Imaging USA

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I’ve always enjoyed going to conventions.  Years ago, Comdex came to Atlanta, which at the time, was one of the more relevant “new computer technology” shows around.  I’d come home with a bag of freebies, a T-shirt or two, and a general “wow” factor of appreciating life in a digital age.

Fast forward, and my photography Meetup group posted for free passes to the trade area of the Imaging USA convention in downtown Atlanta.  The show is for professional photographers and includes a wide variety of photography and photography business related classes.

Well, I wouldn’t pay for those, but I’m happy to go look at “stuff.”

There’s something both exciting and numbing when you venture in to find a colorful array of booths and things, neatly arrayed in rows.  The problem is, that despite the cheap convention carpeting, it’s a lot of walking on concrete.  It’s amazing how much of a difference that makes.  Enough so that when entering and finding fantastic wall displays of photographs that were juried by the Professional Photographers of America, I only gave them half the time they deserved because there was so far to go.

An Irony.  Kodak used to be synonymous with photography.  Now they’re pushing into commercial printing and packaging.  Digital printing seems a natural follow-up to the vanished film market, and they’ve abandoned photography altogether.  Their cameras are done and they’re selling document scanner and photo-kiosk assets.  It’s good that they’ve found a focused business, but... why are they here?


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Well, because despite instagrams and Facebook and texting photos, consumers still want printed products.  The Expo section of the convention made that abundantly clear; the show was primarily to enhance professional photographers’ businesses – ie, making a profit.

The traditional framed photograph is challenged.  Many of the exhibitors were showing various means to supplement income via any manner of use of photographs.  On metal.  In books.  On cards.  Art prints.  Folios.  Wedding books.  Announcements.  On cell phone covers.  Kindle covers.  Footballs.  Baseball bats. Aprons. Pennants.  And the list goes on.

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Some software vendors were there also.  Disappointingly, Adobe, who is a full sponsor, was not there.  But other software companies were, including Topaz Labs and Nik, not to mention others who specialize on the business side of photograph management.  Below, an demonstrator casually explains his company’s software.

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I found the station below to be interesting.  Digital displays for photographers to find out information about Canon products...  To be fair, it isn’t just cameras.  There are all sorts of printers and other hardware, but...

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... I much prefer the hands on experience.  Canon did a nice job of having their various models on display where people can actually pick them up and try them out.  Well done.

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On the other hand, Nikon took all of their cameras and put them in glass cases.  You had to start a discussion to be able to check them out.  Not as cool.  That said, they did have several of their top tier lenses set out on tripods.  I was happy with my entry level lenses until I tried one of these.  Completely unfair.  And, at $10,000, that was probably my last touch.  The focus control was amazing.

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Nikon also did the big screen approach, but at least they had a seating area.

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There were multiple vendors of actual cameras and related gear.  These were fun to sort through and may have had some outstanding deals if you knew what you were looking for.  I didn’t, and I didn’t have the cash anyway.  Imaging USA advertises to its exhibitors that 90% of the attendees purchase something at the store.  Sorry!  Maybe next year.

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And, with seating like the below, I didn’t even buy a drink.  Seriously, there was extra room in the venue... set up more chairs and tables.  No carpet required.

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But, I didn’t come home without some things.  A few lens cleaners, some literature, a car charger for USB equipment, a bunch of pens...

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My interest was largely on mirrorless cameras – a trend of building cameras that look and feel like cameras of old, without all the DSLR size and trickery.  We tried some of these out, including Panasonic’s DMC-G5, which was pretty amazing, and Sony’s NEX 6.  Overall, I like these cameras, but they haven’t fully arrived until they figure out a better intuitive balance for changing settings between mechanical dials and software menus. Soon, though.  Soon.

See ya next year.

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