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Sunday, 01 March 2020


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I have had pretty good luck buying stuff (read accessories) from Japan on ebay -- only one of which was a camera, a Fuji GSW690 II. The "Texas Leica" was delivered as advertised and the quality of the 65mm Fujinon EBC lens, the accuracy of its Seiko shutter, and the simple overall functionality of the camera continues to surprise. In addition to KEH, I have also found Igor's and Koh's to be reliable stateside vendors when the ebay heebie jeebies get to be too much.

Interesting. My experience with Japan sellers is that they under-rate, just like KEH, but I guess YMMV

Hi Milke
I’m surprised about this e-Bay Japan thing. If there is one thing that is impressive when one browse second-hand camera stores in Tōkyō it is indeed that the cameras as in exceedingly mint condition (often with prices to match). Maybe they ship everything else abroad... :)
Have a great time with your “new” equipment: photography is as much about the process as about the subjects and end-products...

Good for you, Exc +++++

Anyone buying camera gear off eBay, from anywhere in the world, should take the description with a grain of salt. The photos are extremely important; the more the better. And don’t be shy to ask the seller lots of questions.

With regards to Japanese camera sellers on eBay, my experiences have been good. The Contax G2 plus four lenses, purchased from different sellers, were as described (I don’t remember the descriptions on the auctions, but each were described as some flavor of “Exc. with some number of plus signs” or some level of “near mint”). The Fujifilm GA645 that I purchased from a Japanese eBay seller was also as described. I can’t find the names of the sellers or I would acknowledge them.
With respect to your film adventures, while I’m really happy that you will be able to re-establish your darkroom, since we all know how integral that was to your prior film life, from a purely selfish perspective, I’m a bit saddened. Since I’ve been dabbling again with film the past several months, I was hoping to hear your results with lab processing and scanning, and subsequent computer processing and printing. I never have nor never will have a darkroom, so I was looking forward to learning from your experiences. Oh well...
Wishing you a fun-filled journey back to filmdom. I will enjoy reading how it goes.

Absolutely no offense meant here, but I'll bet you $10.00 you never make a single print with either of those enlargers.


URGENT - you should read this article by Mike Johnston. He knows his s**t:


I have two, and am delighted. And a 645NII, again delighted.

Not my experience of buying from Japan on eBay. I bought a 40mm f2 Olympus OM and it was, as described, mint. The price was reasonable, too. Where I got clobbered was on import duties into the UK. Alas, the lens wasn't great optically, certainly not a patch on say the 40mm f2 Rokkor M mount.

Unfortunately it is not just the Japanese sellers. I have had all sorts of issues like a camera which had all the internal mechanicals stripped out but externally complete sold as a "VGC, untested" from a US seller. I end up having to send back about 1/3 of items due to issues which the seller must have known about.

Wonderful to hear that you're getting set up again Mike. You've clearly chosen to go the darkroom route instead of inkjet printing. You'll certainly be making prints faster.

Regarding Japanese eBay sellers, my experience is completely different. You're right that there are nonsense descriptions. The words "Excellent" and "fungus" should never share the same ad, but unfortunately they sometimes do. The credible people are easy to spot; the other ones definitely do a disservice to all of us.

More important to me is how sellers respond when there's a problem. I've been ripped off multiple times on eBay, by private sales through photography forums, and by brick and mortar camera stores. Inevitably the worst, truly fraudulent offenders have been from the United States and Canada. Getting money back from them was always a nightmare.

I've purchased items from Japanese sellers that were not as described, and I've always received a full refund. Just this morning I received a full refund for the item, shipping, and my return shipping costs back to Japan for a lovely looking Pentax 645 lens. The seller could not have known (without doing the testing I did) that at some point in its life it took a blow that shifted an element, but it did. She took it back with a sincere apology. I contrast that to the dozen or more emails and phone calls to eBay and Paypal it took to get my money back from the guy in the US who lied like a rug about the condition of the box of camera equipment I bought from him.

The 80mm f/4 Apo-Rodagon. Quite possibly the perfect enlarging lens. Had one for years and years in a old (grey crinkle) Bessler 23 with a Cold Light head. Could easily focus on the upper layer or lower layer of grain, even with tabular-grain films. Beautiful edge to edge, and sharp as a tack.

One possibility for your Rolleiflex batteries:


I’m impressed, you not only haven’t quit, but have reassembled your darkroom. Hey, even if you never shoot the 20 rolls you are capturing our attention with your progress.

I have bought stuff on Ebay with good results but never a camera there. I only know a few people who have bought photographic equipment on Ebay so the sample is too small to render an opinion.
That said, I have bought a ton of stuff from KEH over the years and could not be happier with the results. And yes they are as picky about grading gear as you have heard.
Also congratulations about re-starting your darkroom. I still have mine but have not fired it up in over a year. Maybe it's time to order up some 11x14 Multigrade and boil out the cubetainers. As you know the real pleasure of shooting film is not so much how the cameras handle, it's standing in the dark watching a print come up in the tray.
Pure magic, blew me away when I was 13 and still does today.
I'm glad you are not going the shoot and scan route. It misses the best part of shooting film.
It took time for you to hone your darkroom chops. Show them off a little for the youngsters.
Now we can have big dust up about which enlarging lens is the best (EL Nikkor) as soon as we explain to the hipsters what an enlarging lens is.

