A shopping experience often depends on the store and the staff who serve you. This is especially true when buying a camera as the amount of money involved can be substantial (see below for a personal recommendation).
Taipei is a great place to buy a new camera or accessory, and you can find them throughout the city in specialty camera shops, electronic shopping areas such as Guanghua, and even department stores. However, for my money, when shopping in Taipei the most comprehensive and enjoyable shopping experience is to be had in the BoAi Road area, as within a few blocks there are over 40 stores selling everything from cameras and lenses to bags and other kinds of accessories you did not realise you could not live without.
There are a few things of which you should be aware before embarking on your shopping venture.
Mandarin and Taiwanese will be the primary languages, so if you can take someone who can speak those languages life will be easier. However, some of the stores will have a member of staff who can speak English (see also my recommendation below). Personally, I do research online for the camera I would like, and then head to the shops to see it and ask for alternatives. Almost every camera brand is available in Taiwan, so it’s unlikely you won’t be able to find anything you see online. Another advantage of doing research online is that it can be difficult to understand/express technical specifications when speaking English.
After you have sussed the model you’d like to buy, it’s easy to compare prices with so many shops in such a small area. Although it might not be possible to get the price of the camera down by much (try asking for a cash discount), you might have better luck asking for extras to be thrown in such as a memory card, extra battery etc.
Other things to look out for are the OSD (on-screen display) and documentation. It can be surprisingly difficult to change the language of the OSD when everything is in Chinese, so make sure the shop does it for you. Also be aware that the manuals are often in Chinese only. The major brands will most likely have the manual available as a download from their website, but I would check this first (when doing your original research).
You should also check whether or not the warranty is valid internationally. Other things to check are the voltage of the battery charger (although they virtually all cover a range from 100V to 240V) and the power cord.
With almost 20 years of experience shopping for cameras in Taiwan (and many cameras later), I really feel that it is important that you trust and have confidence in the store/staff and that you do not feel under pressure to buy. If you’re going to make a purchase (which can sometimes involve a fair amount of money), you really want to make sure that you’re giving your money to the right store and person.
For 90% of my camera purchases, I source from Wan Jia International* in the Bo’ai camera street area (Google map). Mr. Joe Zhou (my sales guy) has been selling to me for over 10 years, so I have a 100% confidence in the guy and don’t worry about my purchase (big or small). He provides great service, has a positive attitude and always provides honest and clear recommendations on camera and equipment purchases. He is very knowledgeable about cameras and photo techniques, so I often pick his brain for photo knowledge. Even though I am able to speak Chinese and discuss camera stuff in the language, I speak only English with him. His English is very good and he can explain things clearly to me in English. Another added benefit about purchasing from Mr. Zhou is that he is a really nice person. When I’m in the area, I stop in to say hello and see how everything is going.
It may well be that you find a shop with which you connect, and if it feels right then buy Ho! And as always if you do, please let us know in our forums.
* The contact details for Wan Jia International are: No. 77, Sec. 1, Han Ko St., Taipei City; Tel: (02) 2361-1323; Address in Chinese: 台北市中正區漢口街一段77一1號
(Disclaimer: Taiwan Ho! is not sponsored by nor received any support financial or otherwise for this article. While Taiwan Ho! wishes you a successful shopping experience, we cannot be held responsible for any problems which may arise.)