Warning: This post is heavily biased.
Disclaimer: I have in no way been compensated for this post. Have been meaning to write this for years actually.
Life often necessitates cushions. Hobbies. Distractions. For some, like my wife, it has to do with pets. Not her only distraction, but an important one. Earlier in life as a teen I was into comic books. As a result I spent a lot of time hanging out with Reuben at a great comic book shop on Central Avenue in Albany, NY. Owned and operated by Reuben. Reuben was from NYC and had the best stories. Great guy. Later on I became a low level VW head. My local VW/Audi dealership was… on Central Avenue in Colonie, NY (Suburb of Albany where I grew up. Or the sticks of the stick as a co-worker in Manhattan once put it. The man was not wrong. Thanks, native of France, Marcel. Payback for when we would greet him with sing song French accents in the morning, which he detested. I had it coming.). I bought two VWs from them before relocating to NYC. They had an employee there that I became friends with and we spent a good amount of time prattling on about VWs. Mark I believe was his name. I had friends outside of these businesses that I would discuss these hobbies with, but like with many hobbies, it is good to have a hub. A Cheer’s like nerd equivalent establishment where you could discuss, get information about, order, pre-order, or even trade. If you are lucky, like these two examples given, there is someone there that you genuinely get along with.
For me a key distraction is cameras. Using them and writing about them specifically. And the Cheer’s where I imagine I am Norm (One of many Norms…
…I come across who stop by often as well.) is Southeastern Camera in Carrboro, NC.
Was first introduced to the place by my friend Anthony Smith. I traveled there with him as he picked up a film camera. That is what prompted me to go borrow my Father’s Pentax ME Super and start shooting film again. This is the first roll of black and white film Southeastern Camera developed for me.
Nine years ago. Eric meet rabbit hole. Rabbit hole meet Eric. I was hooked immediately. Everything flooded back from my childhood when my Father bought me my own Polaroid One Step to shoot alongside his SX-70 and later taught me how to use his Pentax ME Super.
My blog was already up and running serving as a place for me to store my Random Neural Firings and interests. Soon after shooting that first roll of film I wrote what would become my first This Old Camera blog post.
Not long after that I, under advice from Chris, purchased my first interchangeable lens digital camera. The Olympus E-PL5.
Which was immediately followed by a Washington DC trip I chaperoned one day after purchase…
… followed by my first digital camera review. And this camera went on to serve me quite well…
…until I embarked on a many year gear churn journey soon after that has slowed quite a bit recently, but will always be ongoing.
Through this entire journey there has been one constant. Southeastern Camera.
And there are so many reasons. Here are a few.
- Knowledgeable staff.
- Everyone that works there knows about and has a passion for photography. Have received advice and have witnessed many others receive advice regarding camera gear.
- Friendly staff.
- Not only are they knowledgeable, but the staff wants their customers to have the right gear for the right budget. No pressure sales tactics. Very patient, amazingly so at times, and helpful.
- Great selection.
- New and used. Digital and film. Great selection of less common offerings like large format cameras and 8mm film video cameras for example.
- Cheap options.
- Always have less expensive used options available. Have purchased and still have film cameras that cost $50 or less.
- Film support.
- Want your film developed, scanned, and with prints? They have you covered. Want to develop for yourself and need supplies? They have you covered. Somewhere in between? They have you covered.
- Pleasant gear trade experience.
- They offer competitive pricing on gear trades. Just leave your gear with them and they will contact you with an offer. Much more pleasant than dealing with the general populous on any number of commerce sites and more real time than online retailers. Plus if the offer is not to your liking just pick your gear up. No need to ship off your gear for assessment.
- Other things I will document here as I remember them.
And unlike the examples I gave above there is not just one person, but a cast of characters that are a pleasure to interact with. And stellar photographers. Not sure what the screening policy is there but it works. Here are some friends and acquaintances made over these last nine years. Many still work there, some I have met only briefly, and some have moved on. All have been a pleasure to deal with.
This is a favorite from years ago and includes Wilson, Matthew, and Chris. I walked in with an exposure left to kill with a Fujica GW690 and declared “Avengers Assemble” and this was the result.
Here is the Store Manager Chris.
Again, whether briefly and/or long ago all were and are a pleasure to deal with. Some not mentioned I do not have a proper photo of or memory failed me.
Why is this a big deal to me? Easy. For me photography is not just about photography.
It is a link to fond memories like those spent with my Dad.
It is a means of documenting significant events, like when I took this portrait of my Grandmother when she was honored at a 2016 family reunion.
It is a crutch and coping mechanism for those times when I lost loved ones like when my Father and Grandmother passed away during these last few years.
It also comes in handy as a day to day distraction to remind me to focus on the beauty hiding in plain sight rather than only the ugliness all too present in the world.
I do understand that theoretically I could do all of my shopping online or do business with other local options… but I would rather not. I truly appreciate that in this world where all of us, myself included, find ourselves avoiding personal interaction whenever possible (Gas pump: Must go in and pay at cashier. Me: Pffft. I must find me another gas station is what I must do.) there is a place that I actually look forward to going to. For a multitude of reasons. And to do my little part to keep the lights on I do business with them whenever possible. And more often than not when I order a piece of gear from them it arrives well before it shows up at the big name camera retailers.
A recent example is the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8.
Though it felt like a month of Sundays, mainly because I had traded the 28-75mm and 70-180mm in anticipation, it arrived at Southeastern Camera well before it appeared at the big names. They were still showing Pre-Order. And I had this experience with a few newly released pieces of gear over the years.
This has backfired on me in the best way also. Gear I saw as backordred to oblivion online so I thought I was safe from will at times magically appear in the shop. And we are off to the races. Same has occurred with older used film and digital gear. In both cases I will look down in the cabinet and think to myself, oh no. But this is the best kind of problem to have.
I am sure there are other great shops around, but I have been very happy with them. If you are in the area do yourself a favor and stop by. If you are not in the area give them a call or visit their website. They are really geared to assist every level of photographer from newbie to pro.
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