Meet the owners
Established in Cambridge in 1952, Campkins Cameras is THE go-to for all things photographic. Owner Owen Howell reveals which camera will be snapped up this Christmas and rejoices at the revival of film
How old were you when you got your first camera?
There’s a picture on our website of me holding a camera and I’m under two I think, so it was from a very young age, which isn’t a surprise coming from a family of camera shop owners!
The camera side of the business launched with your grandad, Tom Howell, didn’t it?
The business existed as far back as the 1800s and was originally a chemists run by the Campkin family, hence the name, and my grandad, who was a photographer, converted the business to camera shops. Grandad set up a dark room in the original Rose Crescent store. Campkins moved to King’s Parade in the 50s, and the by the 70s, had shops in London, Lincoln, Dublin and across East Anglia.
When did you join the family firm?
You could say from the moment I was born; I think I went to Farnborough Air Show when I was two weeks old! We
did a lot of air shows and I started off working on the caravan selling film, then
I upgraded to binoculars. When I was 15, my dad shipped me off to Ireland and my auntie trained me to use the lab during the summer holidays. The following Christmas I helped in the stockroom in Ireland. But officially I joined in 1998, working with
my dad in Rose Crescent, then when my uncle retired in 1999, I moved over to King’s Parade. I was a partner with my dad through the noughties and unfortunately, he passed away in 2015, so that is when I took over.
Can you tell us about your extensive product range?
We sell anything to do with photography so film, digital or instant cameras, as well as binoculars, drones, telescopes and all the accessories that go with them. We also sell second-hand cameras and have seen a real revival in film amongst our younger customers. We offer a range of services too, including repairs, printing, lens calibration and camera cleaning.
Christmas is almost here. What present would you like Santa to bring you?
I’m not sure what I’d like but if we are talking gifting, I’ve just had a baby daughter this year so I’d like to gift some lovely canvas prints of her; that would be wonderful.
Which camera are you expecting to be popular this Christmas?
Instant cameras always sell well this time of year and one we’re really looking forward to showing off is the new Polaroid Go which is a cute little compact that takes a smaller picture than your old polaroid. It’s £110 and will make a fantastic gift.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The fact that when I open the doors, I don’t know who to expect. We see such a variety of people, and I enjoy helping to find them the right equipment and love it when they come back and show me the results. We are not box pushers – we listen and decide the best camera for each individual customer.
What would your grandad think if he could see the shop now?
He wouldn’t be surprised as he always kept up with technology; he was still around when digital cameras came in, and they didn’t faze him. The thing that might surprise him though – as it has us – is the revival of film. When I looked at my film shelves 10 years ago, I remember thinking what a small section that would be, expecting the customer I’d be selling to would be aged over 60, but all that’s changed. It is young people, in their late teens or early 20s, interested in this area, as well as middle aged folk who have gone into their cupboards, rediscovered their film cameras and said ‘let’s try this again!’ It’s been so pleasing to see.
Visit Campkins at 12a King’s Parade, Cambridge CB2 1SJ. Find out more at campkinscameras.com
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