A visit to Grays in the heart of Pimlico is not to be missed.
When it comes to working with the stars, Grays of Westminster's long-standing relationship with icon Stanley Kubrick is well-known - often being the source of advice and equipment for his films like Eyes Wide Shut starring Tom Cruise, but ultimately Grays is the epitome of discretion.
Grays of Westminster should be the first port of call for any Nikon user. Located on a leafy street in London, the shop's rich mahogany cabinets are stuffed full of Nikon products. The owner, Gray Levett, has been running the store for more than 25 years, building a legendary reputation for customer service.
Dealing with independent retailers such as Grays of Westminster is a good way to buy top quality second-hand goods. But pro-spec bodies in particular do not stay on the shelves for long, so you need to be quick.
Grays of Westminster - Revered Nikon-only London dealer
You only have to look at the consistently high standard of Gray Levett at Grays of Westminster to see how a consistent specialist and authoritative approach to camera retail can work. He's created a destination retail experience that people will travel to.
Q: I enjoyed Richard Sibley's article on pancake lenses (AP 26 March), but was curious about the Nikkor 45mm f/2.8P lens that featured in the piece. Despite being a manual lens, it has electronic contacts so that aperture information can be communicated with the camera. Are there any other Nikon manual-focus lenses that also have electronic contacts so they can be used with automatic exposure modes on modern DSLR camera? Neil Winters
A: I spoke to Gray Levett of Grays of Westminster www.graysofwestminster.co.uk , who kindly lent us the 45mm f/2.8P lens featured in the article. He told me 'Nikon had a 500mm f/4P Nikkor IF-ED optic in its manual lens range, and produced, to special order, the 1200-1700mm f/5.6-8P Nikkor IF-ED which was the Godzilla of all manual-focus Nikon lenses. We had one here briefly and, if I remember it correctly, it cost £53,000. Its specification is: focal length 1200-1700mm, aperture f/.5.6-f/8, lens construction 18 elements in 13 groups (3 x EDs), weight 16kg, dimensions 237mm diameter x 880mm long (overall), filters 52mm drop-in. It was designed to cover an American baseball field, or baseball diamond as it is sometimes known. Richard Sibley
"Where to Buy
When buying more exotic cameras, it pays to go through a reputable specialist. This is Grays of Westminster, the famous Nikon dealer in London - a perfect example of what a top class camera shop should be, run by enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff."
"Often regarded as the kings of good service, owning in no small part to their knowledgeable and passionate staff, as well as the ability to add that personal touch sometimes lacking from the chain stores.
Grays of Westminster - Arguably the best specialist Nikon retailer in the land."
"If you've never been to Grays of Westminster, I'd urge you to visit. Grays of Westminster is a true retailing phenomenon"
"Grays of Westminster is the Nikon and photographic resource of the western world. It is the largest Nikon dealer in Europe. I am telling it straight - You have the most complete collection of Nikons and quantity of gear in the world and I have never seen a $25,000 Fisheye-Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 lens with a 220° view before walking into this shop! I now want to shoot with it! I don't recall a friendlier staff or warmer welcome in any camera store in my entire life!"
Grays of Westminster - An exemplary standard of customer service, and a used equipment list that will make Nikon owners giddy! The store's owners regularly bring in used stock from Japan, too.
The High Church of Nikon
In appreciation of their spectacular year-end sales figures, Grays of Westminster, the exclusively Nikon dealer, have been presented with the highly prestigious Nikon 50th Anniversary Trophy.
Their recent year-end sales of Nikon cameras is their highest ever since the company was established in 1985 despite the credit crunch and world economic crisis.
"Complete with a 12-month guarantee and the famous Grays of Westminster quality of service, which is, quite frankly, second to none."
"Our nation of shopkeepers is predicated on a drive for retail perfection. There are still retailers with a London Best reputation, such as Holland & Holland, which makes shotguns of such perfection and provides a service so sublime that the whole package is impossible to improve upon. You don't need to have been in business for five generations to deliver up such service. Take Grays of Westminster, for example; a retailer specialising in nothing but Nikon cameras with a reputation stretching around the world. Grays has made a niche of a niche market entirely its own.
This shows that if you can deliver service sans pareil* your customers will remain loyal and your business will grow."
The fabled Nikon shop Grays of Westminster...
We hear that the roll call of customers reads like Debretts although this is highly confidential and they pride themselves on their discretion.
Grays of Westminster is seen as the leading and to many Nikon camera owners, the only authoritative source in the world. Earwig can confirm that itoffers the service of which legends are made.
