I have previously been to the UK's big annual trade show called 'Focus on Imaging' but they stopped running it last year. Whether it died a death due to the vice like grip of the Internets instant news updates or through poor management is unclear but what was clear is that Focus left a gaping hole for another annual photographic event here in the UK. After all, without Focus you had to go all the way to Germanys biannual Photokina for your fix of whats going on in the industry and to get the much needed face to face that the Internet can never replace.
So when I heard the UK was gearing up to host a replacement was certainly intrigued to see whether a trade show of this size was really needed in our 24/7 connected world. I am pleased to say though that I felt The Photography Show (TPS) was a big success. Granted I was only there for the Monday, the first trade day, but to say it was incredibly busy is an understatement. TPS seemed to be occupying the same space as focus, but I could be mistaken and they had everything there from the big names like Hasselblad, Nikon, Canon, Olympus and so on right down to the independent suppliers and framers. There really was every niche catered for and on top of all the wallet murdering trade stands there were some big name speakers like Rankin and Joe McNally as well as a full compliment of others including Jen brook who really helped bring the content full circle so that there really was something for all tastes and skill levels.
It would seem that the Overreaching impression from everybody, public, professionals and the exhibitors that I spoke too was that the whole event was a lot 'more' organised than focus. TPS seemed a far cry from the old mentality of 'turn up pitch your tent and get on with it'. This time you get the impression that there is an overall agenda and 'global' schedule where speakers and demos aren't competing for attention as much as they were before because they are on at different times, giving us the audience the opportunity to see as much as possible without having to choose between one or another.
So enough waffling about the event itself I want to just take a few paragraphs to highlight a couple of cool items I saw and that I personally thought was interesting. There are hundreds of other places online you can see what's big and 'trending' from the event but I just wanted to take a few moments to show what caught my eye. For example I won't be commenting on how Nikon spent several minutes showing the audience how the new D4s has changed its menu font! And no I am unfortunately not joking (for the record I am a Nikon shooter so I sheepishly left their talk at this stage)
LED's and continuous lighting in general is massive these days and its only growing more and more popular. LEDs are very cheap to make and they sell them for a lot less than speed lights, strobes and other flash units so they are definitely growing momentum for not only cost but for ease of use. What you see is what you get, job done. Couple that with the outrageous urge to shoot absolutely everything at f1.2 these days and you have your perfect lighting tools.
There were literally dozens of different options available on the day but there were a couple that caught my eye over others. Firstly I had the pleasure of seeing the renowned Andrew Appleton and the lovely Zara Watson. They were diligently showcasing some of their work together using the infamous Ice lights manufactured by Westcott. A very versatile piece of kit, and having a couple of these in your bag would certainly not be daft. They are tubes of daylight balanced light that run on an hours charge and seem very bright indeed. I think this is achieved by having the lights spread along a tube rather the traditional panel which in my opinion is very cumbersome and awkward to keep handy. This strip like shape gives the overall impression of a much lager light source than it actually is. Andrew showed how this product was ideal for lighting particularly tricky areas like piano keys or emulating the glow of a laptop. If you're in the market for a continuous light that is super slim to pop in your bag then definitely check them out, you can even attach two end to end for an even bigger light source.
Another little LED light that caught my eye was a smaller and circular LED ring light called Rotolight. Now although its not intended as a 'ring light' I can't see any reason why not if you had a micro 4/3 camera with a physically smaller lens. Their big claim to fame though was that they used these little things when filming 'Captain Phillips' with Tom Hank and as with all the continuos lights they are great for video, something that more and more photographers are having to offer as part of their repertoire. These little guys also have a clever way of adding some colour with optional gels that can be inserted between the case and the bulb meaning that with two of them you could actually make the obligatory 'bride getting ready' shots look relatively interesting.
Gadget wise this little fella grabbed me, its a loupe/viewfinder from RK Photographic. The Hoodman custom Finder kits major difference is that you don't fully attach it to the back of your camera, it actually attaches to the tripod mount on the base of your camera meaning that no mucky or scary adhesives get stuck to your screen and you don't have to have the loupe smashing into everything if you have it dangling around your neck. It really was a fantastically engineered piece, it had lugs to keep it rigid without spinning from side-to-side, it had allowances for nearly all tripod plates in the known universe and a simple quarter turn on the screw to the side allows for the whole loupe to slide effortlessly off. Of course because of the nature of it attaching to the tripod screw mount it fits every camera and even allows for added battery grips with a vertical slider too. Had it not of been £230 or something I would of gotten one. I think if I shot more video and used Liveview a lot more I would of succumbed to the temptation, as it is I just had to sing its praises here. I didn't really get any good shots of it as the salesman was swamped for it so a link will have to suffice.
