Where do you buy vintage lenses? (actual stores)

Started Oct 16, 2019 | Discussions
TripleCoatedBokeh
TripleCoatedBokeh Contributing Member • Posts: 541
Re: Where do you buy vintage lenses? (actual stores)

chaimav wrote:

I have been trying to find a good local source of inexpensive vintage lenses and have yet to find one. So I thought about starting a thread on everyone's favorite place to shop (if you don't mind sharing your secret). I am aware of various online sites, but sometimes you to be able to touch and feel first and to find that rare gem, so please limit it brick and mortar stores.

Please post

  • What region you are in (e.g. name of closest big city)
  • The name and location of your favorite source for vintage lenses.
  • Any descriptions of the store would be nice such has selection, price range, general review, etc..

Raleigh/Durham NC

Craigslist, facebook marketplace, Ebay,  theres a few good camera stores around that have lots of old glass and random stuff that shows up on trade.

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vyoufinder
vyoufinder Senior Member • Posts: 1,775
Re: Where do you buy vintage lenses? (actual stores)

It has gotten a lot harder to find what I call "super scores." Ten years ago, I was buying lenses 2-10 at a time at thrift stores and garage sales. I stocked up big-time (as I do at every opportunity.) Since then, I've noticed more and more thrift stores are selling the good stuff (including lenses) on Ebay, via in-store bidding, or simply raising the prices. Thrift stores that do this are not worth my time. Unfortunately, the last time I was carousing Washington and Oregon, almost every thrift store was doing this. My experience with thrift stores is that thrift stores in rich neighborhoods are far more likely to have super scores. When I was in New Mexico (thinking Gallup or Aztec) the thrift stores smell like baby spit amalgamizing with bio-degradable plastic and merchandise is mostly used clothing which I would consider "tattered rags." I've started saving my donations for when I go to very economically challenged areas for this reason, and for buying, I concentrate on wealthier areas.

Now I am finding most of my scores on classifieds online, Ebay sellers not maximizing values, and still managing to find quite a few at thrift stores. Garage sales are starting to turn up more plastic, apres-80's lenses and zooms (stuff I'm not interested in,) but I still find my share.

F.Y.I. though, this month and next month are probably THE best two months out of the year for prices on vintage lenses on Ebay. Come March, the prices will start rising again, no doubt.  The same as anytihng else, buying out of season can save you some money.

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Proplus888 Contributing Member • Posts: 639
Re: Where do you buy vintage lenses? (actual stores)

Limiting to actual brick and mortar stores just ...limits your choices really. If an online deal pops up in which I'm interested, I'll find a way to play with another lens that is the same via my colleagues, local vintage lens circle, physical shop to get an idea first.

I live in Hong Kong, and within a 5km square radius there is probably the most number of vintage lens shops in the world.

- Sunrise Photography: a middle--aged couple ran small shop that is packed full of lenses, who were supposedly ending their business last September due to increase in rent prices but have somehow carried on. From budget Russian lenses all the way up to Leica/Alpo, they normally have a few of each lens, but not in pristine condition, each of their lenses have wear and tear from previous owners having actually used them, nothing major like big fungus infestations just small scratches and scuffs on the bodies. Prices are about average but they do tend to not update their prices; say a certain lens drops in value, it would take them months to update it.

- David Chan: the grand-daddy of vintage camera/lens in HK. Starting out as just a small shop in the 60/70s, he eventually brought the whole building in which his shop resides in, but I think he's since sold the building and will eventually shut up shop in the next year or so. Back in 70/80s he would loan his cameras/lenses to the HK movie industry so if you pay attention to some early Jackie Chan movies you'll see his name in the credits. This guy is a collector, and a serious one at that. Lets say he has 50,000 lenses on display, he'd probably only willing to see 20% of these, has another million of 100,000 in storage no shown to the public, and has a safe containing his prized collections which he will not sell for any money in the world. Each of the lenses on display are in pristine condition, unused and some with their original boxes, the ones with no boxes and wrapped in cellophane. Prices are the highest you will find anywhere because you're buying a lens for your collection and not necessarily to use, expect 2x to 3x more for lens which you normally find in pristine condition.

- HK Camera: a more modern setup catering to the young crowd interested in analog photography and holds classes on developing film. Prices are slightly above average but lenses are in good to excellent condition. Mostly SLR lenses from the more popular brands such as Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and Pentax.

- All Good Friends: in the same building as David Chan, slightly tailored towards very good, rare, more exotic lenses such as old Leicas. Just a smattering of 'regular' SLR lenses such as Nikon, Minolta and Canon. Prices are all over the place and never gets updated.

- Dot Well: situated on the outside of David Chan's building, the tiny shop is split into 2; the film processing business at the back, and the piled 7ft high of vintage cameras at the front ran by a man whose name I can't quite recall. Has literally every lens under the sun, but stored in normal dusty glass cabinets, most of which are double stacked so you really have to dig around to find the lens you want, and sometimes not in great optical condition.

- Mitsukiya: so spelt something like that, situated on the next street to where I live. 99% Japanese lenses which they actually source direct from Japan. Above average prices but you do get an assurance that whilst they may not look mint on the outside, the lens work perfectly fine.

