I should have sensed an issue a few weeks before the 2023 CP+ imaging show in Yokohama, Japan, was due to open because when I applied for my press pass, the only response I received was in Japanese – a complete contrast to previous CP+ shows I’ve attended.
Like most Australians, I neither speak nor read Japanese. Undaunted – and because I really wanted to attend the show – I also applied for a regular visitor’s pass. Fortunately, for that the details were in English – but it only entitled me to enter the show at midday, which meant missing out on the less-crowded 10 to 12 time slot allotted to press and ‘VIP’ visitors.
On arrival in Yokohama, I fronted up at the organisers’ desk on the afternoon before the show opened, explaining my problem to a staff member who could speak some English and providing her with my business card. After a lot of bureaucratic shuffling, muttering and consultations behind screens I was told they would email me later with a possible solution.
No email came that night so I went directly to the registration desk at about 9:30 on the following morning, submitted my business card and explained my situation to an English-speaking staff member, was given a form (in English) to fill out and then presented with a press pass that enabled me to join the growing line of journalists eager to see what this year’s show offered. It made me wonder why the organisers had made it so difficult in the first place.
But more surprises were to come.
The first shock came as I entered the exhibition hall and encountered a large, relatively empty area containing mostly benches, which were presumably provided to allow visitors to rest their feet and meet in small groups.
There was no such area in the packed halls at the 2019 show, the last time CP+ was held as a physical event. Subsequent shows have been online only due to the impact of the COVID pandemic.
Interestingly, OM Digital Solutions had an impressive-looking stand to the left of the entry area while the larger stands for Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony were clearly visible over along the rear wall of the large, rectangular exhibition space. These stands were designed to be the main drawcards for most visitors. However, I had the distinct impression there was really nothing new to see on any of them; everything on show had already been pre-announced, in some cases back in 2022.
Most stands were traditional in design and content but hands-on experiences with products were not as well organised – and nothing like as widely available as it was at the 2019 show. Canon focused mainly on its new EOS R8 and R50 cameras and RF lenses, but with some searching you could find some stylised ‘camera concepts’ drawings hinting at future models. (None looked particularly innovative.)
The company’s consumer inkjet printers were nicely displayed in a separate area that was well laid out and staffed to enable visitors to have hands-on experience with key models.
At the back of the printer display was a small area set up to demonstrate Canon’s VR (Virtual Reality) equipment. Unfortunately, it and the nearby ‘WR’ area were totally labelled in Japanese with few English translations or English-speaking staff available when we visited.
(This probably didn’t matter much to Canon’s executives since we saw very few Western visitors during the whole time we were at the show.)
Although no new products were announced by the company, the Fujifilm stand carried a comprehensive display of cameras (ranging from basic Instax models through to the G-series medium format cameras), lenses and printing media as well as different ways in which images can be output, including as prints on paper and cloth and as books in various formats.
The stand was well presented and product displays included a mock-up of the Fujinon GF 20-35mm F4 R WR but not the GF110mm f/5.6 Tilt Shift lens, which has also been promised for the company’s medium format cameras this year. There was also a graphic silhouette of the Fujinon GF55mm f/1.7 lens, another future expectation.
X system users were tantalised with another silhouette showing the Fujinon XF8mm f/3.5 lens, which was included in the roadmap published in May 2022.
Nikon was another manufacturer without new product announcements to coincide with the CP+ show, the latest products being the Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S and Nikkor Z 26mm f/2.8 pancake lens, which were unveiled in early January. On the camera front, nothing new has been released since the Z30 ‘vlogging’ camera, which has an APS-C sized sensor and was announced in June 2022.
Although not shown on the Nikon stand, the Z mount received some attention from Sigma, which will release its trio of DC DN APS-C prime lenses for the Z mount in April, its first lenses for Nikon’s mirrorless system.
Sigma’s stand set aside a ‘reference’ area for showing samples of these new lenses.
Sigma had a couple of new lenses to highlight, notably the 50mm f/1.4 DG DN Art lens unveiled three weeks before the show and the 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG DN OS, both released for the L-mount and Sony E mount, with a visible emphasis on the former.
At the entrance to the stand all the cameras and lenses Sigma has released since the announcement of the ‘SIGMA GLOBAL VISION’ initiative in 2012 were on display, while the stand also carried new ciné lenses, including the FF High Speed Prime Line 65mm T1.5 FF, which was released in January and a lens specially made for the movie Top Gun Maverick.
Venus Optics, also added the Z mount to the options for its Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 full-frame manual focus lens.
