Buying a second-hand Hasselblad in Tokyo

December 22, 2008

in japan, photography, Uncategorized

new girl in town

So you’re planning to buy a second-hand Hasselblad in Tokyo? I will tell you my experience that you might find useful. I recently bought a Hasselblad 503cx with an A-12 back and a Zeiss 80mm/2.8 lens (the so called “basic kit”).

My hunt for a ‘Blad started a month ago after I had used one several times at National Photo’s studio in Harajuku (btw you can rent their 503CX by 6,000 yen/day or 3,000 yen/day if you use it at their studio). Initially I was interested in a Rolleiflex, but after playing with the Hasselblad 503CX I found that its size was rather manageable and that being able to change lenses and the film back was an advantage. I had discarded a Mamiya RZ67 because of it’s big size and weight, though this camera is relatively cheap in Japan compared to Rolleis and Hassies.

Before visiting the shops I did some research on which model to look for. This article by Karen Nakamura on the Hasselblad 500 series gave a lot of useful tips.

Since the Euro has dropped against the Yen (near 40%!!), it has been difficult to find bargains in Tokyo… if only I had bough it 3 months earlier… Tokyo is a paradise for buying used cameras, specially foreign brands like Leica, Voightlander, Rollei and Hasselblad, but also for locals like Mamiya, Canon and Nikon. There is a huge offer (it is said that 2/3 of all the Leicas ever produced are here in Japan) and the conditions of the hardware are usually excelent as Japanese people tend to be maniac with their photo-gear (and not only).

There are no certainties on when a good piece of hardware is going to be available and at what price, so the best thing is to visit the shops frequently. After wandering around several ones, these became my points of reference:

Lemon Camera in Ginza (see map)

Lemon is a big shop and a point of reference for new and second-hand cameras in Tokyo. Located in the 8th floor of a building that hosts a church, it is a paradise for people who adhere to the religion of photography.  As most shops here, they have an impressive array of Leica but also Rollei, Hasselblad, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax, Mamiya and some Horseman and other niche products. Prices are on the lower side of the spectrum (that is good) and they have high quality products and a long standing reputation for serious business. On used cameras, they get a % of the price, which is usually set by the seller, so there is no negotiation on the final price. The staff is very professional and some of them speak a bit of English. They accept major credit cards. At Lemon I found several 503 Hasselblads and many 500C/M plus lenses and backs.

Fujiya Camera in Nakano (see map)

Fujiya tends to have the best prices in new and used cameras. The shop is distributed in several buildings and Hasselblads are in the second floor of the main one (the same that carries Nikon gear). They have a smaller selection of Blads, but I found them all in good condition. Anticipation: I bought mine here (see the end of this article for more details). Some of the staff speak good enough English. The main store is a 1 minute walk from Nakano Station’s North exit.

Lucky Camera in Shinjuku (see map)

A small shop near the South entrance to the Shinjuku JR Station, Lucky camera had many expensive Hasselblads cramped on its shelves. Prices were more expensive than at Lemon or Fujiya. There was a lot of other interesting stuff and I suggest to visit it in case some good opportunities are available.

Map Camera in Shinjuku (see map)

Map Camera is divided in 2 buildings, one for Auto-Focus equipment and the other for Manual-Focus… although you will find medium format cameras in the basement of the former building. The first impact of this shop is given by the huge amount of Leicas that they have aligned in their shelves. Hasselblads are at the back of the basement and though the number of them is discrete compared to Lemon, there were several ones to choose from. The prices tend to be in the middle to high part of the spectrum, but quality is very high. I also found one of the members of staff that was fluent in English.

National Photo in Harajuku (see map)

These guys are Hasselblad experts (ask for Togashi-san if you need help, he is the ‘Blad expert and speaks English). They have few cameras on sale but each one of them is sent to Hasselblad in Sweden for a revision and eventual adjustment, so this is a solid warranty that the gear is in excelent condition. Their price tends to be on the high side of the spectrum because of this, but hey… if you want good quality and certainty on the state of the product it has a cost! The cameras are on the 2nd floor and you can also rent a lot of professional equipment (cameras, lenses, flashes, an even their excellent studio on the 3rd floor).

My final decision: I found 2 Hasselblad 503CX and a 503CXi kits at Fujiya and decided for the one in best conditions. The shop gave me a 10 days return period (money back if there is some problem with the camera or if you change your mind) and a 6 month warranty on eventual problems with it.

Links to more second-hand photography stores

This is a list of online resources to more camera shops:

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