Focus on Imaging is nothing if not bang up to date. You’ve only got to compare the exhibitors list for, f’rinstance, 1998 with that for 2003 and then with that for 2008 and you’ll see just how successfully Focus has ridden the fast moving technological wave that continues to sweep through the imaging industry.
But this year banguptodateness doesn’t just apply to the companies to be featured at the NEC in February, to the products that bear their brands, to the often ground breaking technology to be found on some of the stands taken by small companies as they bid to join the big names.
This year it also applies to the promotion of the show itself, to the advertisements which are now appearing throughout the photographic and imaging press and, especially, to a programme of specially created viral messages.
Both adverts and virals feature photographer Justin Focus (never heard of him? Check out the Focus on Imaging website and follow the leads to see what you’ve been missing), with the virals themselves reflecting the ever closing gap between still and moving images.
These brief but highly incisive videos offer a unique insight into the work of this iconic artist, and with the word getting round that Justin himself will not only be putting in a number of appearances at the show but also having a stand of his own where he will be signing autographs and where Justinabilia will be available, it’s expected that his fast growing fan following will further boost show visitor numbers.
As a top photographer Justin will certainly have a terrific choice of stands to visit. That’s assuming of course that he’s not mobbed wherever he goes and doesn’t as a result get the same opportunity to take in everything that Focus will have to offer lesser mortals. If he can get away, of course, he’ll find everything he needs to maintain and enhance his reputation.
However, despite that reputation and the undoubtedly close contacts he has, Justin will still have to wait until nearer to the show’s opening date, Sunday, February 24th, to find out what the top camera manufacturers will be showing. As usual they are playing their cards close to their chests and while Olympus have told Focus organisers that their E3 DSLR system will definitely be showcased on their stand, Canon, Fuji, Nikon and the rest are firmly but politely saying wait and see, as indeed are Apple though in all probability Justin will already have an iPhone tucked away in his pocket with an iPod full of music alongside it.
Important though cameras are to him, Justin - along with any other successful photographer - relies heavily on accessories, on lenses, tripods, bags, filters and so on. If he drops by the Kenro stand, for example, he’ll be able to see the full range of Tokina lenses from the 10-17mm fisheye zoom, right up to the 80-400mm tele zoom, all of them making a real name for themselves for their optical and excellent build quality and for their value for money. Centre stage will be the super-wide 12-24mm lens, given 91 percent in an in-depth test by AP's Geoffrey Crawley who called it “a first class, state-of-the-art lens."
Kenro is also the UK distributor for the Marumi range of filters, flash guns and camera accessories, including the Marumi DRE14 Ring Flash which fits both Canon and Nikon hotshoes. Other products in Kenro's range include the Nissin flash guns and Kenro's own range of studio flash equipment, including the sub-£500 Studio 300 Lighting.
This year, Lowepro will be showing its latest products, the Flipside and Fastpack Series of backpacks, in addition to an extensive selection of Lowepro products from the existing range. Flipside and Fastpack are said to be perfect for SLR cameras and boast a range of features to provide camera equipment with the “ultimate in protection, while allowing swift access to capture that perfect shot”.
On the same stand, Justin will be amongst the first to see Giotto’s new range of tripods, designed specifically for the UK market and including a selection of camera support products, including tripods, heads and accessories. He’ll also be able to choose from an extensive selection of B+W top quality filters, with experts on hand to demonstrate and advise on filter usage.
In addition, the stand will be hosting a series of presentations by guest speakers, covering a selection of topics including landscape, wildlife, travel, sport, portrait and lifestyle photography.
Justin’s tour of Halls 9 and 10 will take him past the Adobe and Corel stands where he’ll be able to check out the last versions of some of the world’s best selling imaging software programs but he and his fan entourage could also be tempted by PXL Soft’s Dg Foto Art. This is a fast, simple digital album creation tool which enables photographers to create digital albums in minutes, something which, says the company, used to be a highly complex and often tedious task. Stand-alone software, it does not require any third party tools or plug-ins to operate with and comes bundled with more than 1700 ready-to-use templates.
