On Sunday I went to this year’s Photography show; this 4-day event runs from Saturday 18th to Tuesday 21st March at the Birmingham NEC. Like previous years, I visited the show with my friend Richard Brown; the only difference is that he drove this year as I no longer have a car. Richard has already written his report of the show and this can be read here.
Although there wasn’t a lot of new equipment to see this year (my local LCE stores do stock a lot of photographic gear between them) I was very interested in seeing a number of photographers, manufacturers and suppliers this year.
We left Lincoln at about 07:15 and as the traffic was quite light we arrived just after 09:00, we had a similar drive time back too. Unfortunately, the public are not allowed in until 10:00 so we had to order a quite expensive coffee at Starbucks to help with the wait. After the coffee, we joined the hoards as we ventured into the staging area. Whilst here I picked up my show guide and shortly afterwards a large 5 second countdown started on the a big screen we were allowed in when it reached zero.
What follows are the parts of the show that was of most interest to me.
The Olympus stand was at the top of my list and the first stand I ventured towards once we were allowed in. I picked up my complimentary show copy of the Olympus Magazine and then had a quick look around the stand. I noticed that all the reps were present; I know most of them by name now: Lewis, Dave, Jez, Claire and Aiden who I haven’t seen for a while since his promotion. I also checked out the dedicated talks that would be held at their stand. There were 4 scheduled for the day from Tesni Ward, Steve Gosling, Damian McGillyCuddy and finally Gavin Hoey. Although I missed Steve and Damian this year I did manage to attend Tesni’s and Gavin’s presentations.
Whilst at the stand I played with the other OM-D and PEN models and have to say that for a second cheaper body I would prefer the E-M1 (Mark 1) over of the other OMD or PEN models. The best choice would be a second OM-D E-M1 Mark II but these are the most expensive Olympus cameras now; maybe I’ll be lucky enough to win one from this month’s Olympus Competition as featured in the magazine – I can hope.
The other items of interest were the two new flash units, the FL-900 Speedlight and the STF-8 Macro Flash unit. I didn’t get much time with the STF-8, but this is a very well designed unit, simple to control and can be part of the Olympus optical RC system. The FL-900 whist being a weather sealed unit that has a metal foot and gaskets for the weather sealing. This very light (no pun intended) unit has a very small display, what I do find confusing though is why it costs £550! This is more expensive than Canon’s 600EX II-RT* and Nikon’s SB5000 (both flagship Speedlights) and these have both radio and optical RC modes over the Olympus optical only RC mode!
*The Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT is usually £539 but currently has an £80 cashback offer bringing this down to £459. The Nikon SB5000 is currently £499.
I see the STF-8 in my future but I don’t think I can justify the £550 for the FL-900 unit, not when I can get a Nissin i60A TTL radio controlled unit for only £239 and a radio trigger for £80. Two flashes and a trigger are only £8 more than the FL-900. However, whilst the FL-900 is weather sealed, the i60A units are not. All of the flashguns mentioned have similar guide numbers so that’s not a deciding factor.
Tesni Ward’s presentation featured an excellent collection of photographs mostly from her Mountain Hare project. The images were all amazing and the character for each of the different hares shone through and were sometimes very amusing. Tesni also showed some of her other work too (videos and photos), these were also amazing; the video of the snakes and story behind them was very intriguing. Initially I was slightly worried that the presentation would be similar to the one we saw at Marwell Zoo but was that was quickly dispelled within a few minutes. I cannot wait until May when I will be taking part on one of Tesni’s workshops.
I really enjoyed Gavin Hoey’s presentation, he showed what’s involved when you are given a short brief that (in this case) and how this can require 3 separate shoots involving the Fire Brigade. There were also a liberal sprinkling of tips, do’s and don’ts in there too. I must say that I recognised a lot of them and I am guilty of some of the don’ts mentioned. Gavin’s images were also excellent and it was nice to see how they look when printed which is not something you always have the experience of. I also want to finish by saying that Gavin is one of the nicest people I have ever met and an excellent teacher, thanks Gavin if you are reading this. 🙂
Richard and I briefly visited the Nikon stand where you could get a picture of you (and friends if wanted) holding up of one of Nikon’s “I AM …….” signs – I think that this marketing idea is a bit tired now but if you like Nikon I suppose it’s nice. I also picked up a Nikon D5 fitted with a 14-24mm lens, whoa! this is a heavy beast, heavier than I thought it would be. It’s at times like this that I am glad I moved to the Olympus OM-D range, I simply have no desire to carry around such a heavy camera/lens combo anymore. I also much prefer the sound of the Olympus shutter over the large “clacking” sound that the Nikon made. I think the OM-D E-M1 Mark II has the nicest sounding shutter around at the moment!
Although Canon probably had the largest presence at the show especially as they had their own video booth too, was a vendor I had no interest in seeing as they had nothing new to show. Both Richard and I walked past them many times; obviously, we were in a minority as there were loads of people in and around this area.
As another one of the MFT (Micro Four Thirds) manufacturers I’m always interested in what Panasonic are up to and I had a chance to try out their full range of interchangeable lens cameras as well as the new FZ2000. Top of my list was the GH5 and Panasonic they had plenty to play with. Similar to the previous GH models, the GH5 looks like a mini-DSLR with its ample grip, central EVF and top mounted controls. The grip of the GH5 has changed slightly from the one of the GH3/GH4, although I have never used a GH4 I have owned a GH3 in the past.
