Where is the best place in Beijing to buy photo equipment? I get this question A LOT, so I thought that it was about time that I wrote a post which could act as an easy reference point for those living in, or passing through China’s capital who want to buy photo equipment.
First, let’s talk location. By far the most popular place to buy photographic equipment in Beijing, is a place called the Wukesong Camera Market, also referred to as Beijing Photographic Equipment City (北京摄影器材城 – Běi jīng shè yǐng qì cái chéng). Situated in the west of the city it can be found a short distance north of the Wukesong (五棵松 – wǔ kē sōng) subway station on (Red) Line 1. (If you’re not sure where this is, please head to the excellent site Explore Beijing, find Wukesong in the west, click on the station and it will bring up a detailed local Google map which is ‘zoomable’). Heading north from the subway station, you will eventually arrive at DingHui Qiao (定惠桥 – dìng huì qiáo), or DingHui Bridge. The camera market is on the South East corner. It is quite easy to spot as there will normally be a picture of Jackie Chan holding the latest model of Canon camera, looking down at you from a big billboard.
Once you enter the market, be prepared for photo-equipment overload. As the name of the market suggests, this place isn’t just one store, it’s a multitude of stores, all selling cameras of every different shape and size with the add-ons to go with them. There are stores selling all the latest Canons, Nikons etc., stores selling film cameras, medium format cameras, stories for tripods, stores for lights…you get the picture (excuse the pun).
When you enter, it is important to take your time and have a look around and not get overwhelmed by the selections on display. If there is a particular make and model of camera you are looking for, check out the price in a number of stores and compare prices. I guarantee, they will be different! Also important to note, is that you can haggle. Now, you may think that there may be a chance that the quality isn’t very high if you can haggle over the price but this is not the case. It’s normal practise to haggle and prices are flexible. Not extremely so, but flexible enough to save a little cash. It really helps if you can go to the market with a native Chinese speaker, preferably one with good negotiation skills, as this can make a real difference.
The next important thing to note is, when you are buying photo-equipment in China (at least in virtually all of the shops I’ve been to on the mainland) you are given two prices for your camera. The first price you are normally offered is the price without a receipt. Yes, that’s with no receipt. Photography isn’t a cheap pastime and even the cheaper cameras can still be a little pricey, so the thought of spending a lot of cash, only for it to fail an then having no receipt, isn’t a nice one. So, make sure you get the price for your equipment with a receipt. I was in Wukesong just last week and the price difference was 4% higher with a receipt. I am not sure if this is a standard figure in all stores, but it will be thereabouts. If you have gotten to this point, don’t forget to ask for a couple of small freebies. If you’re parting with a sizeable amount of money, they will usually throw in a gift or two.
The Wukesong camera market does have a good reputaion and I know of lots of professionals who go there. Saying that, if you do buy a piece of equipment and you will be in town for a while, it’s a good idea to take it to the local service center who can check the camera. They will normally do this for free, as the camera will only of just been bought and the warranty will still be in effect.
After I bought my new camera recently, I headed to the Canon Service Center to have it checked out. The Canon Service Center is located near DengShiKou (灯市口 – dēng shì kǒu) Subway station (Line 5) – see above for subway maps. Once you come out of the subway station, head east for 2mins and you will find the JinBao Building (金宝大厦 – jīn bǎo dàshà). Go up to the 15th Floor and you will find the excellent service center. Most of the staff only speak Chinese, but some do speak very good English. Once they complete your camera check (normally 15-20mins) they will give you a report and receipt (see pic above). If there is something wrong with the camera, you can take this report back to the store to get a replacement. If there is nothing wrong with the camera, then you can happily head out and start taking pictures!
As I am a Canon shooter, I obviously only use the Canon Service Center. I know this isn’t the only brand of camera out there, so will try and find out where the other service centers are and hopefully do posts on them in the future. If you know where they are in Beijing, please do let us know by posting below.
I hope that this post has been helpful. Please let me know about your experiences!