It is well known that since the proliferation of digital photography the amount of images being printed has decreased substantially. This should no longer surprise anyone, especially if you shoot a lot of film and get those stacks of prints back, when all you needed was a decent contact sheet (not an “index print”).
So here comes Canon with an interesting attempt to get people printing something: ClipChip. The site is in Japanese, but on the front page runs a flash movie which should give you an idea how it works.
Canon has been maintaining an interactive website called Image Gateway for quite a while. I remember registering for it when buying my PowerShot G2 way back in 2001. You can upload your images and produce the usual array of prints, calendars, books and of course the obligatory Japanese greeting cards for all occasions like summer and new year. Once ordered results will arrive in the mail a few days later.
ClipChip has its own dedicated website. The output is a deck of business card sized prints that can be inserted into a small plastic holder (the supplied clip) holding around two dozens of cards. Here is a PDF which explains it, again in Japanese but with lots of photos and diagrams. It is delivered in two flat sheets with the cards pre-cut for easy removal. The cost is ¥430 for a set plus postage (within Japan only, obviously). Print quality is good printed on Canon’s own imagePRESS C7000VP/C6000 on-demand line (and so it should be at that size, consequently even mobile phone photos should look good). As you know in Japan there is a bit of obsession around cards of all kinds: the businessmen with their obligatory ID, errr, business cards, teenage girls producing photo labels in the ubiquitous pericula machines and kids (mostly boys it seems) with all sorts of collectible character cards (you will recall the Pokemon craze).
But let us also remember that cards and photography are very old companions indeed; in the early days of the medium one major practical application was to produce cartes de visite, visiting cards, that would bear your likeness and would be handed whenever visiting someone’s house. I think the photographic print physically presented to someone still holds a lot of power today.
Apart from the photograph itself with a caption the ClipChip cards also contain a unique URL and a barcoded link for mobile phones to access the image online. There it can be viewed and used for blogging purposes. This makes a nice connection between the physical and the virtual in an interactive way.
I am not sure whether ClipChip will be a massive commercial success, but let’s bear in mind that Canon’s main objective is to add more applications and fun to the digital cameras they are selling, so it may well be heavily subsidized. No matter its uptake or how long it will be around for, I think we should applaud anyone putting their efforts into exploring new ways of a physical presentation of photographs, especially in the consumer area. Perhaps I will try to produce one or two decks with some interesting images, they might even be usable as a kind of business card (even if you are not a businessperson a card is always good in this society, and everybody will have one). Perhaps others will think of more creative uses for this product.
In case you are curious to try out ClipChip for yourself we could act as a proxy for you for a small fee. Please contact us if interested.
At most train stations in Tokyo, there are still film stores that can develop a roll of film in 45 minutes or less, so you can stop back and pick up your pictures on the way through, and enjoy looking at them on your train ride home. In the Japanese photography magazines, many articles are still devoted to film cameras each issue, although digital camera coverage is starting to pull way ahead. (There are even some dedicated magazines catering only to digital shooters.) Nonetheless most of the camera store ads in the front or back pages still list a huge selection of used film cameras and lenses for sale. These are now referred to as “classic” cameras.
Used camera shops like Sankyo Camera Co. [ map ], in the heart of the Ginza, Tokyo’s prestigious shopping district, located just off the famed 4-chome intersection, still offer shelves of Canon and Nikon rangefinder cameras and lenses for sale to film camera junkies like myself. In a store that is a throwback 20 years into the past, there aren’t any digital cameras for sale here.
At lunchtime, I have just enough time to walk up to Sankyo to see what’s new on their shelves since my last visit. Since I’m there, I can’t pass up the chance to stop by three other adjacent camera stores in this four-corner area of the Ginza that is a landmark for film camera buffs. My weekly “fix”.