The GH5 has a few features over the GH4 but as most of these are around video there wasn’t much to see. I also had a go with the Leica 42.5mm f1.2 lens on a GX8 and that is a seriously nice lens. I felt that the focusing on the GX8 seemed to be quite slow and has that focusing system that has to go past the point of focus and then back again.
The main attraction for both Richard and I at the Fujifilm stand (more so Richard) was medium-format GFX50S camera, although this is smaller than a “traditional” medium-format it is larger than 35mm “full-frame”.
I had a quick go with the GFX50S and was instantly surprised how light the camera was (even with a lens and battery). The focusing speed could do with a boost though – it reminded me of early X-T1 AF performance prior to the improvements that came with the firmware updates. Overall though I was impressed. I think a lot of users who were going to get a Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX/1DX II might go for one of these as the cost difference isn’t that great; £6,200 for the body and £2,200 for the standard zoom lens. However, I don’t personally see one of these in my future.
Like Canon, the Sony stand was by passed as they don’t have much new stuff that interests me. Don’t get me wrong, they (like Tamron and Sigma) have impressive new glass to show off but I don’t see a Sony 35mm full-frame mirrorless camera on my horizon. Sony also seem to be ignoring their APS sensor sized cameras as far as lenses go; I’m not sure why but they seem to have gone back to their old habits where new cameras come out very regularly but lens growth is almost non-existent. I suspect that new cameras are easier/cheaper to design and all of their lens technology and know-how is focused on the much larger and more expensive full-frame mirror-less cameras.
Sigma and Tamron:
I also did not visit the Sigma and Tamron booths and although they both have impressive new glass to show this is either for Sony, Nikon or Canon mounts. Although both Tamron and Sigma do agree that mirrorless cameras could offer them growth, if it isn’t for Sony there isn’t much to see. Sigma do have a few boring MFT lenses but Tamron have none.
After a lot of searching I found the NiSi Filters booth and I was surprised at their presence at the show. Not only did we have (nearly) all their products on display they also had some “NiSi Ambassadors” present too. Each ambassador would do a talk and presentation at the stand from time to time explaining not only why they use NiSi filters but also how they got the shot when showing their very impressive images.
I was particularly interested in meeting up with Phil Norton who is not only one of NiSi ambassadors and also a distributer in the UK too. I have sent a few emails to Phil enquiring about the filters and their use with and OM-D camera and lenses and found him very helpful. Phil also uses the OM-D cameras and lenses so can offer very useful tips. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone wanted to talk to Phil too so I only managed to get 5 minutes of his time. We spoke about the system and he was going to show me the adapter for the Olympus 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens but couldn’t get to it at the time as his bag was next to another ambassador who presenting. Phil’s personal adapter was not being sold at the show so was the only one there. I suggested coming back to see his presentation later and then see the adapter then. Although I did get back to see Phil’s presentation and spectacular images he was talking to more people straight after his talk and I gave up trying to see Phil again.
Although I already have an X-Rite i1 Display Pro calibration device I did go and see them as the rubber on the outside of mu device has gone very “tacky”. I did try (many months prior to the show) get in contact with them regarding this but got no reply. Their reaction to the tacky-ness issue at the show clearly shows that this is a known problem, they were apologetic in the fact that no-one replied to my email and then logged the issue again on their site on my behalf. I’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of this beyond the standard email confirmation message I received. They did say that I would probably end up with a replacement device – hope springs eternal.
I had a good look around and the accessory space is alive and well, a lot of vendors were there showing off and selling luxury camera bags and (very expensive) camera straps each numbering into the hundreds of pounds but they will match your Leica camera nicely.
My favourite bag was being shown at the Olympus stand and is (currently?) only available with the EM-1 Mark II camera as a show offer promotion. The bag made by Gillis has an indigenous design and looks the part too, I want one and I suspect that some users who got the bag at the show might sell them on eBay later. Failing that I think that they will be available at some point a few weeks or months from now. The bag has an RRP of £299 – but it’s worth every penny!
In addition to all of the camera and accessory manufacturers at the show we also had London Camera Exchange (LCE), Calumet and Camera World too. Whilst some of the offers at the show were nothing special (i.e. £5 off a £75 battery) there were also some fantastic deals to be had too. I went with the purpose of picking up the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f4 IS PRO lens and a Peak Design wrist strap. I went straight to the LCE stand and surveyed the Olympus offers page on one of their glass cabinets, the lens was being sold with a £500 discount! Soon after I had an LCE bag with my 300mm lens in there – colour me happy! LCE had the best deal for this lens as Camera World were only offering a £200 discount. I could not see any Olympus gear at the Calumet Stand although I did get my Peak Design wrist strap from them.
I had a great day at the show, good company, met up with some fantastic people/photographers, got hold of the lens I wanted and might get my tacky i1 Display Pro device sorted out too. The only thing I didn’t like was the food – over-priced and not very good either. I’ll certainly come next year and bring my own food, at least that way I’ll gets something I like and not be fleeced.