Sunday, July 18, 2010

Local Camera Shops

Photography Note: Shots taken at Petaling Street with Olympus E-520 and 50mm F2.0 Macro.

I believe many of you beautiful people out there have shared the same frustration as I do, when it comes to shopping, or window shopping for camera, lenses or accessories locally. In the Bukit Bintang/Low Yat Plaza area alone, you can easily spot more than two dozens of camera shops lining up everywhere, eager to pounce on your innocent wallet.

I agree, papa is da best !!

The flower dude. This photo was quite a challenging one, balancing the dark skin tone against the white flowers being strongly lit by harsh morning sun.

A bench, or a bed?

Here are my reasons why I did not have very pleasant experience going to most of those camera shops:

1) Camera Fictions

Sales would be sales, and people would churn out all sorts of lies just to win your opinion. Similar situation applies to many local salespersons working at many local camera shops. In order to sell something, fictions have often overridden facts. Biased opinions are so common that if you do not have prior research or knowledge on what to buy, you would have been misled and victimized mercilessly.

There was a case when a friend of mine was looking for a kit lens to replace his broken unit. The sales person blatantly mentioned that the Olympus 14-45mm was the newer version, superseding the 14-42mm, but the truth was the total opposite. Thank goodness my friend knew his gears well enough not to fall for the trap. The 14-45mm was one of the first few lenses produced by Olympus, possibly have been sitting in the shop for the past 4 to 5 years, and in a desperate attempt to earn some bucks back from the obsolete lens, the salesperson chose to bent the truth. How dishonorable of him!!

Besides selling fictional stories, many shop staffs would convince the customers to steer towards the products they intended to sell. Claims which may be half truths, or with questionable justifications such as “oh this camera is sharper”, or “this camera takes better pictures at night” or “this camera can take blur free pictures” have been playing around the lips of the salesperson, like pre-recorded audio clips. It has come to a point that camera sellers have been degraded to nothing more than pasar malam vendors.

Lanterns, a must have item at any Chinatown in the world.

One of the most important inventions in mankind.

What do you think is in that box?

2) Overpriced

This is one sick trend that has been practiced everywhere in Malaysia, not just in camera-selling business. Prices of cameras and lenses have been jacked up so high that some would be reaching 200% of its original price, allowing a huge contingency for bargain hungry patrons.

Many of us serious photographers, or photography-hobbyist know our equipments, and the street pricing of what we intended to buy. One case that happened to another friend of mine was the bargaining of a camera bag. He spotted a small camera bag, and he asked for the pricing. He was initially quoted RM200, discounted from RM250 on the price tag. Still feeling that it was too expensive, my friend asked for more discount. It was then further reduced to RM120. Then my friend told the salesperson he still thinks it was too expensive, because, the bag that I was using was only RM80, which was a whole lot larger, comes with weather proofing feature, can hold in a lot more accessories while sporting a really rugged, good look. Then the person said “OK la I give you RM80.” Seriously, when things like this happened to you, would you not start to think maybe the bag is worth probably less than RM10?

The best option would be to say thanks and move on to the next shop for a more reasonable offer, which we did. Nevertheless, how about the people who do not have prior knowledge about the approximate pricing of the item of interest? No wonder those camera vendors are earning so much these days.

Perhaps it would be an ordinary trap for tourists, or people who know nuts about latest camera pricings. Hiking the price at such sky high rates would have worked on many clueless first time buyers. I cannot help but think that such widespread practice is so disgusting that cheating people who have little knowledge is nothing more than stealing cash from the money can besides a blind beggar by the street.

To be absolutely honest I have no idea what the guy is doing.

Flipping papers. Would the copy at the bottom of the pile be any better than the ones at the top?

These two blokes were staring at something so intensely that they would not care me snapping their photos just standing besides them.

3) Clueless Staff

When I was out to buy my first CPL (circular polarizer) I had the worst of my time ever with the sales people at various camera shops. I think 9 out of 10 of them have no idea what a polarizer is. Most of the salespersons are there just to sell the cameras, and a few popular lenses. If you question them further on accessories, they would give you the alien look. Of course, not everyone in the shop do not know what a polarizer was, normally the first person who was clueless would refer to his or her senior supervising staff, who would answer my question earlier.

