Observations in Japan

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Abstract, Jan 1, 2007.

  1. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    I know this thread is going to sound.......irrelevent (?).....for most of you, but here we go. I wanted to talk about my experiences here in Japan as a photographer.

    Firstly, you wouldn't believe the sheer number of DSLR owners in Japan, both overseas and Japanese tourists. I don't know if this is because of the dropping cost of DSLR bodies, or whether it's because people who travel to Japan are generally richer than the Average Joe and prepare themselves for this trip by getting a DSLR to take photos in this wonderful country. I don't think it's because of dropping costs though, because these tourists also seem to have fantastic lenses. "White" overseas tourists use Canon more often than not. If you have L lenses, you won't be alone or special in Japan, because many tourists had them. However, I did see the Nikon or Pentax bodies hanging from neckstraps, including film bodies of each. I saw 2 tall, hot model-esque girls walking around with Nikons, and "I felt a little tingle." :p
    The number of red and gold rings on lenses was astonishing, really. Nobody went on vacation with the kit lens.

    Add a large number of Leica photographers to the list. I seem to see one at most major temples and shrines I've been to. OK, not every single one, but I've seen at least 5-7 Leicas in the 7 days I did extensive "touristy" sightseeing, and I didn't expect that. Haha, I even saw two guys with what looks like a large format camera and massive tripod in Shibuya. I don't know what they were trying to photograph so close to an intersection, but there you go.

    I didn't know there was a place where Canon wasn't the most popular, but if there is a place, Japan appears to be it. The Nikon logo is everywhere in Japan, and the size of the Nikon sales section in many of the camera store seems to indicate the same. In Japan, Nikon seems to be as popular, possibly MORE popular, than Canon, while Canon p&s cameras seem to be popular in electronics stores simply due to their large number of models, I think. Lots of other brands were popular too though, so don't get me wrong.

    If you want to buy camera stuff, I highly recommend Bic Camera. Each brand has its own section in the store, and I'm not talking about a small section, either. You need to walk through these sections. Many of their stores have an entire range of lenses, and you're free to pick up any camera whenever you want. Imagine a Nikon section with 2 D40s, a D50, 3 or 4 D80s, 2-3 D200s, and a D2Xs.....all sitting there for customers to pick up and play with. Needless to say, I picked them ALL up, even the D50!! :p I had to compare shutter sounds and viewfinder sizes, of course. These cameras weren't necessarily attached to its kit lens. Oh no......the worst lens that these cameras was attached to was the 18-70 mm lens that came with the D70s. Some of the D80s I used were attached to a 105 mm f/2.8 Macro lens with VR, another had an 18-200 mm VR lens attached. They even had unattached lenses sitting beside these cameras so that if you wanted to, you could switch lenses!

    The store I went to near Tokyo Station had a massive floor for photography. Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony, Olympus, Leica, and even Samsung and Panasonic had their own DSLR section. Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina had individual sections as well, and of course.....many of their lenses were attached to Nikon, Canon, and Pentax lenses. I played with so many Nikon, Canon, Sigma and Tamron lenses that day, I felt like I was in heaven. I even held a Sigma DSLR for the first time! Add to this their huge collection of filters, film, camera bags (I can't remember ever seeing so many bags in one place), tripods, and monopods, and you can imagine how I managed to spend 3 hours there. :eek:

    I thought that store was unusually big, but many of their stores in Tokyo are that big. At the Bic Camera store beside Shinjuku station, across from Keio department store, they actually have an entire 5 storey building dedicated to photography only. They had an entire storey for tripods, one for medium and large format cameras, and of course, one for SLRs and lenses. Fewer cameras to play with, but a lot more variety of lenses to touch! They even had a flower sitting on a table, with both a Nikon and Canon aimed at it via a metal jig holding up both cameras. A Tamron 90 mm f/2.8 macro was attached to the Nikon (it has a fantastic reputation, and it seemed to deserve it), while I think a Sigma 150 mm was attached to the Canon. You could take macro shots of the flower to test out the two lenses!

    Sigma 10-20 mm, Tokina 12-24 mm, Tamron 10-17 mm (?), a 3rd party fisheye (Tokina?), and a bunch of lenses that I always wanted to compare.....all sitting in a row for me to do so.

    And they had the expensive 400 mm, 500 mm, and 600 mm Canon and Nikon crazy-ass lenses for you to try as well, but these were attached to tripods, not just sitting on a table. There were a few you walk up to and test out (a 300 mm f/2.8, I believe, and two other big lenses), while most of them were behind glass displays. :(

    This form of photography store works for me. Why? Because you don't need to go through a salesperson to see what you want, and nobody is there watching you. If I walk into a typical camera store in North America, Australia, Europe, etc, I feel a bit strange if I test a lens for more than 3-4 minutes, and I feel a bit weird if I ask to see more than 2 lenses to test out. Sometimes I don't want to buy anything, y'know? I just want to test out EVERYTHING I can get my hands on, and that's exactly what I did. It was a photo gear "buffet" of sorts. I didn't have to ask anyone to test anything out, and since the store is always jam-packed with people doing what I was doing, nobody was watching me at all.

