Observations from PIE 2008 (Podcast 131)

Martin Bailey Photography Podcast

Observations from PIE 2008 (Podcast 131)

Although my family were due to arrive the following day, on the morning of March the 20th, which was a holiday here in Japan, and I had the choice of completing the Podcast I had half prepared, or going to the Photo Imaging Expo 2008 at the Tokyo Big Sight, and then try to put something together based on that. Well, I went to the Expo, but ended up still not having time to prepare a Podcast on what I saw there. I got part way through it on the night of the 20th, but did not have time to complete and record it before my family and friends arrived. Well, now that they have gone back to England, I’ve completed putting my thoughts down, so let’s take a look at the few things that I found interesting at the Photo Imaging Expo 2008.

Before we get into this, I shot some photos to illustrate the Podcast, but have not uploaded them to my gallery. I just posted them in a forum post in the MBP Podcast forum. There’ll be a link in the show notes. I will include the photos in the enhanced podcast and the mp3 audio file too, so you will be able to view them as usual, but I won’t call out numbers for the images, because there’ll be nothing to jump too in my gallery. I won’t go into details about how I shot the images either, because they are just snap shots.

Anyway, as I walked through the doors nearest the ticket desk, the first thing that hit me was the huge Canon stand at the other side of this end of the hall, which really quite dwarfed many of the other stands between the doorway and them. Naturally, paying some attention to the stands along the way, I made a bit of a beeline for the Canon stand. I wasn’t expecting anything new, as in something none of us have heard about yet. Canon, as with most companies save their big announcements for the big trade shows in the U.S. I was though hoping they’d have one of the new 800mm F5.6 IS USM lenses to take a look at. Well, as we can see in the first photo in the forum post, they did have one. I queued up for a minute or two to get a peek at it, and confirmed what I already knew, which is the lens has some nice curvy lines. Unlike the 600mm F4 which is more angular like all other Canon lenses to date, the 800mm F5.6 has some curves. I didn’t ask why, as I was very doubtful that anyone would be able to give me a good answer, but I thought this was a nice touch from a design perspective. Nothing technical, but I personally like things that are engineered well and with curves, not just machined with straight lines.

If I recall, it was a 5D attached to the lens, so it should have had a nice bright image to view in the finder, but I was not all that impressed with the brightness of the image. I guess looking through an F5.6 lens is to blame here. I expected it to be brighter, just because of the size of the lens, but was a little disappointed to see how dark it actually was. I hear that this lens is sharper than the 600mm F4 with a 1.4X Extender fitted, but the 600mm with the Extender is still a very useable combination, and when you consider the reduced versatility and the huge price tag, and take into account the relative darkness of the lens, this isn’t something that I would particularly like to add to my arsenal, even for bird photography.

You can also see the new TV add penguin in the poster in the background there. In Japan, the EOS Kiss X2 was due for release the day after I went to the Expo I believe, which would have been the 21st of March. This of course is the camera known as the Rebel XSi in other parts of the world. I don’t know if these commercials are running anywhere else in the world, but there are currently three commercials running here in Japan, one with a Lion, one with a bulldog, and this one with the penguin, where you watch the by animal doing something cute, then after a moment, the focus points light up, and you here that beep as the focus locks in, then the TV cuts to the parent animal with the XSi, photographing their cute little cub, pup or chick. Quite a nice set of commercials!

The one thing that I really wanted to do while I was at the Expo is talk to someone from both Canon and Epson about their 24” inch wide professional printers. I have to move apartment first, as I can’t fit one in my current place, but I’m looking to pick one of these up later in the year, and although I’m pretty sold on the Canon IPF6100 printer, I still want to compare it to the Epson before I take the plunge. Anyway, in the second image you can see that I had a word with the rep at the Canon booth while taking a look at the IPF6100 printer. Even before taking a look, I’ve been thinking that the Canon does look better in many ways, including price, and also speed. I was amazed at how fast the Canon IPF6100 was spitting out prints. I see from the Epson web site that you can make an A1 size print in fast mode in 1.2 minutes, and in normal mode in just 4 minutes. This will probably vary with paper and there may also be a slower, even higher quality print mode. 4 minutes probably using bidirectional printing too, which I usually turn off for better quality prints, but I’d play around with this some to see if that is still necessary with the new printer when I get it. Anyway, with the amount of ink these printers have to put out, an A1 print in 4 minutes is pretty amazing, and the prints that I could see coming out in no time looked pretty good, even on close inspection.

I did have a word with the guy at the Epson stand a little later, and they were very helpful too. Both companies told me where I could go with some image data to do some test prints with them to help me make up my mind. Another big factor is the types of paper available. Canon seem to be marketing branded Hahnemuhle papers as their Fine Art range, which are excellent papers, and Epson have their Professional Fine Art cotton rags, such as the UltraSmooth Fine Art paper that I use for most of the prints that I sell, so I know I’m good on either paper, but still, I want to see what is available in the large rolls too and do some test prints before making my final decision.

Next I just posted a picture in which you can see the entire Canon stand. After that is a Photo of a model shoot that a Japanese photographer by the name of Kazuya Gondo was doing with some pre-registered volunteers. It was funny to see that all of the seven people sitting waiting to shoot the models were middle aged men. It was as if it is illegal for a woman to apply to take part or something.

