Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The tail of two camera shops in Washington D.C.

   Today I rode the bike in 100° heat in order to visit a couple of photo stores and see what types of fun things I can find out about the film community in this city and to find what I can find in the dusty corners of old-school camera shops (one of my favorite activities of all time).

   First stop was Embassy Camera at 1735 Connecticut Ave. NW - http://www.ephotocraft.com
  This is a pretty small shop with a few interesting items on display of used film cameras.  There were a few Polaroid cameras, some Kodak Autographic models, a mandatory Argus C3 and some more odds and ends.  They seemed to have dedicated a lot of their very limited floor space to camera bags and it was feeling a bit crammed for that reason.  They do have a refrigerator with 120 Tri-X and some 35mm slide film, but beyond that I have to say I did not find much (plus their Tri-X was well within the expiration date, so I couldn't afford it - give me something 10 years past it's due date and I'm all over that). The staff was indeed friendly and receptive and we chatted for a little bit about the bygone days of film and real photography. I asked about expired paper and was generously offered two 25 sheet packs of old Kodak Polycontrast RC in 5x7 for a meager $2 each - I politely declined as I have learned from previous experience that most RC papers go bad rather quickly. I bet those packs were still good though as they expired only in 2005 and were quite likely in that store ever since, so they were not heated or anything like that.   I'd recommend stopping by there for kicks or if you need a battery or a new point-and-shoot digital.   I bet they might be willing to negotiate on used camera prices (I didn't try as there was nothing that caught my eye and, besides, I have no budget for that at the moment).

  Next I rode down to Pro Photo located on 1902 I Street NW - now THIS was my kind of place! Here is their site (though I must say it needs work - almost as much as my site...) - http://www.prophoto-dc.com/
  Much larger floor space and located right in downtown.   They do camera repair as well as sales and I have seen positive reviews about their work online.   The amount of used old stuff that I found there was above average - too much to list, but some highlights include a Leica MP, Century Graphic 8x10, which I discovered just locked away in its original case on the floor in the corner, film and print washers (I wish I had the cash for that 8x10 washer - it would save me some water....), Hasselblad lenses and bodies, SX-70 Sonar (not my favorite model, but a fair deal on it - $80) and a great multitude of little wooden and cardboard boxes with accessories for all sorts of cameras, so many of that hey are still looking that one Rolleiflex box and are supposed to call me back on it when and if they find it.   There were many odds and ends for the darkroom fanatic and enlargers galore including two old-school Beselers (the blue kind) and a very good looking later model of a Leica Focomat 35, great selection of chemistry, both new and old was also present and I did pick up a bottle of Edwall Perma-Wash in hopes of saving time on washing fiber paper.  They also have a plethora of old paper in all sorts of sizes - Forte, Oriental, Kodak and so on.   I was truly disappointed to find that all but a few of the boxes were RC :( I swear, if they had some Forte Polycontrast in Fiber or Luminos I would have dropped the rest of my cash on that.  Also, I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent selection of Impossible Project B&W films - any store that stocks it gets an extra star in my book.   Obviously they also have a good variety of digital equipment, but we'll skip the description of that.
  A separate paragraph has to be dedicated the owner - he is Armenian by descent, but came here aline from Ethiopia. We had a lovely long chat (lasting well past their usual closing time) during which he divulged that he is a third generation photographer and his daughter actually works at the store as well making her the fourth generation all together. His grandfather escaped Turkey area right before the Armenian genocide and went to Paris where he started taking pictures of dignitaries to make a living.   Apparently the king of Ethiopia was passing through and, after seeing his work, invited him to move to his country - what a story!
  I'd definitely stop by there if I were you next time you are in D.C - or just give them a call and see if they have what you need - apparently there is even more unseen stuff 'in the back'.

That's my story for the day and I'm sticking with it.

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