Comparing Some Online Camera Retailers

Being a photographer, and being part owner of an stock photo agency for licensing a variety of outdoor photography, folks occasionally have asked me about various sources for camera gear online. After a colleague recently got shafted by one longtime online dealer (Abe’s of Maine, which actually is located in NYC), he found a good deal and much better service at Onecall, and asked for other input. Here’s what I wrote, with minor additions for clarity, and maybe it can help others narrow down what sometimes is a confusing array of choices for electronics (particularly photo and video gear).

I’ve bought material from Camera World, Abe’s and Beach Camera, as well as B&H Photo and Video. The latter is my favorite. B&H, in particular, often doesn’t have the very lowest prices but is in the lowest quartile. Best of all, I’ve been doing business with them for 10 years now (first by phone in the late 90s, now totally online) and NEVER had one problem.

As for Abe’s — I will say that I’ve heard/read more and more bad reviews lately from other chasers and from review sites like than in past years, so I’ve wandered away from them. Based on my friend’s experience with an Abe’s shyster, that’s a good thing. [The salesman used accessory-pressure and bait-and-switch tactics on the phone, and the order got botched and was late after multiple calls and e-mails.] There are also some absolutely horrid stories about other NYC area shops, and while not exclusive to NYC the problem does seem very concentrated there.

By contrast, I’ve had fine experiences ordering two Canon EOS-5Ds (mine, then Elke’s) from Beach, while getting their glass and other accessories from B&H.

I’ve never needed to call B&H or Beach, both of whom have been very prompt and efficient in processing and delivering all orders. I’m sold on B&H and Beach right now, so until either of them pull any garbage on me, I’ll keep them at the top of the heap.

I never get on the phone with any online retailers anymore unless absolutely necessary, because I just don’t like dealing with sales people in general. Sometimes it gets ugly: I tend to call their bluff, match their belligerence and then some, because nobody’s going to treat me like crap and get off scot-free. Most of them — at any shop, NYC or otherwise — are professional bullsh_tters, there to make commissions and earn money for the company, not to give you the best deal or only what you need.

The key is:

    * Find a couple shops you trust that
    * Also consistently are in the lowest quartile of pricing,
    * Know exactly what you want before you order,
    * Compare prices (including shipping!) between the trusted shops in side-by-side browser tabs, then
    * Order online-only. Don’t deal directly with any people if at all possible.

I’ll add to the list of outlets to compare-price, based on my friend’s good experience and the available online reviews, though I haven’t yet done direct business with them.


2 Responses to “Comparing Some Online Camera Retailers”

  1. Henry Posner on May 25th, 2007 12:39 pm

    “I’m sold on B&H …”
    Thank you. Very gratifying!

    – Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video, Inc.

  2. Lanny Dean on May 27th, 2007 6:32 am

    While working in the media field, we often have to call different companies regarding glass, cam bodies, filters and the like, and while I have gotten used to a few companies and the way they do things…I have come to love B&H. They have always been nothing short of outstanding with us and with me on a personal level. It is true that you will have to pay a little higher, case in point: I bought my Cannon GL2 and my Nikon D80 from them and could have saved about $100 going with “the other guy” I decided not to… get what you pay for.

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