Photokina – A First-Timers Perspective

Post courtesy Tristan Hall
Editor, PhotoComment.net

As I type this post I am on board a train heading for Brussels from where we take another train to London. Photokina will only wrap up tomorrow and yet for me it already feels like a distant memory.

As a first time Photokina attendee I will be honest, I did not know what to expect. Everyone I knew who had been said it would be bigger than anything I had been to before. When I look back now, I don't think there is a way to prepare yourself – other than to start working out a few months in advance – and it will be tough to make other understand the magnitude of it when I get back.

Having said all this, I did come across one or two people who said that this year was smaller than some of the previous events.

Photokina is held in the Koelnmesse Exhibition Centre in Cologne Germany. With eleven trade/exhibition halls this venue offers roughly 284,000 square kilometers of exhibition space and is the 5th largest exhibition centre in the world.. This year there were only four halls that were not utilized and if that made it smaller than previous years it did not make it small enough for ones feet. This is not a show you can see in a day.

In the upper level of Hall 2 (yes some of these halls have two levels to them as well) you found the hall divided into one large Canon stand and one large Panasonic stand. This is not a place to go small.

What about products?

What was a tad disappointing about this year's Photokina was the absence of any announcements from the top two during the show and certainly on the Nikon side we had had the chance to hold the cameras before we left for Germany and that was a good thing too as the crowds were so large we never even set eye on the D7000 yet alone a thumb print.
Canon's stand was also crowded and despite the grumblings about the EOS 60D you could barely fit a sheet of paper between the crowds waiting to play with it.

At the Panasonic and Sony stands one of two things must have occurred. Either there was less interest in the their new models like the GH2, Alpha SLT-A55/A33 than in Nikon and Canon's new models, or they had more samples to for people to play with. In fact, Panasonic had a section on their stand to hire gear, sadly we spotted that only on the afternoon of our last day.

Speakers

If someone was able to come up with a cloning machine as you walk in the door that allowed you to sync the knowledge each version of you accumulated at this show I am sure they would be rich. Almost every major brand had at least one section on their stand dedicated to speakers or training sessions that try as you may, it was near impossible to get to all of them.

Panasonic had Bruce Dale talking about his experiences with their Micro Four Thirds system. Sony have Nick Webster along with three other photographers talking daily. Nikon, Canon, Hasselblad, the list goes on and on.

So what caught my eye?

The great thing about Photokina is that it is a gather place where you may even meet people with great products and ideas who aren't even exhibiting.

For example, we met up with James from Enlight Photo. They manufacture the Orbis which is best described as a ring flash adapter for you hotshoe flash and even then that doesn't quite do it justice. He showed us their brand new product shipping in October called the Frio. It is coldshoe adapter for mounting you flash on a tripod or lightstand with a thread for your strobist work. It can also work for video accessories. What makes it special compared to other is it has a clip lock that keeps your flash safe. There is a place to suspend your Pocket Wizard or other radio trigger from the Frio as well.

Black Rapid had some new products on their stand, most notable the SnapR which is like a small pouch for a Canon G11/12, Nikon P7000 that is attached to one of their Rapid style straps They also have their new FastenR-T1 and T2 for working on Manfrotto RC2 and Trek-Tech style tripod plates respectively..

Pentax's 645D was on show and as you will have heard by now, is going to go on sale world wide – when supply allows – for about the same price as my car, making it the deal of the decade. While one cant really walk away with images on card from many of these stands, in the hands the Pentax is lighter in the hand than the Hasselblad H4D that I tried out at the show as well.

Panasonic has a scene setup with a number of pedestals set out on the front and sides each with a GH2 on top. Having had extensive use of Sony's NEX-5 and its cut above the rest autofocus I was keen to see how the GH2 might perform. I must admit that I pleasantly surprised and hope to get to do a full review fairly soon.

Conclusion

Photokina is an eye opening experience. It's setting in Cologne makes for great photographic outings as well and I would highly recommend that you put it on your photographic bucket list. Just a note, Cologne seems to be a party town with much of its only coming to life after 6pm and on our last night it could still be heard from the hotel at 2am.

Lastly, a pearl of wisdom, I wasn't joking in the beginning by saying your should prepare by working out. If you go to Photokina be sure that you take good shoes as you will walk, a lot.

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