LCE Photo and Optics show – full report

Following on from my brief posting about this on Thursday, here is the full write up about the LCE Photo and Optics show 2014.

This was the 11th Photo and Optics show and (for me) was the best one ever. We had many photographic retailers and manufacturers at the show and the Live Arena was (mostly) an excellent idea.

The main aim for me at the show was to see Olympus, Damian McGillicuddy, purchase my OM-D E-M1 at a “show price” and also see anything that I have not already seen over the last few weeks (Sony A7s, Panasonic Lumix GH4 and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II), I was also interested in acquiring a new camera bag.

Pre-show
I had the whole day off so I could have a lie-in and take it easy before the show started; if I had been at work I wouldn’t have been much use anyway so I have learnt from previous experience that this the best way to do this.

As per previous years I met up with Mike and first for this year Richard too at 12:00 and we went to the Handmade Burger Co which is next door to Nandos on the Brayford. It is not far from where Mike, Richard and I work (Mike was working that morning) and where I park. None of us had been before so it was nice to try something new. I have to say that this is one of the best burgers I have ever had and I will have to take the parents there as my mother does enjoy a good burger. One note for anyone who has never been before, the burgers are quite large as are the side orders; each side will probably be enough for 2 to 3 people. Finally the Cajun spices on the chips (note the use of the word chip here and not fries) are quite hot so be wary of that too.

The venue
After we finished the meal we casually walked up to the Lincoln drill hall which is only about 8 minutes away. The current venue is much better than the previous location; a few years ago the show used to be held at the Lawn (adjacent to Lincoln Castle) which is at the top –end of town and meant either a car trip or a walk up the aptly named “Steep Hill” which is not easy going. We arrived there just after 1PM which was the start time, this avoided any possible queues that might have been there.

The show
As we went in through the lobby I noticed that Damian (I will drop the McGillicuddy from now) was in there talking to some people. Just before the main hall there were exhibitions from local photography groups, the University of Lincoln and a chance to meet with local pro photographers. I ventured past them with the intention of visiting them later that day and into the main hall. Unfortunately i didn’t get chance to go😦 .

Olympus
In the main hall just after the entrance was the Olympus area. I am not sure how it was that the main place I wanted to visit at the show was here; was it fate :)? Unfortunately being at the front of the hall meant that lots of people also went there first too and it was very hard to get a look at the table and see what they had to try out.

OM-D E-M1 and  40-150 lens Top

I tried initially in vain to have a look at the 40-150mm f2.8 lens as it was being tried by another user, in fact I gave up for a bit and went back later to have a go of this lens. I have to say that when I eventually got hold of the lens it felt just right, not too heavy and not too light. As I was playing with the lens, Damian came up to me and asked if he could help. We had a small chat and I told him that (by that point) I had pre-ordered one; he jested that it was people like me that were helping fund his swimming pool 🙂 I immediately decided I liked this guy and the next thing I knew I was handed a £50 cashback voucher signed by Olympus and Damien too as well as a Damian McGillicuddy lens cloth . I tried the AF and the MF with the lens attached to an OM-D E-M1 body and it oozed quality. Damien also told me that he doesn’t like zoom lenses but the 40-150 was in a totally different class and rarely off his main camera. I also had a go with “kit” 12-40mm f2.8 lens as well as the 75mm f1.8 lens and loved them too. There is something special about the 75mm lens.

I also played with an EM-5 and I instantly hated this as it didn’t feel right in the hands. However the E-M10 wasn’t too bad and if viewed as a compact camera with interchangeable lenses was very good; in fact with the show offer brought the cost of the body with the compact 14-42 EZ lens to less than £500. It was tempting but I resisted as I would rather put this money towards a few lenses that I have my eye on (the next will be the M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro).

LCE
Whilst I was waiting to have a go with the 40-150mm Olympus lens I popped over to the LCE area to pick up my OM-D E-M1 with 12-40mm f2.8 lens kit. The kit normally retails for £1700 but the show offer had nocked this down to £1450, that’s a £250 saving. It didn’t stop there though as LCE had an exclusive offer with Olympus that gives you a total of 5½ years warranty for free (2 years standard warranty + 6 month for the Olympus E-M1 Service Plus + 3 years extended); you also get a free grip too.

Dave also informed me that if I paid for the 40-150mm f2.8 lens + 1.4x tele-converter kit at the same time as the E-M1 I could use the £150 cashback and Olympus would honour this even though I won’t have the lens until early December. I decided this was a good offer, I already had paid a 10% deposit so it was no problem paying for the lens as I had saved so much on the E-M1. There was initially a problem paying for the gear as the card machine they first used was up the spout, however when we moved to another one everything was fine.

