Photography Show: A take in black and white
Time was, before the WWW, when an annual exhibition was the only way to see everything in a particular industry―from cars to motorbikes, from yachts to cameras―all in one place. They were also the place to find bargains because of the keen competition among retail exhibitors. It is surprising that in these days, when it is so easy to call up eBay or Amazon, that there is still a flourishing business in annual shows. This weekend's Photography Show (open until Tuesday, March 4) is a typical example and is attracting big numbers of visitors from the trade and general public.
It's a mixed bag, as are all similar gatherings, with the major manufacturers dominating proceedings on their grand stands. Then come the big retailers, vying with one another in their rush to the price bottom. Less interesting for me are many of the smaller stands―including those fielding wedding paraphernalia such as albums, venues and a fair dollop of kitsch which appear to be much in demand.
One of the great joys for me is the opportunity to try out all the latest gear and to chat about performance, features and options. While it was disappointing that neither Sony nor Leica are exhibiting this year, other major camera manufacturers (including Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Samsung, Hasselblad and Olympus) do have big stands and lots of interesting stuff to see. I was particularly fascinated by the new pro-quality OM-D EM-1 bodies from Olympus. The photographic world is raving about this camera and, although I have tried and rejected Micro Four Thirds in the past, the attraction is now powerful. Fiddling with the black version was a get-thee-behind-me-satan moment.
A big part of any photographic exhibition is aimed at providing opportunities for amateurs to indulge in a spot of professional studio work, with stage shows, a catwalk and several mini studio features on exhibitors' stands. Seminars and work groups are also extremely popular but unfortunately I didn't have time to sample any of that.
A quick scan of the visitors and their cameras confirms that large DSLRs with gigantic lenses still dominate, despite the emergence of mirrorless systems and the popularity of cameras such as the Fuji X series, the Olympus and Panasonic MFT devices and the Sony NEX range. There was absolutely no presence of Leica among the visitors. In over four hours I didn't see a single Leica in use although dozens of people came up to comment on the M and wish they could own one. I am left with the firm impression that the Photography Show isn't Leica's natural habitat and their absence as an exhibitor bears this out.
Walking round an exhibition, tiring as it can be, is certainly more involving than scanning through Amazon or bidding on eBay. There are people to talk to, for a start, and the Photography Show fielded a particularly friendly and chatty bunch of photo enthusiasts.
Before I set off from London Euston yesterday morning I did the usual agonising over what gear to take. It would be so much easier if I had just one camera and just one lens, just like Eric Kim. But unfortunately I have too much choice. Since I felt I would be doing street-type photography I settled for the M and 35mm Summilux (on the basis that I might need f/1.4 indoors, which proved not to be the case). Also in my bag was a new Fuji X100S which I have in for review. While the M is ideal for carefully arranged shots there is no doubt that quick autofocus, as on the Fuji, has its place.