One Fine Adventure: Shanghai, China
The Huan Long Photography Market is directly across the street from Shanghai Railway Station and the metro stops at the east end of the station. The street intersection of Meiyuan and Moling has a low fence along the street, but there is an underground walkway that will give you access from northwest corner of the street, where the station is located, to the southwest corner, where the market is located. Here is a (Google Maps location) for the market. The dumplings restaurant that I chose as a marker is right next to the east entrance from my picture.
I finally let go of my reliable Canon 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens along with a 20-35mm f/3.5-3.5 and a 40mm f/2.8. The latter two lenses were rarely used, but when I did pull out the 40mm it was a joy to use. A tiny, cheap, and barely noticeable joy, but despite that fact I found myself using either the low end of the 24-105 of my 50 f/1.4. The gods were with me in Shanghai and I managed to walk out with a new 28 f/1.8 and more cash than I was expecting.
The deal was done at Huan Long Photographic Equipment City 环龙照相器材, one of the Shanghai photography malls. If you have any gear junky dreams they can be fully realized in either of the camera malls in Shanghai. I saw a Canon 50 f/1.0, a $4000 lens, perched on a shelf near each and every telephoto monster that frequent NFL sidelines and New York Fashion Week. Unfortunately in China the price of reliable and genuine gear is well above US rates. Even more unfortunate is that their buy-back rates are much lower than selling to a private buyer in the states.
This story will serve as a tale of caution for anyone considering buying or selling their gear in China and the underlying lesson will be as follows, “Know thy gear and know it well.” I spent hours researching reasonable values for each of my lenses along with realistic prices for the lens I wanted to get from my deal. Before I booked my ticket to Shanghai I had absolutely concrete minimum values for my gear.
After carrying a lens through enough countries I am bound to build an emotional attachment to it and so will any other photographer, but finding an honest asking price is important when trade-in time comes around. I was willing to take the trip to Shanghai and return with all of the lenses if I could not get the value I was asking for, but part of my equation was reducing the weight in my pack and the total number of lenses in my collection.
The escalator deposited me in the photo gear heaven on the third floor of Huanlong Photographic Equipment City (环龙照相器材) at 8:45 am. The shopping center doesn’t officially open until 9 am, but I was hoping that at least a few shops would have their doors open. After haggling with one early bird owner I managed to find a shop with a clerk who spoke a bit of English. After about thirty minutes the deal was done and I was outside testing my new lens.
Westerners are not usually accustomed to having to really duel over prices with a shop owner and these malls are not a place to cut your bargaining teeth. If you are new to China you should head down the subway line a few stops where you can find several fake markets for items ranging from $2-$200. You can bargain all day and if you pay $15 for a $10 item your wallet can absorb that and you can learn from the experience. Losing $100+ because of a lack of Chinese bargaining skills will hurt much longer. Walking away from a long conversation about a watch is awkward, but it is the only way to get the real price and the photo markets are no different. Know what your gear is worth and refuse to compromise. The shop owners work on small margins so keep cracking at a price until they look offended. After that you should get up and leave. If they chase after you, keep bargaining. If they don’t chase, you are close to the real price.
Happy bargaining and let me know if you have any experiences from any Asian photo markets. Cheers!