I feel a tiny bit sorry for Jessops after the announcement they’d gone into administration, but surprised it’s taken this long for it to happen. Jessops is (was?) a bit like PC World where you went in an emergency and paid the ‘now’ tax, but as my good friend Mike Hughes points out, why do that when you can get it delivered the next morning from an online retailer for substantially less dosh?
I’ve bought from Jessops in the past: my Canon 5D Mark II came from them when they were in very short supply and (for some reason) the shop in Leeds had two in-stock where everyone else was quoting several weeks’ lead time; I also vaguely recall reasonable experiences buying an EOS 30D from them in an emergency when my 10D packed up a few days before travelling: the Leeds shop staff didn’t mind me taking the body outside and doing a CCD dirt check on it so I could get the cleanest unit after it turned out the one I bought was mucky. More recently the Wakefield shop (sadly now an empty unit) was staffed by a couple of people who knew what they were on about, so it was occasionally nice to pop in for a chinwag: shades of its former life as local independent Richards’ Cameras.
They were purely box-shifters however, and their long-term returns and repair process sucked golf balls through pipette tubing. Long-time readers of this blog will probably recall the fun I had when my 5D Mark II developed hot pixels and they lost the repair; a few months ago when I totalled a flashgun my heart sank when I found out that MoreThan wanted to send it to Jessops to be fixed; true to form it took three months for it to be returned. I should really blog about the whole insurance experience but that’s a story for another day…
I digress. We don’t have an independent now in Wakefield so I can’t shop locally, however here’s where I get my stuff from:
For film, chemicals, and darkroom bits and bobs I first try Dale Photographic in Leeds. They’re upstairs in the Merrion Centre, our last local bastion of independence, their secondhand shelf is occasionally good for a prod around (although they still haven’t found me a Bronica or Mamiya 6×6 body, and they’re more Nikon than Canon). Prices for digital kit are usually more expensive than online but they can be good for a ‘need it now’ purchase.
If the chemicals or film aren’t available from Dale, I’ll go try RK Photographic or First Call Photographic on t’interwebs. Although in the latter case the postage can be quite punitive if you only order a few little bits, they’re good for niche things such as C41 chemicals or empty film cans for bulk purchasing.
For camera bodies and things I could really do with taking back in person if they don’t work or develop a soon-after-purchase fault, I go to Calumet Photographic (our nearest branch is in Manchester). I’ve had splendid experiences with the staff there helping me with bits, chasing around to see if they can obtain me something that’s in short supply, or just having a chat when I saw Lynese (who runs the Twitter feed) at events. They also do ‘open days’ where you can go play with kit and talk to specialists in that particular area.
Finally, if I’m buying lenses and I know what I want (because obviously I’ll have tested it out with a week’s rental from Lenses4Hire), I’ll just go to Amazon. I think I found Bristol Cameras this way, and obtained things like my 17-35mm f/2.8 L-series glass via there. Check the feedback and returns policy though!
While Jessops going under isn’t surprising and their box-shifter role was usurped by other companies who could do it cheaper and better, it will still leave me without a place to go in an emergency if I’m stuck in somewhere without a ‘real’ camera shop because they had retail units everywhere. That bit’s tedious, at least.