Gear Overload:  A Glimpse Inside Shanghai’s Legendary Photography Market

Gear Overload: A Glimpse Inside Shanghai’s Legendary Photography Market

Commentary Gear

One of the many reasons I have enjoyed being an ex-pat in Asia is the abundance of markets you can find throughout the region.  Whether it’s the textile markets in India, or the fish markets of Japan, or the floating markets found in Southeast Asia, they make commerce fun, and visiting one is a great way to get a glimpse of the local culture, its people, and the items they cherish.

Here in Shanghai we have one market that doesn’t really infuse any significant aspect of the local culture, but, for reasons I shall discuss here, still tops my list of favorite markets in the world – I introduce to you, Xing Guang Photographic Equipment Market. 

Xing Guang Photography Market in Shanghai. She ain’t pretty, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Xing Guang takes up two mid-rise buildings in central Shanghai and is populated with not dozens, but literally hundreds of small shops selling absolutely everything that even the most niche of photographers would ever need.  This place is a major danger to any gearhead’s wallet.  Seriously, I’ve spent more money in this place than I care to admit.  Camera bodies, pretty much every lens ever made, tripods, filters, lighting equipment, gimbals, drones … the list goes on and on.  Every time I’ve been in need of a new piece of equipment for the kit, they’ve had it. 

A quality axonometric diagram I found showing the three building layout. For those of you who don’t read Chinese, the red star denotes a money-suck vortex that every photographer in Shanghai has fallen victim to.

The market is located at the corner of a busy intersection and consists of three different buildings – A, B and C.  I tend to shop primarily in Building A, the largest of the three-building ensemble.  The lower two levels are where you’ll find new camera body and lenses, in whichever brand you fancy.  They seriously have everything. 

Even the fanciest of photographers are taken care of here …

The owners have taken cues from the casino industry with this strategically placed ATM — one that, prior to mobile payments becoming ubiquitous, I have emptied on more than one occasion.

Up on the third floor is where you’ll be able to get all your photography accessories taken care of.  Additionally, they have a bookstore dedicated to the best photography books around. This is where you will also find a slew of more vintage lenses as well as various shops to get your equipment serviced or repaired if need be.

Level 04 has a similar offering as the third floor, but additionally offers items that you’d need for a studio setting.  This is also where you can pick up your DJI drone if you’re so inclined. 

For those of you utilizing artificial lighting in your work, the fifth level is the place to be.  They’ve got everything from the names you trust (ProFoto, Godox, etc.) and so much more.  It almost makes me want to start using supplemental lighting in my work.

Finally, on the sixth floor, you can get your photos printed and framed.  I myself recently printed a large-scale framed image of one of my photographs to hang up in the house. 

Happy photographer

For more of a deep dive into this mecca of photographic gear, Shanghai-based photographer, Dave Marco, has a much more detailed guide on his website that you can check out.

These days, virtual shopping has obviously taken over as the primary method of buying products, but when it comes to investing (sometimes quite significantly) in a new piece of photography gear, I feel really fortunate to have a place like this nearby.  It’s been invaluable on several occasions, especially when I am trying to decide between several different pieces of gear.  For example, as we are delving more and more into architectural video, we recently spent an entire afternoon there testing out different stabilization setups.  Different tripods, dollies, gimbals, sliders – we tried them all and took test clips that we could go home and review before eventually deciding on what would work best for us.  YouTube equipment reviews are great, but nothing beats being able to get your own hands-on experience with a new product. 

How do you prefer to purchase new gear?  All online all the time, or do you still find time to venture into a brick-and-mortar store for more of a hands-on shopping experience?  Let us know in the comments!

About Justin Szeremeta
I'm an architect turned photographer based in Shanghai with a penchant for tall buildings.
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