12 Dec 2011 Podcast 313 : Where to Buy Camera Gear in Tokyo? Map Camera!
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine, Lem Fugitt, while he was at my place for some private consulting on his new camera, and we got onto the subject of where I buy my gear, so I told Lem about Map Camera. It turned out that although Lem has lived in Japan longer than I have, he wasn’t aware of Map Camera. He visited Map Camera the following day, and was quite impressed but also surprised that he’d not yet heard of this great shop. I’ve been asked where I buy my gear here in Japan many times, so when Lem and I got to talking about how I should do a Podcast episode to let other westerners or visitors from overseas know about Map Camera, I figured it was probably a good idea, so that’s what we’re going to do today.
When I initially went to see the people at Map about doing this Podcast episode, they were a little hesitant at first about my talking about their shop because they didn’t want me to give overseas visitors the impression that all the staff in the store speak good English, because my blog and Podcast are released in English. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ll know that there are few places where you can find really good English speakers, but hey, if you are just visiting with work or as a tourist, I’m sure that most Japanese people speak more English than you speak Japanese, so hopefully you’ll see this as part of your Japan experience, and enjoy the language challenge.
Map Camera is in Nishi Shinjuku, so if you come into the main Shinjuku station on the JR Train, you’ll want to head for the South Exit. If you come in on one of the other train company lines, it can be a little more difficult to find, but if you look for West Exit and Bus Terminal, or signs for Yodobashi Camera even, that will get you close. Here’s a Google map with a pin to Map Camera to help you, but basically, as you go past the Yodobashi Camera Multimedia store, you can see the first Map Camera number one store to the right on the next block. In this photo look for the black sign with GMT written on it, and then above that, you’ll see Map Camera written in black on a white background. You’ll need to click on the photo to view the larger size to be able to make this out.
Now, before we go on, I should tell you that I’m not suggesting that you totally ignore Yodobashi Camera. The chances are if you’ve been to Tokyo and asked about where to buy camera gear, you’ve already been to Yodobashi, and I do enjoy walking around Yodobashi, and buy plenty of stuff there. But, when it comes to buying camera bodies and lenses, I pretty much always buy from Map, because they’re generally cheaper. For stuff like the 5D Mark II which has been out for a while, the price gap is to just a few thousand Yen, or about $15, but for lenses, the gap usually increases much more.
For example as of Dec 10, 2011, the Canon EF 70-200 F2.8L IS II USM lens is ¥249,200 at Yodobashi, but the same lens, both new, from Map Camera is ¥212,800. That’s a difference of ¥36,500 or around US$469 at today’s exchange rate. That a 15% difference. You would get 10% or ¥24,920 worth of points that you can use the same day if you already have a card, or from the following day after you create your point card if it’s new, but you do need a valid Japan address to register for a point card, so that rules out visitors from overseas.
Even if you calculate the difference with the points though, the price difference is still ¥11,580, or US$150, which is still significant. The good thing about Yodobashi is that they will discuss a discount if you can show them that what you want to buy is cheaper elsewhere, but it usually takes time and the shop attendant has to go and get permission from their boss etc. I personally just prefer to walk into Map, know that they have already included the discount, and just buy what I want without haggling.
The other reason that I buy at Map Camera is because they give great prices for your old gear, and they throw in a bit more if you tell them that you are going to use the money to buy some new gear at their store. They actually just give you a credit that you take to the floor with your new gear, and then you pay the difference. I pretty much always do this. We don’t cover the part exchange floor today, as they wouldn’t let me photograph it, but basically, if you want to sell something to Map Camera to partly pay for your new gear, make sure you give it a clean, put it in the original box if you still have it, include your manual etc. and take it to the 4F in shop number two, just a little further down the street. We’ll take a look at that later.
So, as you walk down towards the Map Camera sign, you could very easily walk past it if you aren’t paying attention, because the first floor of the Map Camera number 1 store is a watch shop. The entrance to the camera store is down a corridor to the left, below the checkerboard style Map Camera sign.
At the end of the passage, there’s an elevator to the various floors. I was accompanied from floor to floor by the deputy manager from the store, a young lady that used to work on the Canon floor, so I’ve known her for some time. We started on the Nikon Digital Camera floor, which you can see here (below).
Each floor contains both new and used kits, or bodies and lenses sold separately. I didn’t shoot every cabinet on each floor, but just to give you a taster, for example, as you walk around the Nikon floor, you have some cabinets like these, with used Nikon bodies (below left) and lenses (below right – click on the images to view larger).
They usually stock all new cameras from the day of their launch, also cheaper than most other stores in Tokyo. Here we can see the latest Nikon camera lineup (as of Dec 2011). There are also new bodies and lenses in the other cabinets, and they do sell accessories and batteries etc.
