B&H photo is a vast, world famous camera store in the greatest city in the world, New York. It’s situated just a short stroll from Times Square and has all the credentials to put it at the top of the camera store game. As you can imagine, I was really excited to visit this store while we were in New York earlier this month.
They don’t just sell cameras; there are TVs, tablets and hi fi speakers. I spent a long time choosing a pair of headphones. We checked out some prices before we went to the store and they compared well with online sellers. The customer service was good with a lot of knowledgeable shop floor staff. One fun feature is the overhead miniature rail line which transports stock up from the basement warehouse.
Upstairs, past the second-hand and antique camera section, we reach the main camera showroom. Here is everything. All the cameras, all the lenses and all the brands. You may already know how picky I am and here in this photographer’s candy store I noticed four things.
1. Camera Bags
The camera bag ranges were 99% masculine. I was genuinely surprised by this as the world of camera bags has come a long way in the last few years. I am a woman who loves a good bag. Maybe I am not very fashionable but a bag is my favourite accessory. B&H were lacking here. Although there was a display of Kelly Moore bags they had selected the dullest and most androgynous bags for display.
2. Solar Eclipse Photo
There was an eclipse photography display. It was a bit small but then it’s a twelve hour drive to totality from New York. The display was all about telephoto and solar filters which aren’t really my thing, but it was nice to see. It made me feel excited for the eclipse.
3. DXO One
We got to play with the new DXO One camera which is a new concept in camera technology. Previously I knew DXO as a website which is full of lens and camera testing data. I’ve used DXO to help decide which lens to buy. Now this company have taken their scientific knowledge and branched out into designing and manufacturing this new camera. It’s small, about the size of a box of tic tacs, and plugs into an iPhone (android version due 2018). The phone acts as the viewfinder and display. The image quality is full professional standard. It’s a fixed focal length of 32mm which is too wide for my style, and it’s a little tricky to hold, but it is a delightful thing. A thrilling innovation.
4. Getting Controversial over the Nikon P900
I’ve been admiring Big Fashionista’s Instagram photos, in particular the ones she has taken with the Nikon P900. I had a look at this camera in B&H photo. It has such a lumping great lens that it almost resembles a little barrel. The 83x optical zoom on this camera is just ridiculous. Good for a close-up of the moon, in fact. I love the image quality and so got into a bit of a disagreement with a rather oddball shop assistant.
First of all, this one shop assistant assumed I am a total amateur. Did not bother asking. Then he launched into that age-old diatribe which all us photographers have spouted at some point (me too). It goes like this: “Quality in a photo is paramount. You sacrifice quality when you have a long zoom lens. You sacrifice more quality when you have a small sensor like the one in the Nikon P900. Effectively it is a fancy point-and-shoot. The difference between this camera and a professional camera is so great that everyone will notice. There is so much more that a professional photographer can do with a professional camera. No-one will want to buy your photographs if you use a camera like this. The images won’t be good enough.”
How Times Change
This is old hat. Within the last three years this statement has become 90% tosh. Two things have happened; firstly camera technology has moved so far so fast that quality is exponentially better in small, point-and-shoot and even phone cameras. Secondly the end user has changed. Hardly any photos are printed out and even fewer are enlarged. Small images on phones and websites are where nearly all images end up, and they don’t need to be large and have a zillion of the finest uncorrupted pixels. So no, Mr Shop Assistant, you are wrong. The Nikon P900 will do fine, thank-you. If only I had the money.
End note – the staff at B&H Photo were all lovely, warm and helpful. Every single one – except this guy – spent a minute finding out what I know, what I do and what I want. Meeting this one guy who was getting things wrong (in my view) really helped me think through the issues and I am not in the slightest bit annoyed! And ten percent of the time, a pro camera is still worth it.
Additional photo credit: Ian Dooley on Unsplash.