Since they were introduced a few years ago, I was interested in picking up several Japan Camera Hunter 35mm film cases. Simple, smart idea, right? But then I saw that they cost $15.99 each at Freestyle and I pumped the brakes. I would need at least three, preferably four of these to keep in my bag. I could buy a whole brick of 35mm for that money. But then I noticed that there are knock-off’s from China for sale on eBay that look identical but were only $2.93 each, AND the seller had a 5% off deal if you bought three or more.
Not wanting to support a copycat business or paying $16 and shipping for a small plastic box, I refrained on both. But recently when I found out that Japan Camera Hunter actually took the design of his case from a Fuji case that was discontinued. This made me feel much less guilty about purchasing the Chinese case.
So I bought one JCH case from Freestyle for $15.99 plus shipping and THREE Chinese cases for $13.21 WITH shipping. The JCH case arrived in about 4 days. I lost track on the Chinese cases after the second week but they eventually arrived.
Can you tell which is which?
The black case is JCH and the white cases are Chinese. I am pretty sure that I ordered black Chinese cases but whatever.
Notice that there is no appreciable difference in the look or size of the cases. Film fits in them nicely and neatly, regardless of manufacturer. However, I noticed the following nuances:
–The JCH case shows some tool marks where the plastic nipples from the injection molds were filed off. The Chinese cases did not show any such tool marks, they actually look more professional in this regard.
–The JCH case was much shinier than the Chinese cases. Gloss v. Matt finish if you will. Going along with this, the JCH case is slick in the hand where the Chinese cases have a slight texture to them making them less slick.
–I was able to flex the lid of the JCH case slightly more than the Chinese case, which is more rigid.
–When loaded with film and picked up by their lids, the JCH bottom fell out of the lid. One of the three Chinese cases did the same but two of the Chinese cases held together when picked up by the lid. I found that by swapping the JCH and Chinese lids, both could be picked up by the lid safely. Maybe other JCH cases are a better fit but to me, this demonstrates that the JCH cases are not built to any tighter tolerances than the knock-off’s.
–Inside the bottoms of the Chinese cases, I observed some sort of brown marks on the injection mold circles. I am guessing this is caused by heat slightly charring the white plastic during manufacture. Nothing like this is visible on the JCH case but of course my copy is black.
–A feature pointed out on another site was that the bottom of the JCH case is inscribed with “JAPAN CAMERA HUNTER” AND “MADE IN JAPAN”. However, the Chinese cases are not without charm, sporting the inscriptions “VIVA FILM!” and “MADE IN CHINA”.
–The ONLY design difference I found was maybe an important one and the reason why the Chinese lids, fit better and are more rigid. Notice that inside the Chinese lid are little lines molded in around the edge. The JCH case does not have these. They add rigidity and a bit of grip to the lid.
Anyway, so these cases are simple devices and I don’t want to bore you with too much detail about them. I may write again about how they are in use though. For now I just wanted to answer the question, should I spring for the Japan Camera Hunter cases or just get the Chinese knock-off’s?
If you don’t shoot a lot, and just need one case, the JCH case is available more quickly and perhaps more reliably from Freestyle (if you live in the US) and isn’t THAT expensive by itself.
Personally, while I’d love to support JCH and Freestyle, it just doesn’t make sense for someone who shoots as much film as I do to buy his cases. I wouldn’t go so far to say that the Chinese cases are BETTER but for the price, the product is for all intents and purposes identical in quality and JCH isn’t the original designer of these cases anyway. Though I certainly do thank him for apparently bringing it back to market!
I’d like to see is an iteration of this case made from the same flexible plastic of 35mm film canisters and with an equally simple, smart, locking lid. Part of me loves the organization these cases bring to my bag but part of me is worried that their lack of air and water tightness, as well as the need to pick them up by their bottoms, or their likelihood to crack or shatter on impact on a hard surface, is going to bite me at some point. I may keep some gaffers’ tape in my bag to help them along!
Anyway, thanks for reading and please, if you have any thoughts or experience with these film cases, I’d love to hear from you!
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