Next, we dropped down to the 4th floor, where I have parted with many a Yen, the Canon Digital Camera Floor (below)!
It’s a similar layout to the Nikon floor, with lots of camera bodies, lenses and accessories. Again there are cabinets of new and used gear, such as these telephoto and TS/E lenses (below right), and I also bumped into another Tokyo based photographer Paul Stevens (below left).
There’s a cabinet full of used 1 series Canon bodies (below left), and a fancy stand with the Canon consumer cameras, with pride of place in the middle of the room (below right).
For some strange reason I seemed to spend about twice as much time photographing the Canon floor, but again, there’s not much point in including too many photographs here. I just want to give you a feel for each floor, and also give those of you that haven’t been to Japan or Map Camera a feel for what the Camera stores here are like.
On the third floor, we have the Pentax, Sony and Sigma range of Digital Cameras (below).
Slightly more sparse than the Canon and Nikon floors, we now have room for a Christmas tree and some Orobianco Italian camera bags. I thought these were quite funny actually (right).
They look like the designer bags that you see around town, but when you open them up, they contain padded compartments for a camera and a couple of lenses. Ideal for not drawing attention to the fact that you are carrying around expensive camera gear, but depending on where you are, you’re probably more likely to get mugged for a purse full of cash and credit cards with bags like these. That’s not much of a problem here in Japan of course.
Having skipped the watches on the first and second floor, we dropped down next to the Leica, Rangefinders, Twin Lens Reflex cameras, and the Medium and Large Format Cameras in the 1st floor basement.
They’ve also got some second hand tripods and new and used camera bags as well, as you can see here (above), but at the back of the floor, there are a number of cabinets full of Leicas (below) and cameras that take Leica lenses, as well as medium format and large format cameras.
That finishes a look at the four camera related floors in Map Camera number 1 store. Just a few buildings down from this is the number two store, with an equally camouflaged appearance, as this store has a noodle shop on the first floor.
This second building contains three floors of Map Camera, and the first building contains two floors of watches and a pen store on the sixth floor. I believe these are all owned by the same company, and really can’t understand why they don’t just put the three watch and pen floors in this building, and have one almighty camera store on all floors of the first building, but then, it’s not my company, and I’m sure they have their reasons.
It’s the same story as Store #1 here, you go down the little passageway to the left to an elevator at the back of the building. It feels a little like you’re walking into a some seedy joint, but once you get up in the camera floors you’ll see it’s just good old Map Camera.
On the third floor we have Olympus and Panasonic DSLR cameras and compact digital cameras from various companies (below).
On the second floor we have a bit of a mishmash of film cameras including Canon FD, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, Olympus and Ricoh, as well as Contax and other Medium Format cameras, Leaf backs and compact film cameras.
It was weird to see so many old Canon FD mount lenses lined up like this (below) as well as some old Canon F-1 and Nikon FM3A bodies that really changed photography as we know it, back in their day.
So, as I mentioned earlier, the fourth floor of the second Map store just down the street from the first is the Trade Center. This is where you can take your old gear to sell for cash, or part exchange for something else. I believe the percentage changes depending on what you intend to buy, but you generally get more for your old gear if you are selling it to buy something else.
As you’ve seen, the Map Camera store floors contain a mix of new and used bodies and lenses, and I’ve actually never bought anything used here. Everything comes with a warranty though, so you can do so in confidence if you’d like to save a bit of money buying used. Map is a reputable store, and will see you right if something did go wrong with any used that you picked up here, as long as you’re still in Japan when it goes wrong of course. I doubt that they’ll work with you to replace something that went wrong if you take it to another country, but I might be wrong.
Note too that if you do shop at Map while visiting from overseas, in addition to them already being the cheapest store I’ve found to buy in Japan, if you show your passport, they’ll give you another 5% discount, by removing the tax from your purchase.
As I say, don’t expect these guys to speak great English, though I believe a few of the staff members do. Remember that you’re in Japan, so both sides of your communication will need to work at it a little, but I believe like Lem, you’ll be happy that you took a look at what Map Camera has to offer. I know that as long as they are in business, this will be the first place that I go for my camera and lenses.
I’m not affiliated with Map Camera in any way, and have received nothing for doing this Podcast, other than permission to photograph most of the floors of their store. If I recall correctly, the first lens I bought from Map Camera was my old 100-400mm L lens that I bought back in July 2003, before my first trip to Hokkaido. Since then I’ve bought almost all of my lenses there and always part exchange old gear for a good price when I buy. I’ve never had a problem with their gear, or the people that I’ve interacted with, so feel comfortable recommending Map to you too.
Here’s a Google Map to Map Camera: http://mbp.ac/mapmap
Map have a Web site, which is great, as long as you understand Japanese: http://www.mapcamera.com/
Music by UniqueTracks
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