Just for the record, in my above comment I really meant Exc+++++ as a positive thing not
ugly or "as is".


Wonders of all wonders! You gonna make prints again?

Now we are going to have more in common. Just to share, I shamelessly admit I contributed two photos (in pages 36 & 37) in this Leica Yearbook 2019:


Dan K.

[That was fun. Great to see that Ted and Tina are still going strong. Nice job all around. One question, how come there are so many non-Leica pics in the book? --Mike]

Just like each new generation of internet technology, online market places have started the decent into irrelevance. I’m sure many of us are old enough to recall the decline of newsgroups like rec.photo.35mm before any sensible conversation was drowned by spam, websites before the arrival of click bait advertising (of course there are one or two exceptions here), and social media before the bots and trolls.

I don’t know how the internet will survive the next thirty years after what I’ve seen of the last thirty.

To me a seller going over Ex+ is pushing it.

I will defend eBay in that I have had very few bad deals. I recently purchased the most beautiful Minolta XD with a new winder in box ( I thought sure!!) But damn the winder looks new and I did not pay a lot. Probably my favorite manual film camera.

I can also vouch for Map Camera having bought from them. I have been to the store in Tokyo and I would say that of all the hundreds of cameras on sale, none that I saw were of the condition of the one in Mike's post.

Re eBay: I have recently concluded that (outside of proper dealers) most of the good stuff has been bought up by now and it’s largely junk that’s left now.

I have had very good luck buying cameras from Japan. I check the feedback to A) make sure they have sold cameras and B) they have been shipped to the US. That said I did see a Nikon F6 listed as Mint++++ then in the description mention a significant dent on the viewfinder. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

I like cameras with brassed rewind knobs. Fading lettering. Dings and dents. Scratches on the bottom plate. Scratches on the top plate for that matter. It means they have been used, they've had a productive life. My Olympus Pen has been with me over 50 years, grown old with me, travelled with me, known all of my friends. The wear marks on it are a hard earned history.

Old cameras in perfect condition are in a sense not cameras at all.

I've been tempted

Jay Yocis

I've bought several cameras and lenses on eBay, and also helped other people who are getting into film photography with their purchases since I'm the "film camera guy" among my circle of friends. My approach is to just ignore the shorthand condition descriptors like Exc+++, Mint, etc. and go by the photos. If the photos are not clear enough, I request additional photos (e.g. of the mirror in an SLR camera). Honestly, I don't even look at the descriptors because they undermine my faith in human nature.

Of course photos don't tell you about the mechanical functions. But if a camera is sold as "Used", eBay defines it as "fully operational and functions as intended", so where the seller didn't include a caveat like "Untested", I've successfully argued that a camera with wildly inaccurate shutter speeds, for example, or a lens with stuck aperture blades doesn't match that definition, and consequently been able to get a refund.

I received an ugly OM2s Program from KEH. Brassing and a dent, but works fine. I received a Pentax 645 from Japan that looked good and worked good through the first roll. The battery holder broke, but after finding a replacement, the camera is back in action. Guess I have been lucky.

As for every other camera and lens I got from KEH, they all look better than their rating and work properly.

Mike, the LUG started out as mainly a Leica how-to handholding community in the early 90's. Over the years, it has become more picture oriented, and as Leica prices have become ever more stratospheric and our interests have evolved we've moved to or added other systems. However, I believe most of us (and all the LUGgers I've met over the past 25 years) have shot with Leicas a lot and many still do. This is the 11th edition of the LUG Yearbook, all of which are still available on Blurb, I believe, and most of my 22 contributions have been Leica shots.

But sometimes we have iPhones at hand.

Hi Mike,
Also surprised about the Japan Exc++++ listing disappointment. In my extensive Ebay buying experience cameras Ex-Japan are generally light-years ahead in terms of condition and description, compared to for example used cameras from the US or Australia (my other 2 most used markets). If I have ever had an issue with a camera from Japan I simply contact the seller and they are generally VERY receptive to remedying the issue. To date only 2 issues:
1) I purchased an F2 with motor drive.. The exposure diode for underexposure didn't light up and the motor drive didn't work. I negotiated a discount of 50%, no questions asked. The camera certainly wasn't advertised as EXC+++..
2) Another time there was undisclosed corrosion of the battery chamber of an F5, however the camera worked perfectly and again the buyer remedied with a discount.

