you go to Cyprus, drop in to Andreas' shop.

In Berlin you can find several good photo shops. If you're traveling through Berlin, make an effort to check their prices. They may well compete with New York shops for high-quality gear (especially Hassy, Leica and Voigtlander, although I got a nice deal on a Pentax Lens there.) If you have details of the best shops in Berlin, post the info here.

Dubai is known for cheap Duty-Free goods, but in terms of photography that only applies to Point-and-Shoot cameras. If you're doing SLR or Medium-format, don't bother shopping there. If you need a decent P-n-S camera, keep your eyes open because you can spot decent deals in Aiport Duty Free.

In terms of gear, London seemed excessively expensive. So did Paris, where "Provia 100-F" isn't part of the vernacular.

If you're a collector of old gear, ANYWHERE you go you may find a fascinating collection of vintage cameras. In Cairo (my home) you can get Ansco or Yashica TLRs for far less than the currect eBay auction price, and occasionally a large-format antique turns up in a junk shop ... if the price is too high, try bargaining. It works in many places. (Andreas Papaeracleous in Nicosia has a tremendous selection of vintage cameras, but some aren't for sale.)

I hope this info starts a new line of conversation, or provides useful info to other photogs.

Coralee Penner , February 19, 2002; 12:54 A.M.

I live in CANADA and just wanted to mention that I have ordered countless times from two stores out of Toronto that are wonderful, friendly, honest, and will ship all over North America and internationally (at least the last time I checked). The first being HENRY'S (www.henrys.com) and the second is VISTEK (www.vistek.ca). They both have websites offering very reasonable prices and stock just about everything you could want and always have 99.9% of goods in stock when YOU need them (a real change from some of the things that I've been reading). Not to mention fast and cheap shipping which I have always received in 1-2 days when I've paid for the 3-7 day shipping (this is true for both places!). They are truly worth checking out! The sites also have testimonials so you don't have to just take my word for it! The only reason that I have ordered from both places is that in certain circumstances, one has had a lower price on an item or one was able to get a special-order item in a shorter amount of time, etc. I would highly recommend both places as I have ordered from each about 5 times in the last 2 years and not once have I been overcharged, been treated disrespectfully, or been shipped the wrong item. The orders have always been 100% accurate and exactly as described, the emails and phone calls have been extremely fast and friendly, and I have always felt like a valued customer, not just another problem for them to deal with. I hope that this may help at least one person to believe that there are still good people in the photography biz and not just thieves wanting to steal your money and your sanity!

Casey Brown , April 02, 2002; 01:14 A.M.

I ordered a lens from Cambridge Camera last September. After not recieving it for several weeks, I called to check on the status. I was told they were still waiting for it to come in. This went on for another month; I would call, get the same person, and told they were still waiting. Finally, I had had enough, and cancelled my order. And I'm still waiting for them to refund my money. Now I order from B&H or Adorama, and I haven't had a problem since.

Andrzej Maciejewski , April 05, 2002; 05:30 A.M.

I have read many comments on this site before buying my equipment. I shopped mainly at:

-ADORAMA

-B&H

-FOCUS CAMERA

My experience is as follows:

- ADORAMA: low prices, some of the salesmen can be RUDE and INCONSIDERATE, creating incredible anger, although, there are good salesmen there as well. I received all the items as ordered and expected, including few used items as well.

-B&H: similar personel as in ADORAMA, they will replace defective items without headache. Prices quite exactly the same as ADORAMA, suspect price fixing manipulation between the two. I had a problem with them on an order of a used filter for $15.00. Parcel came with other few items but the filter was NOT there. It disappeared from the list of items on their web site. When I called they said that the filter was sold and that's why is not listed anymore. Who got it? No idea. Why did they charge me for that item and not send it? I am still trying to get this clarified. Most of the time , however, similar service to ADORAMA. Good point for B&H is: more flexible shipping options and probably lowest shipping prices.

