F-11 – The Best Little Photo Shop in the West

Posted Mar. 27th, 2010 by Daniel J. Cox


Store front of F-11 on Main Street in Bozeman, Montana

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.

My buddy Leon shooting his new Lumix GF1 in Bozeman, Montana.

My buddy Leon shooting his new Lumix GF1 in Bozeman, Montana.

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

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There are 5 comments on this post…
  1. Heidi Hutchins WagnerOn Apr. 18th, 2015

    I wanted to comment that the folks at this store are excellent in many areas of photography.

    Several years ago they scanned my many family heirloom photographs and did some restoration on some of them.

    When your doing this kind of work on photographs, it is important to trust those who handle your one of a kind and irreplaceable photographs. I have to say, I think it will be hard to find another store like F-11, even though I now live in Portland , OR, for over here, I don’t have the same small town trust, where someone you know knows someone who knows someone else. I’ve lost my nerve in this big city, but now I have another batch of photographs being leant to me by a family member and need to be able to trust a photographer’s shop to work on these photos.

    F-11 does say I can send them over, but that may be tough to do, since they are not mine. I’d certainly hate to say,” I lost them in the mail”, to mom’s cousin!
    So, thank you, F-11 for being everything I needed all the years I lived in Bozeman! Miss you more than I can say!

    I am interested in knowing if any long standing, well known shops near Portland, OR, still exist?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 19th, 2015

      Heidi, I can totally understand your concern regarding sending photos from one distant location to the other. I did the same for nearly 25 years to publishers back around the world. At the time I trusted FedEx and they never let me down. The quality of their service has changed however and today I would be reluctant to send valuable images tin rough them. So I feel your pain here. Yes, I too agree with your appreciation and love of F11 Photo in Bozeman. We are very fortunate to have any photography store in such a small town let alone a world class one. Unfortunately I can’t recommend anybody in the Portland area. I’ve just never had any experience there. I’m not sure how computer savvy you are but if you feel comfortable it’s possible to do the scanning yourself. We currently do all of our own scanning of important images including our slide files. Our main slide scanner is the Nikon LS4000. This scanner only does slides. Epson offers both slide and print scanning. I’ve not used any of their newest scanners but Epson has always been highly regarded. Here is a link to a very impressive series of scanners by Epson that are fairly reasonable. Unfortunately, the Nikon slide scanner is hard to come by and if you do find one they are rather expensive, since they are no longer making them. The Epson scanners are relatively inexpensive and readily available. It all depends on how many images you have to scan as to whether doing it yourself is worthwhile. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. steveOn May. 1st, 2010

    I just found this place, and it looks really great so far. Looks like a place I can spend alot of time at.

  3. daveOn Apr. 26th, 2010

    I love your site, I here way too often:)!

  4. David FisherOn Mar. 31st, 2010

    Great team of folks at F/11 in Bozeman. Marsha and her team are first-rate. Always a pleasure to visit the store and engage the staff. They are knowledgeable about product and many of the staff are shooters, too. Talking about shooting and equipment is always a blast. Be sure to BUY stuff there, too!!!

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