I do not get how clueless some of the front staff can be. Yes, they may be new, but basic things like memory cards, some filters, ordinary lenses like tele-zoom and primes lenses should be in their knowledge databank. It was traumatizing when they asked me in return “what is a polarizer?”

Another similar experience can be shared here was encountered by myself. I had my camera with the external flash mounted on it, but the head was rotated 90 degrees upwards ready for a vertical/portrait orientation shots. The camera salesperson stared at my flash for a considerably long time, and he then questioned me “why is your flash head tilted like that?” Then I rotated the head back to its original position and he gasped.. and went “Wow… the head can be moved like that?” He was at a DSLR booth, and I just cannot help but stare at him back in awe.

It was as if a person who has not opened a car hood before was fixing your car engine.

Life is a prison.

This man's bright pink shirt caught quite a bit of attention.

4) Limited Accessories

After suffering from point no 3, I have come to another conclusion that most local camera shops are so helplessly hopeless when it comes to accessories. You will have limited choices of ugly looking camera bags, China made flimsy yet expensively priced tripods, and perhaps only UV filters to grab. The main selling items would be just cameras and some basic lenses, and if you want more exotic items most of the time the camera shops would have to place special order, which in turn you have to wait for at least one working week for the delivery of the item.

Why not just buy Online?

I think a one stop camera store with sufficient supply of accessories in variety is seriously lacking. Yes, there is probably one or two (which I shall not mention the name, and the location of the shops would not be easily spotted) but I am talking about the majority 99% of the easily accessible camera shops at major shopping malls around KL.

Milo-Ais bungkus?

Grab a mug.

5) Knowledge-less

Sometimes, the best way to spark an interest with your potential camera/accessories buyer would be warming up a conversation on photography. Simple things like “what do you like to photograph?” or “Have you used a Film camera before?” would suffice to break the ice. Of course, adequate basic photography knowledge is necessary to facilitate such tasks, which I find absent from most of the salesperson at local camera shops.

Apart from asking “How much is the latest pricing for D90?” or “what is your best price for this camera bag?” there is nothing else to talk about with those local camera shop sales assistants. You are at a camera shop, you would expect to at least find some common interest to talk to them about, right? It was quite depressing when you start yacking about Aperture and Shutter speed settings and all they can respond was a blank, white face of blur expression. How can they possibly recommend you the best item to purchase, if they do not even know a thing about what the items they are selling can do in photography sense?

Chicken Porridge for breakfast.

Beef noodles for lunch. *burp

I must admit that there are exceptions to all my points listed in this entry. There have been one or two shops which I frequent, with the sales assistants who do know at least a thing or two about photography and provide a wide range of products and accessories to choose from.

However, I must admit that my general experience with most camera shops everywhere was rather awful. If you have any similar experience, feel free to share!


  1. first of i love the shot of the lanterns!

    yeah i recently bought a vid cam and went shopping for an sd card. i just love walking into a shop and pretending to be a total noob by carefully wording my questions. whats the latest size ah? whats the best model ah? sandisk or kingston? u can really see the horns grow out from their heads.


  2. hey marcus,
    Thanks !! I love the lantern shot too !!

    Whoah, I thought such problems only exist in Malaysia. I would have considered people at your side to be more honest and less.. well... "growing horns".

  3. haha no matter where u are, when u deal with a chinese, they are always out to outsmart u. jews are the same. thats why they are always business owners.


  4. hey marcus,
    yeah thats true. I guess a little "smart dishonesty" can go a long way in businesses.

  5. Oh my gosh! The thing above your camera comes out lightning wan?!! *freak out*


  6. hey Chong,
    LOL !! I don't think it is that extreme la ahahahhahaa

  7. I guess whatever items you are going to buy; you will always be persuaded by a salesperson. They even give false stories just to sell you something. So I guess in order to avoid falling into this kind of situation, it would be better to have someone knowledgeable accompanying you when you buy some stuffs.