The west side of Shinjuku Station is home to Tokyo’s shutterbug playground. Known as Shinjuku’s West Exit Camera Town, this densely populated block is where you’ll find close to every camera available on the market.
From new mega-sized electronic outlets and to gracefully aging shoebox-esque vintage stores, it’s a labyrinthian network of all things photography. The sheer selection can get overwhelming, so to save time and money, it’s better to do a little research on where to go Tokyo camera shopping.
Vintage camera shopping
Secondhand cameras are Shinjuku’s bread and butter. Mega electronic outlets across the country stock the latest edition cameras so no matter where you are, you’re typically close to the hottest camera release. But in Shinjuku’s West Exit Camera Town, there are countless dusty, well-stocked secondhand stores.
If you’re not a Japanese speaker, entering these local outlets can be a little intimidating. Fear not though, as here are the best and friendliest.
One of a family of Lemon stores dotted throughout the city, this cozy consignment store sells a broad selection of cameras as well as other vintage accessories like watches and collectibles. Don’t let the name fool you, the cameras here are well cared for and are not lemons.
The company has been in the camera game since 1983 when they opened their first outlet in Ginza. Since then they’ve also spread to Nagoya, Yokohama, Akihabara, and Shinjuku. Because the store sells on consignment, on behalf of other camera collectors and sellers, the prices can be a little steep. If you’re on a budget, it’s an excellent place to browse to get an idea of what’s on the market and what price people are selling cameras for.
Used Camera Market
Used Camera Market is not the easiest place to find if you can’t read Japanese. But if you know what to search for, it won’t take you too long to hunt it down. It’s signposted by a large yellow billboard sign saying: 新宿中古カメラ市場 (translation: Shinjuku Used Camera Market).
Inside this second-floor store, you’ll discover an extensive collection of predominantly film cameras and old DSLR cameras too. If there’s something ancient and specific you’re chasing, there’s a high chance that they’ll have it, often a more affordable price than other spots.
Used Camera Box
Given that it’s one of the area’s most popular secondhand camera stores, entering the basement-level Used Camera Box is a bit of a shock. The store is one of the most compact of the bunch. The owner of the store speaks a little English; as as you’ll be able to see from the photos on the walls, the store staff are no strangers to foreign clientele.
In terms of what’s on offer, Used Camera Box sells all vintage-style cameras and lenses, including a huge bunch of classic models like the Canon AE1—the perfect beginner film SLR. They have plenty of hard-to-find items too, stowed behind the glass displays. If you’re starting out, this is a great place to begin, as the crew here can help you pick the perfect camera and lens. Occasionally they will sell the set at a discounted rate too.
Classic Camera Moritz
Classic Camera Moritz is about a five-minute walk from the center of Shinjuku’s camera town, but it’s worth the little detour. This no frills, but well-stocked outlet sells a range similar to that of the others, as well as plenty of vintage accessories like tripods and exposure meters. The owner speaks English, so if you want insight into the scene, he’s the guy to ask. Price-wise it’s rather competitive too, so if you’re planning on shopping around for the best deals add this one to the list.
Tokyo camera stores for new gear
Most of the camera stores in the area that sell new cameras sell secondhand ones too. So to minimize time hunting around, there are a couple of places that offer the best of both worlds. New camera stores are often a little more accessible and well displayed. In this neighborhood, you’ll find big names like Yodabashi and BIC Camera, but for more niche tastes there are two shops to pay a visit.
Camera Kitamura is a camera specialty store with a whopping 900 locations across the nation. They’re an accessible one-stop shop for all your digital camera basics. They sell vintage models and offer film processing services too. What’s great about this chain for travelers is that their network of stores is all connected. So if you see something you like in a different city or store, you can order and pick it up at your most convenient location. All of their camera stock, new and used, is viewable on the store’s website, so you can order online and pick it up typically within one to two days.
Map Camera is possibly the biggest player on the Shinjuku camera scene in terms of sheer size and variety. Given their influence over the surrounding stores, some believe this store tends to dictate the local market prices. That said, compared to smaller independent stores and consignment outlets like Lemon, there’s bound to be a bit of a discrepancy. The collection here—both new and vintage—is so big that the store floors are divided into camera brand sections like Canon, Nikon, Leica, and Sony. If you visit Shinjuku’s Camera Town and you don’t visit Map, you have only seen the half of it.
Film and accessories
So you’ve bought your brand new vintage camera, and dolled out a whole wad of cash for that perfect lens. What you need now is the ideal fitting case, and a wide selection of film to play around with. Chain outlets Yodabashi and BIC Camera both stock all the accessories and film rolls you’ll need to get started, so pop by on your way out of the area.
If you still can’t find what you’re after
Still can’t find what you’re after in Shinjuku? Then you must be looking for something that doesn’t exist. But if you’re convinced it does exist, gathering dust on some old camera store somewhere in Tokyo, then it may be in Nakano.
Just four minutes from Shinjuku on the Chuo Line, this popular residential neighborhood is known to house a lot of excellent vintage camera stores too, like Fujiya Camera Honten, so pop by and good luck on the hunt!