In the fifth photo you can see another close-up of the Canon stand with a bunch of people looking at the Kiss X2 below, and the two stage upper level where I’d been earlier playing with the 800mm F5.6. It’s nice to be able to actually get your hands on this gear and play with it, especially if you are considering buying something. There are Canon Salons in major cities across Japan where you can go and take a look at the whole range, but it’s nice to have so many different manufacturers in one place like this, so that you can do comparisons as well as just play and gloat.

The next photo shows the new Sigma behemoth, the 200-500mm F2.8 lens. I queued for a minute or two to take a closer look at this lens too, more out of curiosity than anything else. I was impressed by the fact that there is a small LCD display on the lens itself, right at eye level, telling you what focal length you are at in millimetres, and the distance you are focusing at. Needless to say though, this lens is just too big for my kind of photography. I can imagine we’ll start to see these at side-lines at sports events though very soon, if we haven’t already. It would be great to be able to zoom through from 200 to 500mm and stay at F2.8 if you are shooting from the sidelines. At 15kg though, you won’t be walking far with this lens, so it is definitely a specialized piece of kit. I also thought it was interesting, but not really surprising that you have to put a battery in the lens to power it.

Next is just a bonus photograph from the Nikon stand. What a beautiful motorcycle. I can actually zoom in to 100% and read the text on that plaque and find that this bike was created by Suzuki for the 40th Tokyo Motor Show in 2007 to express how good it feels to ride a motorcycle. Apparently it is called a Biplane, but because it’s a compound word formed from Bike and Plane, because it feels as good riding in a plane than a bike. There are also details of the spec, such as that it is a 1,000CC or 1 litre V4 engine, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this dream machine actually runs.

Next is the 24” wide Epson printer called the Crystario Ex-7550 here in Japan. For many years Canon were playing catch-up, always 6 months behind Epson, and that is why I have been buying Epson printers for 15 years. I even said to the guy at the Epson professional stand that I thought this was the case, hoping to prize something out of him about their plans for something better down the road, but he just grimaced and kind of agreed with me. Well, the tables appear to have turned, at least in this level of printer, but Epson won’t be resting on their laurels, so I’m hoping that whatever they counter with is out by the Autumn, which is when I’ll probably be seriously looking to pick up a new 24” printer to extend the reach of my own Fine Art print business.

Next is a shot of the as usual very sleek Nikon stand. This part just had a display of the range of lenses and cameras I think, and that guy you can see looking back at us from the screen inside the display is Kimura Takuya, or Kimutaku, a famous actor come dancer come singer here in Japan. He is in all of the Nikon commercials here in Japan. The Nikon guys sure do know how to put a classy stand together anyway. Their cameras aren’t bad either!!

In the next photo we can see a bright yellow and bright red Mamiya 645ProTL camera. These are two of a total of 9 colours in a limited edition range of 120 film cameras. I found these interesting and nice to look at, and may well be swamped with mail for saying this, but I couldn’t help thinking that this is to some extent a gimmick, as an attempt to hold on to a waning film camera market. There were bright green and deep lacquer red versions in the next cabinet, which were also quite cool. These little babies cost 320,000 yen or around $3,200 for a manual version, and 380,000 yen or $3,800 for an AE version. It seems that Mamiya will make up to 200 of these by order, so if you like the look of them you’ll probably need to be quick.

Before I left, I visited to the Gitzo and Manfrotto stands. I was surprised to see both of these tripod manufacturers right next to each other, then I realised that they are both now being marketed by Bogen, which I didn’t know until this time. This actually makes me feel less of a traitor to Manfrotto though, who’s tripod I have loved and used for many years, because having taken a good look at the Gitzo tripods, and having asked lots of questions, I have recently picked up another Gitzo tripod. My other Gitzo is very large, for when I’m shooting with the 600mm F4 mainly, but my slightly small Manfrotto was really not holding my 1Ds and 300mm F2.8 lens as steady as I’d have liked. All credit to Manfrotto, it has been a great tripod until my requirements grew out of it. It just wasn’t designed to hold this much weight.

All in all it was a good show, but I have to admit that this show, and I dare say any similar show in other countries apart from the US are going to be a little paled by the speed at which information travels on the Internet these days. In the past, I’ve spent the whole day here, but on this day, I was in there for about two and a half hours. The problem is that there is rarely anything new announced at expos outside of the US. And now that the Internet enables us to read about things either straight away after, or even before the new products are announced, so there really are no surprises anymore. I prefer it like this, because I like the technology, as most of you know, and I like to stay abreast of what’s happening in the industry, but it does kind of take the fun out of trade shows like this.

So another relatively quick one this week as I try to catch up with some other stuff after my family visit. With all that’s going off at the moment, I think I’ll not be able to put out any more Podcasts than usual to catch up with the couple of weeks we missed recently. There’s just too much going off both photographically, in my day job and in my personal life. I’ll almost definitely be able to stick to my usual one episode per week for a while though, so stay tuned for the next episode. And you have a great week, whatever you’re doing — Bye-bye.

Show Notes
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Michael Rammell

Posted on behalf of Martin by Michael Rammell, a Wedding Photographer based in Berkshire,

England. Michael also has a long-standing passion for Nature & Landscape photography. To catch up with Michael, visit his Web site, and follow him on the following social networking services.

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