OM-D E-M1 Top2

So all in all I will be saving £250 +£150 + price of grip (approx. £179) + £50 + price of 3 year warranty (around £300).

Whilst I was in the process of buying my Olympus, Richard was negotiating for a refurbished D800 which he managed to get for a really good price. I expect that as Richard becomes more experienced with how to get the best from this 36MP monster he will post these on his blog here.

Mike (who was captain sensible for the day) not only ordered the correct amount of sides with his burger (i.e. none) also spent only £10 on a new SD card for his Nikon DSLR.

After getting my Olympus OM-D E-M1 kit I went back to the Olympus stand (see above).

Canon
I visited the gigantic Canon stand at the rear of the main hall with the aim of seeing the EOS 7D-markII and after looking all over the place couldn’t see one. I asked one of the Canon reps about this and was told that they only have one of them and at that time was being used for a demo at the Live Arena. I never actually got to play with one as every time I thought about it, it was either not accessible or was being used for a Live Arena demo (there were two of them).

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Canon had their usual lens bar in place for their telephotos and the “bar” was very rustic and seemed to have been built by a second rate carpenter – I’m not sure of this was the look that Canon were going for but it was not as good as the structure we had last year. I wasn’t interested in their monster telephoto lenses; I would never be able to afford them and they are too big and too heavy as are some of the pro bodies and non-telephoto L glass lenses. The only part that was interesting (and made me wish I had a camera with me) was the tiny Owl that was part of the “Wild Arena” that also allowed you to try out some of the Canon macro lenses. I noticed that they had moved away from flashes and two pro 1 foot square LED lights were being used to provide the illumination, I remember having a chat with another photographer about them. Richard got a nice photo which he has already put up on his blog posting about the show here.

Live Arena – part 1
In the middle of the main hall, back to back with Sigma, Panasonic, Nikon and Manfrotto was the “Live Arena” where a number of events would be taking place.

Not long after Richard, Mike and I entered, Canon started their first EOS 7D Mark II showcase which was being run by Dave Newton. I didn’t pay much attention as the EOS 7D Mark II no longer interests me; don’t get me wrong it is a fantastic camera with an amazing AF system that can rip of over 3 seconds of 10 fps shooting but I don’t want the weight and bulk associated with the camera and the necessary lenses that are required to get the best out of this camera.

However, the second arena event was from Damian and this I did want to see. Not long after sitting down he asked if we would be OK to go outside and do some portrait shooting just outside the entrance to the Drill Hall, of course we all said OK and outside we went (fortunately it was a mild day).

Damian who is a natural spokesperson was without a doubt the highlight of the whole show he is a great photographer with many awards to back him up. He is not very PC and ticked in his words every *ist word and is very funny. It was a joy to watch him work and his commentary not only was not only informative from a techniques perspective but fun too. He showed how he could use the current ambient light and two inexpensive (manual) speed lights to get the look he was after. Like a lot of photographers he built up the scene light by light until he had each light set up as he wanted and then put them all together, he called this the Lego Block building method. I managed to snap a quick shot of his model using my iPhone.

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After the shoot we went back inside and after a quick re-cap his first session was over. Both Richard and I really enjoyed the session, however Mike (as is typical for him) didn’t like Damian’s presentation method so wasn’t as impressed – this did surprise Richard and I but that is Mike all over; he instantly didn’t like Tiger Woods when he first showed up on the scene!

After Damian’s presentation we decide to visit some more of the various manufacturer’s stands:

Sigma
Sigma had a huge range of their excellent optics on show in various mounts so you could try some of it out on your camera if you had one with you. The also had one of the oddly shaped Quattro’s there too and to be fair I couldn’t find a comfortable way to hold and shoot the camera, Mike however had no issues. The interface and the rear screen were excellent and according to Richard the shooting speed and performance was much improved over the previous models. If compared to other cameras the performace would be considered as slower but if you look at how the camera is positioned it doesn’t need to be a speed demon.

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They also had a couple of their mirror-less lenses on show too and I asked the rep about any new lenses that might be coming. He did say that more would show up but could not be more specific than that. This fits in with an article on the 43rumors site about the CEO of Sigma agreeing that mirror-less is the future and because of this they will make more lenses.

Sony
There wasn’t much new to see at this stand, Richard and I had a quick go with the A7S but to fair it was just like playing with the A7 or A7R as the output is the difference here; I could see no evidence of the 4K output to an external recorder in action which would have been an excellent showcase – an opportunity missed I think.

However, I was less impressed with the Sony reps they were huddled together slightly away from their stand into some deep conversation about something on one of their laptops and seemed oblivious to Richard and I – they could have been more attentive.

