We understand what it’s like to deal in photo work in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, we have one of the best in the city working behind the lens. This month he really wanted to apply his years of experience in Saigon to an approachable guide for anyone that’s looking to start their journey in photography, or veterans that may be new to the city. From old standby repair shops, to the best place to buy a GoPro or a drone, it’s all here. Photos and words by Vinh Dao.
Best Priced One-Stop Shop
Named after the family who mans the counters here, this is a bit of an institution in Saigon. Originally located in the Saigon Tax Centre, it was a relief to many photographers in town that the shop reopened in Lucky Plaza on Dong Khoi. The shop sells an assortment of brands such as: Canon, Nikon and Fuji. Also, whatever they don’t have in stock at the store, they can find within a day or two elsewhere for you.
However, their stock isn’t the only reason for this shop’s longevity. It’s their rock-bottom prices that have made them a mainstay for photographers based in Saigon. In fact, most of the time, the prices are as cheap or cheaper than reputable online retailers such as B&H Photo. One caveat is that all the gear is sold under Grey Market. What this means is that the goods are not sold by an authorized distributor. While you won’t get a factory warranty, the camera shop offers their own warranty that is comparable to the official brand.
Along with the standard accessories you will find in any camera shop in town, the front cases also offer used cameras and lenses that you can find at discounted prices.
69 Dong Khoi, D1
Tel: 0903 334 777
Camera Repair Shops
While Ho Chi Minh City has its fair share of authorized camera dealers, there are times when a cheaper fix is necessary. There are a plethora of camera repair shops located around Bitexco tower that can fix your gear at a reasonable price.
However, we have to recommend one of the most consistent shops in town from our own personal experience. Located on a street known for antiques, the technicians here have been fixing cameras and lenses for decades. Walking into the shop, you will usually be greeted by one of the four technicians that will do the repairs. Usually one or two of them speak pretty good English, so explaining your camera problem won’t be a major issue. They have enough experience under their belt to know to immediately give you an approximate amount of the cost, and the estimated duration of all repairs. If they can’t give an immediate quote, you can leave the camera or lens with them, and they can call you with the diagnosis and details.
Although, when you go to these non-certified camera shops, just remember the old adage: Caveat Emptor!
No. 10A, Tran Hung Dao, D1
Tel: 0838 389 383
Nikon HCMC – Vietnam Business Center
No. 57 – 59 Ho Tung Mau, D1
Tel: 0834 224 883
No. 11 Le Cong Kieu, D1
Tel: 0882 958 88
While this shop doesn’t technically sell cameras on their own, we had to add them to our list due to the rising popularity of remote-controlled drones. In all honesty, this is our kind of hobby store. Displayed prominently on the wall are a couple of two-metre-long replica fighter jets that functioned as drones in a previous life.
This shop is a certified DJI and Syma drone distributor. While Syma drones aren’t as well known as DJI, they are cheaper, and have a lower barrier to entry than the offerings by DJI. If you are looking for a drone from DJI, the shop stocks both the Phantom 4 and the Inspire 1 X3, along with all of the extra goodies one would like to add on. Along with sales, the shop also rents and repairs quadcopter drones. If you are looking for something a bit more beefy, the shop also builds custom orders, but expect to pay a bit more than something in a kit.
Saigon Hobby also sells traditional copter drones in assorted sizes, with the largest coming in at just over two metres. These bad boys will run you close to 2,000USD, but if you are a speed freak, they will meet your expectations, topping out at close to 170KPH.
15 Ly Thai To, D10
Tel: 0838 353 962
Located across the street from 23-9 park, this official GoPro distributor can outfit even the most extreme adrenaline junkie that wants to document their backflipping adventures.
They carry the latest and greatest GoPro cameras at reasonable prices and offer official GoPro warranties to boot. The latest GoPro 5 Black will set you back VND10,100,000, while the diminutive Hero 5 Session goes for VND7,700,000. Need an extra-duty suction cup to affix your GoPro to your motorbike, or a clamp to get that perfect timelapse? This unassuming shop probably has it. The husband-wife team at HTCamera is very knowledgeable and can answer any questions you might have about all things GoPro. If the latest and greatest isn’t what you need, they also sell used GoPro cameras as well. On these selections, they only offer a month warranty.
34 Le Lai, Ben Thanh
Tel: 0942 333 069
Photo Print Shop
Owned by photographer Nguyen Dinh Minh, this print shop is as old-school as it gets. Look around the shop and you can see decades of photography on the walls – all taken by the proprietor. Glass cases hold 35mm film, memory cards, and a small array of disposable cameras. There’s even a seventies-era Canon A-1 film camera, complete with a suite of manual-focus lenses stored in a metal biscuit container. It’s also one of the few places in town that prints slide film.
That’s not to say that they haven’t moved on with the times, as they will take memory cards as well. Head in back and you can see where the magic happens. A couple of industrial-size inkjet printers are constantly running, recreating memories from film, or bits, to proper analog paper.
Saigon Photo Center
114 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, D1
Tel: 0908 832 224