Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shopping for camera equipment in Japan

I (and many others here) am often asked by people coming to Japan for a visit where to buy camera equipment.

Camera shops are not as widespread as some seem to believe, especially once you get out of the cities. BIC Camera and Yodobashi Camera are often mentioned as good places and they can be. However, not all are. Some branches have a very poor selection or horrid service or both. If I have to go to one of them, my favorite is the Yodobashi Camera at Yokohama Nishiguchi. It has a wide choice of lenses, cameras, and accessories. The one in Akihabara is also good. I avoid the BIC Camera at Yurakucho near Ginza like the plague as it is poorly stocked and the service--at least in my experience--is near nonexistent.

Another problem with these two chains is that their prices are not especially low. Smaller shops can often beat them for no other reason than the fact that they don't have the "point" system that the big chains use. (Buy something and get 10% of the price in points so you can use it toward future purchases. They often have add about 10% or more to the price to give a discount.)

If you are looking for cameras or lens and not tripods or other accessories, I'd try MAP Camera in Shinjuku. They have a huge selection of used lenses, especially older manual focus lenses. They also have used cameras as well as new. The only problem I have had with them is that they seem to run out of stock on new, popular items frequently.

I went there today to look for a Tokina 10-17 fisheye. They had a used one for ¥47000 and a new one for ¥52000. Unfortunately, the new one was not in stock and I could not see buying a used one for a mere ¥5000 discount.

The same lens is selling at Yodobashi and BIC Camera for over ¥67000, a huge difference which the 10% in points would never make up for.

I finally found one in stock at Amazon Japan for ¥53000. There were others on the site (Marketplace) for as low as ¥49000, but I don't trust Amazon Marketplace all that much.

Anyway, there are a lot of smaller shops in the Tokyo area which are a better choice that the big chains in many cases. They may not speak English at them, but if you know what you want, I don't think that would be a huge problem. It would certainly be easier to deal with that than the extra cost at the chains where most don't speak English either. (I believe some staff does at places like Akihabara and Shinjuku).

By the way, you are not likely to get a better price on new equipment here than you can get in the US.

No comments: