Richard Caplan Photographic, a well-established independent Leica and Hasselblad specialist just off Trafalgar Square, is sadly closing for good after 25 years. Richard himself has been in the camera retail business since 1961, so we caught up for a chat (as well as revealing some of the great closing-down offers for Leica and Hasselblad fans)
What was your first job in this business?
I started off working at Wallace Heaton [a well-known retailer which sold out to Dixons in 1972 – Ed.] in Bond Street in 1961. It was my first job. I was always interested in photography, as my father was an optician. Back in the 1930s, opticians sold photographic equipment too, as it was all about optics. That tempted me to go into the camera business.
Have you always been based in central London?
No, I originally had a photo and hi-fi shop out in Acton and then decided to open up in the West End, in St James’. From there we moved to Bury St in St James, next door to Turnbull and Asser shirtmakers, and then we moved to the current location.
We understand you have always been a Leica specialist?
Yes, when I was at Wallace Heaton I was taught all about Leicas when I worked in the second-hand shop. Later we branched out into Hasselblad. We decided to specialise in the two brands, and become a first-class stockist, rather than being a more general camera retailer.
What been the biggest highlights of your career?
It has been wonderful to serve generations of photographers, often in the same family – parents, children, grandchildren. We’ve also served some celebrities, not only famous photographers like Bailey and Lord Snowdon (and his son Viscount Linley), but also well-known actors and musicians. I wanted to produce a shop like Wallace Heaton and make service the biggest priority.
What are your favourite Leica cameras and lenses?
The original M3 and the M6 are my favourite bodies. They are classics. They are so well made: they go on working for years and can always been be repaired – we are not finding that with the digital models. Mechanical Leica cameras can usually be fixed and I think that is one of the reasons people are moving back to film. My favourite lens is the 35mm f/2 Summicron.
What has been the toughest time for trading?
It’s hard at the moment, as margins are so squeezed and of course Leica now has its own shops, selling direct. I am closing down because of these factors, and also ill-health. I do intend to continue taking photos as a hobby; I love film photography and used to do my own processing, which was a lot of fun. Sometimes with digital photography it feels like you have to be a computer expert.
Check out some of the great closing down deals here, which include the 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH in black reduced to £2,395.00, and the Leica 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-M Asph. 6-bit Black, reduced to £2,995.00.