Archive for March 7, 2009

PMA09: This camera show needs a makeover

PMA09 Logo

OK, I’m not saying the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse showed up at the Vegas Convention Center for the PMA show. But I picked up at least four signs that the Photo Marketing Association will need to rethink its approach for future shows.

Sign number 1: Too many concept products. As much as I love looking at products that promise outlandish technologies and visions of the future, that’s not what people are buying in the stores and online. I saw “concepts” at Samsung, Fujifilm and Olympus. But I think companies need to present more products, particularly budget cameras under $100. And it was somewhat stunning that there was only one digital SLR announced at the show: the Olympus E-620.

Sign number 2: Competition from other shows. Actually, one reason there was just one SLR introduced at PMA is that there were a number of them announced at another show, last year at Photokina, a biennial camera show that takes place in Germany. But more and more camera vendors are introducing cameras at CES in January too. And quite frankly, that just steals PMA’s thunder.

Sign number 3: Low attendance. Just like at CES, this year’s PMA appeared to have far fewer attendees roaming the floor. There were also some vendors that just didn’t bother to show up, like Adobe and Epson. At some of the smaller booths, I walked past many vendors where the folks at the booths were just standing around devouring their own candies and snacks, and debating which was the best Cirque du Soleil show to go to in Vegas.

Sign number 4: A snapshot of hard times. At a digital camera market research briefing, held by the company Infotrends, one camera industry analyst pointed out that in terms of sales of digital point-and-shoots, 2008 may be a peak year, meaning that camera manufacturers may not be making as much money in the future as they have in the past. In and of itself, that’s pretty disheartening from an industry perspective. (The one bright spot may still be digital SLRs.) He also mentioned that with such fierce competition and razor-thin profit margins, you might very well see more consolidation among camera manufacturers, similar to Sony buying out Konica-Minolta’s SLR technology in 2006. And less competition is generally is not good news for consumers. And it sure isn’t great news for the folks that run PMA.

Hopefully I’m wrong and we’ll see everyone back at PMA10 in Anaheim, California, next year. Everyone except the Four Horsemen.

—Terry Sullivan

Comments off

PMA09: Fujifilm digital camera fills your eyes with that double vision

Fujifilm 3D digital picture frame concept PMA09Perhaps it's the floundering economy that’s making camera companies display half-baked, "concept" cameras at this year's PMA. Both Samsung and Olympus have theirs. At the Fujifilm booth, the "concept" on view is based on stereoscopic vision, or creating 3D images by taking two photos and then using some sort of device to optically "merge" them in the viewer’s eyes or perception in order to give you a 3D image.

As you can see from the photos I took at their booth, Fujifilm not only has a digital camera to take the 3D images (which also appear in 3D on the camera's LCD), but they also have on view a 3D picture frame and actual prints. (Click on images for closer looks.) I thought some Fujifilm 3D concept camera PMA09 of the demo prints worked better than others, and all the shots had a lenticular-like quality. Still, I was fascinated with this development, although the company had no details on how far along they were on the products or pricing.

Stereoscopic technology is nothing new. In the photo world, it dates back to the nineteenth century. What I found intriguing is that Fujifilm is following a broader trend in imaging, particularly in the motion picture industry and on HDTVs. We'll be sure to follow up on any future developments from Fujifilm on these products.

—Terry Sullivan

Comments off

Barnes & Noble gets deeper into e-books

For literary types who revel in electronic books and the advent of electronic readers like the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader but are distressed by the current lack of real competition, take heart.

Barnes & Noble yesterday bought Fictionwise, an electronic-book vendor, for $15.7 million, setting itself up for an entry into the world of e-ink. From B&N's short press release:

"Barnes & Noble said it plans to use Fictionwise as part of its overall digital strategy, which includes the launch of an e-Bookstore later this year."

"Digital strategy?" Could a "Barnes & Noble"-branded e-reader—a la the Amazon Kindle—be far behind?

So far, Amazon’s marketing department has done wonders for the Kindle, arguably besting the Sony Reader in terms of visibility. But unlike Sony (and like Amazon), Barnes & Noble is already a recognizable name in the book-retailing world. Will its brand help it launch a viable competitor to the $360 Kindle 2 and the $400 Sony Reader?

What do you think? Weigh in below.

Comments off