-FOCUS CAMERA: the best experience so far. Shipment is very fast. I got my items from them next day to Alaska which was the most impressive timing I have ever experienced. Talk to salesman Morris, very honest and to the point. Prices can be better than the web site listing on occasions. Highly recommend.

Please stay away from: King Photo, Royal, Abey, Cambridge and some others.

I have heard good opinions about SAMY'S from California but have no experience with them. Thank you,

roger vallejo , July 14, 2002; 06:21 A.M.

I just had an extremely pleasant (and successful!) mail-order experience with Perk's Photo in Idaho Falls, ID. I stumbled onto this camera shop while browsing ebay. The shop was auctioning a similar lens to what I wanted, so I called because their pricing was competitive with the mail order firms in the back of Pop Photo. What a pleasant surprise! None of this high-pressure, "hurry up, so I can talk to another customer" attitude I've suffered through with N.Y. camera firms in 25 years of mail-ordering camera equipment. I told them I was in a rush to get the lens for a vacation 10 days later (I was replacing a lens that had gone out on me),and they told me they didn't think there would be a problem with shipping. The 28-200 Tamron lens I ordered arrived in Austin, TX three days later via UPS, which means they were prompt about processing my order. How's that for service! I also learned that Tamron had a rebate going and thought I'd have to call back and ask for the rebate form, but a couple of days later, the rebate form arrived, along with a Tamron filter and an apology for not including the form with the lens. I'm sure they're a smaller outfit, and they probably don't have tons of equipment, but give them a look for more popular items next time you're shopping (www.perksphoto.com). My purchase was about $75 cheaper than I could get it locally and $25 cheaper than B&H, which I've also used successfully.

Srikanth Srigiriraju , November 20, 2002; 12:32 P.M.

I ordered NikonF80 on FocusCamera.com web-site. The color of the camera was black. But, even after two days I did not see any change in my order status which kept saying "Order in Process" I had to leave my home to visit Colorado within a week and so ordered a camera to make sure that I do not miss the beautiful mountains there. And my plans seem to go awry. I called them immediately and they told me that the instead of black color, silver color was available. Now, I had no choice but to agree. Good that I received my camera within few days of my departure. I liked the camera. But, I was apalled by their lethargy to update in the web-site(or a ploy?) or call me up after I had ordered the unavailable black one. Notwithstanding this bad-service there were no other hassles in shipping.

Kishore Balakrishnan , January 15, 2003; 09:03 A.M.

I bought a Digital IXUS V at New York Camera yesterday after seeing a recommendation here. I did compare the prices in ProMarkt and the difference was significant ! Since I live in Germany(Europe), I drove to Ahlen and bought it in person. I am very satisfied. Jeff Keller's Digital Camera Resource Page was very useful. Last but not the least, we bought the IXUS ( called the Digital ELPH in the USA ) because 1) it was the winner in Macworld: The 17th Annual Editors' Choice Awards and Philip Greenspun states "The S100 is a great vacation camera" - We already like it very much.

rudy pospisil , February 20, 2003; 12:34 A.M.

It's funny. As I've gotten older I've come to appreciate local shops more and more. I love striking up the relationships and my money supports people in my own community. AND, I walk out with something that I've looked over before buying (i.e. no headaches or surprises upon opening the UPS package). Yeah, it's more expensive but that simply forces me to be less gluttenous about my wants. But, if I need some Oriental Seagull, I've gotta do the mail order.

A while back, a friend spent 4 hours in a shop asking all kinds of questions about all kinds of cameras and then went home and ordered it through the mail. I felt that that was dishonest/unethical.

BTW, you mention Midwest Photo Exchange. I always felt that Columbus Camera Group ruled over them. I went to both several times each month when I was in school and never found anything at MPE but perhaps it was simply that I wasn't looking for what they had.

Lee A. , March 04, 2003; 12:51 P.M.

