Saturday, 4 April 2015


I recently went to the photography show at the NEC, Birmingham .

Since this is the 1st time I have attended the show, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was at a minimum hoping to see some of the latest photographic technology. Also it would be a good place to try out various cameras and see how they felt.

I was also very interested to visit the Sony stand to try out the latest models. I have been thinking for a while of upgrading my present camera and I was quite prepared to be tempted into buying something.So after wrestling my credit cards from my wife I duly arrived.

The show

I have to admit that I felt slightly disappointed by the show. I was fully prepared for the extortionate prices for car parking and food at the NEC (Note to NEC management, if you are going to charge £5 for a small pot of chips, at least put some bins out and have more tables). But my main issue was that the show was a little dull.

Rather than the festival of photography I had expected, it was the usual suspects selling the usual wares. There did not seem to be a lot of innovation or new products at the show. Certainly I dod come away thinking I must get one of those.

One interesting thing however was how the various manufacturers set out their stalls.

Nikon and Canon of course had the largest stands in the show, and their basic message was the punters would come to them, so why try too hard.

Olympus however seemed concentrated on the use of their cameras in a studio setting. They had a live studio session, run by an entertaining gentleman (in a non-PC fashion) and a model who's job seemed to be to stand around while his assistants threw paint at her

The photographer running the session was a laugh, but the model basically had been trained to resist his charms 

All done in a discrete and private environment

Ah the glamour of being a photographic model. Someone throws paint at you while 50 strangers take photos.

With Panasonic on the other hand, it was much more about action and movement with gymnasts and boxers showing off while you could use various Panasonic cameras to photograph them. I guess they were emphasizing their 4K capabilities.

I had brought with me my wife's small Sony compact with me and it gave me a chance to play around with it . I found it had a capability to take 10 photos at a fast rate, and this was the perfect opportunity to give it a go as we can see below (Interestingly few stands had compacts on display. Maybe the companies thought that they would be of little interest to professionals or serious amateurs.)

What about Sony? Well to be honest their stand was a little disappointing. It consisted of a bored model sitting in front to a colourful candy store. Presumably it was to show the colour rendering capabilities of Sony cameras, but compared to many of the others it was a bit dull. I did however have the chance to play with the low light capabilities of the A7S which was quite impressive.

Sony - not trying too hard since 1970...

User interfaces

One nice feature I found on the Sony compact was when I took the photos in burst mode, I could scroll through them via tipping the camera backwards and forwards. Which is quite a nice feature and it brings me onto user interfaces

I have always been interested in user interfaces generally and often quite critical of camera manufacturers in the lack of innovation in this area. The show gave me the perfect opportunity to play around with a number of cameras and see which ones I liked from this viewpoint

Panasonic's I found was very good, but one of the best was Ricoh, which provided quite a clever graphics.

I also got a chance to play with the Sony A58 for a while. In theory the A58 is an improved model of my present camera, however I have always had my doubts.

I have a number of issues with it, but playing with it I have one more gripe

Back of a A58

The primary interface of any camera is the dials and rotary dials. One of these on the A58 is a 4 way pad on the back of the camera. On my camera it allows me to select ISO, White Balance, Display mode, and shooting mode and it is really useful to have these quickly to hand when using the EVF.

 On the A58 it is much the same, except one axis now selects the  photo effect mode.

Now these modes allow you to play around with the in-camera image processing, doing things like high key images. They can be a bit of fun, but nothing you cannot do in post-processing later and after a while you quickly get bored with them. Not only that they only work when in JPEG mode, not in RAW.

It therefore seems incredible to dedicate a valuable button to select these modes. It shows the market that Sony is aiming for with this camera and think that the only users for this camera will be people who never want to do more than take a few snaps and will never be serious photographers, which is a bit condescending.

Anything else?

So apart from user interfaces what else did I find?

Well the Panasonic camera/mobile was interesting. I have often thought that camera makers should copy a lot of the ideas from mobile phones in terms of user interface design, and this looked a good example of that. However at £700 (more than a iphone) I wonder what how big the market is for it. That is a lot of money for a adequate camera and an average mobile phone especially when you could spend far less on a good compact and a good android mobile together.

The only other product I found interesting was the Turnpro which was a kickstarter funded camera time lapse rotater.I must admit I had thought about doing a DIY version of the very same thing, but this looks better. It appears they have got their kickstarter funds, so I look forward to seeing it when it comes out.

Another thing I noticed was a certain yearning to simpler days on some of the stands. For example the stand below, selling old film stocks seemed to be doing good business

Camera's, old style
Alpa cameras especially seem to try their best to go back to the 1940's in their design. Interesting for a digital camera that can cost upwards of 47000 dollars

Alpa cameras. If you have to ask the price...

So did I buy anything? 

The short answer, no. 

While I was impressed by the Sony A6000, I do not like the kit lens(too narrow a focal range), so it would cost a lot more to fit it with a decent one, Also of course it cannot use my A-Series lens.  The Sony salesman tried to pitch a A7, but of course forgot to mention, until prompted, the need for an adapter which again would put the price up. Also I am not convinced that this is an all round camera for everyday usage. 

One of the things I really wanted to do was play with the Sony A77II since at present is my only real upgrade path. 

This is the benefit of shows like this, in that you are able to hold such cameras in your hands and see how they feel. When I held this camera I was very surprised how big and heavy it was. Compared to my present A37, it would be a considerable weight gain and I am not sure it is th kind of camera that I would want to carry it around all the time. 

So although interesting, the wait to upgrade goes on (much to my wife's relief)

Some final thoughts and images

I didn't ask how much this Sigma lens was, although hopefully it comes with a dedicated Sherpa team to carry it

Selfie taking machine

One disappointment was there was not more original art work to see. You would have thought people like the RPS would have had an exhibition on. What was there however was interesting and thought provoking

One of more interesting booths was one run by the disable photographers association  who were selling 2nd hand camera equipment. If you have anything you want to give away, it might be worth contacting them to see if they are interested in taking off your hands

Nikon users were quarantined to ensure they were not contaminated by other camera makers users 

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