Best Camera Store (2002)

Lewis Camera Exchange

Every owner of a lunky old professional Nikon or Canon has at one time dreamed of using his camera as a mace. This dream is the old bravado of old shooters in commune with the simple, perfect steel girth of the old pre-digital bodies.

But while most of us talk the talk, Jess Wells actually clocked a prospective thief with his Nikon FTN during a walk years ago back in New York City. A guy wanted his camera; Wells gave it to him upside the head. Major cred. Great story.

Try to find anything like it while buying a memory card at Best Buy.

Wells works at Lewis Camera Exchange, a store full of a little bit of digital but mostly soulful old F1 lenses and F4 bodies and Ilford paper and dangerous developing chemicals and oodles of institutional knowledge.

Vince Ruggiero started the store back in 1972. Most of his business still comes from ASU and other college students learning the fundamental arts and crafts of photography.

The digital age is hurting them. Five other real camera stores have folded in Arizona in the last five years because of lost revenue to megastores selling digital cameras and their memory cards.

But Ruggiero continues to survive, thanks to a loyal clientele. And clients are loyal because Ruggiero offers reasonable prices and, more important, staffers who know what they're talking about and love to talk about what they know.


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