Hong Kong is one of the best cities in the world for camera shopping, with a seemingly infinite number of new and second hand stores selling just about every bit of camera kit under the sun. Whilst the prices here aren't quite as low as online giants like Amazon and B&H photo in the US, the lack of sales tax in Hong Kong still makes purchasing camera gear here very tempting.
Now whilst the majority of Hong Kong stores are generally very reputable and safe to purchase from, there are still a few things for tourists to take note of.
1. Major camera brands like Nikon, Canon and Sony do NOT offer up international warranties for brand new Camera bodies and/or lenses. The warranty may only be valid only for Hong Kong.
2. There are some dealers that will sell grey market imports, mostly from Japan but occasionally imported from the US. The warranty may only be valid for that country.
3. Don't always expect to haggle on price, many stores have a fixed price for brand new goods.
4. Some stores will offer accessories such as a memory card and bag with a camera purchase as part of the deal. On some occasions when you might think that it's a freebie...it's not and is all part of the inflated price.
5. Always ask about the refund policy. Most if not all stores will NOT allow a refund unless the goods are faulty.
6. Check if there is an extra fee for paying by credit card, as most stores will charge an extra 2% if you opt to pay by card.
7. Hong Kong uses the 3 prong 240v UK style wall plug. Whilst voltage won't be an issue as most battery chargers are dual voltage, it's worth asking if they can maybe swap over the plug for one thats suitable for your country.
Above all, the main piece of advice I can impart on anyone is to stay away from ALL street level camera stores on Nathan Road and in the Causeway Bay shopping area. You will recognise these places by the huge "Canon", "Nikon", "Sony" neon signs above the store front. Also you may notice that all the goods on display are shrink wrapped in clear plastic. Whilst occasionally stories leak out about goods being swapped for inferior models, these places are better known for just ripping people off with rediculous prices or pulling stunts like charging extra for the battery or the box that should come with the camera. Avoid like Pentax.
Avoid any store with a 'Tax Free' sign. Hong Kong has no sales or duty tax regardless of where you purchase.
A great resource used by locals to find the lowest prices is www.price.com.hk
Although the website is only available in Chinese, it's not too difficult to do a search for a particular camera model, which will then show you the current pricing from select independent and major retail stores.
Wing Shing Photo Supplies. One of my favourite stores to go for new gear. The sales staff here are decent but are less in the know when it comes to proper advice. Yet Wing Shing do offer some of the lowest prices around. Great range of the latest camera gear in the DSLR and mirrorless market. Stock is all official Hong Kong/China stock therefore only local warranty applies. I usually go here first when shopping for lenses and always come back as they generally have the best prices.
Wing Shing Photo - 57 Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mongkok.
Tin Cheung Camera. For manyHong Kongers, this is the only place to shop. It's a large showroom, stocking both brand new and second hand cameras as well as bags, tripods, filters etc. The staff here are very good, and it's because they understand photography and are not just there to push you into buying. Prices here can be very good, on par or lower than Wing Shing. Tin Cheung offer both local and grey import stock so always ask if there is a price difference between the two if warranty is not a concern. One other big advantage is they have an English website: http://www.tincheungcamera.com.hk
Tin Cheung Camera Main store: Shop 301, 3/F, K11, 18 Hanoi Road Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Also in Mongkok, you can find the big three big electronics store giants branched close together; Fortress, Broadway & Sunning.
Prices are not always the cheapest, but they have a decent selection and sometimes have some pretty good deals. I generally find prices to be exactly the same between these three competitors, but occasionally I have been quoted a lower price to the listed price. I always like going to these stores just to have a hands on play with the latest models of mirror less and compact cameras.
Cam2.Another large camera retailer with multiple locations across the city, Cam2 can be a great place to check out for competitive pricing on brand new accessories such as tripods, bags and filters. They are also well known for their range of Sony cameras as well as supposedly having the largest range of Sigma lenses available.
Cam2 Flagship Store - Shop 230, Star Annex, 2nd Floor, Star House, No.3 Salisbury Road, Kowloon
Cam2 Mongkok Store - Mong Kok Yau Shing Commercial Centre (9/f) 51 Sai Yeung Choi Street South
Echo Photo & Audio. Another highly respected name in Hong Kong. These guys have been running for years and have a well known reputation amongst local photographers. Echo Photo is a tiny store compared to most others, but is staffed by some really nice people who do not pressure you into a sale. You can also haggle a bit on price here so it's worth comparing Echo's prices against Tin Cheung if you are planning on a DSLR purchase. Keep in mind that not much is on display in this shop, so you may need to ask for a quote. http://www.echophotoaudio.com/en/
Echo Photo - Shop D, G/F, Hanyee Building, 19-21 Hankow Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong is an absolute mecca for sourcing second hand cameras and lenses. You name it, it's here! There are so many camera stores here selling second hand gear, and despite the higher costs versus say e-bay prices, there are still a few good places to source out a bargain.