For anyone shopping in Canada for camera gear, specifically Ottawa and Toronto, I'd like to offer this advice:

AVOID The Camera Exchange (www.camera-exchange.com) Most used and new items they sell are overpriced, in poor condition, and forget trying to get a refund if you have a problem. I've just been through three months of total aggravation with this place. Lies, shiftiness, and greed are all par for the course, so beware. AVOID!

The Focus Centre in Ottawa is a good bet.

Henry's and Downtown Camera in Toronto are decent. Stan at Downtown is a hard-ass with terrible manners, but he knows his stuff, and will be reasonable about anything if you hold your ground. I've only ever had one problem at Downtown camera and it was resolved to my satisfaction in the end.

Henry's is generally good, but staff camera knowledge varies a _lot_ depending on who you speak with there. A third of the staff are experts, a third are mostly knowledgeable, and the other third are barely able to differentiate between a camera and a lump of coal.

Good luck!

Michael Hiltner , March 20, 2003; 08:39 P.M.

Some really horror stories here. I would like to add a recommendation for Badger Graphics. I have placed at least 10 orders with them over the last year. Their prices are competitive with B&H. Call them and talk to Jeff. He is completly honest about the prices and if he has in stock and if he does'nt know when he will be able to ship it he will tell you that. It is like shopping at your able and dependable small shop. I gave him my credit card number once and when I want something I just call him and tell him what brand and model number and thats it - no item numbers. Here is the link http://www.badgergraphic.com/ Michael

Michael Watry , June 06, 2003; 02:19 A.M.

If you are in Chicago, you can't go wrong buying from either Helix or Central Camera. I bought my Nikon F100 at Helix and a Nikkor 24-120 mm f/3.5-5.6 AF lens from Central. In each case the item was just a little (~$10) less than the other store and priced competively versus other stores. Employees at both stores are very knowledgeable and answered all my questions. Helix has a huge store at 310 S. Racine Ave. just west of downtown (phone: 312-421-6000), and smaller shops throughout the city and suburbs. And Central has a cool shop that looks like it's been there forever under the el at 230 S. Wabash in the Loop (phone: 312-427-5580).

Jason Bradley , August 12, 2003; 03:59 P.M.

I highly recommend Abes of Maine as an online merchant. They flat out deliver!!! Awesome prices, great service, easy site to navigate. I've purchased from them 2 times in the past couple of years and both times they were great!

Mark Michaelson , September 28, 2003; 12:34 A.M.

Go to your local thrift store, handle, fondle, check out and buy an old Argus C-3 for about 5 bucks. If it doesn't work, you can fix it yourself with no more training than you picked up on the family farm, or return it - generally with no questions asked. It will never let you down when that perfect photo op presents itself. The thrift store will generally take whatever profit they made, and pump it into the local soup kitchen, or salvation army.

Rockne Roll , November 10, 2003; 01:57 A.M.

WARNING: DO NOT, under any circumstances, order used stuff from Adorama without requesting that it be overnighted. I order a Nikon 300/2.8 AiS on 3 day FedEx. Adorama usually ships new stuff to me in 24 hours. They apparantly had to "clean the lens" and this, along with their oddball holiday period in october, delayed my order two, almost three, weeks. I heard scarry things about B&H's customer service, and their prices are slightly higher. But they get my stuff to me when I need it, without forcing me to pay nazally for overnight. Thats All.

B Scroggs , November 19, 2003; 02:37 P.M.

I shopped many West Coast dealers, price shopped the NYC stores, and decided to go with Abe's of Maine. The price was good, the salesman seemed to know his equipment, and was helpful. Yes, I had to pay $20 to ship, but I saved almost $40 in sales tax. I'm satisfied with the service and will recommend them to others.

Wade Mackey , December 17, 2003; 12:28 P.M.

www.abesofmaine.com I have been purchasing my equipment from Abe's of Maine for seven years. I have never had any trouble with them. They have good prices and they ship quickly. If you purchase online, they send you tracking numbers without your asking. All in all I highly recommend them. Wade

Jeroen Wenting , June 26, 2004; 01:06 A.M.