- Shogun: diagonally opposite to the shop above. A vintage Leica shop with rare vintage Leica cameras and lenses, and smattering of rare lenses of other brands. Prices are high.

- Sim City: a 3 floor small shopping mall which is entirely catered towards photography. On each level you find 1 or 2 shops selling some vintage lenses. There are some good deals here if you look  around as a few of the shops sell for consignment so the seller might offer them at slightly lower prices. Too many shops inside to name.

- Theme Camera: a collectibles shop listing rare and very expensive camera and lenses. Looking for a limited edition red Leica with matching red lenses? This is the shop to go to, and thee rarity is reflected in the prices.

- Meteor: Leicas, Hassleblads, medium format heaven, with prices to match.

There are probably another 2 dozen or so shops which I never really frequent as they are either out of the way, or upstairs in a building (I'm too lazy and intimidated).

Craiglist in HK never took off so its dead, and the previous popular online platform locally was Yahoo Auctions but the vast majority of people have moved onto either selling via Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Groups, an online photography website called DC Fever or the Carousell app. In the last 2 years I've purchased my lenses mostly via the Carousell apps (and sold my lenses through it), and have gotten to know some sellers through it. One seller I know tends to list lenses below market prices as he's selling the lenses as a favour for a friend who has since emigrated elsewhere.

There's a vintage camera/lens fair held once a year here in Autumn where these shops flog their wares slightly cheaper than normal.

A lot of my Soviet, Contax and rangefinder lenses I've tended to purchase from eBay.

I normally visit Japan once or twice a year, and I normally take half a day of my trip to visit vintage lens shops over there and can normally pick up 1 or 2 bargains to bring back. Tokyo and Osaka are the best cities, and I hunt in Japanese second hand stores as well such as Hard Off. I tend to visit some thrift shops when I'm abroad and hunt them out in places like Singapore, Bangkok and Taipei.

My mother still resides in the UK and she pops over once a year. On occasions I've purchased off the UK Oxfam's website and have the lens posted to her.

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fferreres Veteran Member • Posts: 5,948
Re: Where do you buy vintage lenses? (actual stores)

vyoufinder wrote:

It has gotten a lot harder to find what I call "super scores." Ten years ago, I was buying lenses 2-10 at a time at thrift stores and garage sales. I stocked up big-time (as I do at every opportunity.) Since then, I've noticed more and more thrift stores are selling the good stuff (including lenses) on Ebay, via in-store bidding, or simply raising the prices. Thrift stores that do this are not worth my time. Unfortunately, the last time I was carousing Washington and Oregon, almost every thrift store was doing this. My experience with thrift stores is that thrift stores in rich neighborhoods are far more likely to have super scores. When I was in New Mexico (thinking Gallup or Aztec) the thrift stores smell like baby spit amalgamizing with bio-degradable plastic and merchandise is mostly used clothing which I would consider "tattered rags." I've started saving my donations for when I go to very economically challenged areas for this reason, and for buying, I concentrate on wealthier areas.

Now I am finding most of my scores on classifieds online, Ebay sellers not maximizing values, and still managing to find quite a few at thrift stores. Garage sales are starting to turn up more plastic, apres-80's lenses and zooms (stuff I'm not interested in,) but I still find my share.

F.Y.I. though, this month and next month are probably THE best two months out of the year for prices on vintage lenses on Ebay. Come March, the prices will start rising again, no doubt. The same as anytihng else, buying out of season can save you some money.

Yes, for the likely price increase (unless downturn in economy), and yes some scores. My tactic, when I can, is I look only for newly listed, usually counter-timezone, as most of the price differences is lenses cheap in one end of the world but not available in the other. So eg 10pm or 6am is good to see Japanese listings, European is a mix...2am is best ...even just checking, usually many buyers think it twice, and that's your chance to grab it. This only works if you know exactly how much they sell for. The other and very time consuming (and it's good to know how often these come) is wait for bids, and after 3-4, one always goes low. Of course, I don't have such patience, maybe 20% of time, and newly listed has been my primary source, maybe 60% of times.

Dohmnuill Contributing Member • Posts: 797
Re: Where do you buy vintage lenses? (actual stores)

South Australians know where to go. Central Market Camera Store.

This shop is legendary for the choice of lenses offered; the range of Leica, Voigtlander, Contax, Zeiss, Nikkor et al is remarkable given the size of Adelaide (the capital city).

The store is old and old school (in the manner of Campkins in Cambridge), there are no high pressure salesmen (yes, they are men) and the advice given is very sound. Prices are very fair, the management attracts its custom by not fleecing buyers.

Wandering into the shop past the bustle of the  surrounding food stalls is an experience in itself albeit a dangerous one for there is little chance of leaving without exchanging your $$s for that collapsible Leitz or whatever.

The shop does publish an on-line list but a personal visit is recommended if that's possible. OK, it's a 24 hour flight from Heathrow for some; I manage to get there several times a year (after a 400 km drive or flight).

mirthseeker Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: In Australia

The APCS runs public photography markets in Melbourne and Adelaide once or twice a year (they also run auctions and members markets apparently) - I went to a public one in Melbourne a couple of years ago, where there were many sellers, and I picked up a couple of bargains at that time.

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