Grays of Westminster Exclusively...Nikon
In the Company of Legends
by Gillian Greenwood
"If you're a Nikon fan and you live within reach of London, or you've tracked down an obscure Nikon accessory by mail order, you're probably familiar with Grays of Westminster, the well-known shop that since 1992 has dealt exclusively in Nikon equipment in an age when most shops are part of the big chains, this is not just another camera store. A new book looks into its history, from the early beginnings when the two founders had no stock and very limited funds. To garner trade the placed advertisements in AP's classified section and originally worked from one cramped room. It was only in 1989 that they moved to the current premises in Churton Street, SW1, a dilapidated building formerly known as Whites Barbers. The totally revamped shop now has its own special ambience, the appeal of which is referred to by AP's editor, Garry Coward-Williams, who appears in the book along with other well-known names from the world of photography who had cause to enter Grays at some stage.
Chapters meander from the history of Nikon cameras to biographies of Gray Levett and Nick Wynne, the founders, and the establishment of the Nikon Owners' Club. There are interesting snippets of information about the shop. When it opened, for instance, the new phone system had not arrived and so the partners were forced to use the telephones they had inherited from the barber's - black Bakelite antiques dating from the 1920s. Although given the shop's plush surroundings and decor, perhaps this was not inappropriate."
Grays of Westminster - A Nikon only shop offering new and used equipment, Nikon workshops, experts, and advice.
"Question: I have been given a Nikon F camera and have recently seen a Nikon F2 Photomic head for sale in a list of second-hand equipment. Is it compatible with my Nikon F body?
Jamie Williamson, Warwickshire
Answer: I contacted Nikon expert Gray Levett of Grays of Westminster about this question and he told me that the F2 Photomic head is not compatible with the F body. There were a number of different metered viewfinders known as Photomic made for use with the F body - the F Photomic, F Photomic T, F Photomic Tn, and the F Photomic FTn. Any of these would be suitable for your F body, but unfortunately not the F2 head."
The Ten Best Cameras
The acclaimed film director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas, Internal Affairs, Cold Creek Manor etc.) reveals his most successful photographic purchases:
Grays of Westminster 020-7828 4925 www.graysofwestminster.co.uk
Question: I have a Nikon F2AS with DS-12 EE aperture control unit and DN-1 battery. The battery has died, but I can't find a replacement. Can you help?
Richard Birkett, Essex
Answer: Despair not, Richard. The inestimably comprehensive Grays of Westminster (tel: 020-7828 4925) stocks the DN-1 priced at approximately £15, not including p&p.
Our technical experts, Simon Stafford of Nikon Owner magazine and Gray Levett, founder of the world-famous Nikon shop Grays of Westminster, said they were stunned by the quality of the entries. 'A good photograph is one that gets across its message and communicates an emotion, atmosphere or a feeling said.' says Gray. When you look through the viewfinder, you have to ask yourself, "What does this picture say?" It's a basic rule that too many amateurs forget to follow, because they are in such a hurry to take the picture.'
Weekend's distinguished panel of judges are all keen photographers. They were headed by Sarah, Duchess of York. Lord Lichfield was the leading professional on our panel. Tim Graham, is Britain's leading royal photographer. Simon Stafford, technical editor, of the Nikon Owner magazine, who is also a respected wildlife and landscape photographer; artist and photographer Christiane Kubrick, widow of the film director Stanley Kubrick; portrait photographer Ken Hartenstein Saatchi and Gray Levett, founder of the Nikon camera shop Grays of Westminster.
"Prestigious Nikon dealership Grays of Westminster...The website, designed by specialist web production company Amazing Internet has been carefully designed to cleverly reflect the polished-brass, mahogany-panelled and leather-upholstered interior that Grays of Westminster customers know and love."
Cameras from this Century
"We asked several personalities from the U.K. photo industry to chose three cameras taken from those made over the last 99 years that in their opinion, made the greatest contribution to photography.
David Bailey's choice: the Rolleiflex TLR (Twin lens Reflex), the 35mm SLR (Single lens Reflex) and the original Olympus Trip.
Gray Levett proprietor of the Nikon shop, Grays of Westminster in Pimlico, London chose the Nikon F, the Polaroid land camera and the Brownie 620 Box.
The Grays of Westminster Gazette. This is an invaluable guide to Nikon cameras, equipment and photographic technique from the staff at the world famous Grays of Westminster shop in London.
"Grays of Westminster, leading Nikon camera dealer."
"All my equipment comes from Grays of Westminster as I love shopping there and my fear of ghosts is only slightly less than my fear of shopping for equipment elsewhere." Simon Marsden
"The Duchess of York launches our fabulous new photo competition
How to make Your Photographs a Winner
Before you begin, spend a little time learning to get the best out of your camera. With the help of Gray Levett, founder of the world-famous Nikon camera shop, Grays of Westminster, and Simon Stafford, technical editor of 'Nikon Owner' magazine, we have compiled a beginners guide to photography."
"In celebrity and high profile professional photographers circles some of you may be aware of a very upmarket camera store called Grays of Westminster which is a charming period store specialising exclusively in Nikon products.
This is not your typical camera store, it has a comfortable atmosphere with an old world style, with comfy leather chairs for customers to relax in as they receive professional demonstrations on various pieces of kit.
