Owning Camera Store Lens & Shutter In a Smartphone-Obsessed World

From a downtown Victoria building almost as old as the first camera ever made, Lens & Shutter is making good on a culture obsessed with documenting itself.

Photograph by Belle White.

Call it a baptism by fire. When Roy and Julia King purchased B.C.’s camera-supply darling Lens & Shutter in 2013, the company was bloated, bankrupt and, like most camera stores, losing market share of its point-and-shoot models to the smartphone industry. But the brand’s respected name and almost half-century of retail in B.C. appealed to the new owners.

Though the Kings had no direct experience in the photographic equipment retail world, they had business know-how — so they went about trimming the company fat, narrowing their holdings from eight stores to three, in Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna.

“People are taking billions of photographs,  most of them are on their phone camera, but there is that interest in photography,” Roy says. “One hopes we can kindle that and nurture that and bring people across from the phone to the camera.”

Today the Kings’ focus is on people who are passionate about photography and on educating customers about what real, well-made cameras from industry giants like Canon, Pentax and Nikon can do.

“The camera phone is now an excellent piece of equipment for your average shot, but if you look at a lot of the younger people today who want to have a decent blog or Instagram account, you do run out of steam,” Roy says. “To go to a camera, the difference in quality is marked. There’s no comparison, really.”

Technological advancements may make it difficult to predict what cameras will look like in the future, but the 1.2 trillion photos taken in 2017 ensure it will likely never lose its place as humans’ favourite gadget.

This article is from the August/September 2018 issue of Douglas.