There are actually two Sankyo camera stores within a half block, one specializing in Nikon and Canon rangefinders as well as other Japanese camera models, and another shop specializing in Leica cameras, although the window has a nice eye candy collection of Rollei 35mm, Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords for sale.
Across the busy street, there’s a Miyama Shokai Nikon branch store [ map ] that sells new and used cameras, mostly Nikon, but also enough used medium-format, rangefinder and other gear to take a look at. And just a few doors down is Katsumido [ map ], the ultimate store for Leica collectors who want everything in mint condition — and have the credit line to pay for it. This store also has a changing collection of highly priced and highly desirable cameras and lenses of all types in the window, with everything in near-mint condition.
“I’m also not going to be able to afford any of those line of Leica M3s or M2s on display. They know it, and I know it.”
But the stop I enjoy the most is at the Sankyo Camera store with all the Nikon and Canon rangefinder gear, managed by Hiroatsu “Hero” Akizawa (call him Hero-san). At most Tokyo camera stores, the language barrier is difficult. There’s also the snobbery factor, as in stores like Katsumido, where the staff is aloof, and I’m too self-conscious to even ask a question, knowing that they are going to have to find somebody to talk to me in English, if there is anyone.
I’m also not going to be able to afford any of those line of Leica M3s or M2s on display, starting from 200,000 yen (about $2,200) and up. They know it, and I know it. So, I nonchalantly make my way over to the display case where cheap Nikon, Canon and Sigma auto-focus lenses are for sale, kept apart from the Leicas.
When I stop by Sankyo Camera, however, I’m greeted by Hero-san with a smile and in English. It’s the same relationship I first had with the now-closed Ohba Camera, which was located about a 10-minute walk from the Ginza near Shimbashi Station [Now a standing sushi bar — Ed.].
The store manager at Ohba was friendly, spoke English, and since I was a good customer, always gave me a discount. If I brought back something I had bought there, he would always give me at least 80 percent in trade. That kind of service instills customer loyalty, since in most of the Tokyo used camera shops I’ve visited, I’ve been offered pennies on the dollar on my trade-in gear.
When Ohba was closing last April, one of the clerks asked me, “What are you going to do now?” They would see me stop by at lunch and sometimes after work, on my way to the station, to see what they had got in. When they closed, I went through withdrawal pains. Sankyo has stepped in to help ease the pain. The store has treated me well, offering me good trade-in prices, and usually knocking a little off the price of anything I’m interested in buying as well.
My first time there, I brought in some Nikon binoculars I wasn’t using, an old Nikon P camera and some Canon lenses to trade, Hero-san looked, and then grabbed a calculator to show me what he was offering. The price was very, very fair. Since that time, I’ve been a regular customer, wandering in off the street each week to see what’s in the display cases.
Prices are not cheap, and bargain hunters in the States still can get better buys on eBay or through their local Craigslist site, although the condition can be a craps shoot. But at Sankyo, there are good buys to be had on cameras and lenses that are impossible to find in the States, and usually in excellent condition.
One glorious day, there was an Olympus XA4 macro model, no strap, but I turned it over, and there was the extremely rare quartz date back on it. The price? 8,000 yen, or about $70. “I’ll take it,” I said. Hero-san smiled and nodded. I also traded in a Canon rangefinder cameras and some lenses one time for a Canon 7SZ with a 50mm 0.95mm lens, in fair condition, but a steal at under 90,000 yen (about $800).
“Happiness is finding a mint black Canon lens case for your 35mm F2 for a 100-yen coin.”
Other days, there have been cameras like a rare, heavily used black Canon P (gone the next day, when I couldn’t get it out of my mind and went back for a second look), and lenses like the Avenon 21mm and 28mm models don’t stay on the shelves very long. Sometimes, in front of the store, there are boxes filled with old lens cases and camera cases, selling for 100 yen (about a buck). Although I feel like a homeless person foraging through a garbage can, I still can’t resist jumping in.
