As luck would have it (my kind of luck) the first location I came to just outside of Sapporo train station was Yodobashi Camera. I literally stumbled upon the building, and it took me several moments before the brain realized what it was I was looking at and that I’d been asked to visit there by Matthew Robertson. The irony of finding this place so quickly, if accidentally, was that Matthew said that I should visit the place in an email before my trip started. I looked it up online, but all I found was the Tokyo location. Having found it, I had to take a look inside.
Yodobashi is three jam-packed stories of high technology that just happens to include cameras. Maybe Yodobashi started out years ago just selling cameras, but today it’s camera section only fills part of the second floor. The building itself is at least six stories, with a three story car garage on top of the store proper.
The store sells far more than just cameras. It sells just about everything digital from computers to computer supplies to smart phones and their addons and just about every other electronic and/or digital device currently being manufactured. It’s a huge mash-up advertising, a visually loud display of Japanese capitalism and marketing. Everything I’ve ever read about in America and never really seen, I literally saw here all together under one roof. It was overwhelming.
When I finally reached the photography section on the second floor I discovered that Yodobashi had displays for every manufacturer and model of camera currently on sale in every store, online and brick and mortar, that I’ve ever read about, and a few I’d never seen before. It was like I’d died and gone to heaven.
I spent far more time looking at cameras than taking photographs of them. What I’ve got here are some grab shots I took when I remembered I’d walked into the shop with a camera of my own. I took the display of the Nikon D4 with the Nikkor 500mm sitting on that Gitzo tripod because of all the money it represented (close to $18,000 based on my calculations and the yen exchange rate the day I shot this). There’s no way a shop in Orlando would have something like this just sitting out in an isle. It would have been locked up in a case somewhere and the only way you would be allowed to see it, let alone handle it, is if you promised to buy one. There were Canon 5DMk3s and 1Dxs on display. Every model of Nikon, including the just-released Df and D5300. Sony α7 and α7r. Pentax K3. Olympus E-M1 and E-P5. Ricohs and Sigmas. Every manufacturer, every model. All prominently displayed and within easy reach. A true camera geeks paradise.
And not only on display, but operational. All of the cameras I managed to handle had cards in them, and I was able to fire off a few samples photos on many of the cameras. I got a chance to physically handle and listen to shutters, as well as to look at the results, at least in review on their back screens. Here’s my impressions of some of the more prominent cameras I laid my hands upon;
- Nikon Df. I was most disappointed in the Df. The model I handled was an all-black kit. When I picked it up I was immediately struck by how overly light it was, almost hollow-feeling. I was not impressed with its fit-and-finish. As the owner of a Nikon N90 film camera, I’m used to Nikon quality (and paying for it), at least with regards to its film cameras. And just to remind myself of the quality of current Nikon digital cameras, I checked out the D610 and D800 that were on display as well. As far as overall quality and handling are concerned, the Nikon D610 and D800 exceed the Df, the D800 by quite a bit. I don’t care if the Df has a D4 sensor in it; the Df isn’t a quality camera for $2,800. If I were in the market for a Nikon digital camera, I’d buy anything else from Nikon before buying a Df.
- Sony α7 and α7r. I was most intrigued by the Sony pair. The creation of a camera with a 35mm sized digital sensor in a body the same size and weight of the Olympus E-M1 is a technological tour de force with respect to image quality in such a compact form. The display had the α7 with the 28-70mm kit zoom and the α7r with the 35mm prime. I felt the α7 body was the better of the two, but I fell in love with the 35mm prime, even though it was on the α7r. In my not-so-humble opinion, the combination I would almost purchase would be the 35mm prime on the α7 body. I paid attention to the shutter sounds out of both cameras and found the α7r particularly annoying; it’s just too damn loud. And that was in a store with constant Christmas music (yes, Christmas music) playing in the background. I say almost purchase for several reasons. The first is a lack of native lenses for the cameras. As a user of µFourThirds cameras, I’ve already been through my adapted lens phase. If you want the best from a camera system nothing compares to lenses purpose built for the camera. My second reason for waiting to purchase the α7 is the lack of refinement in the camera’s manufacture. It’s pedestrian and crude, a far cry from the quality you can find on just about every other camera out there, including Sony’s own α99 which was also on display next to it. If I were going to buy an α7, I’d wait for the α7 Mk II and a few more lenses. Until then I’d stick with my E-M5. Which leads me to the:
- Olympus E-M1. As soon as I picked up the E-M1 with the 12-40mm zoom I thanked my lucky stars I don’t have the budget to buy one. Otherwise I’d have walked out of there with the full kit and never looked back. The E-M1 has more quality/ounce than just about every other camera, and punches far above its “weight class” when it comes to overall handling. Focusing, the extremely quiet shutter, the overall fit-and-finish, the EVF – my E-M5 became quite jealous. It was the last camera I handled, and I paid it more attention than just about every other camera. I left it behind with great reluctance.
- Pentax K3. I was very pleasantly surprised by the K3. If I were in the market for an APS-C sensor camera, the K3 would beat out the Nikon D7100 and Canon 70D. I loved the handling of the K3 about as much as the E-M1. And matched with some of Sigma’s latest lenses, especially the 18-35mm f/1.8 (which is still on pre-order, unfortunately), I could be quite productive and quite happy with the K3.
- Everybody Else. In order of preference, they were the Nikon D800, Nikon D610, Canon 5DMk3, Canon 6D, Nikon D7100, Nikon D5300, and the Canon SL1. The Canon SL1 turned into something of a guilty pleasure. I loved the textured surface, and the small size and overall design I found quite pleasing. Many have complained it’s too small, but size wasn’t an issue with me. I would love to see Canon take the SL1 body design and go to a higher overall quality level and capability. I like small cameras like the SL1. The SL1 struck a very positive chord with me. At the right price, I would buy the SL1 with the Canon 40mm pancake and use it. A lot. Note that I am not an ‘L’ lens freak.
After an indeterminate amount of time I finally came up for air and discovered it was lunch and I was hungry. So I left with my business partner and headed back out into Sapporo to find something to eat.