Panasonic
Although it was hard to get to because of someone who always seemed to be in the way I managed to have a quick go with the GH4 which is just like the GH3 with a locking wheel on the mode dial. I do like the Panasonic Lumix interface, controls and menu. They also had the FZ1000 and the LX100 on show along with a good selection of their glass. My thoughts on these two cameras have already been mentioned on this blog. I did get to see the oddly named “DMW-YAGH Interface Unit for GH4” for the first time and I couldn’t believe how big it was:

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Lowepro
After visiting the Canon stand for a second time (the EOS 7D mark II was still a no show) I visited the Lowepro stand which was just to the side and they had a very good selection of bags on show including the brand new ProTactic 350 AW and 450 AW camera bags. Frankly I was surprised to see them as I thought they were not available yet.

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After reading about the 350 model I could see that this might be the perfect sized bag for me (with the OM-D based kit that I will be using). Yes it is not aimed at the mirror-less market per-se but it is about the right size with the right features. I spoke to the Lowepro rep about the new ProTactic models and he said that they wanted to introduce the model at Photokina but it wasn’t ready and there seemed to be a stumble about its launch in the UK. He did say that LCE were going to get a few before Christams but I would need to pre-order one to guarantee delivery. Once this initial shipment was gone it would be early next year before they would be fully available. With this out of the way he gave me a quick demo of the bag. I recommend you go to the Lowepro site here if you want to know more. The bag should cost around £170, the larger model around £210 – not cheap but Lowepro have thrown a large amount of new tech in there.

ProTactic350_Back_RGB_8501

Needless to say I want the 350AW model – I should talk nicely to Dave at LCE to see if he can get one for me.

Nikon
Nikon’s stand was quite large with a large selection but after I couldn’t see the only model had I hadn’t tried yet (the Nikon 1 V3) I quickly moved on.

Caffé Nero
Richard, Mike and I after going around the stands again decided that we all could do with a coffee so we left the show and went to Mike and I’s favourite coffee shop – Caffé Nero which was only a few minutes away. It was a welcome break from the hustle an bustle of the show and it was nice to sit down with a warm Mocha and consolidate what we had seen so far.

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(Note: the Leica M8 belongs to Richard which he was using at the show).

Not long before we left we noticed that the top Olympus rep come in, order a drink pick up paper and take aseat at the read of the store. Damian had been giving him a hard time about handing out £50 cashback vouchers to everyone, guess he needed the break.

After a quick visit to the car to drop of my OM-D and collection of a jacket (the temperature was starting to drop) we all headed back to the show.

Live Arena – Part 2
The original intention was to catch the Animal Photography session but we forgot about this because we went for a coffee.

So we were back in time for Michael Wayne-Plant’s Street Photography talk. After missing the start I managed to catch the last 20 minutes and I wished I had seen the whole talk. Michael is another great speaker and I enjoyed the way that he would show a photograph and asked what made it work? It made you think about the composition and the content of the photograph. He would talk you through it and I have to say I learned an awful lot. He finished off his talk with a brief overview about the correct back-up policy as he is aware that this isn’t something that people take enough precautions over so it was good to see that he was quite passionate about this.

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After Michel, Damian took the stage for a second time and he would take us through how to create a headshot. Because the stage is very small he asked to moved to just adjacent to the Olympus stand where there was more space and using a 3 light set-up used his Lego building bricks method to set this up. Like before he was funny and informative and I enjoyed this session as much as the first one. At the end he asked if anyone wanted to see the final result (on the rear of his camera), after no-one said anything I said that I would like to see.

He showed me a 4:3 and a 1:1 – I preferred the 1:1 shot and said so – big mistake. He didn’t ask me about which one I preferred, he was the photographer with all of the awards (which he listed one-by-one), after this he also commented that this was has favourite of the two too. This was all in jest so I had no issue with this, I did here someone behind me “that put him in his place” (or something to that affect). Like the rest of the audience I really enjoyed Damian’s style. I could certainly see me attend one of his more in depth training sessions – which is fortunate as he is doing one in Nottingham in a few weeks time (hopefully I will have more to say about this in the not too distant future).

After handing out all of the Damian McGillcuddy patented lens cloths from the Olympus stand the event was over and not long after that I left the show to go home.

This is the longest I have stayed at the show (guaranteed there was a mid-show hiatus to Caffé Nero) but I really enjoyed it and this was without a doubt the best one I have attended. They seem to get better and better. The highlight of the show was Damian and I would also like to commend the entire Olympus UK team who were not only great at their stand but also put on some amazing show only deals.

Most of all, I want to thank the LCE team who were responsible for organising, arranging and attending the show; the fact that there is no entry fee just makes this even better.

I for one cannot wait to see what they have in store for next year – my only suggestion is that you make the Live Arena a bit larger and put it into a corner to allow some larger sized demo’s to take place.