The view of downtown from the north balcony of Zach Scott Theatre.

I've been documenting the progress at the new Zachary Scott Theatre which sits just across the river from downtown Austin. So much of the documentation consists of inward looking images: The new stage, the lobbies and amenities... But I think one of the overlooked attractions of the new building is its close proximity to Austin's downtown.  The heart of Austin.

I stepped out on the balcony, stuck my Sony a77+16-50mm lens on an old, wooden tripod and did a quick, three shot panorama. The PhotoShop file, in layers, is a whopping 150 megabytes with a long edge of nearly 30 inches.  I think it looks pretty cool. I'd love to have a view like this right off my living room or dining room.

On another note, I had to return a lens today. I'm glad I bought it locally since taking it back was beyond painless. I'd read some good stuff about the Carl Zeiss lenses for the Sony Alpha cameras and I'd had my eye on the Sony/Zeiss 16-80mm 3.5-4.5 zoom.  Seemed like the perfect range for an "event documentation" lens.  The old school equivalent of a 24-120mm.  I bought it on Saturday and immediately stuck it on a camera and walked around shooting familiar stuff with it.  Loved the range and the resolution but hated the obvious corner vignetting at the wider focal lengths and the lilting lack of snap.  The details were there but there was none of the snap, crackle and pop one expects from a great optic. When I got back to the studio I compared the results with similar images I'd done on the Sony DT 16-50mm lens.  The difference was pretty big. The 16-50 has the snap and acutance I love to see in a lens.

Taking the Zeiss back was a no brainer.  Why keep as lens that doesn't make you sit up and take notice?  I bought it at Precision Camera and the return was this simple:

"I'm returning this."

Ron:  "What's up with it?"

"No pizzazz."

Ron:  "Okay. Sorry it didn't work for you. Let me credit your account."

Reverse transaction complete. It's pretty comfortable to shop locally.  Nice that Amazon is now charging sales tax.  Now our local merchants can compete on a level playing field.  And if they are competitive tax revenue flows into our communities.  If they aren't competitive the tax revenue still flows into our communities. For our kids, our roads, our urban transportation resources, and our city governments it's a total win-win.  Nice.

Next step.  All on-line businesses should collect sales tax for the states to which they are shipping product. We're all obligated to pay sales tax (at least in Texas) even if the out of state merchants aren't required to collect it.  This just makes it easier.


Sean Staples said...

Honestly, if all local businesses provided that kind of service, it would be a no brainer. But the sad truth is in my experience they are few and far between.

Personally I gladly pay tax to Amazon. I still get free delivery with Prime, I've returned items easily when needed, and when they start same or next day delivery it's only going to get better. That truck is always passing my house whether I order something or not. That being said, if I had a local camera store that provided good service, I would use it.

Tom Barry said...

Kirk, I agree with you about Precision. I've been doing business with them practically since they opened shop and have usually been more than satisfied - and when I wasn't, they've made it right. I try to shop locally when possible, even if it costs a little more.

Anonymous said...

The only camera store left in my former home town, Erie, PA, has a "NO RETURNS" sign at the check out counter. The owner never heard of the LL Bean business model...

kirk tuck said...

Probably not going to work out well for that store. In Austin we're proud to have a store that was voted "Best in the Country" this year by their industry. And they are the best because they do what it takes to keep their young, smart, affluent customers happy and coming back. And we older customers like em too. They're growing by leaps and bounds and it's because they love photography, respect their customers and do right by them. Once you figure out the model it's pretty cool. I don't like shopping anywhere else.

Pseeker said...

First let me say that everyone is obligated to pay the sales tax on on-line and mail order purchases. So, Kirk kindly go through all you invoices from amazon and other purchases you made on line and calculate the unpaid sales tax and send a check to the Texas Department of Revenue. Just because a merchant failed to collect the tax that doesn't mean you don't owe it. After all you don't want to deprive the kiddies of any revenue.

Sales taxes not paid is not lost money. It's lost money to the bureaucrats but more money for more camera gear, theater tickets, dining out and and extra trip to the coffee shop.

John Passaneau said...

The local camera shop here just closed. They were great guys but I guess the loss of money from film processing couldn't be made up by custom digital printing. They did a great job at that too. I bought as much as I could from them but the world is changing.
So now the nearest photo store is maybe 300 miles away. It's why I and many others are dependent on web resources to learn as much about cameras and accessories, It's the only way to get any kind of feel for what we are looking to buy. No were as nice as picking it up and looking at it.

John Passaneau

kirk tuck said...

I know this was meant to be a smart-ass reply and an "arent' we all guilty of doing the same thing?" kind of response but, sorry, it doesn't work. If everyone felt this way we'd be in the same situation as countries like Greece where tax payments and compliance are minimal. We're supposed to be part of an advanced civilization, not a free for all. Taxes are the price we pay for stuff we like: schools, roads, water, services, etc. as well as for things that other people need like: health clinics, programs for the disabled, sidewalks, zoning, etc. Some people abuse the system but that doesn't give us regular people a license to sink to their level.

Since we (as a culture) didn't step up on paying sales tax the "nanny" state had to do it for us. But in the end it really is: For Us. Sometimes the government has to step in where individuals are too selfish to do the right thing on their own. Examples: No more dumping of toxic chemicals in our drinking water. No uranium waste dump in our residential neighborhoods, no sharp metal dashboards in cars, required seat belts, no lead in household and toy paints, no arsenic used as food preservers. The list goes on and on. People think it's so cool and ruggedly individual to call for the government to "get out of our lives." It's not cool. It's stupid. Left to their own devices a certain segment of the population would have no ethical or moral issue with selling us products or services that would kill us. Or even kill themselves, as long as there's some money in it...

Yes. pay your taxes. We do. Finally, the check goes to: The Texas State Comptroller. You can also pay online.

kirk tuck said...

John, I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully someone will figure out how to service your market well and step into the vacuum. It's a wonderful luxury to drive five minutes and get to handle a Fuji Pro1, a Nikon D800, a Leica M9 and lots of other fun toys. Beats the hell out of crossing your fingers for luck and tossing stuff into an online shopping cart.