20 Aug 2014

Stanley Street Camera Stores in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a photographer’s paradise, and there is a wide variety of camera stores in Hong Kong to choose from whenever you are ready to buy the latest and greatest equipment. And although I have previously recommended buying photography equipment at the various computer centres in Wanchai and Mongkok, I’ve had a few recent bad experiences with bait-and-switch and upselling tactics that have made me begin recommending Stanley Street instead.

Stanley Street is a short 2-3 block side street in the Central district of Hong Kong. A few camera stores have come and gone, but I think most of the ones that are still there have been there for ages. The shopkeepers are usually older chaps and very proficient in English. Here are the camera stores currently on Stanley Street (all prices were for the “Hong Kong goods” version of the camera, better explained in this older post):

Photo Scientific
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Photo Scientific Front
This camera store is the first one you’d see on Stanley Street if you are coming from D’Aguilar Street or Lan Kwai Fong. They’ve got plenty of gear and accessories in their display window, although for some reason I’ve never found them particularly friendly.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5850

**UPDATE 20 Jan 2015: I’ve heard that this location has closed and re-opened at 64 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan.

Chung Pui Photo Supplies
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Chung Pui Front
No fancy storefront (or doorway for that matter) here, just camera gear and good friendly service located right off the Pottinger Street steps (the area selling Halloween costumes in October). Although they are not always the cheapest, they are usually not off by much. I have generally recommended my photography class students to go here – I have personally seen the shopkeepers here patiently answer question after question to first-time camera buyers with reasonable advice.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5880

Tin Cheung Camera Co.
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Tin Cheung Front
The new kid on the block, albeit a branch of the long established Tin Cheung camera store chain. Lots of Leica equipment in shiny glass cases, and also a reasonable inventory of camera bags and tripods to try out. The store feels like a boutique camera shop which is great to browse but I generally don’t expect to get the best price here.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5580

Kinefoto Ltd.
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Kinefoto Front
Right next to Tin Cheung yet at the same time the complete opposite in style – this place is old school. Lots of used and vintage equipment on display for sale – I bought my first Nikon flash here, a shabby old SB-28. This store has a small place in my heart, and competitive pricing to boot.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5200

**UPDATE 9 Jul 2015: This store is now closed – unaffordable rent according to several sources =(

2 Apr 2013

What a “grey market” camera means in Hong Kong

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In 2006, When I bought my first Canon Powershot point and shoot camera at the Cam2 store in the camera store district of Mongkok in Hong Kong, I was immediately asked if I wanted to buy a GREY MARKET version of the camera. Like most foreigners that have never bought a camera in Hong Kong before, I had no idea what this meant. Since then I have bought several camera bodies and lenses in Hong Kong, and here is what I figured out.

Grey market goods (or “water goods” as its translated from Chinese) are cameras or lenses that were originally intended to be sold in other countries (eg. Japan) but have found their way to being sold in Hong Kong. Normal non-grey market camera equipment that was intended to be sold in Hong Kong are usually just called “Hong Kong goods”. Both the grey market and the Hong Kong versions are authentic products – probably even manufactured in the same factory. The biggest difference between the two is that the grey market version will usually be cheaper than the Hong Kong version – and hence the dilemma when buying camera gear in Hong Kong for an already expensive photography hobby.

The difference in price between grey market and HK camera equipment varies. I have seen entry-level DSLR cameras which normally cost around HK$6000, sell for about HK$500-800 (8%-13% off) less on the grey market version. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the particular camera body or lens that you want is available in both grey market and HK versions, nor does it imply that the same 8%-13% discount would apply. In one instance with a Nikon 105mm F/2.8 macro lens in short supply, I had finally only found one store with stock – but they only had the grey market version and they were selling it at a price that the HK version would normally sell for. So when it comes to how much cheaper grey market camera equipment is versus its Hong Kong goods counterpart, YMMV.

