Meet Bellamy Hunt, the man behind Japan Camera Hunter.
Bellamy runs an incredibly niche, incredibly successful, and incredibly awesome business finding rare cameras for customers all over the world. Based in Tokyo, Bellamy knows every camera dealer in the city, making him one hell of a film aficionado. basically, if you want a camera, Bellamy will find it for you—along with the other 5,474 customers he receives requests from every year. We asked him about his collection, rarities, and his first ever roll of film.
Did you change your last name to Hunt, or did your surname simply seal your fate at birth?
I was born Hunt, so that ties in rather nicely with what I do.
How many cameras do you own?
That’s a difficult question. I own probably around eight-to-ten cameras. But I only use two of them. The others I have for sentimental reasons, or I’ve been asked to pass them on to someone, so I don’t really consider them my property, I’m just holding on to them until they find their next home.
What are two of the rarest cameras you have ever found?
I’ve found so many incredibly rare items that it’s hard to pinpoint the rarest. There are “glamour” pieces that are considered rare by people who know a little bit about cameras, but the truly rare items are usually really obscure and only for the hardcore collector. I found an original Black Paint Leica M2 with winder and matching lens that had belonged to a photojournalist in Chicago. That camera had a documented history, which made it rare. But the rarest item I found was probably a lens. A very rare Leica Elcan 66mm military prototype lens. I wish I never sold that.
Is there a camera that has eluded you all this time?
Hmmm, not really, I think I have found just about everything that I have dreamt of finding, which is one of the really great things about my job. Thing is, I haven’t been able to buy some of the rarest, as they’re in secret collections. But I know where they are, so it’s just a matter of time.
How many customers seek your services a year, roughly?
I shudder to think about it. I get 10-to-15 requests a day, and I make sure I reply to every single one of them.
Do you think you could operate such a successful niche career in any other city than Tokyo?
I’ve thought about this in the past, as I’m originally from the UK. I think I could, but it would involve a lot more travel. Japan has a very convenient location and history for this business. I am quite happy here.
Can you tell us a story about a time your work has lead you on a wild goose chase, or a funny situation you landed yourself in trying to hunt down a camera?
Funny stories are few and far between in this business, sadly. I have had plenty of wild goose chases though, being taken to strange locations and dusty cabinets. There have been several times when I have had to sit through endless cups of tea and photographs of the entire family, to then be presented with a box of junk cameras full of mould and spiders which I have to take away with me gleefully. But sometimes it can be a win, I have found some gems in some of those boxes.
Finally, what was on the first roll of film you ever took?
Oh god, erm. Well, I had a Kodak Instamatic when I was really young, but I don’t remember much about it. I pinched my mother’s Minolta AF-S when I was ten, so that would probably be my first roll, but I can’t remember it. I’ve still got my first rolls from an SLR when I was 12, though.