I remember when I first started into photography back in university. My dad gave me his old pentax spotmatic f to use for my first photography course. I was a little embarrassed as the other students had newer cameras that seemed so much cooler than mine. Little did I know that 20 years later that same camera would be a hot item on the streets of Seoul.
I have to admit that I have purchased most of my film cameras from Ebay or through the various camera groups that I am in on facebook. However, when I saw my friend Noe Alonzo’s video on YouTube, it got me thinking. So I decided to head up to Seoul to see what I could find.
This is probably one of the most famous places to buy any type of camera gear. However, the biggest thing to remember is that you are not going to get the kinds of “deals” that you may think of. If you want those, go online and see what coupang has to offer. These guys have to keep the lights on and thus typically won’t budge to much on the prices. The common phrase I heard a lot of is “It’s more expensive on the internet…” and there for they won’t drop their price too far.
With regards to film cameras, I found that Carrot Camera located at the far end of the street is one of the better shops. If you put your back to the big gate and walk towards the subway station, Carrot Camera will be just before the stairs. The historic building/coffee Shop will be directly across the street. They have a decent selection of film cameras to choose from.
There are a ton of shops side-by-side here. This is great because if you don’t like the price that one shop gives you, just head next door and see what they have. We found the prices a tad high but the cameras were in great condition. They were serviced and all in working order. Keep that in mind too. These guys have repaired the cameras and have made sure that they all are in working order. This is a plus when purchasing vintage cameras. IF something goes wrong you can take it back to them and get it repaired.
This is treasure hunters paradise for all things vintage. It gets pretty busy and you may get pushed around a little by some elderly people but that is half the fun. If you get out at look around there are some pretty interesting finds.
One thing to keep in mind here is that what you buy is what you get. That means that if the camera doesn’t work that is that. Also, if you do find a nice working camera in good condition, it will most likely be more than you expect. More than a few times I found great cameras that were upwards of 250,000 won. The sellers know what they have and how much they can get.
Discounts are also not easy to get. I picked up two decent cameras in great shape and tried really hard to get a better price. I managed to get about 20,000 won off the total price but that was a hard earned discount. So, I would would not push it too much as these guys are not really willing to come down too much. Many of the vendors said the exact same thing as I head in Dongdaemun “It’s more expensive on the internet…” and it meant the exact same there here.
The other thing to note is that the condition of many of the cameras when you first enter the market from Dongmyo station, are pretty beat up. Don’t let that discourage you. Take a look at Noe Alonzo’s video to get an idea of what is there. You really have to take your time and explore to find something that is in good condition and in working order. They are there, but harder to find.
One of the best places that I have found during my trip to Seoul recently was a shop called “Flimlog” and they won me over. The reason being is that the shop is truly made for film photographers. Check out their site for more information and location too!
Their shop is tucked away in a collection of buildings near Dongdaemun Design Plaza and it is a little hard to find. The easiest way to get there is to head out from exit 5 of Dongdaemun Design Plaza Station and walk to the main intersection (away from DDP) and turn right. You will see two identical hotels. Head towards the one on the right side of the road called Hotel Designers #2. As walk there, you will see a building set back from the road with a KB Bank and a CU mart. That is where you have to go. Follow the alley beside the building and look for the yellow FILM vending machine and Kodak sign on the fence.
Filmlog has vending machines for their film and disposable cameras and they are awesome. It is one of the cooler things that I have seen in a long time. They have them throughout the city too. The neat thing is that if you bring back the container, they will reward you with an upcycled film canister keychain, magnet or memo holder for free!
Inside the store they have a great selection of film at reasonable prices. It is a great option if you are looking for some different kinds of film. They have a small selection of film cameras. Now, these are pricey but all are in mint condition from what I saw.
The last thing is that the staff can speak English extremely well and are super helpful. They provide great service and will help you with whatever you may need.
The bottomline here is that film photography is alive and well in Korea. Fact is that during my search for some decent cameras, many places were full of young people doing the same. The fact that places like Filmlog exist shows that the format is making a comeback.
My advice here is to do some research and find a camera that works for you. Again, don’t go expecting to get a Leica for 5,000 won. If you want a guaranteed working camera, purchase one from a shop rather than Dongmyo.