OUR CORE VALUES
"With multiple retail stores in California and an extensive online web store full of our favorite gear, we seek to inspire, assist, and cultivate photographers through fine photographic equipment that is enjoyable to use, well-made, and long-lasting. Our collection of fine photographic equipment, fine watches, and accessories are available in-store and worldwide through our website while regular events, workshops, gallery exhibitions, and promotion of our fellow photographers' work ensures we remain active and engaged in our community, providing inspiration for everyone."
Capturing time past & present
The Camera West Story
Beginning in 2000 Sean and Diana Cranor opened a small shop in Monterey, California and Camera West was born. Between Sean’s extensive knowledge of the Camera retail space from working and managing a store in the Midwest, he took that knowledge and applied it to his own camera store, but Camera West was different. Sean and Diana had a vision, a vision of a camera store that wasn’t in a strip mall or dusty warehouse, but at the doorsteps of some of the best photography opportunities available. The Monterey area provided this very thing with its stunning coastal vista’s, and thriving photographic culture and ideal central placement just south of the San Francisco Bay Area and north of Los Angeles.
The First Leica “Shop In Shop”
True to our mission Sean and Diana stocked their first store with many wonderful cameras and optics, the best of course. Iconic brands such as Linhof, Hasselblad, Nikon and more punctuated the showcases at the Monterey store, but one brand stood out, one Sean was ever so fond of, and that was Leica. Leica did things differently in the photographic space, nothing quite resonated the same as the Leica brand and their commitment to the finest photogrpahic tools that were prefered by many great photographers and their iconic brand status akin to that of Rolex, or Porsche for photographers. It was at this store that Sean and Diana opened the first “Leica Shop & Shop,” Leica’s first foray into brand retail within the US.
Expanding To The Bay
Located only a few hours' drive from San Francisco, we saw the need and opportunity to establish a store closer to photographers in the city and the entire East Bay area. San Francisco is one of the most iconic photography cities globally, with its golden light, incredible cityscapes, vibrant culture, and proximity to stunning destinations like Napa, Point Reyes, and Yosemite. This made it an ideal location for our photography store.
After some searching, we settled on our Walnut Creek location in downtown Walnut Creek. This destination has been a staple of the East Bay area for over a decade and features an incredible Leica Boutique.
Our Desert Oasis
During one of Sean and Diana’s many trips to Palm Springs to escape the foggy Monterey Bay the idea struck them to open a store in the Coachella Valley. A short time later they would move the store from the Monterey area to Rancho Mirage, California located at the foot hills of the San Jacinto Mountains, just miles outside of the iconic dessert oasis town of Palm Springs. Again, the idea was simple, furnish photographers with the best tools and service available, but not from a mall or warehouse, but at the footsteps of some of the best photography opportunities. When you shop at our Rancho Mirage store, you’re met with not just a wonderful selection of fine photographic gear, but as you leave the store with your new piece of gear you’re met with the hills of Joshua Tree National Park and the High desert across the valley beckoning you to go and create.
The Leica Flagship Store
In 2014 a new chapter of Camera West unfolded. After several years of searching, planning, and building, Camera West opened it’s first Leica Flagship store at 463 Bush St. San Francisco California. Opening a Leica only retail location was only logical for Camera West as Leica made up the majority of our business in our other two stores, and when one thinks “Fine photographic equipment” one cannont think past Leica! The Leica Store in San Francisco features iconic San Francisco brick walls, wood floors, and tall ceilings and is filled with both modern and vintage Leica equipment as well as a curated selection of accessories, photography books and of course, a one of kind gallery space.
Online & In Store
After several years in Palm Springs, "Southern California's Vacation Town", and the metropolis of San Francisco along with its surrounding bay area, we made many friends. Many of these friendships continued even after our encounters in our physical stores, and we continued to serve many photographers from all over the world via phone and via email.
However, there was a downside. The in-store experience of sitting down, having a coffee, and browsing our selection was not possible for many clients who lived far away. In response to the growing list of friends and clients, we opened our first online store, leicastoresf.com, in 2015. Shortly after, we launched a comprehensive online store for Camera West, featuring our favorite gear, both new and pre-owned.
This was a new venture for us. We knew we couldn't open the largest online store to compete with other larger online entities, and we didn't want to either. We wanted our websites to replicate the in-store experience, furnished with the finest photographic gear, one-on-one service, and a place where you could browse and chat with someone who shared your enthusiasm for photography and fine photographic gear. To this day our online store fronts remain a reflection of our in person experience and we hope that if you’ve met us here on the internet that you come visit us in person one day, you’re always welcome!
Since our first store in Monterey, we've been buying, trading, and selling fine watches alongside fine photographic gear. We see a connection between watches and cameras. Much like the car enthusiast has and for affinity fine watches in conjunction with fine automobiles, we've found many photography enthusiasts also enjoy fine watches because they are both fine tools, that tell time while offering a long lifetime of use. After amassing a curated inventory of watches through different trades and transactions, we decided to open a watch shop, and thus, Camera West Watch Shop was born in 2019.
Today, you can enjoy all your favorite fine photographic tools, fine photography, and watches at any of our three California locations or online here at camerawest.com. Our mission is to serve and inspire photographers with fine photographic equipment. If you're a photographer who shares our enthusiasm for the best photographic tools, photography, and even fine watches, we look forward to meeting you soon.