The the greatest thing since sliced cheese (my best so far is 38).
Update: 34 29 28
GlobalCompassion.com (www.globalcompassion.com) features one photographer (or a group of photographers) from around the world each week. The goal is display photography that reveals life (and stories from life) in people and cultures around the world.
This week you can see photos taken by children whose lives revolve around La Chureca, the landfill outside of Managua, Nicaragua. They were part of a special project under the tutelage of Samantha Oulavang.
I’ve lived in Japan for 6 years, and I’ve bought quite a few electronics and photography related items. I’ve upgraded my computer twice, bought (and sold) a video camera and accessories, and purchased (and sold) camera bodies and assorted lenses. I learned early on that the prices (and sometimes the selection) in Tokyo (even in Akihabara, pictured at right) are not all they’re cracked up to be.
Recently, I shopped for a video camera. I consider anything over $200 a big expense, so I compared models and online reviews relentlessly. Finally, I narrowed the choice down to a Sanyo HD1000 (or HD1010) versus a Canon HF100 (or FS100). These camcorders each have pros and cons that I won’t go into. Both combine small form factors with pro-sumer features (notably quality lenses and microphone inputs). The Canons are better at recording high quality video, but the Sanyos have the killer design (small, pocketable, easy to use with one hand, simple editing possible in the camera, etc.). The Sanyo has some trade-offs in quality, but it’s still a great camcorder (for my needs). The Sanyo is also cheaper. It wasn’t an easy decision, but the Sanyo HD1000 won me over, primarily because I know I’ll carry it around and enjoy using it a lot more.
Okay, on to the main point of this article.
I was concerned about where I’d buy the camcorder and getting a good price. I preferred to buy a camcorder in Japan at a decent price so I’d be able to return it if necessary. Then I started running into various issues.
First, the Canon camcorders have English menus as an option (so do the Panasonic and JVC lines). But Sanyo (and Sony) camcorders only have Japanese menus. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me, but it’s a major consideration. I can figure out the Japanese menus, but it takes extra concentration and energy every time I have to make a change. I can’t help wondering why Sanyo and Sony deliberately disable language choices on their Japanese models. Their camcorders sold abroad all offer numerous language options, so they really are disabling the feature. I’m sure they have a strategic reason, but I really appreciate Canon and Panasonic for their consideration of foreigners shopping in Japan (and I assume there are tens of thousands including tourists and people who live here). All other things being equal, I would buy a Canon or Panasonic for this reason alone.
In case you’re wondering, installing the firmware for a foreign model doesn’t solve the language issue. Sony and Sanyo have made deliberate choices to keep foreign languages off their Japanese models. Go figure.
On to price (and availability)…
In the USA, I usually start by checking prices on Amazon.com (I trust them and like their return policies). In Japan, I use www.kakaku.com to compare prices from discount dealers. You need some Japanese to buy from a dealer listed on Kakaku.com, but it’s not hard. Most of them will ship a product to your address (if you can communicate that) and let you pay in cash when it arrives (which works like a breeze). Door-to-door delivery in Japan is so cheap and efficient that you can’t go wrong this way, except that returning a defective product would probably be another story. (I think you’d run into a wall if you wanted to return a product just because you tried it and changed your mind.) But the prices at retail stories, including Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera, are always quite a bit more. You might save a bit by going to Akihabara, but that’s negated by the cost of train tickets and a whole day lost.
I’ll start with the Canon. I found prices quite comparable in Japan and the USA. (If you live in Europe you can expect to pay a lot more; but you know that.) If I wanted to buy the Canon, I could have done so very easily at a decent price. As I said, it would have come with English menus as an option, and I would have been very satisfied with the transaction.
Oddly, one Canon model that I considered (the FS100) wasn’t available in Japan. I could only find the FS10 (a more expensive version with built in memory). The FS100 had been available in the USA and in other countries for some time, so why not in Japan? Maybe Canon wanted their Japanese customers to subsidize the line by buying the more expensive model. Who knows? Anyway, the FS100 finally showed up in Japan a couple of days ago. It’s a standard definition camcorder with high quality build and features. If it was at least US$200 cheaper, I might have bought it. But ultimately it’s a standard definition camcorder being sold at the same price as Canon’s own high definition model (the HF100). I may not need high definition camcorder now, but why pay more for a camcorder that’s essentially outdated? (Actually, I can think of some reasons, but none of them were strong enough to make me even consider the FS100 at that price.)
At first it appeared that the prices on the Sanyo were also consistent between Japan and the USA. In fact, the price in Japan was about US$50 cheaper. But during the course of last week something strange happened. The price on the HD1000 went up. It started at about US$520 two weeks ago via a a couple of dealers on Kakaku.com. I actually called about buying it then, but the dealer I contacted had sold his last unit earlier in the day. In the next three days the cheapest price on the HD1000 climbed from US$520 to US$720. Now it’s back down to US$580 (slightly cheaper than buying from Amazon.com in the USA).
