What's Hot In The Tokyo Used Camera Biz?
Classic Imports Command Top Dollar

Over 50 percent of the Leicas ever produced exist in Japan, says one photojournalist. While this seems to be a bold statement, it seems to be true, at least when you look at show windows of used camera stores in Tokyo. What do you see? There are Leicas, Leicas, and more Leicas. But they, of course, are not the only cameras that are being sold. You'll also see a fair sampling of Contax, Rollei, Voigtländer (of genuine German species), Agfa, Ikonta, and Exakta cameras, as well as those of higher price echelons such as Hassselblad, Contarex, Sinar, and Linhof. Indeed, those who would come to Tokyo to see used camera stores would be amazed by the variety of brands that they could find.

To the majority of used camera enthusiasts in Japan, a "classic," or an ideal used camera, must be one that was made in Germany, or at least somewhere in Europe or the US. Mass-produced Japanese cameras, sometimes called "Nicanolympaxes," are too ubiquitous, too commonplace, and hence lack that important halo of exclusivity. A "classic" camera is what today's buyer and collector used to passionately gaze at through gleaming shop windows when they were younger and poorer. Now they see these classics as something they can afford and own. But getting that dreamed-of classic should not be something easy. Instead, it must be a target they can achieve with only a due amount of aspiration and strain. It cannot be anything less than something imported and expensive, which provides the owner with the joy of possession.
If this observation is valid it might provoke a legitimate question: Where do the millions of mass-produced, used Japanese contemporary cameras go? Most if not all are bought by buyers from the US as well as European and Asian countries at used camera fairs held at least four times a year in Tokyo. It seems that those Japanese cameras go home with foreign buyers who want to satisfy the need of the users there for the imported cameras from Japan, which are now known for their quality.

Despite the very swift transition to a digital system in the realm of new photographic equipment, the world of the used or "classic" cameras, at least here in Tokyo, still remains quiet and unaffected. Although used digital cameras appear occasionally in stores, they are bought for utilitarian reasons, and not as collectibles or user classics. When and if silver halide photography becomes obsolete in the practical world, it will continue to live in the world of classic cameras.

What are the top sellers among the used cameras in Tokyo these days, and what are their approximate prices? The following report is based on interviews at five of the most famous used camera stores in Tokyo. One note about the prices. The used cameras at reputable stores in Tokyo (and the rest of Japan) are usually sold with six months warranty for free repair service.

KATSUMIDO at Ginza is the biggest used camera shop in Tokyo, specializing in rare items in mint condition. KATSUMIDO is known as the most expensive and the most quality-intensive used camera boutique in Tokyo. In the central oblong showcase of the store, the best and the rarest cameras that one can find in Tokyo are always displayed, inviting the eyes of the lovers of the real classical masterpieces. But looking at the price tags would convince the visiting guests that this is the place for the selected few. The business is not as vibrant as it once used to be, perhaps because of the slow recovery from the depression that Japan has been undergoing, according to Mr. Usami, the store manager. He tells us that the best-selling items now are:
· Current prices in dollars as of press time.
Leica M3 of 700xxx series in mint condition: $2600-$2800
Leica M4: $1300
Leica M6: $1100
Contax IIa with 50mm f/1.5: $1100
Hasselblad 503CX with 80mm f/2.8: $1700-$1800
Rolleiflex with Xenotar 80mm f/2.8: $3700
Rolleicord: $590

SUKIYA CAMERA at Ginza is one of the oldest used camera shops in Tokyo, specializing primarily in Leica. SUKIYA CAMERA used to be the landmark at Ginza, the Tokyo counterpart of 5th Avenue, when it was at the ground floor. Stage actors, novelists, and other celebrities were among their important Leicaphile clientele. Now since it has moved up to the 8th floor of the same building,many camera enthusiasts lost their rendezvous spot. Mr. Wolschke, a senior sales representative, says that the best-selling items now are:
Leica M2, M3, and M4 in black paint: $2800-$9000, depending upon the condition
Contarex Super Ex++ with 50mm f/2: $1800-$1900
Contax IIa and IIIa Ex++ with 50mm f/2: $900
Nikon SP black Ex++: $9000
Nikon SP chrome Ex++: $3800

SANKYO CAMERA at Ginza is one of the best known used camera shops in Tokyo. Mr. Yonei, a senior sales representative, says that the best sellers now are:
Leica MP in mint condition: $2000-$2500
Leica M4 black in mint condition: $6000
Hasselblad 503CM with 80mm f/2.8 in mint condition: $4000
Rolleiflex with f/2.8 and f/3.5 Planars Ex++: $450-$850
Wide angle lenses for Contarex, Leica M and R, as well as for Hasselblad, in various conditions and prices, are selling well, according to Mr. Yonei.

HAYATA CAMERA at Asakusa is the key used camera shop located in the heart of the old part of the city of Tokyo. Mr. Hayata, the owner, says that the Baby Rollei is a very good seller to young girls, who love this camera because it is "cute," and to whom the appearance of the TLR seems to appeal as the "camera of the grandpa." He sells 127 film for Baby Rolleis made in Germany by Hans O. Mahn & Co. KG with the brand name Macochrome for color reversal and Macophot for black and white. Mr. Hayata is also known as a good repairman. He recently repaired three Ektras with several spare magazines for His Excellency Mr. Howard H. Baker, the US Ambassador to Japan. The reason why he did this job for Mr. Baker is that the president of Kodak Japan had recommended Mr. Hayata as the only party with whom Ektra could be entrusted. Among these three Ektras, one was Ektra Model II. A Dr. Nishizawa in Osaka, a collector who is believed to have some 3000 cameras, including Leica H and Contax VK 21, has an Ektra II. If, as reported, there exist only six units of the Ektra Model II in the world, two of them are now in Japan. According to Mr. Hayata, the best-selling items now are:
Rolleiflex in Ex++ condition with f/3.5 or f/2.8: $900
Rolleicord in Ex++ condition: $250
Voigtländer Superb in Ex++: $900
Baby Rolleiflex: $550-$600

AKASAKA CAMERA in Akasaka is the only used camera shop at an uptown location in Tokyo. Mr. Kawagoe, the president, observes that there is a trend among the younger segment to move away from imported cameras and buy Nikon F3-F5 at $500 and up, or Canon EOS 55 at $200-$280. Younger users, he adds, tend to ignore the obvious fact that used cameras do not maintain the same performance level as when they left the factory. He is worried that this thinking could result in a far less tolerant attitude toward used cameras than what common sense would dictate. Mr. Kawagoe says that the best-selling items now are:
Leica wide angle lenses: Elmar 35mm screwmount; Summaron 28mm screwmount; and Summaron 35mm in screw and bayonet mount. These come in various conditions at prices over $420.
Summilux 35mm f/1.4 Ex++ in bayonet mount: $2100 and up
Summicron 35mm f/2 Ex++ in various versions in bayonet mount: $1200 and up
Contax IIa with 50mm f/1.5: $1100
Contarex Super with 50mm f/2: $2500