Focus on Imaging NEC Birmingham 2011

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This years show seemed a lot quieter than previous years both in terms of visitors and exhibitors. There felt like a lot more empty space. Canon had pulled out and it seemed they hadn't really been replaced. Certainly the absence of the worlds best selling camera brand and I imagine a lot of Canon owners would have an effect on this. It was the same time as I went last year, and there were certainly far less people there this time.


As shown in the picture at the top the Nikon stand was the most popular, however there was still plenty of room there to look around. Normally their stand is 2 to 3 deep, but not yesterday. We are in recession however and with dramatic cuts to earnings and increases in prices to all sections of UK society going on currently, its probably no surprise.


I concentrated on two stands, Fujifilm and Sony.


FUJI X100


Having been very interested in the Fuji X100, this was an opportunity to actually see it and handle it. My disappointment with it was posted yesterday. I've since had the chance to think more about it, and the following are a series of thoughts about it. Much of this in a thread over at mu-43.com. http://www.mu-43.com/f76/fuji-x100-flesh-10097/


"Its interesting what publicity can do. I'm convinced that if I could I would have ordered one without ever looking at it or handling it. I'm as susceptible to hype as anyone and looking at the Fuji X100 website and in particular the video on there, I think I was actually drooling. The photographs of it looked so wonderful, and I was even thinking last night about how great it would be if I could buy one at the show and bring it home with me."

"These days with internet discussion and internet shopping these reality checks seem to be becoming a rarity, and I freely admit to having bought gear without ever trying it out. I actually bought my first Leica, an M8 without ever having seen or handled one. Fortunately I loved it, but my experience could have been different."

"In many ways I hope the X100 is a roaring success, because I really would like to see cameras with that neo-retro (is that possible?) design. If it is then I think we could see more. Anyone for a digital Nikon S2?"



The simple truth is that I picked it up and knew I didn't want to spend £1000 on it. If the opportunity hadn't arisen to do that then I probably would have bought it "blind". To a large extent that would have been influenced heavily by the look of it and my perceived impression of what it was going to be like. In reality it felt much smaller and lighter than I imagined. I actually had a bit of trouble finding it on the Fujifilm stand amongst all the other compact cameras. I think I thought it would probably glow like the holy grail or have a star over it lighting my way! 


I can't remember such a fuss in recent times over a cameras looks. Fuji have apparently claimed they are having to make more to fulfill pre-orders. This must mean that vast numbers of people have ordered it and committed to a pretty expensive purchase on the basis of internet discussion and a few pictures. This is a real coup for Fuji. They seem to have shown that with an Apple-Mac type publicity campaign - "Here it is. Its beautiful. You want it. Now give us your money" you can sell large quantities of cameras. In reality its probably a decent little retro-styled 12MP fixed lens APS-C compact, that looks a bit like an old Leica. Its clearly not the photographic revolution that some claim it is and the hyberbolic(?) overdrive surrounding it has been fascinating to observe. 


Personally I'm just glad I had the opportunity for the reality check. My disappointment was genuine, and I wish I could be writing here about how wonderful it is. However for the cost of a £5 parking fee and some money for petrol I've saved myself £1000 I would have regretted spending.


SONY


I spent a fascinating time on the Sony stand. Corwin who comments here frequently often mentions their Carl Zeiss lenses. So I thought I would take the opportunity to look at some. They are HEAVY!!! One of the Sony guys put the 24-70mm f/2.8 on to an a850 for me and I had trouble lifting it. Its heavier than the camera. The 16-35mm was only marginally lighter. There's no way I could ever carry one of these around, no matter how good the image quality. Again a situation where its very useful to try things out.


The Sony guy was fascinated that I used an a850 yet had a Panasonic GF1 over my shoulder. Ben, who I was with, and I then got asked if we would answer a few questions about camera use etc. for a customer survey they were conducting. This turned out to be the real thing and not some marketing exercise, as we weren't asked for any personal details. We were told it would last 10 minutes, but they obviously didn't realise my capacity to talk about photography and cameras, and it consequently took somewhat longer! 


They were genuinely interested in my a850 saga and how it had taken me so long to find out just how good the camera was and how well it suited what I do. There were questions that seemed to indicate that Sony are thinking about providing on-line storage and editing software in cameras. I was pretty negative about both and was told that was pretty much the reaction they had got from others.  Questions about the NEX to which I responded, great image quality, shame about the shape. When asked how Sony could improve, my answer is what all Sony users discover, where are the lenses? It was a useful exercise and I felt that it would at least be taken seriously, since they weren't just ticking boxes but actually recording what I said. Ben felt the same way too. They gave me a rather nice Calendar for participating so this was actually the first time I've left Focus on Imaging in credit!


So one negative, and one quite positive response. The X100 experience in particular has made me more determined to try to check things out before buying. It can sometimes be difficult to do this, but I was on the verge of making an expensive mistake and was saved from that by a few minutes hands on. I haven't often been disappointed buying without touching, but it has happened. Fortunately I avoided it this time.