The biggest drawback of buying grey market is the lack of warranty. Depending on the product, a camera or lens should at least have a year of manufacturer warranty – which means that if something goes wrong within that period you should be able to bring it to the service center of Nikon or Canon (or whichever manufacturer), and they should fix it for you for free. The grey market version does not have such a warranty. The camera store guy may gloss over this point by saying that there is a 1 year store warranty, which I think is pretty useless. Most of these small camera shops don’t have the facilities or know-how to repair some of the more technical complexities that may arise with today’s advanced cameras, nor are they incentivized to care when you return with a broken camera 6 months after they’ve made their sale. So in my opinion, a “store warranty” in Hong Kong is about as valuable as a suitcase full of I.O.U.s.

But having a grey market product that breaks or goes defective without a warranty is not the end of the world – you can still bring it to the manufacturer’s service center and you can still get it serviced but it will cost you some money. So after the warranty period is over, there is no significant difference between the two versions. There may however be a difference in servicing cost, which from what I can tell might be more expensive on the grey market equipment. I haven’t verified this with complex repairs, but with basic sensor cleaning I was recently told by Nikon that the service would cost HK$300 for grey market camera bodies and HK$150 for genuine Hong Kong camera bodies. They can verify which version of equipment you have by simply punching the serial number into their computers. In my experience, despite treating my equipment horribly, the amount of servicing I’ve needed has been infrequent and inexpensive – usually related to natural wear and tear (rubber casings, cleaning etc.). With the exception of two troublesome SB-600 flashes, I haven’t had anything turn into a lemon.

The other minor cons of buying grey market include having an instruction manual in different or several languages (although it almost always includes at least one language that you can read anyway). If there is an accessory like a battery charger sometimes it will include a plug or cable for another country, although I like having a Japanese plug because I can use it in the US =) I think most stores will toss an appropriate Hong Kong cable inside the box that will allow you to use it properly anyway. One time my friend bought a grey market DSLR camera body and they gave it to him in a box that was intended for the camera + kit lens bundle. The serial number on the camera matched the box and the documentation, but the kit lens was simply plucked out, presumably to be sold separately to someone else. *Shrug*

I’ve seen grey market goods for sale most commonly in computer malls and larger camera specialty shops. B&H in New York, one of the largest and well-respected photography retailers in the US sells grey market equipment and they explain what it is and their warranty policy directly on their website.

In conclusion, I am fine with buying grey market camera equipment and I think its a great way to save some money. When it is time to repair it, repair it. With today’s average camera life cycle, most casual shooters will likely upgrade their camera or equipment before their first need for servicing anyways.

14 Mar 2013

Teaching photography in Hong Kong, 400 students later…

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Hong Kong photography class, James shooting on Queens Road Central

I didn’t foresee ever reaching this milestone when I taught my first Hong Kong photography workshop in October 2009, but after last night’s beginners’ Photography 101 class, I had officially taught my 400th student. And to cap it off, it was a particularly good class too – we had a good mix of men and women, Hong Kongers and ex-pats, and slightly varied skill levels. Despite that, everyone was picking up concepts quickly – which after teaching so many different students I know does not always come easily.

Things were “clicking” (pardon the pun) with a lot of the students, and seeing that happen as a teacher is so gratifying – and ultimately why I still love the beginners’ photography classes. Since I was self taught, for me one of my greatest joys in photography was when some of the more oblique photography concepts – like depth of field and motion blur – started to come together and make sense. It was such a unique moment in my photography development because it started to change the way I looked at everything, and then I couldn’t stop shooting. Its sort of like when you recommend a great tv show to your friend (like Breaking Bad), and then they come back a week later and tell you “OH MY GOD I’M ADDICTED TO THAT SHOW!”