Sony was one of the few companies with a genuinely new product to display in the form of the FE 50mm f/1.4 GM lens, which was announced a few days before the show opened. While also adopting a traditional layout with an elevated bench of tethered telephoto prime and zoom lenses overlooking the action below, the Sony stand’s main focus was on video, specifically vlogging at both consumer and professional levels.
Rumour has it that Sony will announce a full-frame vlogging camera in its ZV line in a month or two’s time – although no details have been released as yet.
Other lenses provided for users to try were the FE 20-70mm f/4 G, and FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS, which feature improved eye AF performance as well as the α7RV and the ZV-1F cameras, which were launched about four months ago. Sony also demonstrated the new low-vision viewfinder for the Sony DSC-HX99 projects the image onto the user’s retina, but again only in Japanese.
In addition, Sony also received a lot of ‘love’ in the form of support for its E-mount system from almost all the exhibiting lens manufacturers.
OM Digital Solutions emphasised its new ‘OM’ branding, which was introduced last year with the flagship OM-1 camera and reinforced with the release of the enthusiast-level OM-5 last October.
A highlight of the stand was the recently-announced M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm f/3.5 Macro IS PRO lens, which was available for visitors to try out. An interesting tele-macro lens that covers an angle of view equivalent to 180mm in the 35mm format, it can provide up to 2x life size magnification – or up to 4x when used with the optional 2x Teleconverter MC-20.
Panasonic, the other main supporter of the M4/3 format, chose to concentrate upon the new S5 Mark II camera, although the theme of the stand was ‘Next Phase with Lumix’, implying further developments of its G-series cameras and lenses. Both formats were represented with displays of camera bodies and compatible lenses and the company announced a new Lumix S5IIX camera was scheduled for release in June, with a prototype on display at the show. Recent moves towards augmenting the contrast-based
AF system with a faster, more efficient image plane phase difference AF system were also highlighted.
Third-party lens manufacturers like Tamron and Tokina were also represented, in Tamron’s case by a relatively large and colourful stand. The Tamron 11-20mm F/2.8 Di III-A RXD will now be available in Fujifilm’s X mount, the fourth Tamron lens to be released for this mount, in addition to the existing Sony E mount. The Tamron stand also hosted a display of the Nanlite Forza 500 5600K Daylight LED lighting system.
Cosina confirmed the upcoming launch of four new lenses under its Voigtlander brand, including the Nokton 50mm f/1 Aspherical, its first lens for the Canon EOS R system. Kenko Tokina had a relatively large stand, just beside a small display of Lensbaby products.
The Kenko Tokina stand was relatively large for a third-party specialist manufacturer.
The usual proliferation of small stands displaying interesting accessory products failed to materialise, although a number of specialist manufacturers like Marumi filters and Sirui tripods had decent-sized stands. The rest, however, tended to amalgamate into composite stands that displayed products from six to 12 different manufacturers. Brands like Atomos, Laowa, Rode Microphones, X-Rite & Datacolor, Think Tank and Domke fell into this category.
As noted above and in our report on the Photo Review website
(https://www.photoreview.com.au/news/events/cp-2023-much-smaller-and-japanese- focused/), we saw very few Westerners at this year’s show, a departure from the norm of previous years.
One reason could be that Japan has only recently opened its doors to tourists and still places strict limits on visitors from China and other countries that have been seriously affected by COVID. You could conclude that COVID has highlighted the relevance of large shows of the kind exemplified by CP+. Photokina, the ‘must attend’ European show closed its doors in 2018 and, although the annual CES show in Las
Vegas continues, it is mostly devoted to electronic, with imaging a very minor part of its content.
Discussing the viability of large shows with people working in the video industry, we’ve come to the conclusion that many people value these shows primarily as opportunities to meet with contacts in other parts of the world and hear about what they’re doing. Unlike the more ‘multicultural’ event in 2019, the very insular nature of CP+ 2023 appears to prevent such opportunities.
But the global climate has also changed; more people are working online and apps like Zoom have made it easy to collaborate globally without leaving home. Cost-wise, it seems many people now prefer the online options. From a manufacturer’s viewpoint it also seems the financial managers of some companies are already weighing up the overall value of investing in these shows. The high cost associated with setting up and staffing stands must be balanced against using those funds for potentially more productive ends, such as keeping product prices within an ‘affordable’ range for end users and investing in new product development and promotion.
There’s also the undeniable fact that supply chain constraints are forcing manufacturers to plan new product announcements more carefully. Nothing really new was announced at the start of the 2023 CP+ show; instead, manufacturers are choosing to make announcements when it suits them, rather than catering for show organisers. And with virtually all new products being announced online these days, in most respects this will be better for retailers and consumers as it will result in a better planned stream of
product releases – as well as a more reliable supply chain for the future.