Monday, March 06, 2006

Focus on Imaging show - impressions

Whilst the focus of attention in the photographic world was on the PMA show in Orlando the annual Focus on Imaging (apparently the largest annual show in Europe according to their PR) was running in Birmingham, UK. I've been going to this show for many years now and witnessed the change in emphasis from film and wet processing to digital and continuous ink systems (CIS). This year there was yet another change in what was being promoted to the photographer punters and from whom. Now, of course, it's about who is pushing their latest & greatest products and feel it worth while splashing out on a stand at such a show, but absences also speak louder than new toys. It felt very much like there was an absence of cameras in general, well at least manufacturers' stands; no Canon, obviously no Konica Minolta & Bronica, no Leica, no Rollei, no Minox, no Panasonic and only small shared stands for Pentax & Mamiya. There were the usual hardware retailers and distributors, and the accessory manufacturers like Lee Filters, Lowepro, Manfrotto & Crumpler (sorry no link as the site stinks). There seemed to be less fevered interest around the CIS (Fotospeed, PermaJet & Lyson) this year - perhaps everyone has bought one now. These systems have been at the vanguard of what appears to be a move to the photographer not only being in control of the entire pre, production and post processes but actually doing the work. Obviously, the move to digital has meant an increased interest in software, but this year's show felt more like a computer software show. For the first time Apple had a corporate presence demonstrating Aperture 1.1 for Intel Macs along with a couple of Apple retailers, and of course Adobe was demonstrating Photoshop and other products (with Wacom). There were lots of software demonstrated on stands such as Nikon's, but also many small stands offering software or more specifically Web services/apps for photographers covering areas from "everything a photographer would ever need" online to digital book printing services, Customer Relationship Management and proofing. There was also an increase in inkjet paper manufacturers and papers available to photographers, as well as DIY finishing equipment for mount cutting and framing. There may be a move from the traditional D&P and finishing services purchased by photographers, but it is clear that if a photographer wants to make money now, and in the near future, then he/she will need to learn a lot more than Photoshop to compete in the digital media world. Also photographers will need to assess what mix of services are best suited for their needs and those of their customers and which are the better services out there. This will mean that each photographer will also need to experiment with the bewildering array of online services available, some of which charge just to sign-up, and in a fluid marketplace of services keep on top of what's new, cool and works. Not only is it going to be a tough year (or two) for the photo industry but it will be tough for the photographers as well. [Update]
It looks like the attendance at Focus has been as strong as ever according to a press release from the organisers.

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