In any event good communication is essential with any purchase as a matter of course, with the usual questions asked upfront (fungus, 100%, corrosion issues..).
Funny you mention KEH, because in one of my few dealings with them, I purchased a battery grip for my Canon Eos 3, listed as Exc, and it arrived in truly UGLY condition.. Working.. but UGLY. I never purchased from them again, but this was over 10 years ago, so maybe they have improved their game.

Rollei 6000/6008 Battery LiFePO4 Replacement

[I feel like I just watched a tutorial called "how to play a Beethoven sonata." I.e., one that assumes the student has skills and knowledge he in no way and no wise possesses.... :-) --Mike]

To answer your question, the editor, Brian Reid, is not terribly strict about pictures using non-Leica gear as long as they are submitted by Leica User Group (LUG) people.

Japanese people use Yahoo Auctions, not Ebay, which had pulled out of Japan a decade ago but I guesa ia back.

For anyone coming to Japan, I recommend Fujiya Camera in Nakano for great qualitu equipment at better than US prices.

After digital full frame got up to around 25 megapixels I breathed a good riddance to film – no more labs, no more buying films, no more money spent, but when I would look through my slide collection, I noted the fine color saturation, the blue skies that didn't look like "digital skies" and would wax nostalgic. I was hired in 2017 to do a panoramic calendar that would be printed almost 5 feet wide and decided to use my XPan Hassy. The process: !) find someone who sells my favorite Velvia stock, then wire the money and wait for a package. 2) Shoot the film. 3) Send the film canisters off to a lab 800 miles away and wait for an invoice, wire more money, then wait for a package. 4) Edit, selecting the best chromes for scanning then send a package to the scanning lab. 5) Wait for a package and then make the final cut and do post-production (tweaking the color, cropping, sharpening,etc.) with the added chore of cleaning up the scans because of DUST appearing in the image. 6) Send the files by internet to the publisher.
The low ISO and panoramic format required the use of a tripod. The low speed required introduced a lot of motion blur in the people/vehicles in the photos that were mostly urban landscapes. The backgrounds were super sharp but the action had various degrees of blurring. I think many younger photographers/editors have never had to deal with the aesthetic aspect of subject movement in photos. True to Velvia, the final results were saturated but seemed very realistic - a sort of "slightly improved reality'.

Good excuse for a trip to Tokyo.

I dismantled my darkroom years ago, when I determined that I could make good inkjet prints. I have no interest in going back into a darkroom - back problems - but have all the equipment packed and in storage. My daughter has been thinking about redoing the darkroom in the basement of the house that I moved into about three years ago. The first iteration of the darkroom drained into the sewer - my current house has a septic system, as I am guessing that yours does. If so, how do you plan on dealing with the disposal of the chemicals?

Why there are non leica pictures in LUG Annual:
From the preface:
So even though we are the Leica Users Group, not all of us are still able to use the Leicas of our younger years or afford to buy newer models. As editor, I was happy to include pictures taken by people who once used Leicas (and thus know what “Leica Photography” means) but can’t use their Leicas any more.
There are four phone-camera pictures in this book. Can you ind them?

Re: the Leica Users Group link:
Whatever I liked or often didn’t think much of there is a commonality in the B&W photos. A prevalent style these days is to print these with tonality leaning strongly to the black. Well lit shots don’t have to be ‘high key’ but to my eye they shouldn’t look like they were taken in the low flat light under the black clouds of an impending storm [the airplane shot is the worst example]. But that tonal style is dominant here and in other sites with B&W photos. Today’s fashion. I like more tonal gradation.

Exc = Ex camera?

And why this obsession with used cameras from Japan?

Mike, I sense an energy in your writing about film photography and darkroom practice that has been missing in your writing for some time. Keep it up, and good luck. :)

I have limited experience with eBay purchases from Japan, but all my transactions were totally satisfactory. Film arrives in less than two weeks (to a USA address). One note: many older lenses from Japan appear to have fungus issues. Japan has a long and humid summer, and possibly many Japanese homes were not air-conditioned in the old days. So beware.


Anyone buying on eBay from any seller needs to proceed with care. That said, I've had positive buying experiences with a number of Japan-based sellers, all Japanese nationals. I would offer this thought about the admittedly somewhat silly "Mint Minus" and "Excellent +++++" ratings many Japan-based sellers use. For most of them, English is a second or third language. Having lived and worked in Japan, I'd cut them some slack.

If you understand that challenge, read descriptions carefully, and most of all contact them with questions, I believe you're likely to have a good buying experience. Among the Japan-based sellers I've purchased from with positive results: Wakaz_O; Sakuya_Camera08; You.camera; Cam-allcamera; and, Nobu.sumi-50. As others have noted, I also heartily endorse mapcamera, their eBay store and their remarkable complex in Tokyo's Shinjuku neighborhood. Now if only Katsumido Camera in Ginza would open a storefront on eBay.

Oh my gosh, Mike. I've been ebay the past couple of days, and I see what you mean! I'm looking at Fuji GS645s and similar small folders, and I'm seeing so many listed as mint and Ex++++ that are ugly as sin. Bizarre.

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