Sharp Focus

A Look Back at Roberts Camera’s 65-Year Evolution 

Writer / Seth Johnson
Photographer / Michael Durr

Roberts CameraSome Indy residents might be surprised to find out that Roberts Camera actually didn’t start out as a camera store.

“When it started, it was very different than it is today,” says Meredith Reinker, who is now a third-generation partner in the family-owned business. “My grandparents opened it as a catalog showroom. They sold a little bit of everything, from clocks to tea sets to little figurines.”

Now celebrating its 65th anniversary, Roberts Camera is Indy’s premier shop for all things photography related. From cameras to lighting to lenses, Roberts Camera carries it all, with a skilled staff on hand to help answer any and all questions a customer may have.

After operating as a catalog showroom for quite some time, Roberts eventually started carrying cameras, thanks to a former employee’s interest in photography.

“The first person that worked for my grandfather worked in the stock room, and he was also in high school,” Reinker says. “He was taking a photography class and my grandfather was trying to figure out what items he wanted to carry. There was a little page of Minolta cameras, and he said, ‘I think I could sell those.’ So that was the start of us bringing in a very small amount of cameras.”

According to Reinker, Roberts really came into its own as a camera store when Indy hosted the Pan American Games in 1987.

“That brought with it a lot of sports photographers and kind of put Indy on the national stage for a lot of things,” Reinker says. “But it also got us in front of photographers from Sports Illustrated, L.A. Times and The Washington Post. We were able to work with a lot of those guys through our mail-order business for a long time. That really catapulted us into the photography business, and it’s grown significantly since then.”

Roberts Camera

Throughout their time in the camera industry, the Roberts team has seen a lot of things come and go.

“Obviously we’ve seen [the photography industry] change significantly from the days of film into digital,” Reinker says. “Then the era of the smartphone, which really killed the point-and-shoot camera.”

As the prevalence of online shopping has increased, Roberts has also bolstered its offerings as an online store.

“Our goal is to be a full-service photo specialty store, not only for the community of photographers we have here in Indy, but we’ve really tried to build our presence from a national perspective as well,” Reinker says. “Ten years ago we also started UsedPhotoPro, which is another division of our company that focuses specifically on used camera equipment, and that’s really grown what we’ve been able to do. We’ve also put a big focus on e-commerce and growing our business through our website, distribution, and those avenues.”

Through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Roberts team decided to close its Carmel location, choosing to focus solely on making their downtown St. Clair Street location the best it can possibly be.

“We decided, ‘You know what? In this day and age we’d rather have one really strong retail location with the best staff in the business and a huge selection of product, as opposed to trying to have multiple locations,’” Reinker says. “All in all, we were able to get smarter about how we could operate more efficiently and better serve our customers with one centralized location in downtown Indy, along with more options from an e-commerce perspective.”

Although Roberts closed the Carmel location, they were still able to maintain all of their previous Carmel employees, who add to an already-impressive Roberts Camera staff.

Roberts Camera“There’s nothing we take more seriously than customer service,” Reinker says. “When people come in, we try to not only provide the most wonderful experience, but also product knowledge. Our field is unique because the product is specialized, so we focus on product knowledge and having people on staff who don’t only know and understand the technical side of the products, but are also photographers and love the craft.”

In reflecting on the 65th anniversary of Roberts Camera, Reinker ultimately attributes the camera shop’s sustained success to their ability to adjust with the times.

“One of the biggest things I would attribute to us being able to continue to grow and remain relevant in this industry has been our ability to evolve and change,” Reinker says. “We’re not people that sit back and wait for things to happen. We try and be proactive and make changes we think will be right for the future, and I attribute that to my dad. My dad is really responsible for our growth over the last 40-plus years. He was never afraid to change or try new things, and he’s still with the business today.”

Roberts Camera is located at 220 East St. Clair Street in Indianapolis. Reach them by phone at 317-636-5544, and visit for more info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });