Special Report: photokina
Frances´ Fancy

The New Spirit At photokina
Something very evident at this photokina was a new spirit of openness. Partly this was caused by changes in the business, but more, it was the result of the arrival of the new kids on the block. For example, Nokia had never exhibited at photokina before. They held an informal press conference; they offered to set up interviews with their chief executives; their stand was open and welcoming; and everyone radiated enthusiasm. I had only the most tangential interest in their products, but I was very impressed with their spirit.

Perhaps at last the era of the fortress mentality is coming to an end. At photokina 2002, for example, I tried to visit Tetenal. I knew them well and I had worked closely with them in the past. But they had built such a fortress that I walked around the outside once and left. I had already been to their press conference so I knew there were no new products, but their stand didn't even show what they did--not much use for the average visitor! This year their stand was back to being open. You could see their line-up, and they were talking about their commitment to the products that had made them (justly) famous.

With ever fewer camera stores where you can actually see the goods, read the instructions, handle a camera, and talk to an enthusiastic proprietor, photographic shows are steadily growing in importance. Websites are all very well, but they are not real, only virtual. They can give you only a very limited feeling for the product. What does it weigh? How does it feel? Is it smooth or rough? Does it smell funny? A strange question perhaps, but ask yourself if it is irrelevant (remember the old Soviet ever-ready cases).

So here is my advice: Go to photographic shows--photokina is biggest and best, but go to any you can get to. They are great places for the exchange of ideas. We can talk to manufacturers and distributors and let them know what we want and need. How else will they know? Sure, they can do surveys and ask focus groups and everything else. But we are the people who keep them in business: you, me, and every other enthusiast. If they build walls and we don't storm them, we will lose contact with one another. Tear down the wall!

Some introductions don't quite fit into our normal assignments, and you can't cover everything anyway, so we each report on things which take our fancy and which we believe that our readers would find useful, or at least interesting. Here are my selections:
Novoflex (www.hpmarketingcorp.com) has a new range of bellows that can be adapted to a wide range of different cameras and lenses; the top of the line versions even allow camera movements. I want to try one of these with our Nikon D70! They also make a "stitcher" for step-and-repeat exposures on digital media--several of these were on offer from different people but (as ever) Novoflex's were exceptionally elegant and well made.