For many of us photographers who shoot with DLSR cameras and all it’s associated lenses, we would have accumulated some lenses and old camera bodies over the years as we progress through the hobby. Very often we wonder what to do with the old equipment even as we continue to upgrade to new equipment. And then there are those who suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) who often have a whole storeroom of photography equipment.
We often turn to the informal second hand market of re-selling our used gear on websites like Carousel, Clubsnap, Ebay and Facebook’s Marketplace. But what if you are like me, who doesn’t enjoy dealing with low-ballers* or pilots*?
If you are planning to make a trip to Tokyo and are thinking of buying some camera gear while you’re there, and you have some old gear sitting in your dry cabinet that hasn’t seen the light of day in ages, then read on.
The place to go to is Mapcamera in Tokyo and they seem to be the only store that accepts trade in of old camera bodies and lenses.
How to Get There
Mapcamera is located in Shinjuku which is one of the most crowded tourist areas in Tokyo. If you are there for the first time this can be a very confusing place.
Before You Deal
Before you decide to trade-in your old stuff at Mapcamera, you should do your homework back home first.
- Check the selling prices of the new gear that you want to buy in your home country. It might be cheaper than buying it in Tokyo. If the price difference is marginal (5% or less), currency exchange may even wipe out any price advantage. Do take note that you can enjoy a 8% tax rebate off the price in Tokyo for purchases above ¥5,000 if you are a tourist.You can check out the price list of Mapcamera at their website. It’s mostly in Japanese (even their English website) but it’s pretty easy to see the prices and compare with your home country’s prices.
- Ask yourself if you can sell your old stuff for a higher price back home. Although you may hate dealing with low ballers, they are the exception and I have successfully sold some of my old lenses to nice people at a price that I want. Don’t expect Mapcamera to offer you a fantastic price for your old gear. After all they also need to make money from re-selling it.
- Most of the time, the warranty on the equipment is not an international one. So make sure you can live with this. Camera gear doesn’t usually break down within the warranty period (1 year) unless you are really unlucky. After the warranty expires, you have to service/repair at cost in your home country anyway.
- Consider that you have to carry all the old stuff that you want to trade-in with you to Tokyo. These take up valuable luggage space and weight. For camera bodies, you have to bring along the battery and charger for trade-in.
How to Deal
So you’ve decided that you want to trade-in your old gear and fund your new gear with the money at Mapcamera. Here’s how you go about it.
- Go to the Mapcamera Main Store to select the product that you want. If you suffer from GAS, then you should probably pick more stuff to buy.
- Tell the staff that you want to trade-in your old gear. They will hold your selected items aside and write you a sales ticket with the item prices on it.
- Bring this sales ticket with you to the Mapcamera Buying Centre (4th floor). Take a queue number and wait for your turn to be called. Remember that the Main Store and Buying Centre are in 2 different buildings.
- When your number is called, show the guy at the counter the old gear that you want to trade-in. He has a computer screen that will show the base trade-in prices of the different brands and models. I felt that the prices are on the low side, so if you are dissatisfied, you can reject and don’t go ahead with the deal.
- If you are comfortable with the price, then leave your old gear behind for assessment on their condition. The wait can be long if there are many customers trading in their gear. They told me to wait more than 2 hrs but I managed to hassle them to reduce this to around 50 minutes as I was in a hurry. You will have to show them your passport where they will copy your details, and will take the previous sales ticket from you. They will issue you another ticket with the details of the gear that you want to trade-in.
- Meantime, while waiting for their assessment you can browse around and buy more stuff, shop at the nearby Yodobashi electronics store, or have a meal at Shinjuku area.
- When time is up, come back to the Buying Centre and show them the trade-in ticket. Wait a while and the guy who assesses your gear will attend to you. Again, they speak very little English, so it’s a matter of OK or Not OK. You shouldn’t have any problems now if your old gear is all in working condition. They will also give you a 10% mark up for your old gear if you are buying something from them. If everything’s OK, they will issue you an invoice with the list of gear that you traded-in and the prices. They will also issue another sales ticket with the price of the traded-in gear deducted from your new purchase.
- Bring the new sales ticket back to the Main Store and show it to the counter staff. They will bring out your selected stuff and you can proceed to test it out and purchase it. To enjoy tax free shopping, you will need to show them your passport now while making the purchase. So finally, they will deduct your trade-in prices and tax from the sticker price, and you can pay the difference with any major credit card which is quite convenient for large amounts.
Is It Worth It?
For myself, I traded in my old APS-C camera and it’s associated EFS lens since I wanted to go all full frame, and bought a new wide angle lens for my full frame camera. With the lower sales price in Japan, less the trade-in prices and tax, I managed to shave off almost 50% from what I would have paid in Singapore.
Of course I don’t get an international warranty for my new lens, but I don’t expect lenses to break down prematurely unless I abuse them. Also, if I had tried to sell my old gear in Singapore, I could get more for it, but probably wait a long time for the right buyer to come along. So yes, you do have to do your homework and decide which way is the best route for you.
This was my own experience and first time trying this route in purchasing photography gear in Tokyo, and I hope this blog post has been helpful to you.
* For those who are interested in Singapore colloquial slang used to describe undesirable buyers in the second hand market:
Low-baller – Someone who offers a ridiculously low price hoping that the seller is desperate enough to accept it. This comes from soccer slang used to describe passing of balls to players, like a high ball or low ball.
Pilot – Someone who agrees to buy and then doesn’t turn up at the agreed time and place because they decided to back out of the deal, thus wasting the seller’s time. This comes from the Chinese dialect slang ‘Fly Aeroplane’ used to describe someone who always backs out out of appointments.