Where To Go For That Great Holiday Gift

This captures the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping rather well, no?

Having trouble finding holiday gifts for your favorite photographer?  There are two parallels with photographers.  They either seem to have everything, or they don’t have enough.  Between the options of equipment, editing software, or darkroom acessories, the list seems to never end.

Fortunately, Chicago is home to some of the best camera supply places around.  Not only do these store carry items that are perfect for digital or film users, but they are also well-knowledged and can help the not so informed shoppers in picking out gifts.

The Chicago Loop is home to so many unknown gems in retail, that it may be hard to find particular places. unless you know where to look.  Nestled into the busy Loop lies Central Camera Company.  This go-to camera stores could quite possibly be anyone’s best bet for gifts.

“The people who work at Central Camera are always extremely friendly.  They are very knowledgable about photography so they always know how to help you and answer all of my questions,”  Kiandra Trealoff said of the crowded store.  Kiandra, a Loyola University student says she’s always bought her supplies there, especially because they offer students a 10% discount with your student ID.

It may be overwhelming to walk into a shot-gun style store crammed with supplies, equipment and photographs all over the walls, but don’t let that discourage you because they have been established since 1899.  With that much history, how could a place like this not be your first stop?

What Central Camera has to offer:

  • Digital Camera
  • Lenses
  • Bags, Cases and Straps
  • Tripods
  • Flash, Lighting Equipment and Meters
  • Filters and Lens Accessories
  • Film
  • Darkroom Supplies
  • And much more!

Being in a city as large as Chicago, there are always going to be other options for which store you choose to go to.  Below is a map pin-pointing other camera store options throughout downtown Chicago.

Even though there are great camera specific stores all over, the trusty chain shopping stores are always great options as well.  Mainly, what you can expect of places such as Target or Best Buy are the competitive holiday prices that will be offered.  Going to a non-chain, or family owned business can usually guarentee you might be paying more than you would at your local one-stop shopping stores.

We all know those loud red carts, of course it's Target

There is always a give and take in these instances.  Going to a place like Central Camera will ensure you are speaking with a specialist, where as at Target, you may not be so lucky.  Yes, the workers in the electronics department are knowledgeable, but usually only on the items they sell, and not necessarily photography as a whole.

“For SLR (single lens reflex) cameras, our most popular item is the Canon Rebel T2i that has 18 mega pixels,” said Dan Hendricksen, a sales manager at Central Camera.  He said that the most popular items this season have been simple point and shoot cameras.  This could be because they are the most simple to use and almost everyone has one.  Dan also added that “The Canon DS 1300i goes for about $150 so it’s more popular because of it’s price.”

Canon and Nikon cameras are the main competitors within the camera market, and it mainly comes down to personal opinion or experience with one or the other.  However, Central Camera, and other retailers have a wide variety of brand names, so you do not necessarily need to get hung-up between either of the most popular brand names.

One particular way to avoid frustration, whether you are at a chain store or a family owned business is to do your homework on products you are looking to purchase.  There are many websites that have great rating of new models of cameras, and there are always personal opinions of the newest tripods or other accessories that have come out all over the web.

When doing your homework, keep these things in mind:

  • The most expensive camera is not always the best camera.  Even more important, the most expensive camera may not be perfect for you or whom your shopping for.  Make sure to know what you expect your camera to do and types of images you are wanting to shoot.  For example, if you are into sports, you will want a camera that can capture multiple shots per second.
  • On the other hand, do not pick your camera based on the holiday special stores may be running.  Whether you are spending $50 or $1,000 you will not be happy if your camera malfunctions mid-shooting.  Holiday specials and deals are great to find once you know what camera you are interested in.
  • Do not get overwhelmed.  There are so many options on the market that this can be hard to avoid, but that will take the fun out of finding your new best friend.  Getting frustrated and making an irrational decision on a camera could be something you regret later.  Just remember that finding a great camera that you can grow with is rewarding and worth all of your research in the end.

Happy hunting!  Whether you’re shopping for yourself, or for your favorite photographer, make sure to have fun.  This is a hobby that is full of gratification and either way, you will make someone very grateful with a new gadget to play with come the holidays.


Slideshow Photos (In order of appearance): F 5.6 on Flickr, poppet with a camera on Flickr, salimfadhley on Flickr, Visionstyler-Press on Flickr, Visionstyler-Press on Flickr, Creative Tools on Flickr

Photos by: bensonkua on Flickr, pixeljones on Flickr, IntangibleArts on Flickr

About alboehm

I am currently a senior at Loyola University Chicago, majoring in Public Relations and Advertising as well as minoring in Photography. I was born and raised in the heart of St. Louis, MO but have fallen in love with Chicago. I have created this blog to share what I love about photography and what I have learned over the years. Currently I am just starting to dabble in digital photography whereas I have been using film in my classes for the past few semesters. I hope y'all enjoy! "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." ~ Ansel Adams
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