Hong Kong is undoubtedly still one of the best cities in the world for camera shopping. With a multitude 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.
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. Many brands (but not all) only provide warranty coverage for their camera bodies and lenses in the region they were purchased in. In this case, the warranty may only be valid only for Hong Kong.
2. There are some stores that sell grey market imports. These tend to be mostly from Japan but occasionally imported from the US. Again, the warranty may only be valid for that country.
3. You can always expect to haggle on price, as many stores will offer you a better deal if paying with cash.
4. Often when buying new cameras from larger chain store retailers (especially newer camera models), the store will throw in a few extras for free e.g. memory card, carry case, mini-tripod. If they don't, ask at the point of purchase if they will throw anything in with the sale.
5. Always ask about the return policy. Many stores will NOT allow a refund unless the goods are faulty. That being said, stores are good to their word and will replace if faulty.
6. Check if there is an extra fee for paying by credit card, as some 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 pretty much all battery chargers are dual voltage, it's worth asking if they can maybe swap over the plug for one that's suitable for your country.
Above all, the best piece of advice I can impart on anyone is to STAY AWAY from ALL street level camera stores on Nathan Road in Kowloon, and in the Causeway Bay shopping area on the Island side. You should easily recognize these places by the huge "Canon", "Nikon" or "Sony" neon signs adorning the storefront. These shops are usually pretty tiny, and inside you will find like 8 guys all sitting around smoking or eating. Also, you may notice that most of 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 simply ripping tourists off with ridiculous 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.
SHOPPING FOR BRAND NEW
The first step to finding the lowest prices in town is to check out www.price.com.hk
Although the website is only available in Chinese, it's not too difficult to simply search for a particular camera model or lens, which will then show you the current pricing for the majority of independent and major retail stores. It's a good way to get a ballpark figure for what to pay, or you might get lucky and find a bargain deal.
Note that there are sometimes two prices listed, indicating whether the produce is local stock, or imported. Look out for these symbols next to the price.
行 - which is short for 行貨價格, means 'Local Price' or more simply; 'Hong Kong Version'
水 - which is short for 水貨價格, simply means it's a Grey Market import.
For those who have purchased camera gear before from e-bay, it should come as no surprise as to where it was sent from. The answer of course is Hong Kong! But how do we find these dealers?
There are two online companies I know of, that I personally have used in the past to purchase gear from with no issues. The stock is grey import, but the pricing is on par or even cheaper than what you would pay in the US. The trick with these companies is to e-mail them directly for an order and then ask to pick up from their warehouse/office or to post within Hong Kong.
www.dwidigitalcameras.com.au - This company caters primarily to the Australian market, but their range and pricing are on-par or even cheaper than what you would pay in the US.
www.t-dimension.com - Catering for Europe and Australia, T-Dimension are based out of a warehouse in Kowloon. Their range of products is smaller but honestly, I am yet to find anyone with lower prices.
Finally, don't forget to compare the Hong Kong prices with the listed prices on Amazon.com, as it may still work out cheaper even with shipping than purchasing in Hong Kong.
These are some of my frequent go-to places. All highly recommended, but still be prepared to do your research to find the best deal.
Wing Shing Photo Supplies
One of my favorite stores to goto for new gear. The sales staff here are friendly, but seem more orientated towards the consumer market vs professional. Yet Wing Shing do offer some of the lowest prices around. Great range of the latest camera gear in the DSLR and mirrorless market for all brands. The stock is all official Hong Kong/China models, therefore only local warranty applies. I usually visit here first when pricing out equipment, and usually come back as they generally have the best prices. As a bonus, they tend to throw in little extras with larger purchases such as carry cases, memory cards etc.
Wing Shing Photo - 57 Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mongkok.
Tin Cheung Camera
For many Hong Kongers, this is the only place to shop. They have multiple stores around the city, but the flagship store is inside iSquare Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tin Cheung is one of the most respected Leica dealerships in town, and caters for a niche customer base with it's stock of Pentax and Sigma camera gear, alongside Samyang, Laowa and Irix lenses to name a few.
The staff here are very informative, because they understand photography and are not just there to push you into buying. Prices here are usually very competitive, 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: www.tincheungcamera.com.hk
Tin Cheung Camera Main store: iSquare Mall, 58 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
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 lower than the listed price. They're worth a visit simply to have a hands-on play with the latest models of mirrorless and compact cameras.
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 Mongkok Store - Mong Kok Yau Shing Commercial Centre (9/f) 51 Sai Yeung Choi Street South
SHOPPING FOR SECOND HAND
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, 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 computer 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 growing inside the glass due to the local humidity. Always have a look for any signs of this by shining the torchlight on your phone through the glass. Also, more obviously, check for scratches on the glass along with the smooth operation of the focusing ring and aperture blades.
With that said, here are my spots for sourcing the best second-hand gear in the city.
Sim City (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 mirrorless cameras and some hard to find film SLR's and Leica rangefinders. The other 20 odd stores sell brand new gear and tripods, filmmaking equipment, Drones 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 Voigtländer, Samyang, and SLR Magic.
You can even trade in your old camera's and lenses here for cash or put it against the cost of another purchase.
It's you only visit one location whilst in Hong Kong, then Sim City should be your first choice!
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 (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 old lenses. I've found some good deals in here before. Prices also tend to be lower than in Sim City due to the cheaper rent.
298 Computer Zone - 298 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Sunrise Professional Photofinishing (for film)
My absolute favorite camera store in Hong Kong. It's a very small store, with a 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.
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 hidden gems in Hong Kong. Located on the 12th floor of a nearby office building, this fairly large store has a huge range of second hand digital and film cameras, lenses, along with brand new equipment. They also have a great range of second hand Gitzo tripods.
They are especially well known for studio lighting 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 (and watch lovers) 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 Hasselblad 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, I would haggle immensely and insist on a trial run with a roll of film. Most items here are grossly overpriced, not to mention have probably been sitting on the shelf for years!
Champagne Court - 16 Kimberly Road, (Take MTR exit B1)
Accessory Stores in Apliu St, Sham Shui Po
Finally, one must visit area is Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po. Aside from a couple of street vendors selling old cameras (which I would probably avoid), there are about four or five shops clustered close by who sell cheap Chinese produced camera accessories.
My most visited store is "Fulidat Electronics". I absolutely love this place for getting cheap accessories. Lights, light stands, tripods, bags, flashes, reflectors, softboxes, 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 and cleaning clothes. You can find this store just past the McDonalds on Apliu St.
Just a few stores down from Fulidat, is "Ying Kee Trading". This store stocks the same assortment of cheap accessories, but also sells brand name products such as bags, L-Brackets, tripod heads and filter kits.
Fulidat Electronics - 176 Apliu St, Sham Shui Po
Ying Kee Trading - 154 Apliu St, Sham Shui Po
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 (1hr turnaround on Colour Negative) 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 stock a huge range of film as well as doubling as a second-hand camera store.
Dot Well - 44 Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui