Cameras for Connoisseurs

by Ann Tsang 

Images: Courtesy of f22 foto space

Is it a vintage cameras shop? Is it a museum? Or is it a photo gallery? The short answer is that f22 at The Peninsula Hong Kong is a delightful marriage of all three, bringing together an exquisite collection of vintage cameras and captivating collections well-curated photo art and photographic coffee table books.

Opened in February 2020 and occupying two corner spaces in the prestigious Peninsula Arcade, the f22 Peninsula boutique and gallery provide a striking second home for the original f22 foto space in Hong Kong’s Wanchai district, which since 2017 has hosted successful exhibitions by celebrated local and overseas photographers including Jing Huang, Simon Go, Palani Mohan, Elliott Erwitt, Wing Chan, Sergey Melnitchenko, Mar Sáez and Martin Parr. f22 has also been accoladed with a number of prestigious awards for its innovative interior design. 

It is also a sister establishment to the F11 Foto Museum in Happy Valley, opened in 2014, inside a lovingly-restored three-storey Art Deco building from the 1930s. Together, f22 and F11 Foto Museum – all named after aperture settings on camera lenses – now offer a special and unforgettable experience for visitors and collectors from all over the world. 

Designed by LAAB Architects, f22 Peninsula brings customers back to the 1920s, a golden era that marked the prevalence of Art Deco, the birth of Modernism in art and architecture, and more importantly, the opening of The Peninsula Hong Kong and the birth of the first Leica camera. 

Inside the 16 metre-long shop window, visitors are greeted by a stunning circular reception with a brass countertop inspired by the film counter of the Leica I Model A. Hovering above the counter centrepiece is an exquisite brass ceiling lamp crafted in the fashion of the Leica Elmar lens from the 1928 vintage, honouring the opening year of The Peninsula hotel. 

In keeping with the modern and artisanal spirit of the Art Deco movement, the ceiling, flooring, and furniture at f22 Peninsula have been made of carefully curated dark hardwood imbued with well-crafted mouldings and bespoke brass details. Together, the design creates a warm and cosy space, somewhat akin to the relaxing and exclusive ambience of an English private club. 

A highlight of the f22 Peninsula space is the heritage display of the remains of a broken column from the 1930s. With the help of conservation experts, this special moulding feature made of layers of white plaster and wood is now conserved in a bespoke glass and wood cabinet. 

The space is divided into three zones, each with its own distinctive character. There is a gallery of vintage cameras and lenses, being some of the rarest and best examples from around the world – all of which are for sale to discerning and well-heeled collectors. Many are from the highly coveted German brand Leica, but other illustrious brands such as Rollei and Hasselblad are also well represented. 

Each night, the gallery is secured by a black-painted steel shutter gate - a contemporary reinterpretation of Hong Kong’s traditional craft and commonly found in local shops. 

Visitors can enjoy photo exhibitions all year round, and the prints are available for purchase.

f22 Peninsula, Ground Floor & Basement, Shop No. W16&18, BW11&13, The Peninsula Arcade, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Tel: 6511 2218

Another focal point is a huge ‘Fake Leica’ camera model built by Chinese artist, Liao Yibai._Other examples of  ‘Fake Leica’ in this size exist in a very limited 

quantity (including one at F11), but this is the only version in the world that is plated in 24-carat gold. 

The shop also provides a wide selection of limited edition cameras sourced from all over the world. The camera accessories on offer are amongst the best on the market, often hand-crafted by the most experienced artisans from countries including Italy, Japan, and the USA. All display items are meticulously curated in walls of wood and glass cabinets with ERCO lighting, much in the fashion of how valuable artefacts are displayed in museums. 

“The highly selectively and hand-picked collection reflects not only the most notable camera models in the world, but also the finest examples of their vintage,” states Founder and Owner of f22 and F11, Douglas So. “We want to offer only those in mint or near mint original condition,” he stresses.

There is a special VIP area for distinguished guests, where clients can enjoy privacy and comfort while taking a closer look at their favourite pieces. Museum pieces of the highest quality are also on display for the enjoyment of
VIP patrons. 

This room was designed to incorporate a collection of vintage furniture carefully sourced from around the globe, including a carved oak bench from the 1920s, a brass chandelier and Thonet armchairs from the 1930s, and a contemporary version of the Club 1910 Sofa, to name just a few. There is also a transformable privacy screen designed to adjust the visibility of the room from the Arcade.

The coupling photo gallery in the basement level, on the contrary, features a minimalist modern design, with white walls, concrete flooring, and a black-tinted mirror ceiling, making a visual connection to the contemporary design of the f22 foto space in Wanchai. The basement gallery also has an open shopfront to engage visitors to the Arcade. A delicate monogram of f22 is hung on the wall with a back-lit
octagon glow. 

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