I was going to talk about the reasons behind my new website and why I decided to ditch the usual ‘portfolio’ type look that all photographers have. However something happened today which got me thinking about the Camera Store and it’s future.
In most cases I like to purchase my gear from a store, every now and then I pick something up online and these items are usually small or software based. I like to buy from a store because I believe in helping out small business. I run a small business, my Dad runs a small business, and some of my friends run small businesses so I completely understand the struggle and problems, especially in the current economic climate that small businesses have to deal with.
My story begins a couple of days ago when I started to seriously look at an Neutral Density ND400 filter. Unfortunately Cokin don’t make a ND400 so I had to start looking elsewhere. My research lead me to a few other options but most of these had reports of some interesting colour casts being produced which is something that I wanted to avoid. I decided that purchasing online was probably not the best way, just in case which ever one I picked had a colour cast issue it would be more of a problem to get a refund and or exchange it for a different brand. The easy solution was a camera store.
I knew I would be paying a little more since the store itself had a lot more operational costs then an online retailer but I was fine with that. I would be getting their expertise in the product plus the ability to change it over if it didn’t suite.
So an hour ago I went down to the closest camera store which has quite a good range of gear given it’s size, and just my luck they had a 77mm ND400 filter. They didn’t have any square filters so that was out, but most of the lenses I use all have a 77mm thread so I wasn’t to fussed.
The problems start to show itself, now as the store only had 1 ND400 which was a Hoya. I had already read about these and to be honest my mind was pretty much made up that this is the one I would start with. Most of the people I have spoken to or read their reviews state that this is a great filter that sits in the middle of price and quality. Perfect!!
I was asking if there were any reports of colour casts etc… you know the general questions one would ask, I figured she would know. Anyway she get’s the filter out of the package and hold’s it up and looks through looking for any colour casts. An ND400 is pretty much black the only way you would notice a colour cast would be if you took a shot. Straight away I was thinking to myself this is not the expertise I would expect.
The final nail in the coffin came when she told me it was $199.99. That’s 100% more than what I can get it online. In most cases this isn’t the actual price, and I’m not one for screwing the price down but like with most goods I ask if this is the best price. You see for the knowledge (not in this case), and the ability to take it back if there was a problem I would more than happily pay somewhere around the $150-$170 mark for the filter. I was in the mood to buy it and I wanted to try it out today.
The problem here is 1) The shop assistance lack of knowledge on the product didn’t really sell me with the idea. 2) I would have been pretty much buying it for 100% more just so I could have it today and finally 3) there was only one brand. What if the Hoya had a terrible colour cast or something else. There was not a more expensive option or a cheaper options. It was the Hoya or nothing.
I should point out that there are some very good camera shops that I have been to, where they know the product and you actually don’t have a problem paying more for the expertise.
The question is, how can a camera store compete with online prices, and choice? I don’t have an answer, I’ve tried to come up with one but from what I can see there only avenue is providing expertise outside the information that is easily available on the Internet.
Do you have a solution or an experience similar to mine. I would love to hear about it.