Everyone has a dream camera. I have…well, a dream team: a set of cameras designed to meet specific needs and moods, from the small to large formats. This approach satisfies my obsessive need to compartmentalise things but also means I don’t get trapped in the mental spiral that is singling out just one as “the best”. After all, with all the varied photographic styles, approaches, mindsets, moods and preferences, saying one thing is “the best” is a little absurd, don’t you think?
In short, there’s no such thing as a “Swiss army knife” of a camera. Thank god.
When it came to the task of adding a Nikon F6 to my dream team, I wanted to let someone else do all the legwork for a change. Armed with my research and kit list, I engaged the services of one Bellamy Hunt (Mr Japan Camera Hunter). Since there’s not a hell of a lot out there on the web about using procurement services like JCH, I thought I’d add a few of my own about the experience. Before that, please indulge me in a little disclosure and backstory.
I’ve known Bellamy for several years now. He was one of the first people I bugged for an interview all the way back in June 2015 and is a regular “guest” on an occasional podcast I record with 35mmc’s Hamish “no MC” Gill. Prior to contacting Bellamy about the F6, I had not previously expressed an interest in using his services to buy gear. Additionally, based on my conversations with others who have used JCH before, I can’t see anything in the service I received that would single me out as being “special”. In fact, until this article goes live, he doesn’t even know I’m writing anything about it.
On to the backstory of that dream team. My film camera dream team spans formats and types, from large format field cameras to 110, medium format, 35mm rangefinders and SLRs…and that’s where this story begins. In amongst the variations I’m trying to cross off the list are two slots set aside for 35mm SLR cameras. The first has already been filled by the Nikon FM3A (on two separate occasions but that’s another story).
The second was set aside for a Nikon F6.
Some years ago I found myself thinking about autofocus Nikon cameras and after a fair bit of research, I landed on the Nikon F100. It’s a highly capable camera that, in my opinion, has the best of both pro and consumer worlds: it’s compact, light, extendable and has a killer metering and autofocus system. It will also work with pretty much every vintage Nikon lens I own.
I bought the F100 but what I really wanted was the F6. Over the years, I have continued to convince myself that the F100 is all the camera I need. It worked until now. There’s always been this little voice in the back of my head chewing at me about the F6.
The camera has a few small but important functional enhancements over the F100 that ticked boxes for me but functionality aside for a moment, there’s one big reason for the Nikon F6 over nearly every single other Nikon autofocus film camera body: it represents the final effort by Nikon to put everything they knew into making their last, greatest autofocus film camera.
I’ve been keeping an eye out on Nikon F6 prices for a few years now. They haven’t inflated nearly as much as other film cameras – hello Hasselblad XPan – but they have been steadily rising. Where a boxed F6 in near-mint condition could be had for as little as ~$600 in 2016, that price today hits an average of ~$1,200 and over twice that for new, in box. Prices seem to bear no relation to the age of the cameras on sale. A mint condition mid 4-digit serial number camera can go for several hundred USD more than once in excellent condition with a serial number in the 20,000-30,000 range.
Battling through the options is where Bellamy came in. I dropped him a line on Facebook Messenger, then called him up to tell him what I wanted:
- Nikon F6, high serial number (>20k), boxed.
- Nikon MB-40 battery pack, boxed.
- Nikon Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D, boxed or…
- Nikon Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-D, boxed.
I explained my budget was in the ballpark of $1,200 (USD) plus whatever a reasonable cost would be for the battery grip and each of the lenses. Bellamy gave me his take on the camera/lens combinations I’d mentioned. I told him I’d email him and signed off.
The next couple of weeks were busy for me and the request totally slipped my mind. When the F6 edged back into my thoughts, I tried to remind myself to drop him a line via email to formalise the request (which I didn’t).
I eventually called him again.
About a week, maybe ten days had passed by that point. Bellamy told me he’d had the chance to check out a few cameras in my ballpark, that a boxed 20-35mm lens would be challenging due to their scarcity and that price would be a premium. We chatted for a few minutes and I promised to send him an email, which I did a few hours later.
I cannot stress this enough: if you are asking for or engaging a service, formalise it. Things get busy and I totally went the wrong way round to engage Bellamy’s services. Don’t be like me.
I received an email back from Bellamy within 24 hours. He provided details on what he was able to find for me – all excellent options. He laid out his pricing structure (engaging Japan Camera Hunter is not free and rightly so) and gave some context around the details he’d sent.
After checking out his recommendations, I changed my mind somewhat. I was wavering on getting the battery grip and thinking twice about getting a lens at the same time. I’ll be honest, I felt a little guilty at potentially stripping the bottom out of the deal and for the third time, I picked up the phone to bother him.
Paraphrasing: “I’m not 100% sure about the grip. It looks cool but I don’t think there are any other reasons beyond that to get one. I also think I’m going to hold back on the lens until I can figure out how I’ll be using the camera.”
That was the gist of it. Bellamy’s response (paraphrasing again), “Take your time on the lens. I’ve spent some time with an F6 and MB-40. It’s a good combo and works very well but with that lens (17-35), it’s heavy and you’ll start feeling it after a few hours walking around.”
Hang on, was he telling me to not spend money?
I went on to explain that there was a similar condition grip locally for not much less money (about $50 less) than the ones he’d sent over and that I might consider that in the future. He told me to spend some time to think about what I wanted to do and just start with the camera first.
Integrity. I loved that response. We finalised the details, Bellamy sent over a Paypal invoice (which included his very reasonable percentage-based fee) and I paid it. All I needed to do was wait until the thing arrived.
I got the camera.
My expectations were surpassed. The camera was even better than it looked in the pictures. The seller’s description was edging on cautious and I have yet to find a single mark on the body. Were it not for a bit of scuffing on the box and the lack of a paper guard on the shutter, you could have convinced me it was new in box never having been used.
Bellamy threw in some film (JCH Streetpan 400, naturally), a KASSHA single-use camera, Japanese plum candy and dried squid (think beef jerky but squid). I was sad to learn that my request for an Instax of him wearing Disney Princess apparel was not included.
Understandably with new gear, I’ve been using the camera pretty much every single day since receiving it (which incidentally took less than 48 hours after being shipped). It’s perfect and so far, everything I had anticipated plus a few pleasant surprises. You’ll likely want to stay tuned for an upcoming “VS” article where I pit it against the F100.
All that’s left to say is a big thanks to Bellamy for the excellent service and fantastic camera.
Japanese camera sellers on eBay have rightly so taken a lot of flack in recent years for their occasionally absurd descriptions and fantastical grasp of “quality”. Reading “EXC ++++++++” sends shivers down my spine. It’s not a problem that affects all of them and there are a number I still regularly do business with and trust implicitly.
That said, if you want to buy the absolute best quality gear from Japan, I would highly recommend using Japan Camera Hunter. The attention to detail and supporting advice is excellent.
When it comes comparing the price of JCH’s services (which I won’t discuss here), it’s considerably less than using other, much larger, generic “Japanese procurement services” and much more rewarding knowing you’re helping to support someone at the heart of our community.
Thanks for reading,
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