Another thing I noticed this time around along with the influx of continuos lighting and LEDs etc was the big push on Drones/UAVs or the remote controlled camera platforms. Droneflight Limited had a money burning stand their with prices ranging from £1500 for a GoPro mobile all the way up to the whopping £11,500 for what looked like people carrying dropship! I am not clear on the law here in the UK but I know that in the US currently it is illegal for a photographer to offer it as a paid service. I find it hard to believe that with our strict privacy laws and public indemnity insurance here that we will be far behind.
A little niche product for you was a ridiculously high speed flash unit from the very helpful people at High Speed Flash. They were showcasing the flash durations by catching 'Matrix' style panning shots of people jumping about ridiculously. Their flash boasts a 'slow' version at 1/28000 of a second and a faster 1/100000 of a second. The slow version would be ideal for most circumstances that involve gravity based movement like water droplets, dancers, jumping spiders and…..toddlers. I was intrigued as I have had trouble catching very crisp water droplets in shoots before but the £1800 plus VAT for the 'slow' flash and £2500 plus VAT for the fast one was to rich for my blood. The faster version is for your ballistic photos, catching perfect images of bullets exiting apples and other explosions. They are not cheap so you need a big project to soak it up but its definitely worth looking into if you're about embark on a project with dancers in baby powder or similar.
Strangely the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) had a booth there, but upon further investigation they are very cleverly trying to make use of the some 10,000 outfits they have stored over 6 floors at their warehouse in Stratford. What they offer is a very reasonable renting service of their incredibly extensive range of costumes and outfits that they have accumulated over their many years and countless productions. Basically they rent you the outfits for your shoot or video, all you have to do is provide them with as much information as you can and they will put something together for you based on your concept. They will even put the outfit together on a mannequin photograph it and send it over to you for your approval before they ship it out. Better still your stylist could go down there to pick and choose and get a feel for what works best seeing as it may well be almost impossible to guess what a 'ruffled collar and half-plate' might actually look like. Although if your stylist is anything like the ones I've worked with, sending them to a 6 floor warehouse of over 10,000 costumes could prove costly.
Finally and for me the the stand that brought out my inner child and more 'arty farty' side was the Lomography stand. Not only did they have an area for people to build their own cameras from their Konstruktor kits but they showcased some of their new products too. Top for me was this cool 're-imagined' land camera the Belair Instant Cmaera that takes the common Fuji landscape Instax film. This little rangefinder and retro style bellows camera has pretty basic functionality but it certainly looked fun to play with (although ridiculously expensive at just shy of £300). Lomo also had a few of the 'polaroid back' style cameras including an instant back for the legendary Diana camera. Again these would surely be a lot of fun to play around with especially with their already established line of other accessories. Plus just to make sure they cornered every angle in the retro market they have also released the retro style 'Lomography Experimental Lens Kit' for the micro 4/3 cameras.
For me, I have saved the best until last and this was surely the jewel in the crown of Lomographys stand, it was their gorgeous solid brass re-imagining of a bygone era. They have somehow managed to collaborate with the infamous Russian company Zenit to produce this gorgeous 85mm f2.2 Petzval portrait lens. But this product is not just for looks, this lens has been faithfully recreated with the so-called 'imperfections' of years gone by. The slightly misshapen lens creates gorgeous bokeh and although it works on Nikon and Canon APSC size sensors the real charm of the lens is shown properly when attached to a full frame body. It utilises a drop and shoot aperture ( including 2.2, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16 ) and is manual focus via a thumbscrew below the lens. I had a play with it whilst I was there and the thing feels amazing, very solidly built and although this appears to be a purists wet-dream it's not all for show and nostalgia the results speak for themselves. As I mentioned before the bokeh on this lens is phenomenal and as many others before me have failed to articulate this in words I will just ask for you to look at the sample images on the site and decide for yourself.
So how much is it? Well at £460 it's nots cheap for a 'novelty' lens but its popularity has already secured its appeal. It was originally a Kickstarter campaign that secured its goal of $100,000 in a mere 4 hours, and finally ending on a massive $1,396,149! Understandably this has made it one of the most successful Kickstarter projects ever run.
The lens currently has a 6 week backlog of orders as it desperately try's to fill its Kickstrarter funders but whatever you make of it I guarantee you have not heard the last of this lens.
So all in all a pretty good day, I rounded it off nicely with a few complimentary drinks in the Bowens pro lounge to discus some future projects which I look forward to sharing with you soon so many thanks to those good people at Bowens for that.
So if next year you get the chance to go to The photography Show 2015 definitely take it, I'll see you there, and if you went this year then please feel free to let me know what you thought or what products stood out to you.