Camera Shopping in Japan | Part II | Cameron Kline

During my time in Japan I was only chased once. The man who chased me sprinted after me with an intensity that I frankly wasn’t prepared for given the situation. Now, I’ve done a lot of street photography in Japan, and if I were to ever be chased for any reason I’d like to think it was for getting too close or too involved in a situation in pursuit of a great photo. 

His jet black hair bounced a little in the rearview mirror as I watched him chase my rental car up the last ramp in the parking garage. When he finally reached my car he was winded and I could tell that he ran up all four floors of the parking structure before finally reaching me. A minute earlier we had a conversation in which I told him I was staying at the hotel across the street and needed to know if I could park in the garage he was attending. He told me I could, and that it would be ¥3800 per night, to which I scoffed but accepted. 

Arriving at my car door he told me that if I brought my hotel receipt to him parking would actually be ¥1600 per night and then deeply apologized for the misunderstanding. The point I’m trying to make here isn’t about the price of parking in Japan, though it is crazy. Instead I want you to think about customer service where you live. When is the last time someone chased you down to tell you that you could save money? How often does someone go the extra mile to make sure you’re satisfied?

Customer service in Japan isn’t limited to parking lot attendants. Shopping in Japan is met with lots of いっらしゃいませ and a transaction is typically completed with a fairly deep bow. Part two in our series on camera shopping in Japan looks at a few shops that are close to my heart. They’ve taken quite a bit of my money in the past, but they’ve done it with a customer service experience that’s been memorable to say the least. Thankfully I’ve never been chased from any of these places. 

MAP Camera

What can be said about MAP that hasn’t been said before. It’s a cornerstone of camera shopping in Shinjuku. It’s the place you go when you want to have your mind blown. Map Camera is actually divided into two buildings in Shinjuku with one housing the majority of their wares, and the other being the buying center. Leicaphiles will enjoy the basement of Map Camera which has everything from LTM cameras to the modern medium format digital Leica S2. 

In the basement of Map Camera you'll also find a well chosen selection of cameras from Rollei, Hasselblad, and on occasion some large format equipment. The rest of the floors are broken down as follows:

  1. Fancy watches
  2. Even fancier watches
  3. Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, Ricoh
  4. Canon, Sigma, Olympus, Panasonic
  5. Sony, Konica Minolta
  6. Fancy pens

The landscape of this store has changed significantly since the first time I stepped foot inside of it's glorious doors. The amount of film gear has decreased quite a bit, but what they do have is generally in great shape, and represents a fair value. If you are staying in Japan long-term the gear almost always comes with a six month warranty which eases some fears of buying used. 

If you’re looking to trade in your current gear I recommend you arrive as close to the buying center’s opening as possible which is 10:30AM. If you don’t, you could be waiting a while in Shinjuku for your turn at an appraisal. In my experience they’ve been relatively fair in their offers, and once exceeded my expectations when I brought them my Canon 5D. Take note that you will need your passport if you’re planning to make a trade. 

I couldn’t really say what the most impressive thing in the shop is as they have so much. The Nikon floor had not one, but two Noct’s on my visit. In the basement they had not one, but two, Ricoh GR Lenses for Leica in 28mm — and one in 21mm. Basically everything you’ve never been able to afford they have two of. It’s definitely worth a trip.

It's noteworthy to point out that photography is not allowed in any of the stores that I visited and if you plan to purchase something it's best to abstain from picture taking if you can. Japan is very forgiving and seldom will you have an issue, but I've been approached about taking photos even outside of the store. 

Map Camera's information is as follows:

Webwww.mapcamera.com

Address: 1 Chome-1-13-6 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan

Phone: +81 3-3342-3383

 

Chuuko camera Box

 

As a teenager I used to have mental lists of all of the CD’s I wanted to buy. Pay day would hit and I’d make the trek to CD Warehouse knowing exactly what I was going to buy. Upon entering I’d immediately blackout and leave with something that was not on my list, that I’d never heard of, or that I didn’t actually come to get. Chuuko Box is like that. 

After you walk down the stairs you’ll be overwhelmed with camera induced euphoria. Every shelf in every glass case throughout the store is overfilled with camera stuff. I hate to use the word stuff, but I can think of no other. Bins line the floors of the already crowded shop and are filled with more and more stuff. You will likely leave with nothing because you forgot what you came to get. 

For me the highlight was a 4x5 roll film adapter, but they have plenty of other goods that are far more exciting. In my euphoric state I cannot however remember any. 

The information for Chuuko Camera Box is as follows:

Webhttp://camerabox.web.fc2.com/

Address: 162-0023 Tokyo Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, 1-13-7 B1

Phone: +81 03-5339-2701

 


shinjuku used camera market

Above ABC Mart and around the corner from Map Camera is one of the best shops in Shinjuku. They have a really great selection of just about anything you could want. Junk: they’ve got it. Leica: they’ve got it. Large format: They’ve got it. . . You see where I am going here. 

The selection at this shop ranges from rare, which is mostly in the glass case up front as you enter, to practical as you browse the several cases of 35mm gear they have. In the back left of the shop they frequently have GX680 gear which folks ask about a lot, as well as a modest selection of large format gear. 

If you decide to seek this shop out you should be aware that while they have a ton of really great gear the shop is also really, really small. When you walk by the glass cases they will rattle and with the wrong move in this store you could create an international incident. If you have luggage with you or a bulky camera bag I highly recommend getting a locker at Shinjuku station to avoid incident. 

These folks have never taken any of my money, not because they don’t have quality gear, but I am always broke when I go in. While we’re talking finances, I think this place is cash only, so be prepared for that. 

Their information is as follows:

Web

Address: Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Nishi 1-13-2 Matsubara building second floor (Japan, 〒160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Nishishinjuku, 1 Chome−1−13−2, 松原ビル 2F)

Phone: +81 03-3348-0118

 


Lemon Camera


For those of us from the Western world “Lemon Camera” is a pretty shitty name for a camera shop. We all associate the word lemon with something that is regarded as unsatisfactory or a disappointment. I can say that the name aside, this is an excellent place to spend your money. 

Lemon Camera has three locations; one shop, the larger of the two is in Ginza, the other is in Shinjuku, and finally there is a much smaller shop in Nihonbashi. The Ginza location has a very full selection of cameras from 35mm to large format, while the Shinjuku location handles predominantly digital, medium format, and 35mm. The Nihonbashi shop I actually haven’t been to as it only recently opened. It looks smaller than the Ginza shop, but maybe on par with the Shinjuku shop. According to their site it will carry Leica and Hasselblad as well as others, so if you stop in let us know how it is. 

While at the Ginza store the highlight for me was the Rittreckview complete with 8x10 back, and the 4x5 reducing back. I’m always on the hunt for these cameras and their accessories. This one was minty and well out of my price range, but minty nonetheless. 

Other cool finds while I was there:

  • A/B grade Leica M3 on consignement for ¥70,000 ($575)
  • Black Paint M4’s | Note plurality
  • Lots of Hasselblad stuff including a couple of SWC’s

The information for Lemon Camera (Shinjuku) is as follows:

Weblemonsha.com

Address: Japan, 〒160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Nishishinjuku, 1 Chome−15−4, 第2セイコービル3F

Phone: +81 3-5909-2333

 

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Cameron Kline is a San Diego based editorial photographer and the founder of The Film Shooters Collective. You can connect with him on Twitter.