The Real Camera Company is situated on Lever St in Manchester's Northern Quarter, just a minute's walk from Piccadilly. There's also a web shop on eBay. The Real Camera Company is one of two places where I regularly buy photographic equipment. For a new DSLR I use Calumet. For nearly everything else I go to the Real Camera Company. After all, tripods, lenses, many flashguns and many other items are still compatible with digital. They don't necessarily need to be bought new.
The staff are always friendly and knowledgeable, and will go out of their way to try and find what is you need, often through the stock for the right item.
The Real Camera Company was founded by ex-BBC director and producer, Jem Kime, who left the world of television in 2000 and wondered what to do next.
He found the way forward in the unlikely setting of The Coliseum, an alternative shopping venue on Church St, near Afflecks Palace in Manchester's Northern Quarter.
Nobby's Cameras: forerunner of the Real Camera Company
The Coliseum was home to a wide range of small independent traders, not only weird and wonderful fashion traders but also coin collectors, stamp collectors, badge and record collectors, militaria, post-cards, and people selling many other kinds of old knick knacks. The traders at the Coliseum had been moved from the Corn Exchange after it was damaged in the 1996 bomb.
Amongst these stalls was a trader who was well established on the local camera scene. He was called 'Nobby' but his real name was Henry. Though he didn't know it, Nobby's Cameras was set to become the Real Camera Company.
Nobby had to close down his business. His wife was terminally ill, he was 75 years old and ready for retirement.
Jem Kime had had a life long passion for old cameras and so, after coming to an arrangement with Nobby, he took over the stall. In November 2000 bought it outright.
Due to closure of the Coliseum, the business moved the following year to a new location on the corner of Lever St and Dale St. The new shop was bright and airy, allowing sunlight to fall on the cameras for the first time.
The business soon expanded, as did the amount of stock on the shelves. More space was needed as Manchester photographers unloaded their unwanted gear into the Real Camera Co.
By good fortune, the ideal premises became available just 12 feet across the hall, at the top of the same set of steps off Lever St (opposite No. 22).
The new shop opened in September 2007 has much more space for customers to browse.
Greater Manchester's used camera specialist
So what is it about the Real Camera Company that makes it unique. Jem Kime is in no doubt:
"The Real Camera is the sole camera shop, I think, in the North West that's built upon trading in used photographic equipment.
"Back in 2000 I could see that digital was arriving and one by one the major high street shops started to close their used equipment departments. They concentrated on digital, new digital. I reckoned there had to be scope for one used camera specialist to exist in the whole of Greater Manchester, someone who would buy and sell, trade and cherish the unloved, unwanted old film cameras. But more than that, any sort of used photographic equipment, even digital of course!"
The Real Camera offers Manchester's widest selection of enlargers, processing equipment, slide projectors, data projectors, and occasionally OHPs. It can offer cine equipment in Std 8, Super 8, 9.5 and 16mm both for shooting and for projection. Other items on offer include DSLRs, hybrid bridge cameras and compact digital cameras.
The main speciality of the shop is of course used film cameras, including subminiatures, collectables, compacts, rangefinders, TLRs, SLRs, medium format and large format right up to 10x8, along with accessories.
Of course the camera equipment they have in stock is only what has been sold to them, so items come and go often very quickly. If you are looking for a specific camera or piece of photographic equipment, it may be possible for Real Camera to track it down for you.
Passion for Leica
Jem's main passion is the classic Leica camera. For the last 12 years he has been the editor of the world's oldest Leica Society magazine and two years ago negotiated a merger of the two largest Leica societies here in the UK. He owns over 70 books on the Leica and he pretty much knows all there is to know about the legendary camera.
The extended premises house a small gallery, offering 12 large square frames for photographers to exhibit their work. The frames accomodate either vertical or horizontal pictures and the display changes every month. If you'd like exhibit your photos at the Real Camera, get in touch with Jem.
If you're interested in buying used camera equipment, I wholeheartedly recommend the Real Camera company. If you're not in the Manchester area, you can visit the Real Camera Company page on eBay but for the best experience of all, go to the shop on Lever Street. You'll be amazed by what you find there!
Sevendale House (entrance on Lever St.),
5-7 Dale Street,
MANCHESTER M1 1JA
Tel: 0161 907 3236 Fax: 0161 907 3236.
To buy online, go to http://stores.ebay.co.uk/The-Real-Camera-Company.