On a side note, Sanyo has released a newer (slightly better) model, the HD1010, which is only available in Japan. Last week the price of the HD1010 decreased on Kakaku.com from about US$1200 to about US$900 (where it stands today).
As the price in Japan increased, buying an HD1000 from Amazon.com (in the USA) looked better and better. I couldn’t help wondering if those Kakaku.com dealers were selling returned or refurbished items. They are obviously working with small quantities that come and go.
In the end, I decided that the concerns about buying in Japan versus in the USA (return-ability and warranty) balanced each other out. Furthermore, family members are traveling in the USA right now, and they can carry an extra box back for me. So I placed the order at Amazon.com yesterday. Besides getting the same price that I would have gotten in Japan, other benefits included:
So if you’re really excited about shopping for electronics, cameras, etc. in Japan you may want to take a quick breath and reconsider. Japanese products are usually available in the USA at lower prices. Some Japanese products sold in Japan intentionally omit the English menus (though you can buy “export” items intended for sale outside of Japan at special stories for vastly inflated prices). Accessories (like memory) are often much cheaper in the USA.
During the past six years that I’ve been living in Japan, I’ve bought personal electronics and photography items mainly from online stores and EBay sellers based in the USA. It’s not always worth having items delivered to Japan, but I tend to wait and make these purchases when I go to the USA myself or know someone who is traveling from the USA to Japan. The price is usually cheaper even for (or especially in the case of) products made in Japan.
I know lots of people love shopping for electronics, cameras, and photographic equipment in Japan. I think many simply enjoy the experience of shopping in Akihabara and Japan’s giant retailers. Or they’re coming from Europe and other places where prices are out of control. And depending what you’re in the market for Tokyo is a great place to shop for certain things, liked used photographic equipment, high end electronics, and the latest and greatest gizmo before it’s released worldwide.
I finally finished The Kite Runner. I started it weeks ago but stopped about halfway through. I was profoundly moved, and I didn’t feel ready to handle the rest. Now I’m very glad I came back and saw to the end. It’s an amazing story. I want to watch it again with my wife; but not right away. Do you ever avoid things because you know you’ll be moved?
I was looking for a quote from the movie and found the entire story online. You can read it here if you’re interested, or go out and buy the book.
Khaled Hosseini, the author, is an exceptional story teller. I was convinced that his book was a memoir, because it was so real. What startled me was the intense connection with human weakness. We all fail and live with terrible secrets; we all need grace and hope. The one character who doesn’t seem to fail is the “weak one” and “the least” in society (who the author describes in his text as being like “a lamb”). His purity sets the evil around him in stark contrast and ultimately signals hope.
By the way, Hosseini’s second book has already been published with ecstatic reviews. I’m thinking of picking up a copy, although I’ve got a shelf full of books waiting. But I can always find time for a well-told story. A Thousand Splendid Suns tells of story of two women in Afghanistan. It’s another story incisively revealing our shared human condition and hope set in suffering, turmoil, and moments of grace — all within the history and culture of that place.
From “now on” I’ll be posting photos, videos (!), and writings here at Photosensibility.com (www.photosensibility.com). Please update your bookmarks and/or RSS feeds. I know it’s a pain; I’ll try to stay put for a long time.
BTW, the photo is the Shibuya Starbucks at 5am.
Why change? I’ve been frustrated posting a “photo a day” ad nauseam. It was fun and expressive, but it’s not interesting enough. I also love to write, and I want to post videos. I want to communicate in more diverse and effective ways. My photo blog (powered by Pixelpost) was well suited for photos but not for much else. Two things pushed me over the brink. First, WordPress came out with a wonderful new gallery feature which allows users to post photographs in sets. I think this is a better way to appreciate photography than viewing one isolated photo per day. Second, someone (Edwardo) left a comment under a recent photo saying, “There are times when your photos makes me wish you did some video…” That comment clicked, and I began to ask, “Why not?” But Pixelpost is not ready for video. WordPress offered much more opportunity to expand and then keep adjusting as I go.
So you can expect to see videos coming soon…
Just to recap, for the past few years (amazing how fast time passes), I’ve been posting a “photo a day” on a couple of different photo blogs. I wonder if anyone remembers when I posted photos AND text on my original MoveableType blog (still located at www.japanwindow.com/blog/). Back then posting photos with MoveableType was a real pain in the neck. I got tired of all that work and switched over to the “pure” photo blog format (at www.japanwindow.com and finally at www.photosensibility.com/photoblog/). I’ve also tried keeping a separate text blog on the side (most recently at www.globalcompassion.com/andy/). Now I’m coming full circle and putting everything in one place again. The difference is that now WordPress makes it easy for me to publish photos and text (and video!) and keep it all organized.
Enough about all that. Please come back and see what I mean. I encourage you to get in the spirit of leaving comments. I’d love to see this site become more interactive. I used to have some great conversations at the sites listed above.