So when I see that excitement with students in the class, I know there are hundreds of great photos that are yet to be taken by them, and yet to be shared with friends and family. Photography is like that – it’s a bug, and once you get bitten, its a beautiful thing =)

11 Mar 2013

KGV School Challenge Week 2012 – International School Photography Workshop in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student back

A few years ago I did some portrait photography for Hong Kong childrens’ author Sarah Brennan who told me during our session how much she loved doing book readings to students in local schools. Since then I had always looked forward to the opportuntiy to teach photography at a Hong Kong international school – and that opportunity came last year when I was invited by Sai Kung children’s photographer, Alexandra Carlile and her colleagues at KGV to lead a photography workshop to students during Challenge Week, when the whole school goes off timetable and students join activities outside of their comfort zone. Ironically enough the week was a bit outside of MY comfort zone, as most of my regular photography classes are for adults. Nevertheless I was excited to teach the workshop to a completely different audience – a group that learns so fast and already is so well-versed in today’s digital technology – Photoshop, Tumblr…you name it.

Not surprisingly, the students dove right in. I loved seeing the shots they were getting. They each brought such a unique prospective even when taking the simplest portraits of their friends.

We started with learning some basic manual camera settings and concepts, and later in the week spent a day on a photowalk in some of the more frantically-paced Kowloon neighborhoods. We photographed the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, the Flower Market, the top-down views of Mongkok’s catwalk overpasses and finally the Ladies’ Market.

Big thanks to Jane and John from KGV for helping to put together a great week!

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school class photowalk lesson slideshow instructor

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson instructor teaching kids

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson instructor teaching kid camera setting

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson students studying camera settings

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student shooting bird

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson students shooting closeup

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student shooting flowers

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student in flower market

Photo by Brian

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student photo brian

Photo by Bianca

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student photo bianca

Photo by Katie

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student photo katie

Photo by Megan

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student photo megan

Photo by Stephanie

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student photo stephanie

Photo by Toby

Hong Kong photography workshop KGV school photowalk lesson student photo toby

2 Mar 2013

Corporate Team Building Events – Photography Workshops in Hong Kong

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The first firm I worked for in New York used Outward Bound for their corporate outdoor workshops and I remember having a great time – so since creating our first photography class, I had always had sights on leading corporate team building events in photography. In the corporate world, photography is not always a big part of our day-to-day but outside of the office we are always taking photos of our travel, our family, and (for better or for worse) our food.

So last year I was particularly excited to have lead two corporate photography workshop events: one in Lantau with a European-based fashion brand and one right here in Central with an international law firm.

Corporate team building with a fashion label on Pui O Beach with Corporate Adventures HK. Teams had to conceptualize, style, model and photoshoot their own fashion cover spread.

hong kong corporate teambuilding photography classroom instructor teaching

hong kong corporate teambuilding photography instructor presentation speech

hong kong corporate teambuilding photography classroom students learning

Corporate teach-in event in photography, the firm invited clients and colleagues to an after-work photography lesson with drinks and light refreshments at their offices in Central.

hong kong corporate teambuilding photography workshop instructor conference room

hong kong corporate teambuilding photography workshop participant conference room

hong kong corporate teambuilding photography workshop student shooting orchid

Check out REAL LIVE if you are looking for a corporate event photographer in Hong Kong.

21 Nov 2012

Hong Kong Photography Workshop Holiday Gift Cards

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Hong Kong Photography Workshop Gift Cards

Is there anything better than the gift of photography? Just in time for Christmas, Hong Kong Photography Workshop gift cards are now available.

Gift cards are free with any photography class purchase, just register for any class with credit card payment and email us and let us know where and when you would like us to post it (or arrange pick-up at our studio). The person receiving the gift can arrange class dates based on their own schedule up to one year from the date of purchase.

Questions? Contact us at info@hkphotoworkshop.com or by calling +852 9172 9101.


27 Jul 2012

Learning from photography podcasts

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When I bought my first DSLR camera, one of my primary sources of photography education was through iTunes podcasts. I had been backpacking by myself through several countries and my iPhone and camera were the perfect companions – I listened to photography podcasts over meals or while falling asleep in a hostel dorm room, and I practiced shooting the techniques that I learned everyday. Here is a small collection of some photography podcasts that I listen to regularly:

Digital Photography Cafe
The Digital Story
Pro Photo Show
This Week in Photo