If you want there to be camera stores in your own area in a few years time, don't buy mailorder but BUY LOCAL!

Independent stores, especially in smaller cities and towns, are getting ever rarer as they are being driven out of the market by the internet stores and discounters. They get charged higher prices by manufacturers and importers because they can't buy in bulk and suffer higher operating cost because they have more expensive staff who actually know what they are talking about and aren't sitting on some remote mall or industrial estate. If you value service and support from real people instead of some anonymous callcenter kid who doesn't know a negative from a slide support your local stores and pay the premium.

Once they get to know you as a serious customer instead of the typical person who will occupy them for hours to get advise only to then order the item online at some store for a bit less they are a great help. If you ever need to have something repaired that store will also make sure you don't have to UPS your camera halfway across the world to some service center where you're customer number 10 million.

Don't abuse your local stores, help them survive!

Sony Kusumo , November 28, 2004; 07:08 A.M.

When you go to Singapore, avoid purchasing any photographic equipment in Lucky Plaza. They're rip-off artist! Well, not all, but most stores there try to treat you like a non informed-moneybag buyer. Imagine, I was once ask for the EOS 300D kit, it's still new in Sept 2003, and they told me it cost about SGD 2500 (around USD 1700!!!) , body only!!! When I complaint that it's as costly as EOS 10D, the guy told me that it could reduce to SGD 2000 (USD 1200, body only!), when I was about to leave the store, they said, OK, SGD 2000 with lens!!! (Imagine that I know the box is for the EOS 300 D Kit!) When I finally left, they cursed me with lots of nasty words, and not only that store, the neighbouring stores also did the same... What a shameful experience!!! I finally get the EOS 300D kit at the local shop in my country (Indonesia), in oct 2003, for only USD 930, with a free Loewepro bag and a 256 MB CF.... Later on in HongKong, I experienced the same things like in Lucky Plaza Singapore, but on ssome store that visited by lots of locals, I found a Sigma 15-30mm EX DG lens for a very low price of HKD 4100 (around USD 450), so my suggestion is to be careful with the "Tourist only" stores and try to ask locals where to buy "fancy stuffs" at "reasonable price" and "good quality". Most of the time hotel staffs are very helpful in this situation...

Sony Kusumo , November 28, 2004; 07:33 A.M.

I agree with Jeroen, support your local store! Most of the times, the price is much cheaper than mail orders (especially when you have to ship over the contintents like to here, Indonesia) since the cost of UPS/FedEx might have been the same as the cost of the goods itself, not to mention import tax and etc...

But when you need some goods that it's not available local, go with reputable mail order stores like B&H. I gave much credit to B&H since I've ordered from them for about 4 times, most of the time it's for AV pproducts. To make it short, the process is very easy, they trust credit card from any place (as you know, Indonesia has the most credit card fraudulent) and they have their methode to verivy them. They also has the very nice way on putting the UPS trtacking number so that I know where my goods are (like "your order has now been released from Narita Airport Tokyo").... Cheers for B&H!

John Fairweather , January 14, 2005; 02:05 P.M.

It's true that you get what you pay for and also true that saving a few dollars can be more trouble than it's worth. Here in Canada you can rely on Harry's Pro Shop. They sell good quality equipment at reasonable prices. The service is friendly and questions are answered by someone who knows what they're talking about.

Recently I asked their opinion on upgrading my three Hasselblad CF lenses to the new CFE ones. Even though Harry's now had a chance to sell me three new lenses, they recommended that the trade up would make no difference in final quality and would cost me a lot of money. It's nice to come across someone in the photo retail business that's honest. I will be a customer forever.

Constantinos Tzoannopoulos , May 04, 2006; 06:28 A.M.

In my family, there were three Eastern Bloc cameras: a '70s FED 3B rangefinder, a Praktica BCA (which I used extensively in the '90s) and a plastic Zenit SLR provided to my father by a friend who was doing business with various importers of Russian-made stuff. Here's my $.02: AVOID anything made in the Eastern Bloc like the plague. I don't care how good the glass in the optics might be, operation of Soviet/Iron Curtain gear will ALWAYS be a royal pain. First of all, the raison d'etre of a rangefinder camera is discreetness, provided by its quiet operation. Quiet operation with a FED? Ha! That's a good one! The damned thing graunched and whined like a gearbox that had no transmission oil in it. And it was serviced regularly, mind you. Also, the spongey stuff that was supposed to keep the light away from the film was of such horrible quality that most of the films were treated to hefty doses of sunlight leaking into the camera's body.

Now, let's go to the Praktica: basically, it had three modes of operation: aperture priority, 1/60 speed (for using a flashgun) and B. OK, so the Zeiss-informed Pentacon 50mm/1.8 lens was great, something that can't be said about the Industar on the FED, whose main characteristic was lens flare. It was absolutely impossible to really do what YOU wanted with the Praktica. You were, for the most part, at the mercy of the exposure meter. Thankfully, it usually worked OK, so you could learn, relatively easily, when to compensate for its intrinsic errors. It also felt rather substantial to hold. However, the controls were made of plastic - and the quality of this plastic was pathetic, to say the least. It felt like the switchgear in one of those two-stroke Wartburgs and Trabants. Not to mention the mechanics... The movement of the mirror was accompanied by vibrations so strong that you either had to use a tripod all the time or adapt your hands very well. Also, the mechanics were damage-prone. It broke down more than it took photos. Eventually, I got sick of repairing it and bought a Nikon F65 (N65 for the US market), which works fine - I know most of it is made of plastic, but at least it's reasonably well-made.

The Zenit was another story... It was a mid-90s piece of horrid plastic. My father always had the illusion that the Soviets made great optics. Maybe, but they never got around to understanding the meaning of terms like "build quality" and "reliability". EVERYTHING on this "camera" had tons of play in it. If the Praktica worked in an uncivilized manner, this worked (well, sort of) with the manners of a caveman, the precision of a well-blunted and well-rusted knife and the grace of a pigsty. My mother - bless her heart - hated it the moment she laid eyes on it and hated it even more when she operated the shutter release ONCE, which was enough to convince her that this pathetic excuse for a camera should only grace the interior of a garbage can, after we finished the first roll of film we put in the Zenit. It also was the only roll of film that ever went in it, because, seeing that ALL of the exposures were burnt by light leaking through every pore of this marvel of Soviet photographic engineering.

I would normally pity the poor, misguided, masochistic souls who waste their money on Soviet "photographic" gear, but it actually serves them right to go through these ordeals. And, please, please, PUH-LEASE, don't give me the "yes, but our FEDs, Zorkis, Kievs, Zenits cost a fraction of what a Nikon, Canon, Leica, Contax, Konica-Minolta etc costs", because it's complete and utter balderdash: for the most part, a camera is mechanical and optical equipment. There's no cheap way to make such equipment perform well (much like phono turntables: you either make a good one out of quality - see costly - materials and with proper design and production procedures or you don't). Also, the Eastern Bloc stuff I've seen on sale on the internet costs no less than what you'd pay for a camera coming from a proper brand, with vast know-how and good customer and technical support.

Don Gillette , March 15, 2007; 05:51 P.M.

Well I have dealt with KEH camera over the years and found what I bought used was in better condition than they said. On the other hand there are some New York outfits that I wil not deal with again, I guess it is Buyer beware or know the dealer. I would pay more to buy from a legit outfit..Don

Inspire Adventure , September 03, 2007; 08:45 P.M.

I prefer to buy in local camera camera stores where you see what you are getting even though it may be a bit more expensive or from major retailers like Amazon.com, which was mentioned in the top of the article. I also feel that it is very important to get a USA warranty on camera equipment. Now that is my personal opinion, Digital Camera Repair

Lakhinder Walia , October 15, 2007; 11:14 P.M.

