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The scene is set at Photokina

September 21, 2010: Exclusive overview from Photokina from Cologne by John Swainston, managing director, Maxwell International.

Let the excitement commence!

September in Germany every two years means Photokina. The six-day exhibition and related conferences opens this year with a heap of significant camera-related announcements already made.

As someone who’s been visiting this show since 1972, that’s just one of the big differences in publicity related to this event. Back then, opening day was when all announcements were made. That said, what the estimated 150 Australian attendees will be mindful of, is the huge onslaught of new imaging capture formats recently announced and about to appear on Australian photo counters in coming weeks.

This year every major camera maker is putting their toe in to try and influence the inevitable coming shake-up that will determine which direction photography will take.

The compact camera is now a much more complex field for retailers to range – but much more exciting too. Just take the premium offerings recently announced.

‘This season photo counters should be buzzing with higher ticket items that will build retail dollars.’

Easy to overlook now in the Photokina rush, but still less than two months back, Panasonic brought us the connoisseur-class DMC-LX5, a camera that many pro’s regard as the camera to carry when you don’t have an SLR.

A month ago the cascade of news started with Canon’s modestly enhanced S95 – an elegant, slim, high-performing compact which upped the S90 spec with HD video and lower noise claims.

Two weeks later came Nikon’s P7000, a larger and more traditional high-end unit clearly focused to gain back share from Canon’s highly respected G11. But wait! Canon then upped the ante with a G12, again adding HD video and other noise enhancements.

On the day before the show Fujifilm may quite possibly have changed the compact ‘paradigm’ by introducing the FinePix X100, an APS-sized chip camera with an f2 35mm-equivalent fixed lens, and a 12-megapixel sensor that claims 10X the sensitivity of normal compact chips!

What you offer your customer from just this segment may or may not have you chalking up some serious new business this season. Because all these cameras produce pretty stunning results from their diminutive and not so diminutive dimensions.

The DSLR offerings or ILC cameras (Interchangeable Lens Camera) as some now define them, provide even greater diversity. Do you go with Samsung’s NX100, Olympus’ EPL2, or Sony’s NEX5 approaches to compact mirrorless cameras or, also from Sony, the semi-translucent mirror Alpha A55.

With some of these cameras getting an optical viewfinder into the equation partially denies their diminutive size and makes them larger than the new Pentax K-r, derived from one of the industry’s smallest traditional DSLRs. Or do you offer the new Nikon D7000 with all the fruit, successor it would seem to several cameras? Small, light and packed with features including full HD video. Or do you go upmarket with the highly accomplished Canon EOS 60D?

With all this happening and the show still two hours before opening time as I write, the mood is pretty electric. Photo as a category has suffered with much of the rest of the CE industry in recent years, with sharply declining prices and a changing print market. This season photo counters should be buzzing with higher ticket items that will build retail dollars.

But the way they are presented as better products, not just with more megapixels (because some of them have less!), will be the biggest influence on retail bottom lines in coming months.

Let the fun begin!

– John Swainston, Maxwell International

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