Grays have a huge list of famous customers from all walks of life and from all over the world including Lord Snowdon."
"Grays of Westminster is a unique space created by an English gentleman who loves Nikon.
"'I wanted to create a unique shop. So many shops all look the same these days.' says co-founder Gray Levett. Grays of Westminster is located in Pimlico, near Victoria Station, London and deals with new, second-hand and vintage Nikon only. The decorations of the shop makes one feel you are in one of the high quality gentlemen's tailors in Savile Row."
Grays of Westminster's clients read like a veritable Who's Who - the A-list of today's movers and shakers - movie and rock stars, writers, famous photographers, politicians, company executives and royalty rely on Grays of Westminster for their photographic needs.
"I am indebted to Gray Levett of Grays of Westminster for the loan of an early Nikon F, a copy of David Douglas Duncan's book This is War! and his considerable knowledge of Nikon cameras."
"Prestigious Nikon dealership Grays of Westminster has just launched its new website at www.graysofwestminster.co.uk. The site, designed by specialist web production company Amazing Internet, has been carefully designed to cleverly reflect the polished-brass, mahogany panelled and leather-upholstered interior that Grays of Westminster customers know and love."
Stepping into specialist Nikon-retailer Grays of Westminster is like going back in time. Nestled in a side street in Pimlico, the small shop is a world away from bustling high streets and Spartan shopping centres. It is all dark wooden finish and old-fashioned professionalism. Gray Levett, the eponymous owner, sits behind a classic room-size desk, presiding over his fiefdom. It’s definitely not the sort of place you’d expect to encounter an example of the Internet revolution.
Last November, Levett created the Nikon Owners’ Club, in a part to extend the reach of his Pimlico-based store to other aficionados of the brand. Members receive a host of discounts and a quarterly publication, Nikon Owner the second issue of which features Nikon-fan the Duchess of York.
"Grays of Westminster have carved a niche unique to themselves...a shop selling only one brand became a world-famous success."
"Grays' specialty is Nikon equipment from the earliest rangefinder models all the way up to the F5. New and high quality second-hand Nikons are on sale here. Most of the second-hand gear has been amateur owned, so there's a good chance of finding mint or near mint camera equipment that hasn’t suffered the rigours of professional life. All of the equipment comes with a twelve-month guarantee such is the company’s confidence in the standard of its used gear that there is a 15-day money-back approval scheme on these items.
The buyer who is after Nikon ephemera is more likely to find that obscure object of desire here than in any other camera shop. With such a reputation it's not surprising that collectors as a well as ordinary customers fill the shop. However, service is polite and there’s none of the sales pressure found in other shops."
"Grays of Westminster have established a formidable reputation as an exclusive Nikon dealer, selling new, used and classic models from the famous marque. Step inside the world famous Georgian fronted shop, with it's leather, brass and wood furnishings, and you enter a world of bespoke service unrivalled in the photo industry.
No high-pressure sales techniques here - you can browse freely around the many displays. A visit to the celebrated Nippon Kogaku Room, which looks back at the early days of Nikon equipment, is a must for all photographic enthusiasts".
"The kind of service of which legends are made...Grays of Westminster"
"Grays of Westminster where mint is also a highly prized English adjective."
"...(they) often have very rare equipment in absolutely first rate condition...if you are a serious collector...there are no better places to shop."
"Grays of Westminster have the unique distinction of being the only company ever to have won all three Dealer of the Year awards voted by the readers of Amateur Photographer, Practical Photography and Buying Cameras magazines
Grays of Westminster have become justly famous world-wide for their legendary level of service.
Due to their fast mail order service photographers all over the world consider them their local Nikon dealer!"
"A stylish informality that is particularly English."
"This high quality catalogue is produced by the exclusively Nikon dealer as a reference for customers, but it also forms part of a rapidly expanding reference work on the Nikon system.
[It] also contains articles written by Grays of Westminster's own highly knowledgeable staff."
"The respected Nikon oriented company, Grays of Westminster."
Quintessential Nikon dealers, Grays of Westminster" Nikon Marketing News, Tokyo, Japan
"My next subject was the Nikon-built (50mm f/1.4) Nikkor-SC Auto. I quote the title in full because unlike my first subject (Leicas) I have no exact knowledge. However, as the TV advert said 'I know a man who does.' This is Mr. Gray Levett of the specialist Nikon dealer, Grays of Westminster. On hearing the description plus its serial number he said, instantly, 'April 1972.' A man of few, but effective words."
"Their period shop, situated in a quiet street close to London's Victoria Station, is unlike any other photographic retailer I have previously encountered.
Hardly a camera to be seen in the window, but walk inside to the attractively furnished interior, and there is the largest stock of new and second-hand Nikon cameras and accessories that one is ever likely to find in one place."
"Grays of Westminster...all in all, a Nikon user's paradise."
"Grays of Westminster have become renowned worldwide for the quality of their used equipment."