Happiness is finding a mint black Canon lens case for your 35mm F2 for a 100-yen coin, which I embarrassingly hand over to Hero-san, my “purchase” for the day. But these days, business is slow at Sankyo, Hero-san says. On this Saturday, there’s a steady stream of customers looking, but few are buying. “Now, it is very slow, slow, slow,” Hero-san says. The reason? Of course, it’s digital cameras. Hero-san says it’s understandable, with how easy it is to use a digital camera. In the future, is there hope for stores like Sankyo to survive? A resurgence in film cameras?
“Sometimes, the person wants to do the shutter timing, aperture… maybe, I hope,” he laughs. Looking around at all the shelves of Canon and Nikon rangefinder cameras, I marvel at the selection, and ask Hero-san where they are from. Surprisingly, Hero-san has attended many camera shows in the United States, buying cameras and returning them to the country where they were made, to sell to collectors. He said the Pasadena show in particular, is a good place for them to buy rangefinder cameras and lenses in great condition.
“The weather is good, dry, the condition is better than in Japan,” Hero-san says. “In Japan the weather is very wet – sometimes the lens gets mold, the shutter time gets very long – not so good.” So, Japanese collectors are drawn to stores like Sankyo Camera, to buy the cameras that were exported to the U.S. back when the exchange rate was at 360 yen to a dollar.
Hero-san said Nikon cameras and lenses, particularly Nikon Tokyo Olympic models, are his store’s best sellers. Although the store has a display case full of Canon rangefinder cameras and lenses, the Nikons outsell the Canons. “Canon (prices) are going a little down,” he says.
Hero-san points to all the Nikon collectible books, and says this interest has helped fuel the collector market. “Most Japanese like the Nikon, I think,” he says. “Then, also, the Nikon mechanical system is better than the Canon – Canon changes their mount, very quickly – and the old ones are very hard to use.” Himself, he still likes the Nikon F camera. He was born in 1946, (“after the Second World War,” he laughs) so he always wanted the Nikon F when he was in high school, but it was too expensive. So, he started off with a Pentax camera, then later got his Nikon F. I compliment Hero-san on his store’s friendly customer service, and generous trade-in offers. “Ah, so,” Hero-san laughs. “If it is quick to sell, I buy.”
In this digital world, leave it to the nostalgic Japanese to keep a flickering candle lit for the world of film cameras.
Barry Kawa was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in Clearfield, Utah. He has worked as a reporter, bureau chief and editor at the Ogden Standard-Examiner, Times of Gainesville (Ga.), Charlotte Observer, Cleveland Plain Dealer and Dallas Morning News before moving to Japan in 2001 with his wife, Yumiko. He now works at a Japanese newspaper, and has become an avid camera enthusiast and collector.
…with a digital SLR was last Saturday, as mentioned before. It appears that Canon had invited about 200 people over the whole weekend, spread over time slots of around 3 hours. We arrived just after eleven in the morning and were greeted -as it is custom in Japan- by staff with Canon signs lined up at the station and on the way to the venue, where we checked in.
Naturally, we underwent a setsumei-kai i.e. a meeting for the purposes of explaining how the basics of the camera worked, fire some test shots, changing lenses and cards etc. After that we were given our zoo tickets and were free to roam until 2:30. Due to the rainy weather and the fact that it was lunchtime and we had not eaten yet, we missed the return time slot by an hour, but again as it is custom in Japan, nobody raised an eyebrow.
When we returned, we were given a pack of 10 sheets of paper and led into a conference room filled with desks, on them Canon Pixus printers with cables ready to connect our camera to. Again we were explained how it all works and spent almost another hour or so printing, with staff looking over our shoulder. When we were finished (otsukaresamadeshita) we handed our gear back to the reception and received a bag full of marketing materials, as can be expected. All very well organised, courteous staff (even hovering around us in the zoo, offering to take pictures; not very good photos though, still appreciated) and generally appearing very generous.