November 02, 2008


Brand new camera gear in Beijing is not very cheap, but when you really need to go camera shopping in Beijing there is one place where the range and selection is pleasingly overwhelming. For fans of second hand cameras there is even better news.

I've known about the Beijing Camera Market for years but have struggled to find an accurate description of how to find it. Check the bottom of this blog posting for details, but for now the question is "why go there"?

It's chaos. Cameras, Cards, Tripods, Dresses and more. Yes dresses. Chinese camera markets are intrinsically linked to the sale of wedding dresses. Or vice versa. Half the place is filled with sequined taffeta, the other half with Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad and other toys. Tripod shops, camera bags and other dedicated items abound, and tucked away in the maze of shops inside the main hall is even a quality bookshop where you'll find the best photographic images from China in print.

New cameras dominate the market, but the prices are not brilliant. Haggle hard. Opening prices vary from one store to another as much as 20%, and buyer beware of memory cards that may not be the genuine item. Test them in your camera by formatting the card before you walk out the door.

The real gems here are from the old school. Narrow stores fill in the gaps with second hand goods dating back to an era when Mao Zedong was China's most photographed icon. Alongside Russian relics and early western rangefinders you will come across classic models of local heritage. SeaGull is best known but keep an eye out for the Pea Fowl and Great Wall. For as little as 150 Yuan you can go home with a working camera, but expect to pay more than ten times that amount for a genuine Rollei 35 - well over it's market value outside of China.

If you love your camera gear then the Beijing Camera Market is worth a little effort to get there.

And what did I go home with? Pleased to say I spent my 200 Yuan on a "Great Wall DF-2". It's a Chinese copy of the Pilot 6 which uses 120 film, has a simple but durable shutter mechanism and is relatively compact for a medium format camera. For the sake of US$30 I think this will make the next photo tour a little more fun. Year after year we roam about China with our digital gear but this time I'll have an added challenge and a new perspective. If I do manage to correctly expose a few frames I'll post them online.

Wish me luck!

(ps click here for more info on Chang Cheng - Great Wall DF-2)


Some people refer to WuKeSong when talking about the camera market, but in fact the location is a fair bit north of the Wu Ke Song Metro stop and is more accurately located by the Ding Hui Qiao Nan bus stop. (South end of DingHui Market).

Exiting the WuKeSong subway stop you head out the North-East exit and about 100m up the road you can catch any of the following buses which stop directly outside the camera chaos just two bus stops further along the road...

751 - 913 - 952 - 982 - 983

The actual bus stop is called DingHuiQiao Nan (South of DingHui Bridge). Coming back is easy too. Exit the market and walk under the bridge where any of the following buses will take you back to WuKeSong subway just three stops south...

751 - 913 - 952 - 982 - 983 - 740 - 115 - 996

And finally, if you think it's all just too hard schlepping about Beijing on trains and buses then there is one more way to do it. Come along to China with me on a photography tour and I'll show you the place myself!


yewenyi said...

You'll have to keep an eye out for the mysterious DF-6! It may be worth a small fortune.

ewster said...

Thanks Brian, will keep an eye out next year! For interests sake I also visited the Shanghai camera market at the end of this tour, and so had a good opportunity to compare the two.

Shanghai was way better. More camera shops in total, and more shops specialising in antique cameras. One store in particular had a collection of cameras that would rival the finest museum. Good prices too. Several stores had a handful of Shanghai Seagull cameras (Chinese copy of the Rollichord TLR), so lots to choose from. None had a working Great Wall DF-2

Interestingly I was in the market for a CF card, and knew from my time in Beijing that the market price for a 16GB SanDisk Extreme III was about 750yuan (about US$110). Several places in Shanghai offered me 1200yuan, and the final place offered me 730yuan. Clearly the modern shops closer to the elevators (the entrance) don't work too hard to be price competitive.


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