Exploring Used Camera Shops in Paris

by Johnny Martyr

My wife and kids were kind enough to indulge my photographic interests obsessions by exploring some cool camera shops during our recent stay in Paris, France.

Here in Maryland, United States, camera shops are an endangered species. And the few that remain are very different than what we discovered in Paris.

In the early 2000’s, there were quite a few camera stores in and around Baltimore which specialized in used and even collectible film cameras. I could easily walk into a physical store, talk to real people, and try out whatever camera caught my interest at the time. You could buy it and go burn a few rolls before the day was through. Even take it back for service and actually watch what the tech was doing. These are the places where I cut my teeth and remain sources of nostalgia in my mind because these simple experiences are unusual now.

Much of these ma-and-pa shops were wiped out as eBay and other virtualized retailers usurped the used camera market with seemingly endless inventory and, at the time, unbelievably low prices which have all slowly climbed again and the benefits of buying online are looking slimmer.

Today, like most film photographers, pretty much all of my camera viewing and buying occurs online. All one can do is take an educated guess that a camera might be right for you. We go off other peoples’ words that something will feel right in our particular hands.

And service and repair are a pain in the ass, right? Package your stuff up, insure it, hope it makes it safely back and forth.

One of the best used camera shops in Baltimore was also a great repair shop. I bought some of my favorite cameras from Baltimore Photo-Electronic Service and then brought them back for repair over the course of more than a decade. BP-ES finally closed though.

Local camera shops like that were important cultural centers but they’re nearly all gone now.

I don’t mean to sound like a grumpy old man complaining about first world problems though. After all, in the early 2000’s, there wasn’t a Leica Store near me, but now there is! How’s that for keeping my first world grump to a minimum?

© 2023 Stephanie Lee – Leica Q2

Leica Store Paris Faubourg Saint-Honoré
105-109 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75008 Paris, France
+33 1 77 72 20 70

Speaking of Leica, Paris has not one but TWO official Leica Stores. The one that I visited was several streets down from Champs-Élysées; often described as “the most beautiful avenue” where the world’s highest of high end retailers require appointments to shop. Surprisingly, Leica was only on the outskirts of this urban runway but it was bustling one random Tuesday. They didn’t have much in the way of used 35mm but I did pick up a snazzy t-shirt that cost more than some of my first cameras! Staff were friendly and interested about which cameras I had brought with me from the US. This was nice because Americans are used to staff approaching them whereas Parisians see this as rude. Maybe they could tell I was from out of town and humored me. Even when I’m light, I enjoy popping into Leica Stores for the beautiful galleries, cameras and good conversation.

I found many more camera shops in the less glamorous but fun Boulevard Beaumarchais, the longest of the Grands Boulevards. And by “I found,” what I really mean to say is that my wife found them because she entertains my eccentricities and I am forever grateful!

© 2023 – Johnny Martyr Leica M6 TTL, 15mm Heliar, Kodak TMAX 100

Odéon Occasions Photo
73 Bd Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France
+33 1 48 87 74 54

The shop that I spent the most time in was called Odéon Occasions Photo and reminded me of classic Baltimore photography stores that I grew up in like the Shutterbug (now extinct) and Service Photo (still going strong) where you can buy film, used cameras and lenses and pick through chaotic piles of nearly valueless but very utilitarian darkroom gear and old camera bags. It was one of the larger used shops we ventured into. I enjoyed looking through rows of Rolleiflex’s, lines of Leica’s and swarms of SLR’s. Lots of antique folding large format cameras too. But Odéon seemed to cater to lower to mid range collectible film cameras and more modern, plasticky automated stuff. For example, most Leica’s were IIIf’s or M3’s or M2’s and Rollei’s were 3.5 models. Nothing particularly rare or exotic here but plenty of variety and crowd pleasers. Great place to buy a Nikon F of any model or a cheap user like a Minolta SLR. And I took a look at a Watameter, which was cool since I’d never handled one before. Odéon had the old “diamond” film shelves behind the counter so I couldn’t help but buy five rolls of Kodak Tri-X. It cost a little more than I pay in the US, about €15 per 35mm 36 exposure roll. Good to know that we aren’t the only ones stretching our budget to feed our cameras!

© 2023 – Johnny Martyr Leica M6 TTL, 15mm Heliar, Kodak TMAX 100

Euro-Photo Beaumarchais
89 boulevard Beaumarchais 75003 Paris France
+01 48 87 20 00

Next on the trip was Euro-Photo. This little broom closet was exactly what I like in a camera shop and I think many others do too. The place was so packed that people were window shopping as they waited for someone else to leave and make room for them to enter. Two employees looked over the craziness. One was an older Asian gentleman who was very kind and I got the impression might be the owner and repair sage. The other gentleman manned the register and rung up an Leica logo enamel pin that my daughter purchased and has proudly worn on her knit hat ever since. I came close to buying a beautiful 1930’s black Leica III at Euro Photo, which was very similar to my 1930 Leica III. I went so far as to handle it and go through the shutter speeds. Over the din of the crowd, I could barely hear its whispery clicks but it felt and sounded wonderful. What I enjoyed about this shop was that the staff remained attentive to each customer despite being super busy. And their selection of cameras is exactly the price bracket and style that I’m into. They had many metered Leica M’s with original boxes/paperwork for example, not alot of shelf queens or casual collectibles. Euro Photo seems like a nice, working film photographers’ shop.

© 2023 – Johnny Martyr Leica M6 TTL, 15mm Heliar, Kodak TMAX 100

Atelier Images Services
79 Bd Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France
+33 1 48 05 92 45

Atelier Images is primarily a repair shop with a small clutch of more modern Japanese SLR’s for sale. Though their inventory isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse, we stopped in because they were only a short walk down from Euro-Photo. If I went by impressions alone, this shop seemed the most clean and orderly which are traits I prefer in a repair shop!

© 2023 – Johnny Martyr Leica M6 TTL, 50mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X 400

Photo Vincent
67 Rue Ste Anne 75002 Paris France
+33 1 45 51 58 91

My daughter found my favorite Parisian camera shop by happenstance. She and I had split off from the others for the day and were walking back to our hotel after having a bite to eat near the Louvre. I was getting in some street shooting when she spotted the famous red dot again. The shop featured no exterior signage and yet of all the secondhand shops we visited, this one proved to have the most online presence and notoriety. Initially, we couldn’t even see that it was a camera shop until we walked right up in front of it. Funny enough, one Yelp reviewer had pretty much the same story of wandering aimlessly in Paris and stumbling across this place. Through the door, I was astonished by the carefully curated collection of cameras in what I later found out was called Photo Vincent. The owner greeted us warmly when we entered but stood back and observed politely as I excitedly explained everything that we were looking at to my daughter. Much like how Leica Stores are laid out, there were numerous, lit glass-paneled cabinets built into the walls, filled with carefully placed photo paraphernalia. Photo Vincent felt more like a museum than a retail store. At times, I even felt that I might be speaking too loud. We’d been in all the aforementioned shops before finding Photo Vincent and I was talking my family’s ears off about all that we were viewing in them also. But it was only here that my daughter not only seemed to be paying attention to what I was saying but even seemed interested! She asked me how I knew so much about so many cameras. It was a nice bonding moment and I credit it to the special atmosphere that this store conjures, where it is clear that photography is profoundly valued. One glass case, in particular looked almost like I’d placed it myself. Inside was an M6 in its original clamshell case, flanked by a IIIg, a 1939 IIIc K and a stunning 1926 Leica 1(A) with a staggering four digital serial number. I have never been in the presence of such an early Leica and was talking about it all the way home.

© 2023 – Johnny Martyr Leica M6 TTL, 50mm Summicron, Kodak Tmax 100

As I crawl Google, I see that there are numerous other camera shops in Paris. The city is just filled with opportunities to shoot storied, historic locations with your favorite classic cameras. It’s really just amazing.

I had a blast checking out all these awesome Parisian camera shops. Even though I was mostly window shopping, each store had its own distinct character and was a pleasure to visit.

Using film cameras is a tactile experience. They need to be held and worked in order to be loved and appreciated. I almost forgot what it was like walking into a shop and seeing so many beautiful cameras up close and in person. Cameras that you can simply ask to examine. Right there.

Walking around most towns and cities in Maryland today, you’d almost think that film is dead and you’re the weird one for using this old mechanical camera. But not in Paris. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. In fact, while photographing my kids at a playground, I even ran into another dad who was doing the same, also with his M6 TTL. J’aime Paris

Merci d'avoir lu, bonne prise de photo!

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4 thoughts on “Exploring Used Camera Shops in Paris

Add yours

  1. Great review. At Odeon, on Beaumarchais, although it was late-ish, they were attending to about half a dozen including me. I was a hero because I wanted a *** Foca, and the older gentleman with limited English went above and beyond, from the camera body which was best looking and ran beautifully, to the lenses, to filters and hoods, case and strap, all pulled from drawers and cases and swapped around. When it came time to add it up, I only paid for the camera (less than I imagined) and not for any of the (scavenged) accoutrements. The camera was used the next day, and often since then. It’s worth carrying one in France, even if it is just slung on its strap, and you use the iPhone. 😉 I found it brings out the old photographers at cafes and brasseries; perhaps even a free aperitif ;-). Cheers, Johnny.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Get off that telephone, Colin and put that Three Star to good use! haha – thanks for reading and sharing your experience, I was apprehensive to make comments about stores I’ve only visited once so it’s good to know you had a positive experience with Odéon!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hah. No iPhone for me. For what it’s worth … carrying and using an M3 and rigid 50 ‘Cron in Paris will mostly draw other males – generally curious but happy to point out their M10 (et al) and Summilux. TLRs are Chick magnets. Mostly iPhone carriers but the girls want to be carrying a TLR and shooting selfie reflections in shop windows. Just saying. I think you should research this further, wife permitting. 😇


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