Focus on Imaging at the NEC

The Focus on Imaging photography fair was at the NEC on Sunday, so my friend Ben and I headed along. It was a bit nuts. Over a hundred vendors demonstrated cameras, tripods, lighting equipment, software, frame-making services etc., and everything was for sale. Happily, very very little came anything near my price range.

Photography is an inescapably expensive hobby, but it’s ripe for exploitation. Case in point: at one point we were grabbed by an ExpoDisc salesman. The ExpoDisc is a filter that approximates 18% grey, the point being to slip it over the lens and generate a custom white balance for the scene. It filters light with prisms and “some kind of white material”; no price was given. We politely moved on, then later discovered they cost £50. £50! The same effect is achievable with five seconds’ extra effort and a piece of card – this would also let you white balance for specific lights, rather than the entire scene.

There were plenty of such products on display. A large crowd gathered around a demonstration of software apparently designed to automatically airbrush the hell out of already beautiful women – I’m far from a no-editing purist, but flawless skin and glowing highlights look ridiculous imho. Nevertheless the software was undeniably powerful and probably easy to use, which counts for a lot if you (for some reason) desire the end result; indeed, there were a few Photoshop plugin packages that seemed to consist entirely of scripted actions.

It wasn’t all like that, though – there was plenty of Cool Stuff too. High-quality printers were churning out A1 prints in just a few minutes, with paper manufacturers close by. The Nikon stand1 demonstrated 52-point autofocus systems, while Canon’s platform housed a bank of Serious Cameras with Serious Lenses, all bolted to the floor and usable by the general public. I slipped my memory card into an EOS 1-Ds Mark III with a 500mm lens, which cost £4500 and £3800 respectively:

£14k photo

The full JPEG is 20 megapixels. Quite nice. The camera weighs as much as a mature badger, however, so I don’t think I’ll get one.

I felt weirdly intimidated, walking around. We were surrounded by Proper Photographers, all of whom looked extremely knowledgeable, capable and tall (seriously, I was average height at school, what happened?) and at times I felt like a play-acting child. I was too intimidated to try out the Canon until Ben wisely talked me into it. Hopefully I’ll get better at that.

We drooled over macro lenses and the non-bonkers cameras for a while, but somehow managed not to buy anything, despite being tempted by reasonably priced (ish) monitor calibration tools and instant-camera-cred lens hoods. I found it very interesting to see all this equipment in person – it removed some of the product-shot mystique, at least.

  1. Ben took a wrong turn at an early technological crossroads and as a result is a Nikon lad. I attempted to educate him in the Ways of Righteousness, but was sadly unsuccessful. I’ll keep trying []