    In total, I probably spent 8 hours of my trip (so far) at Bic Camera. :p All I have bought was a Manfrotto monopod and head, but that's only because they were all hanging on the wall for you to play with. If I didn't get a chance to just pick them all up, I wouldn't have bought it.


    The prices were probably the same as in America, although I'm not too sure. However, if you're not from America, that place is a dream. I paid around $48 USD for my Manfrotto 676B monopod, and around $48 for the head. In Australia, I'd pay around $100 USD for the monopod, and around $55-60 for the head. Massive savings! I almost bought a Nikon 35 mm f/2 because it cost around $340 USD, which is even less than gray market pricing is in Australia. :rolleyes:

    Anyway, I'm in DSLR heaven right now, I think. There's just so much to try out and compare. I never thought I'd just walk into the Canon section, pick up a 1Ds Mk II with 50 mm f/1.4 lens attached, and start shooting. Absolutely mad.

    Attached Files:

  2. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    Sounds like a photographer's dream!! I'd love to have that experience! Are they not worried about security and people stealing the merchandise?

    My suggestion, if you're still there in Japan: go back and pick up that 35mm f/2 -- it's a great little lens!
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    My wife is from Tokyo. I recognize the store from the photos. Prices there are now competitive with the US in general unless you are in New York. B&H still wins price-wise. Years ago nothing was sold below MSRP in Japan. The wholesalers used to enforce it by cutting off a store's supply if they sold at discount. This is ending, I think. But it still depends on the exchange ratio

    As for theft, First off this camera section is (if I remember right) on the third floor. "Grab and run" don't work when you have to go down three flights of escalator. And the store is full of employes. It's not the typical American warehouse style store where you hunt for 30 minutes to find an employee. Every counter is manned by several people. If you pick something up some one will be right there to help or answer questions. But also this is Japan. Crime is not the issue it is here.

    Another thing I noticed. People in Tokyo do not own cars. The subway and rail system is very good. If I didn't have $40,000 worth the automobiles on my driveway I could afford a ton of camera gear and replace it all every year and still have money to spend on all of Apple's new toys. Cars are expensive to buy, maintain and insure and most people who live in Tokyo don't have cars. This explains why a 20 year old kid can own a $2,500 Canon system. He doesn't have to spend $2,000/year for auto insurance.
  4. EastCoastFlyer macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2006
    North Florida and Northern Delaware
    Thanks for the information. Abstract. Very interesting, and another chance for some vicarious tourism and cross-cultural insight...
  5. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    It seems to me that the store has a Mac/computer department, as well as a musical instrument department. How did you manage to get stuck in the camera department?

    Shinjuku has two fairly famous camera stores so I wonder how Bic is doing.

    Noticing the price on the medium format camera, three of those would be about the price of a car but I'm not sure which would be more useful considering that it's quicker to walk across Tokyo than drive. ;)

    Lucky your being able to find most anything there. It's been a while that I've seen a camera store with even reasonable selection, probably due to the premium they charge driving customers to the web.
  6. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    The store had a Mac/Apple section. One store actually had half a floor for Apple gear. There was another half a floor for iPod gear. I guess Apple is growing very VERY quickly there, because Apple doesn't get nearly the same treatment at stores I've been to outside of Japan. In fact, Apple Store Ginza is the only Apple Store I've ever been to.

    Theft is avoided because the cameras are sort of tied to the table, although I'm sure if I pulled, I could just pull the camera off. However, this is Japan, not America or Australia, where I'm this gear would be stolen every day, especially the D2Xs that was sitting near the door! Again, Nikon's section was big in every store.

    And I saw cameras hanging from necks everywhere. If I was in Australia, I wouldn't be walking around on trains with a DSLR and good Nikon lens or Leica strapped to my neck, especially at night in busy areas such as Shinjuku, or on the subway/trains. That's what these people did. Haha, I don't even think some of these people had camera bags! Again, Tokyo must be a rather safe city if I saw this sort of behaviour so frequently.

    And while I did say that I could just walk up to every camera, pick it up, and shoot for 5-10 minutes, there were sales people everywhere to help me, like ChrisA said. Also, what ChrisA said about car ownership is interesting, although people from Tokyo seem to spend a lot of money on nice clothes, so I guess their money is just spent on something different. After clothing, I wonder how much they have to spend on cameras? Also, the amount of car ownership in Hong Kong is similar, and I didn't see nearly as many people with DSLRs when I was there last winter. However, I do understand and agree with your point. The money must come from somewhere. Either that, or Japanese people love photography.
  7. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    Wow, great article Abstract!

    Well done!

    I just wished you had more Canon and Pentax (eye) candy to share with everyone ;)

    Had to move my eye! :eek:

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