Photokina Ups and Downs

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Sep 27, 2012

Photokina 2012 closed its doors on Sunday 23 September. According to Photokina, around 185,000 visitors attended the show this year; an increase of about 2% on the visitors’ number of 2010. This demonstrates that the digital imaging industry continues to pull in the crowds. However, it is a slowdown in number of visitors compared to 2010 when there was a 7% increase over the 2008 show. Photokina follows hot on the heels of IFA, a consumer electronics and home appliances trade show in Berlin, and it is possible that some visitors chose to attend just one of these two shows.

The number of exhibitors fell by 7% from 1,251 in 2010 to 1,158 in 2012. I have not seen any data from Photokina on floor space occupancy, but it appeared to have dropped by more than 7%. Many booths appeared to be smaller this year, which is probably a sign of the industry going through yet another transformation. Kodak had a far smaller booth this year than it has had in previous years. Of course this is a reflection of the financial situation that the company finds itself in. Lower-level exhibit halls and halls such as 6 and 9 had areas that were curtained off which in the past have been occupied. More floor space was also occupied by photographic exhibitions compared to previous Photokina shows.

There were some notable exceptions to the trend for small booth sizes. Tamron had an enormous booth, rivaling  any of the camera players. Leica, a niche luxury brand in the camera market, occupied the entire Hall 1. Leica’s booth was dominated by a large photography exhibition. There was plenty of floor space and products were displayed in a manner befitting a luxury brand. Striking lighting design was used to highlight the beauty of the products. The focus was on design rather than technical specifications.

Photokina this year had a little less “buzz” than in 2010. One of the major themes in 2010 was 3D. This manifested itself in lots of enormous TV screens in many of the booths and loud soundtracks which often accompanied the 3D showings. Major vendors attract visitors to their booths by putting on product demos and often shows featuring sports people which provide good opportunities to test the features of cameras. This year the sports action was scaled back. Sony hired gymnasts who took up little floor space, but other than that I did not see any sporting action. In 2010, there were ballet dancers, basketball players and a whole host of skate boarders and BMX bikers to pull in the crowds.

When asked about their impression of the show, vendors’ feedback was almost unanimous. Business meetings were very good, but there were probably fewer visitors. My last day at Photokina was Friday so it is possible that visitor numbers over the weekend were better and therefore made up for the slow down during the week.

Photokina left me with mixed feelings. I am excited by some of the things I saw, such as the Galaxy Camera, the Nikon Coolpix S800c camera, and Canon’s project 1709. On the other hand I think that consumer imaging behaviors are changing at a pace which some vendors are finding hard to keep up with. To date, cameras and printers are the products that have been driving this industry forward. But in the age of apps and instant sharing, this is shifting to GUIs and workflows. Looking ahead to Photokina 2014, I expect that camera vendors will focus just as much on the software capabilities in their products as hardware tech specs.

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