I have missed it last year, for some reason, so wanted to make a special effort to see it this year: the Tokyo Photo Imaging Expo 2009, a consumer-oriented photo trade fair held in the Tokyo Big Sight complex on the Odaiba artificial island, a little off the centre of town.
Here are some impressions and very personal subjective highlights:
When you walk into the large halls you are greeted by the noisy and shiny big booths of the large players. Apart from the numerous booth hostesses with their uninterrupted smiles for the even more numerous unshaven, persistent male photographers, if that’s the right term for them, it almost seems like visiting a superlative branch of electronic mega-retailers Yodobashi or Bic Camera with their “maker corners”. Very, very unsurprisingly virtually everything is about showcasing the world of digital photo to the masses, some of which is useful, and quite a lot seeming totally useless or a desperate attempt to differentiate (Casio’s virtual studio where you can create digital composites in-camera is a main contender, unless combining photos of your family with a man in a spacesuit on the moon is high up on your feature list for a point and shoot camera).
I always look forward to the Fuji booth because it has a variety of things on display, not just endless rows of camera bodies. There is usually a good amount of space devoted to film and film cameras, and this year was no exception. I was hoping to get a hands-on impression of the GF670 — I was not disappointed.
Greeted by a jolly bunch of three middle aged oji-san, I showed my Contax G1 and asked “fancy a swap?” to which he responded “sure, of course” and we laughed. The camera itself is very nice. My first impression was how light it is. The finder is quasi identical to that of a 35mm rangefinder camera, large and bright with a good RF patch. On the right you see the shutter speeds displayed top to bottom (similar to the Zeiss Ikon, but on the right side not left), and on top when AE is used an A is shown.
The shutter is very quiet. I had to shoot it twice as I was not sure it happened the first time round. The whole thing holds very well in the hands, with your left you can focus and control aperture on the front, the right presses the shutter and winds. The three gentlemen seemed very pleased with the interest that the camera is getting. Obviously I am not familiar with the company internals at Fujifilm, but I would not be at all surprised if the analog division consists of a lot more of these kind of film nuts, who — I fantasize here — in the shadows of the workings of an enormous industrial corporation continue to enjoy making these products, even if it is at a much smaller scale than in the past.
For me the R-D1 has always been an unfulfilled wishful dream. When I looked at it years ago I was not too excited, and nor I was today. It still seems big, and surprisingly heavy, almost heavier than the much larger dimensioned GF670, but above all somehow greatly lacking elegance. The chunky body with the tiny lens in front, it just does not appeal to me, but of course many others will like it just fine. But unless there is ever an alternative to it or the Leica M8, the dream will continue.
Custom photo books
Why, after years and years of print on demand photo books, isn’t there any decent domestic Japanese offering that at least comes close to the likes of Blurb and MyPublisher or even iPhoto books? It is a total mystery. Most of the books are obviously targeted at the wedding or family album market. For a start, there is no book in landcape orientation, but plenty of squares and portait formats. The paper is glossy and shiny, and either very thin or very thick. The images look not of great print quality. The typesetting, I assume not customisable, looks beyond terrible. Spiral ring binding etc., you get the idea. On the plus side, some of them can be made while you wait. Forgettable.
Good to see Mamiya active digitally. A small, but very focussed booth. It would be a shame to see cameras like the RZ67 become history. The digital back for it, not sure who makes it, appears to breath new life into it. Don’t dump your RBs and RZs for cheap yet!
I was impressed by a very large print of a blossoming cherry tree (what else) made from the Pentax 645 Digital. One general gripe about digital prints on the show: they are all just too damn sharp! It looks great from a distance — go closer, as you naturally do with a fine print, and it all falls apart pretty quickly. Still sharp at close distance, but not pretty.
The Japanese Photographic Pinhole Society
Not sure who they are, but they are funded well enough to afford a fairly large booth in the center of the hall.
Away game for the yellow team. Nothing too exciting on display for me in the paper and finishing area, but some very good prints outside next to the Ektar promotion, taken on Portra, Tmax and Ultra. “Love Film, Love Camera” the booth says.
In a Micro Four Thirds display the well known prototype with the byline “On Sale Summer 2009”. Next to it a product covered by a blue cloth… and next to that a window celebrating 50 years of Olympus Pen — coincidence?
There are plenty of small booths with all sorts of things on display. Take for example the “Japan Photo and Video Small Accessory Industrial Association”, or “Japan Photo-sensitized Materials Manufacturers Association” advertising themselves. I noted an interesting booth by a small company making steps or “scaffolding” for group photographs, which are very common to do here (see also our review on Tomoko Sawada’s School Days). They had a sample photo with a huge group of people on it, perhaps a graduation. I asked them how many people were on the steps. The answer was three hundred!