Singapore is famous for its cheap camera prices – here’s a quick rundown of where to look to see if you can find a real bargain priced camera in the Lion City
If you’re looking for a camera at a cheap price, it’s hard to find a better place to shop than Singapore. Hong Kong is probably the only other place in Asia that has as competitive prices for camera gear as Singapore, (see Buying Cameras In Hong Kong, Buying Cameras In Thailand and Buying Cameras In Tokyo by way of comparison) but Hong Kong is not quite so easy to navigate your way around if you’re a stranger and sales staff can be a lot more aggressive when trying to pressure you into closing the deal.
Besides the ease of finding your way to the main camera shopping areas and usually helpful staff, the other great thing about shopping for cameras in Singapore is that most – but not all – outlets can provide you with the paperwork to claim the 7% General Sales Tax back because you are a tourist. You simply hand in this paperwork at Singapore’s Changi Airport and recieve your refund in cash or have it refunded to the same credit card you used to make the purchase. Ensure you ask if a shop can provide the 7% GST refund and also whether the price they are quoting already includes that discount or not. Also check whether there is any surcharge for paying by credit card rather than cash – many shops charge 2 per cent extra to cover the credit card charge.
The key to Singapore shopping is to know what you want and be aware of the price you would pay for it back home. If you are from the UK, you will find Singapore prices are much cheaper compared with the prices for the same camera items on Amazon.co.uk. However, if you are from the USA, you may well find that camera items are still actually cheaper on Amazon.com – the US is such a huge market for camera gear that it is often the cheapest in the world. (Bizarrely,it’s cheaper to buy Canon cameras made in Japan in New York than it is in Tokyo). Therefore, you need to be aware of the prices of what you to buy to ensure you are actually saving money. Check Amazon for a quick idea of price ranges.
The one possible drawback is that you have to check carefully if you are getting an international warranty with your camera or if the warranty is valid for Singapore only. In Thailand it is common practice that the warranty only covers Thailand – if you take it to a service centre outside of the country, they won’t recognise the warranty.Given that a warranty typically only lasts a year, many people think it’s worth the very small risk that the camera might be genuinely defective for the money they can save on the purchase. This is a decision you have to weigh up for yourself.
If you’ve digested all that and still want to go explore Singapore’s many camera shops, here’s a few of my favourites. Note that this is a very small selection of shops and ones that I’ve shopped in personally and been happy with the price and service. If you have a first hand recommendation for another camera shop in Singapore, you’re welcome to leave a comment.
I’ve marked the Singapore camera shops on a Google Map and I also recommend the Groovy Map to Singapore which has all these places marked on it. (I’m a big fan of Groovy Map Bangkok and Groovy Map Hong Kong too – they are easily the best city maps around).
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Sim Lim Square (Rochor Road) – probably the most famous IT mall in Singapore, Sim Lim Square has hundreds of electronics shops crammed into several stories. Camera stores cover pretty much every brand, with Nikon and Canon having a predictably heavy presence. There are sharp sellers here so it pays to know what you want and what price you are looking for. Ask several retailers for their best price on particular items. I found Alan Photo on the ground floor to be very well priced for Nikon lenses and to not mess around with quoting low prices and then being suddenly “out of stock”.
Funan IT Mall (Update 2016: Funan has now closed down) – the big rival to Sim Lim, Funan is a bit more upmarket in feel and has a mix of other stores besides electronics. John 3:16 is my favourite shop in here – the name comes from the Bible and while I’m not religious, I’ve always felt the shop owners genuinely care about providing their customers with good, honest service. Stocks Nikon and Canon DSLRs, lens, compact cameras and ThinkTank and LowePro camera bags.
Peninsular Plaza – only a few steps away from Funan, Peninsular is home to numerous camera shops, the biggest being Cathay Photo, one of Singapore’s most famous camera outlets. There is also K13 on the second floor, which has an excellent selection of camera bags from Kata and Tamrac amongst others
TK Photo, Shaw Towers (Beach Road) – this is a smaller shop that stocks ThinkTank camera bags amongst other brands. The owner was very helpful is showing me how the bag interior can be configured.
If you are looking for particular items that might be hard to track down, it’s also worth browsing the Club Snap forums which deal with buying cameras in Singapore – they can recommend specific outlets not mentioned here.
For me personally, Singapore is usually distinctly cheaper than Bangkok for camera gear – even though Nikon DSLRs are actually manufactured in Thailand! – and the sheer range of equipment and accessories available is much wider. I’ve bought my Nikon D70s and more recently a Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens (at Alan Photo, ground floor of Sim Lim) and a ThinkTank Airport Takeoff camera bag (at John 3:16) in Singapore – stuff I just couldn’t find in Bangkok. Happy shopping and please let me know if you have any tips that can help others find great camera bargains in Singapore.