Photo Accessories for Fanatical Camera Geeks

This is about a store in Japan that sells unique camera accessories, distinctive modification components and other photo related items that some Shutterbug readers dream about.

Sixteen or seventeen years ago I was prowling the shops in the Nipponbashi (Denden Town) area of Osaka with my colleague and friend Isao Nishijima. We were staying close by at a hotel near Namba Station. More compact than the more famous Akihabara district in Tokyo, Nipponbashi is Osaka’s electrics/computers/appliances shopping district and it is huge.

If you are otaku, a visit to this area can be a literally overwhelming experience. Otaku describes a person who is obsessed with something—electronics, manga and pop culture are typical examples. In our case, the obsession was cameras and related technology, particularly at the granular component level.

Earlier that day, Nishi and I had visited Yodobashi Camera, one of the largest camera retail enterprises in the world. We’ll save that story for another time.

Because he lived in Osaka before temporarily relocating in the US to help me reorganize and direct Minolta Camera’s camera repair and technical support departments, Nishi knew exactly where to go. After a short walk we found a covered shopping arcade—a street lined on both sides with shops and vendors—that was devoted to the tools, testing equipment, components and accessories commonly used in the process of electronics repair. We had found heaven.

You and I can’t go there today, but through the miracle of online shopping we can explore a store that is a miniature, microcosmic glimpse of what one can experience at Nipponbashi or Akihabara. The store, which was founded in Tokyo in 1958, is called Japan Hobby Tool.

Japan Hobby Tool
Japan Hobby Tool offers many products that an inexperienced novice can handle, but be careful if you are tempted by some of the repair tools. Because I have seen firsthand the damage an untrained civilian can do to a camera by attempting to disassemble, oil, glue or clean it with compressed air, I hereby strongly recommend that you never ever take your camera apart or—for that matter—go anywhere near it with a screwdriver or spanner. Leave camera service to the trained professionals and save the tears for cutting onions.

Custom Mods
Easy to install (and easy to remove) JHT’s protective silicon skins, like the one shown at the top of this story, are available for various specific models. They come in four colors (including the camo shown) and prices range from around $10 for a subcompact to $30 for a mirrorless or DSLR. The benefits are obvious, I think—you can avoid those tiny nicks and scratches that add up over the months to degrade the finish and ultimately erode the resale value of a camera.

Also available, silicon skins for a range of popular lenses. You can buy a Lens Rim which consists of a bumper for the front and a band that fits over the focusing ring for about $10. For long telephoto zooms they offer complete skins that cover nearly the entire lens.

The coolest things in my opinion are the Camera Leather Decoration Stickers that can be applied to the metal surfaces of certain cameras for that customized, one-of-a-kind modification. Their name does not do them justice. You’ve seen pictures of rare Leica cameras with lizard skin covers? Well, from JHT you can order red faux crocodile for your Olympus XZ-2, for example, or digital urban camo covers for your Sony RX100.

I customized an old Olympus EP-1 because I couldn’t stand the bare, shiny metal surface of the body. That’s how I found Japan Hobby Tool in the first place. The parts they sent me were neatly dye-cut and fit the camera contours perfectly. Cost was $10. Had I not known better, I’d have sworn the camera came from the factory with the leather covers in place.

Wait, There’s More
You can also buy self-adhesive foam that can be cut to shape to replace the Light Seals in older film cameras, light trap flocking material, helicoid grease (which you should never need for your lenses but is great for fishing reels and other things with metal-on-metal gears), cork to replace the platform padding on a tripod or ballhead and more.

Then there’s the Tent. Think of it as a lightweight, portable duck hunting blind that provides camera shooting cover when you’re waiting out wildlife—or backyard squirrels for that matter—and don’t want to be seen. I need one of these, I really do. They cost $125 and that’s just about $115 over my current budget for things I’ll probably use only two or three times ever. But I really need one.

Camera Charms and Necklaces
Last items of interest are the camera necklaces and charms. Priced under $16, all are made in Japan and are amazingly realistic. Some feature Swarovski crystal and real leather. They resemble tiny Leicas, Nikons and even a Polaroid SX70. Typical size is around 0.4 x 0.7 x 0.4 inches (that’s 11 x 20 x 11 mm) and they weigh in around 10 grams.

—Jon Sienkiewicz