Ok, this is something I tried to find as much information as I could before I went to Taipei, and now that I have actually done it, it is time to give a report. Overall,
1. Prices of camera bodies can be really cheap. Bargaining is not as easy, as the margins are already quite tight. My colleague bought a Nikon D7000 body for close to S$1000.00 brand new, and a D5100 body for about S$500.00. Of course, there is a difference in price for ‘grey’ goods. Grey goods are parallel imports, so they dont come with the country warranty. It does not matter because even if you buy a properly imported item, the warranty applies to Taiwan only. be upfront and say you want ‘sui huo’ – grey goods. There is nothing to hide and they will openly show it to you.
2. Lens are expensive. I was checking out the Tamron 60mm Macro F2 Di II 1:1. It was S$630. Ebay sells it lowest at about S$520.00 from HK. A relative got it for me from HK at S$482.00. This gives you a scale roughly how much lens cost in Taiwan relative to HK and Singapore. As mentioned earlier, there is only so much you can bargain because the margins are low already. Somehow, the lens import cost is high.
3. Location – They are all at Hankow Street. Just tell any cab driver, or walking from Ximending or Taipei Central Station, just ask for Hankow Street its just a 5 min walk. We visited more than 10 shops, and there are some that we missed. There are good bargains for camera bodies, but lens are similarly priced.
4. Bait-and-Switch? Generally, the Taiwanese sellers are generally more honest than those in HK along Tsim Tsa Tsui. However, do be vigilant, because there are those shops who will tell you a very good price for an item, and tell you, come back next week, meanwhile…why dont you consider something more expensive…Just politely tell them you dont have time to wait. They are very polite, so reciprocate. I feel this is just the way the game is played – no need to be rude.
5. best of all – service! I love Taiwanese people. They are among the warmest and most polite people i met. Shop keepers are generally nice, and they always eager to serve, answer questions and chat generally. You can bargain of course. Generally, in HK, every two shop keeper you meet, one is nasty or rude or simply cant be bothered. In Taipei, you wont find this.
6. Other things to look out for – camera bags. They got great designs, but they are not cheap. Some of them, you can get on ebay. But if you like to shop for accessories, Taipei has tonnes.
i. Our favourite shop – MyDC Camera Equipment. Hankow Street section 1, No 85-5. Tel 02-2381-6766
Run by 3 young fresh grads chaps and 1 lady, they are friendly and very accommodating. Even when we cant agree on the price, they still let us try. It was really like a friends/camera lovers gathering rather than a bargaining session. They even let us use their computers to check online prices to compare with theirs. And when they sold off the last remaining D7000 my friend wanted, they felt so bad! Their prices are not cheap, but if you want reliable, friendly and kind service, go to this place. You’ll end up making some friends at the very least even if you dont buy anything. we all left with name cards and contacts.
The other shops are okayish. Nice people, but we didnt click as well as with these young chaps. i got their name cards, but they did not leave a lasting impression. At least, none left a bad impression that warrants a warning.
Enjoy the hunt! Any questions, just ask! Any input, please share and contribute to the photographers pool of knowledge.