A Shanghai photo experience

As I am writing this article, I am in Shanghai for a profesionnal trip (my company seems to believe that I can improve some things in our manufacturing plant of Pudong, in the suburbs of this big Chinese city). As an amateur photographer, I took some time for myself to look at some photo opportunities here. Two remarks may interest you too.

Shooting in Shanghai

The most obvious observation in this gigantic city of 17 million people is that the air is full of dust. And I mean it. Everybody notice it. The city is under permanent construction (or is it “re-construction”). Zillions of trucks are moving earth around to help build sky-scrappers all over the city. This and the overall industrial pollution makes it amazingly foggy.

I wanted to shoot a few photos; Don’t even think about deep landscapes (even from the highest buildings): On the clearest day, the sky is white and the visibility is limited to a distance surprising to even my pre-informed self.

However, Shanghai is one the modern world cities where night shots are a real pleasure. There is light and contrast everywhere: Buildings with lights from top to bottom, giant ads, displays of all kinds and all sizes, ligthed boats on the Huangpu river. So much light that you may even forget your tripod if your willing to shoot at high ISOs.

Shanghai early sun - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles Sweeping the Highway - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles
Pudong seen from the Bund - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles Red building - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles
Shanghai street at night - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles

Click on the thumbnails if you want to access the larger versions

Buying photo equipment in Shanghai

OK! Shanghai is less attractive than Hong Kong, but China is usually a place where you can find photo bargains. In Shanghai, the place to go -apart from the usual electronics malls found all over the city, like in Pudong (South of Shiji Avenue)- is the big photo market at Luban Lu and Xietu Lu (in Chinese, “Lu” means “road”), that I found easly thanks to Internet (it is just North of Lupu bridge and Zhongshan N° 1 Rd, in Puxi).

Shanghai photo market - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles Xietu Lu & Luban Lu - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles

Click on the thumbnails if you want to access the larger versions

You will find there anything for photo and photo activities. 6 floors of small shops. Of course, you will find camera sales on 1st floor (Canon, Sony, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, etc.). But as in many Shanghai malls, the higher you climb, the better bagains you find (until you reach a level where most offers are presented in approximate stacks and packs).

Apparently, the risk of seeing fake products is limited, but it may be very difficult to find the difference between an original product and a fake one. However, I did not find any price obviously too-low-to-be-true (a sure mark of fake products), just a lot of good bargains and some less impressive prices. Apparently, prices are a little better than most Europeans prices (even taking into account an added VAT to be paid when returning home) with nothing Earth shattering. However, you must remember that haggling is standard practice here. Some advice:

  1. Know the European price of the item you want to buy (not to be taken by a bad price in the heat of the moment),
  2. Know the exact Euro-Yuan conversion rate (everything is paid cash in Yuans (or RMB) which is currently about 10 yuans for 1 euro),
  3. Ask for the price in simple English (“for this, how much?”),
  4. The sales people will show it on the screen of a desktop calculator. You can make a counter proposal just by typing a different value on the same desktop calculator (a 5% discount seems to be standard). If the sale is possible, a frank smile will be enough and an exchange of “OK” will be clear.
  5. Always keep in hand the item you’re interested in. Don’t let the sales guy go to the back of the shop (to pack it, or something). There is always the risk seeing him/her returning with a different product than the one you paid for.

People are very welcoming and even customers proposed to assist me and shopkeepers not speaking English. Many people where genuinely interested in knowing where I came from, what I wanted to find, etc.

Speaking of bargains, I saw a few things that could interest Minolta and Sony DSLR lovers like me: The last 3 floors host a large number of second-hand shops of relatively good quality. Plenty of equipment from all the brands you could expect and a few more… Examples of Minolta second hand lenses:

  • Minolta Apo G 300mm/2.8 for 17,500 RMB, including the original hard box and in good condition (a fair bargain if you don’t count VAT)
  • Minolta Apo G 600mm/4 for 38,000 RMB, without the original hard box, but in perfect condition (60% of normal eBay price, plus VAT. A great bargain for a several kilos of glass and metal)
  • Minolta 1.4x converter for 1,800 RMB, like new (a fair price)
  • Sony 2x converter for 3,200 RMB (not so great, even for a near perfect piece)

So, you can dig and find a few good things. Or you can run for the shops specializing in lighting equipment (fourth floor). Or you can look for the designer’s Leica shop on the last floor. Or you can shop around for a half-priced tripod (all brands are available plus a few good local copies).

Conclusion, for now

Shanghai is a neat place to be if you love big cities and skyscrappers. Tourism is quite pleasant there and hundreds of thousands of expatriates (and more tourists from all over the world) have made the local people really welcoming.

Prohibitions in the subway - Copyright (C) 2008 Yves Roumazeilles

Click on the thumbnails if you want to access the larger versions

4 comments

  1. Shanghai at night is so amazing… I stayed there for 10 weeks myself. Just got back..had a wonderful time. Didn’t visit the expo though 😀 (I know u’re probably thinking Im crazy ^^)
    Even I went to luban Lu to buy myself a tripod 😀
    Just wrote a post about my experience myself 🙂 Do read it if you’re interested and let me know what you think..

  2. Hi there,

    I am going to Shanghai soon and would like to buy a Canon EOS camera, would you recommend doing so?

  3. Hi Sudhir,
    Even if I wrote this article in 2008, I still recommend heartily a visit to the place I’ve mentioned here. I even invited one of my colleagues to do just this less than a month ago (he was traveling to Shanghai for business too).

    Another colleague went there about 3 weeks ago. The only bad thing he told me about it: “the large Sony sign on the front is gone”, but the building is still there and he was properly impressed by the place.

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