F-11 – The Best Little Photo Shop in the West
When I first came to Bozeman back in 1987, one of the first places I stopped was the local camera shop called F-11. The owner at the time was Duncan McNab. He had a well earned reputation for being one of the best photographers in the Pacific Northwest and even better he had the most incredible photo store I had ever walked into. At any given time you could enter that store and find a 15mm/2.8, a 600mm f/4, and everything in between actually sitting on the shelf ready for purchase. Time passed and eventually Duncan decided to retire. One of his sharpest employees was first in line to take the reins. That person was Marsha Phillips. She and her partner Doug have taken the shop to a new level over the 12 years since they became owners. There have been drastic changes in the photography world since 1987, as we all know, and F-11 has done a great job changing with them. Not only can you still find the exotic Nikon 200-400mm f/4 on the shelf, but you can also find Apple computers and all things for digital capture. F-11 is an Apple Value Added Reseller, and having so many options in photography and video production equipment at your doorstep makes it difficult to keep budgets in line.
Case in point. Last January one of our favorite travelers was with Tanya and I for our annual Yellowstone Winter Photography Adventure. Leon showed me his new Panasonic Lumix GF1 camera. I was immediately smitten, and I seldom buy equipment on impulse. However, Leon and I went to F-11 upon returning from our Yellowstone workshop to see if they had a GF1 in stock. He warned me they were very difficult to find and could easily be out. We walked through the door and there on the shelf were two GF1’s ready for purchase. I bought one and never looked back. That’s the beauty of this little camera shop in what most people consider the middle of nowhere. It’s one of the best stores for sales of big products in the west yet nobody knows about them. Many people come to Yellowstone to try their luck at wildlife photography and F-11 is there to help them get the right gear. It’s hard to turn away from a 200-400 when you know that’s the lens you need and it’s right there within your grasp. Like they say, all you need is a checkbook or credit card.
I’m writing this piece because so many people ask me where I get my gear. Admittedly, Nikon loans me equipment from time to time to test. If I like what they’ve loaned I have the option to buy. That being the case, many times I deal directly with Nikon. But this only happens for new products. When the time comes that I need something quickly, I almost always find what I need at F-11. The prices are slightly more than what you will find at your New York discount houses, but the people and the service are far superior. No sales tax in Montana is an added bonus. If you get a chance, take a look at what they have to offer. It works for me. They’re good people and they will treat you fare and equitably. No I’m not getting a kickback of any kind for this endorsement. I’m a firm believer that what goes around comes around, and I’m happy to spread the word about good people and good service. Who knows, if you’re looking, they may actually have the hard-to-find GF1 in stock that I wrote about in an earlier Blog.
If you’re interested in seeing what the GF1 can do, click on the video below to see our recent Yellowstone Winter Wonderland Photography Adventure