by Johnny Martir
My wife and kids are kind enough to spoil my photography
interest obsession with browsing some cool camera shops during our recent stay in Paris, France.
Here in Maryland, United States, the camera shop is an endangered species. And the few that remain are very different from those we found in Paris.
In the early 2000s, there were several camera shops in and around Baltimore that specialized in used and even collectible film cameras. I can easily walk into a physical store, talk to real people, and try out whatever camera interests me at the time. You can buy it and burn a few rolls before the day is gone. Even take it back in for service and really watch what the tech is doing. This is the place where I cut my teeth and it remains a source of nostalgia in my mind because this simple experience is not uncommon today.
Most of these ma-and-pa stores perished as eBay and other virtual retailers took over the used camera market with a seemingly endless inventory and, at the time, ridiculously low prices that slowly rose again and the benefits of buying online became apparent. slimmer.
Today, like most film photographers, nearly all of my camera views and purchases happen online. All one can do is guess that the camera might be right for you. We speak other people’s words that something will feel right in our special hands.
And servicing and repair sucks a lot, right? Pack your things, insure them, have a safe trip back and forth.
One of the best used camera shops in Baltimore also makes a great repair shop. I bought some of my favorite cameras from the Baltimore Photo-Electronics Service and then brought them back in for repairs for over a decade. BP-ES finally closed too.
Local camera shops like that were important cultural hubs, but now almost all of them are gone.
I don’t mean to sound like a grumpy old man complaining about first world problems. After all, back in the early 2000s, there wasn’t a Leica Store near me, but now there is! How’s that for keeping my first world rage to a minimum?
Leica Paris Faubourg Saint-Honoré shop
105-109 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75008 Paris, France
+33 1 77 72 20 70
Speaking of Leica, Paris has not one but TWO official Leica Stores. The one I visited was a few streets from the Champs-Élysées; often described as the “prettiest street” where the world’s top high-end retailer requires an appointment to shop. The Leica is oddly just on the outskirts of this city’s runways, but it was a bustling Tuesday. They don’t have much in the way of using the 35mm but I picked up a cool t-shirt that cost more than my first few cameras! Staff were friendly and interested in which cameras I brought from the US. This is good because Americans are used to staff approaching them whereas Parisians find this rude. Maybe they know I’m from out of town and comfort me. Even when I’m lighthearted, I love visiting Leica Stores for the beautiful galleries, cameras, and great conversation.
I found even more camera shops on the less glamorous but delightful Boulevard Beaumarchais, the longest of Grands Boulevards. And by “I found it”, what I’m really trying to say is that my wife found them because she entertains my eccentricities and I’m eternally grateful!
Odéon Event’s photo
73 Bd Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France
+33 1 48 87 74 54
The shop I frequent the most is called Odéon Occasions Photo and reminds me of the classic Baltimore photography shops I grew up on like Shutterbug (now extinct) and Service Photo (still going strong) where you can buy film, used cameras and lenses and choose through the pile nearly worthless but very useful darkroom equipment and an old camera case. It was one of the larger second-hand stores we visited. I’ve had the pleasure of checking out the Rolleiflex lineup, the Leica line, and flocks of SLRs. There are also many antique folding large format cameras. But Odéon seems to cater to lower- to mid-range collectible film cameras and more modern plastic automatic goods. For example, most Leicas are models IIIf or M3 or M2 and Rollei are models 3.5. Nothing rare or exotic here, but lots of variety and crowd pleasers. Great place to buy any model Nikon F or low cost users like Minolta SLRs. And I looked at Watameter, which is cool because I’ve never handled it before. Odéon has a shelf of old “diamond” film behind the counter so I couldn’t help but buy five rolls of Kodak Tri-X. They cost a bit more than I would pay in the US, around €15 per roll of 35mm 36 exposures. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones spending our budget feeding our cameras!
89 boulevard Beaumarchais 75003 Paris France
+01 48 87 20 00
Next trip is Euro-Photo. This little broom cabinet is exactly what I liked in the camera shop and I think a lot of other people like it too. The place was so packed that people were shopping while waiting for others to leave and made room for them to enter. Two employees saw the madness. One of them was an older Asian guy who was very nice and I got the impression it might be the owner and repairman. Another gentleman manned the register and telephoned a Leica logo enamel pin that my daughter purchased and has proudly worn on her knit cap ever since. I came close to buying a beautiful black 1930s Leica III at Euro Photo, which looks a lot like my 1930s Leica III. I went a step further to handle it and passed shutter speed. Over the din of the crowd, I could barely hear its whispery clicks but it felt and sounded beautiful. What I love about this shop is that the staff keeps an eye on every customer even though it’s very busy. And their camera selection is exactly in my preferred price and style bracket. They have plenty of Leica M meters with original boxes/documents for example, not many shelving queens or the usual collectibles. Euro Photo seems like a good working film photographer shop.
Atelier Image Service
79 Bd Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France
+33 1 48 05 92 45
Atelier Pictures is basically a small-clutch repair shop for more modern Japanese SLRs for sale. Even though their inventory wasn’t exactly in my wheelhouse, we stopped because they were only a short walk from Euro-Photo. If I just follow impressions, this shop seems to be the cleanest and most organized which is my preferred trait in a repair shop!
67 Rue Ste Anne 75002 Paris France
+33 1 45 51 58 91
My daughter found my favorite Paris camera shop by chance. He and I had separated from the others for the day and were walking back to our hotel after eating near the Louvre. I was doing a street shoot when he saw the famous red dot again. The store doesn’t feature an exterior sign, but of all the thrift shops we visited, this one proved to be the most well-known and well known online. At first, we couldn’t even see that it was a camera shop until we walked right in front of it. Funny enough, a Yelp reviewer had a pretty similar story about aimlessly wandering Paris and stumbling across this place. Through the door, I was astonished by a carefully curated collection of cameras which I later discovered was called Photo Vincent. The owner greeted us warmly as we entered but stood back and observed politely as I excitedly explained everything we saw to my daughter. Much like how the Leica Shop is laid out, there are many light glass-paneled cabinets built into the walls, filled with carefully placed photo gear. Vincent’s Photo feels more like a museum than a retail store. Sometimes, I even feel that I might be speaking too loudly. We’d been in all of the shops mentioned above before finding Photo Vincent and I talked to my family about everything we saw in them too. But only here my daughter not only pays attention to what I say but even seems interested! He asked me how I knew so much about so many cameras. It was a lovely bonding moment and I applaud the special atmosphere this shop embodies, where it’s clear that photography is highly valued. One glass case, in particular looks like I put it in myself. Inside is an M6 in its original clamshell case, flanked by a stunning IIIg, IIIc K 1939 and Leica 1(A) 1926 bearing a staggering four digital serial numbers. I had never seen a Leica that early and talked about it all the way back.
When I Googled it, I saw that there are many other camera shops in Paris. The city is full of opportunities to photograph historical and historic locations with your favorite classic camera. It’s really amazing.
I’m so excited to see all these awesome Parisian camera shops. While I mostly window shop, each store has its own character and is fun to visit.
Using a film camera is a tactile experience. They need to be held and worked on in order to be loved and appreciated. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to walk into a store and see so many beautiful cameras up close and personal. Cameras you can ask to check. There.
Walking around most towns and cities in Maryland today, you almost think film is dead and you’re a freak for using this old mechanical camera. But not in Paris. I feel right where I should be. In fact, while photographing my kids at the playground, I even met another dad doing the same thing, also with his M6 TTL. Jaime Paris
Merci d'avoir lu, bonne prise de photo!
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