Sony at Focus on Imaging (report)
SONY’s stand was a real brightener for Focus. Gone were the black and orange colours I criticised at photokina, which for two successive years created a black hole compared to Canon’s oasis of light. Instead, huge white silks extended to the roof with bright spots and floods creating an inviting zone of pure light. White and orange rules!
Backing this up was probably the best line-up of personnel you could expect to find. Paul Genge, running the live demonstrations, is beginning to reveal himself as a bit of a spiritual successor to a man he never knew – Minolta’s legendary Dick Bryant. He is discovering photographers for Sony, and nurturing them. In conversation on the stage, he made the business of presenting work easy even for those like Gustav Kiburg (kingfisher) with English as a second language. As Duncan McEwan said, Paul put his interview and demo partners totally at ease, and the result was a four-day programme of shows which worked perfectly.
This shot gives a very wrong impression of the audience! Most of the time it was impossible to get to a place to take a shot, so I had to wait until my second day of the show and at the very end of the day. Michael Wayne Plant was demonstrating tungsten lit beauty portraiture with the Alpha 900, and the aid of a large Bravia screen tethered shooting arrangement:
This is what an HDMI connection can do! Paul is pointing to the screen and asking Michael whether he always sets RAW+JPEG; Michael is about to reply with praise of Capture One v4 software, which he actually uses to give his raw processed shots a unique look (something very easily done by saving presets in C1).
Other guest speakers included Duncan McEwan and Gustav Kiburg, featured in the last edition of Photoworld. Here we have Gustav showing me his superb stack of A3 mounted prints, made by a Netherland photo lab using Fuji Pearl base paper (a kind of opal-metallic base, which looks amazing with those feather colours):
On the last day of the show, Gustav learned he had won the Photo of the Year from Dyxum.com, the Dynax-Maxxum AF system enthusiast website – http://www.dyxum.com/dforum/forum_posts.asp?TID=43032
Like all my shots here in the Stand, the portrait was taken using the HVL-F58AM flipped up for bounce with the little reflector card pulled out – an effect quite different from direct flash. On the stand, there was also an exhibition of prints:
And, of course, there were the 16-35mm and 70-400mm – the most sought-after new lenses – to be handled and viewed through on Alpha 900 bodies, plus many staff including Bernard Petticrew (ex Minolta) manning desks with more examples of the gear.
It was also on sale at the show, primarily through two dealers – Cameraworld and Jacobs. At the Cameraworld stand, I encountered this visitor carefully noting down the prices of stuff against his selected list of items. After he went, one of the sales staff said if he’d handed the list over, they would have knocked even more off the total!
This is a shot taken on my £90, 25-year-old Sigma focus confirm M-AF mount 16mm fisheye (like the uncorrected shots above) put through Pantools transform to cylindrical perspective. That’s a 70-400mm in the top right for £999 and a 16-35mm for £1099 next to it. Did I buy? No! I will admit these lenses are too big and serious for a roaming snapshooter like me (in my zoom lens guise). For serious stuff in the studio, primes do even better, and I have those.
But I did find in Cameraworld’s cabinet a 1.4X Teleplus 300 DG converter, secondhand, labelled “Mount?” and £60. It was clearly an Alpha mount, so I asked to look at it, and sure enough it even said M-AF on the side. £60 was handed over, and on returning home, I found that this high-end converter fits my 70-300mm SSM lens and permits AF without technical problems. The f/8 working aperture at the longer end requires reasonable light to focus, and for the focus limiter switch to be on.
Jacobs’ stand was even more packed with bargains:
I know you will be frustrated by this – all those boxes and no prices you can read! Try clicking the pic…
But here’s a late edit to console you – you might have been looking at the Calumet stand, with its desultory handful of beaten up old Alpha 100 boxed kits selling for prices no-one would contemplate today:
(about 50% higher than prices for similar new, pristine boxed A200 kits!)
As ever, I didn’t have enough time at the show – but not because two days is not enough. With the number of stands, and the people I know, it would be easy to spend two weeks doing what really is needed to learn about everything new.
Duncan McEwan said he had been on the Sony stand nearly all the time – hardly any chance to see the show. On the third day, they printed up a sign and opened a counter area for the featured photographers to talk to visitors. While the big draw on the Sony stand could have been equipment, it ended being photography, and photographers.
Here’s a goodbye shot of Duncan and Gustav – and those figures you can see in the background are other photographers from the lecture programme, talking to people over the counter.
Focus on Imaging ends at 6pm Wedneday February 25th, one day remaining after I post this. Though the show offers are only available at the show, I can not imagine that any dealer like Jacobs if telephoned would refuse an offer based on reading a report of the show and seeing their stock.
I also bought a £300 Alpha 350 body from Cameraworld (£299 at Jacobs, my error!) and an FA-HS1AM flash adaptor for some tests I need to run. I failed to buy a £99 vertical grip for the Alpha 350 from Jacobs, I just was not looking hard enough – and I had to resist buying one for the A900, and adding a second HVL-F58AM flash to my kit. Judging from the bags leaving the show, others had more money to budget than I did!
– David Kilpatrick, February 24th 2009, back in Scotland after a four and a half hour drive.