Tag Archives: Nikon

Ginza Classics

Text and images by Barry Kawa for Japan Exposures

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.].

Sankyo Camera
The rangefinder section at Sankyo Camera

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.

Sankyo Camera
“Most Japanese like the Nikon”

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 KawaBarry 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.    

2008 Nikon Salon Awards

In November, Nikon Salon announced that Kenshichi Heshiki* and Yasushi Nishimura were the 2008 winners of their annual Ina Nobuo and Miki Jun prizes, respectively.

The gallery, which since opening in 1968 has been instrumental in furthering the career of many a famous Japanese photographer, established the Ina Nobuo Award in 1976. The winner is chosen from amongst all the exhibitions held at the gallery in a given calendar year (October – September). The award is named for photography critic Nobuo Ina (1898-1978), the famed photography critic who headed Nikon Salon for its first 10 years of existence. Past winners have included Masahisa Fukase, Hiromi Tsuchida, and Hiroh Kikai (a full list of winners is at the bottom of this page). The winner receives a cash prize (this year, ¥1,000,000) as well as Nikon camera equipment.

This year’s 33rd annual Ina Nobuo Award winner Heshiki is a 60-year old photographer born in Nakijin, a village on Okinawa Island. His exhibition entitled 山羊の肺 沖縄1968-2005å¹´ (Lungs of a Goat — Okinawa 1968-2005) — which was held at the Nikon Salon in Ginza in May of this year — brought together roughly 90 images showcasing nearly 40 years of work focused on the everyday lives of Okinawa’s citizens.

The Miki Jun Award was established in 1998 in commemoration of the gallery’s 30th anniversary, and is given to a photographer under 35 years old and is chosen from among artists exhibited at Nikon Salon’s Juna21 gallery space. The prize is named after the photo journalist Jun Miki (1919-1992), one-time pupil of Ken Domon who worked for Life Magazine and other photo news magazines after the war, and was later president of the Nikkor Club. Renowned first and foremost for his photo reportage, Miki also played an accidental but important role in establishing the worldwide reputation of Nikkor lenses.

This year’s winner was Yasushi Nishimura for his exhibition entitled 彼女のタイトル (Her Title), a depiction of a young and troubled young woman’s life over a year and a half period. The 26 year old Nishimura is a member of the Photographer’s Gallery collective.

Since 2003, as part of the Miki Jun Award, Nikon Salon also gives out two “Inspiration Awards”. This year’s winners were 23-year old Hatsumi Matsushita for her series of amusing self-portraits, and Kaori Inbe, a 28-year old Tokyo-based photographer, for her ironically entitled exhibition “Moral Society”. You can view online galleries of the three Miki Jun winners at Nikon’s “Independents” site. (Click on the second “Enter” button on that page. The prize winners are galleries #28 (Nishimura), #31 (Matsushita), and #27 (Inbe). For some reason, the site only works with Internet Explorer for me).

Nikon Salon will re-mount each of the five winning exhibitions in December and January at their Shinjuku and Osaka salons. See this page for details.

* Please note that Heshiki’s surname is also romanized as Hirashiki on some Nikon Salon web pages.

On becoming a photographer

“Buying a Nikon and a roll of Kodachrome does not make you a pohtographer [snip]… Just like buying groceries does not make you a chef” (Al Weber)

I just have come across this little quote in the signature of a forum posting. Obviously, any practitioner of any discipline, especially those who have done so for quite some time, would like to think that a newcomer would be unable to work to the same standards.

However, in the medium of photography, nothing could be further off the truth, simply because of the element of chance. As a novice, it is by far more unlikely to cook a delicious meal that is on par with a trained and experienced chef. As opposed to the chances of taking a good quality photograph (or one in thirty six for that matter).

Photography is the only major art in which professional training and years of experience do not confer an insuperable advantage over the untrained and unexperienced – this for many reasons, among them the large role that chance (or luck) plays in the taking of pictures, and the bias toward the spontaneous, the rough, the imperfect.

Susan Sontag in Regarding the Pain of Others

Accepting this truth will have at least two major benefits: first, you are one step closer in taking yourself less seriously and as a consequence stand in your own way when trying to make good pictures. Secondly, you feel less bad about the next best person who you think has little skill or artistic ability showing you a photo that seems more interesting than what you have been producing for the last few months – which is really the same as the first point.

Other than that I highly recommend to read the Sontag book. I have just borrowed it from the library for a re-read once more.

MS-MAG 1.3N, holidays

One of the beautiful things about the art and craft of photography is that it never fails to progress. New products are introduced all the time, analog and digital alike.

We are pleased to feature yet another product by MS Optical R&D for you: the 1.3N finder magnifier for the Epson RD-1 and Bessa R series rangefinder cameras. Using an adapter supplied by Nikon, it can also be fitted to some of the Nikon DSLRs. And talking of the RD-1, we are also offering the original Epson carrying case for the RD-1.

Please note that Megaperls Web Shop will be on holiday from June 17th until July 1st. Orders placed after June 15th will be fulfilled on our return in early July. We apologise for any inconvenience caused, but like everyone else we need a little break from it all sometimes.

UPDATE: We are back from our holiday and processing the backlog of orders with highest priority.

My first time

…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.

Continue reading My first time

Found, but out of range

Epson Digital Rangefinder RD-1 (“Digital Bessa”) at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku. The two cameras they had in stock were already sold, at Â¥312,000 a pop.My initial impression, after admittedly a very short, 2-minute handling, was not exactly that of unconditional desire. The first thing you notice when picking up the camera is an apparent bulk. I am not a Bessa R or R2 user, so I cannot comment how it compares to the film bodies. However, compared to a Leica M series, it feels rather large. Holding it near a Nikon D70, the RD-1 seemed to have at least 80% of the SLR body’s footprint, rather more than less.

The shutter sound is rather metallic, not exactly quiet, although different and maybe more quiet than the Bessa Rs – again, I am not too familiar with their shutter sound, all I can say is that it sounded sharp and metallic. When set to auto-exposure, the camera clearly displays the shutter speed in the ultra-clear viewfinder, that I am envious of. The rewind knob as a scroll wheel is a nice touch, it works very smooth when looking at the images in playback mode on the decent display. The iconography on the buttons next to the LCD display is not very intuitive, they are rather cryptic and crude geometric line graphics, not as visual as let’s say a little waste basket or the mode colours blue/black on my Canon G2. But surely once one would reads the manual there wouldn’t be any problems, but who likes reading manuals?

The analogue gauge, which I think is about battery power and other values does look odd, I didn’t like on the preview pictures either when seeing it for the first time. Lastly the “film transport” lever is also another gripe for me, simply because it doesn’t travel far enough. Since no film is transported and only the shutter needs cocking, the path is rather short, let’s say around a third of the distance of a film body, and then it suddenly stops. This somehow feels like an interruption to the photographer’s natural motion in throwing the lever around.

I am not doing a comprehensive review here, others can and will do a better job of that, but these are my first impressions after picking up one of those in the shop in Tokyo today, and the bottom line is: not tempted, even at half the price.

Attention goes back to my Yashica Electro GX, where after some strolling around in Tokyu Hands crafts section I found a round rubber doorstop, which when twisted on the lens loosened the ring holding the front element in place. I am set for some serious kabi killing tonight!

UPDATE: I cleaned the lens using the actual kabi killer product, but now the shutter doesn’t fire anymore. Also in my clumsy attempts to get parts moving, I scratched the camera in various areas 🙁