Here is a link to Brooklyn Stores from Don Wiss' website. It is instructive to go though some of the photographs there!

Mark Gessner , January 11, 2008; 08:23 P.M.

I've got nothing but good stuff to say about B&H. Every time I've dealt with them I've been pleased. They have decent prices and fast service and I never feel dirty afterward.

Not so for an outfit like Sunshine Electronics. Bought my 5D from these guys on eBay and they pulled every trick in the book to jack up the final price. Had to "neg" them on eBay to get some of the outrageous shipping insurance charge back. Not a good way to do business.

I may do more business locally now that I live in a city where there is a decent local camera store (George's Camera). The lens rental service alone is priceless.

J Dorough , April 22, 2008; 02:37 P.M.

As far as credit card info: You have already mentioned Ebay. If you use PayPal, you have two VERY safe options. PayPal itself, they have an escrow service. You only deposit the money into the seller's account, once you receive the item. Or, the PayPal Plug-in for your browser. With this, you generate a one time (or multiple purchase) credit card number. This is a "virtual credit card". Not an actual plastic one. It generates a valid Master Card number with a one month from now expiration date. It will go through as a valid purchase at any REPUTABLE merchant's payment terminal. Should someone try to access that same account later, the are SOL (Sorry, Out of Luck). If you had any problems with PayPal, they have an aggressive antifraud program, and you will get your money back. Just save your emails to, and from the seller, be sure to ask them questions (does the camera work, what kind of shape is it in, etc.) I generally use the Ebay stores more than buying from individuals, but have never had a problem with either.

Jagadeesh Venugopal , May 09, 2008; 11:45 P.M.

For consumer grade equipment, don't discount your neighborhood big box electronics retailer. I recently bought a Sony A-200 with two lenses for $599. Granted, I had to pay sales tax, but still it was a bargain compared to Amazon, which was $100 higher. B&H was $200 higher until they matched the discounts a couple days later. One advantage of the big box store is that you get to handle the merchandise, and secondly, returns are easier.

Max Sleziak , October 21, 2008; 11:47 A.M.

im looking for flashtubes for sunpak 555. Where i can buy it?

Anthony Darling , December 01, 2009; 06:44 P.M.

I want to get screwed! Then you will be very well served in Times Square NYC. I was standing near the entrance to 47th Digital whilst my wife did her tourist thing there buying Tee-shirts for grandchildren. A salesman approached me who had spotted my 5D Mk2 strap, although the camera was inside my jacket. Would I be interested in another lens? Sure I was considering the new 100mm IS Macro from Canon. We have that in stock says he, I agree to have a look. Reluctantly he told me the price on the third time of asking. USD 1900. I smiled and told him that even with our 15 percent sales tax rates in UK it was around USD 1500 here. After much whispering and consultation with the Manager they offered USD 1300 plus tax but only for cash. I explained that no way was I going to walk around New York with that much cash and that the Street price was widely reported at USD 1050. I then showed them a current monthly magazine confirming this. They tried to tell me that the big NY stores sell used stock as new goods. I explained I could judge for myself when I saw the goods.Thanked them for their interest and left. I am a foreigner and I am on holiday, but I brought along my commonsense. I walked 20 minutes south and placed my order at B&H. I was deeply impressed with the folk I met in that store, and would suggest it would be a very bad place to go if you want to get screwed over a purchase.

andy Templeton , May 27, 2010; 05:40 P.M.

Simply, I have been buying my camera equipment at B and H for 20 years and have never had a bad experience, that is until my wife see the credit card statement.

Nathan Ciurzynski , January 10, 2011; 08:30 P.M.

Had a very unethical experience once with a vendor that I found via nextag and regretted it very much...I stick to Amazon, B&H, Calumet, and Adorama now. No trouble with these guys.

Brian Belflor , July 11, 2013; 04:36 P.M.

Is Samy's good in LA to buy used cameras ?


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