Best camera markets

The ultimate guide to buying a camera in Shanghai

Best for digital - Xing Guang market

The six-storey Xing Guang camera market is the place professionals go to update their SLRs or pick up specialist equipment, but the vast choice makes it the best spot in town for anyone to pick up a normal camera. The first two floors are packed with stalls selling all the big brands – Canon, Nikon, Sony et al – with similar products at similar prices. Bartering below a base price is tricky but you can try to get extras, such as discounted camera cases or UV filters thrown in.

For those wanting to buy an SLR, the nifty Canon EOS 1000D (3,550RMB for the kit) is a perfect starter: it's the lightest SLR on the market, but has an impressive range of features and is easy to use. The Nikon D90 (6,900RMB) is a slightly more serious camera, with an 18-105mm kit lens and a movie mode. For top-notch photographers, the Canon EOS 7D (23,600RMB) has geeky features such as an integrated speedlite transmitter, and shoots eight frames per second, making it ideal for wildlife or sports photography. For a point-and-shoot, the funky Nikon Coolpix comes in colours such as blue, maroon, and pink for 950-2,480RMB, depending on the model. The S8000 (2,400RMB approx) is one of the thinnest point-and-shoots at 3cm thick, and has an extendable 10x zoom lens which sets it apart from its competitors.

The third and fourth floors house accessories such as National Geographic khaki midi shoulder bags (500RMB), Weijeng tripods with inbuilt spirit levels (420RMB), and arty Corkin lens filters (200RMB) – useful if you don't have Photoshop. There's a bookshop (booth 31-06, Third Floor) that has a vast selection of English language photography books, such as Nobuyoshi Araki's Gold (180RMB) or Marc Riboud's In China (300RMB). If it all goes horribly wrong, there's also a repair service centre on the third floor.

See Xing Guang market address details. 

Best for second-hand - Huan Long market

While the Huan Long camera market – situated in the mall above the Shanghai Railway Station metro stop – does sell new cameras, it has less choice than Xing Guang, so it’s the second-hand goodies you come for. The most interesting stalls are on the first and second floors (past the many, many wedding photo booths).

Booth 3059 is a highlight, with rare Rolleiflex or Leica cameras from the 1970s (12,500RMB approx); second-hand lenses such as a Canon 70-200mm lens for 1,500RMB Consume(compared to 5,100-17,000RMB for a new one); and a cardboard box full of quirky vintage camera cases (black leather Seagull case, 20RMB). Booth 3051 on the third floor is dedicated to Shanghai Seagull cameras (run by Seagull enthusiast Shi Jian Yu), and you can pick up stunning old and new TLRs for 300-2,000RMB.
See Huan Long market address details.

Best for hipster cameras - Lomography

There's something vaguely creepy about the lomography 'socio-cultural movement' but don't let that or the beaty dance music reverberating throughout the hip Lomography shop put you off. The Lomo LC-A+ (1,980RMB) is a reproduction of the Russian Lomo Kompakt Automat (LC-A) that sparked off the lomography movement after its ‘discovery’ in St Petersburg in 1991. The LC-A+ will still take the trademark blurry, ‘happy accident’-type shot (unintended vignettes, over-saturated colour, light leaks) but has several updated features such as a multiple exposure switch and an expanded ISO setting.

Lomography also stocks the Diana F+ (820RMB), a reproduction of a cheaply-made plastic camera that from Hong Kong in the ’60s. The original Diana was prone to light leaks (not considered desirable) and was a throw-away novelty. Today’s medium format version produces nostalgic, hazy images with off-kilter light effects that stay true to the ’60s model. The retro-chic plastic body is available in black, neons or the Asia-inspired blue and white Qing Hua design.

There's a range of playful multi-shot cameras, including the Pop 9 (320RMB), that’s a bit like a pop art machine producing a mosaic of nine identical pictures on one print; the Cyber Sampler (290RMB), which produces four sequential pictures; and the quirky Oktomat (320RMB), which takes eight pictures over 2.5 seconds. While Lomography has a range of Holgas in army green, hot pink and ’80s neons (585RMB) you can get them cheaper, if in less avant-garde colours, at the Huan Long camera market.

See Lomography address details.

See Quirky cameras - three of the best

Nicola Davison

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