Always remember when considering purchasing a second hand camera to thoroughly test it out in the shop first before committing. Make sure that the electrics are functioning correctly (the shop should always have a charged battery for a particular model) and take a few test shots which the shop assistants should be happy to download to their computers for you to examine. For film cameras ask if you can shoot a roll of film through it first to check that things like the electrical metering works and that the winder and advance lever are running smoothly.
With lenses, the main problem can be fungus inside the glass due to the Hong Kong humidity. Always have a look for any signs of this by shining the torchlight in your phone through the glass elements. Also, more obviously, check for scratches on the glass along with smooth operation of the focusing ring.
With that said, here are my spots for sourcing the best second hand gear in the city.
Sim City (for film and digital). Three stories of independent camera stores stocking both brand new and second hand digital and film equipment and accessories. Also located in Mongkok, Sim City has about a dozen stores selling mostly second hand DSLR's and lenses , but also a decent range of mirror less cameras and some hard to find film SLR's and Leica rangefinders. The other 20 odd stores sell brand new gear and tripods, DSLR movie gear, and lomography gear. Sim City is also a good place to come for cheap accessories like lens caps, straps and filters. It is also the only place I have found that stocks lesser known brands of lenses such as Samyang and SLR Magic.
You can even trade in your old camera's and lenses here for cash or against the cost of another purchase.
Sim City - 47-51 Shantung St, Mong Kok, Kowloon (take MTR exit E2)
Enterance to Sim City & inside view at one of the many shop window displays
298 Computer Zone (For film & digital) Don't expect to find a wide selection here, there are only a few camera shops in here amongst all the computer retailers. Whilst I wouldn't come here shopping for second hand camera bodies, I would come hunting for some bargains on lenses. I've found some good deals in here before on DSLR lenses. Prices here do tend to be lower than in Sim City due to cheaper rent.
298 Computer Zone - 298 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Also nearby is 188 Arcade on Wanchai Road, which also offers up a few little stores worth checking out.
Sunrise Professional Photofinishing (for film)
My absolute favourite camera store in Hong Kong. It's a very small store, with only modest range of cameras, but the prices are very good and the service from the owners is excellent. Like a lot of independent dealers, you can run off a tester roll of film first before fully committing to a purchase. As Sunrise have their own lab, you can get a tester roll developed in 15 minutes so you'll know if the camera is a dud or not. I can highly recommend checking out Sunrise Photo. Their website also lists current items for sale which is great:
Sunrise Professional Photofinishing - 333/B2 Lai Chi Kwok Road, Sham Shui Po , Hong Kong
or google "東昇專業沖印" for map directions
Zhao Xiang Guan (Aka Camera Workshop)Also located nearby to the Champagne Court camera stores, is one of the finest stores in Hong Kong. Located on the 12th floor of a nearby office building, this large store has a huge range of second hand digital and film cameras, lenses, lighting equipment and used tripods.
They are especially well known for their studio equipment, and also stock some specialist brand items from Really Right Stuff, Phase One & Schneider.
12/F, Kimberley House 35 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Champagne Court (for film) For film enthusiasts this is the place to be. Pretty much every film camera and lens ever made will be available here. There are half a dozen little independent stores here selling items such as old Leica rangefinders, medium format Hassleblad and Mamiya gear, Large Format cameras and about a 60 year range worth of SLR lenses. Rarer old items like grips, flashes, and even manuals you will find here. It's a must visit place just to check out some antiques of the past.
If you are looking to purchase here however, I would haggle immensely and insist on a trial run with a roll of film. Most items here are grossly overpriced, not to mention they have probably been sitting on the shelf for years!
Champagne Court - 16 Kimberly Road, (Take MTR exit B1)
Stanley Street (for digital and film) Worth a mention are the few independent camera stores left on Stanley St on Hong Kong Island. Price wise they tend to be higher than other retailers for brand new gear, but you may find a good price on second hand gear such as Leica or Hassleblad.
One must visit area is Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po. Aside from street vendors selling old cameras (which i would probably avoid), there are about four or five stores which sell cheap Chinese produced camera accessories.
My most visited store is "Fulidat Electronics". I just love this place for getting cheap strobist gear. Lights, light stands, tripods, bags, flashes, reflectors, soft boxes, stepping rings, body caps, filters, lens hoods, you name it! It's worth a visit just to get some cheap gear like wireless remotes or backup body caps. You will find this store just past the McDonalds on Apliu St.
For those of you that do shoot film, the best place in Hong Kong to get your negs developed is Dot Well Photo Workshop. Situated right outside the second hand camera stores of Champagne Court, they offer cheap and quick developing and good quality TIFF scans to a CD. I've used a few labs around Hong Kong and Dot Well always gives me the best quality digital scans. They also have a huge range of film stocks available as well as selling a large range of second hand cameras.
Dot Well - 44 Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Know of any other great camera stores or hidden away shops in Hong Kong? Leave a comment in the box below and be sure to check out my guide to seeing Hong Kong in less than a day.