Dg Foto Art Gold is currently available in eight European languages as well as English. Also available is Dg Foto Galleria, a designer collection of creative templates to use with Dg Foto Art.
They might also be interested in a visit to the stand of graphic design and imaging software specialists, onOne whose software products are now compatible with Apple's recently launched Leopard operating system.
These programs include Genuine Fractals 5.0.4, Mask Pro 4.1.2, PhotoFrame 3.1.1, PhotoFrame Professional Edition 3.1.2, PhotoTune 2.2, Intellihance Pro 4.2.1, Essentials for Photoshop Elements 2.0, PhotoTools 1.0, PhotoTools Professional Edition 1.0, Plug-In Suite 3, PhotoFrame Frame Collections, PhotoPresets for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and PhotoPresets for Adobe Camera Raw.
New users of these products will automatically receive the latest Leopard-compatible Mac versions of these products while updates are available for users of existing onOne products.
Photographers and graphic designers are also core customers for LCD monitor specialist Eizo. Image quality, long-term reliability and innovative features are claimed to make the monitors the product of choice in many finance trading rooms, hospitals and back offices as well as in design and photographic studios. At Focus Justin will have the chance to check out the company’s ColorEdge monitor ranges, which are designed to meet the demands of professionals like him.
One stand which Justin is sure to be interested in is Epson’s, if only to see how his work can be printed out as a 60ins wide panoramic print, though of course he’ll also be happy to see that same image printed out as a six by four he can keep in his Louis Vuitton Filofax. He could also be drawn to Epson’s range of A3+ printers, designed to encourage DSLR users to see the big picture, including the latest Stylus Photo R1900 with its staggering 18,446,774 trillion colour combinations, which will be demonstrated in the UK for the first time.
Justin and his fellow professional photographers will also be able to see Epson’s new inkset, UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta, being used with the latest LFP models, with all visitors to the stand able to see in its media gallery the wide range of options, including premium glossy, traditional photo, canvas and fine art which are available to choose from.
A top photographer he may be but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t keep his eye open for a bargain so his trail around the Focus Halls is almost bound to lead him to the stand of Creativity Backgrounds who are offering one free roll of 2.72m x 11m Arctic White Creativity Backgrounds paper worth £35 to anyone who buys three rolls of the same size paper in any colour.
And on the same stand, he’ll be able to the company’s Photographic Backgrounds Prize Draw. First prize is ten rolls of 2.72 x 11m Creativity background paper (worth £350 plus VAT), while the second is four rolls worth £140 +VAT.
Many of Justin’s fans will of course be amateurs who may not have the resources to produce the variety of types of print which professionals have access to and so rely on retailers to do it for them. Which one to choose is often a difficult choice so to help retailers persuade customers they are the one to use, Noritsu has created a Point of Sale Kit which comes free with every Noritsu mini-lab and dry-printing solution. It’s been designed to give retailers a leg up as they refresh the look of their shop or unit, boosting profits by attracting new customers and ensuring that existing trade returns again and again.
This flexible kit offers a range of signage options to entice customers into photo-stores. Modern, life-style themed and firmly aimed at the consumer, the kit is available in DVD format and is offered absolutely free to customers buying a mini-lab or dry-solution from Noritsu.
Noritsu is also expected to showcase its latest line of digital minilabs, the QSS-3701, QSS-3702 and QSS-3703, new multi-function high-performance models will be marketed to a wide range of customers including photofinishers and photo studios. The winning images from the photographic competition the company has been running will be displayed on their stand at Focus.
Still with an eye to the retail trade, Cusack Photo will be showing both the successful range of Copal printers, the 6x4ins, 6x8/9ins DPB6000 and the 8x10/12ins DPB4000 (both re-badged by Fuji) and kiosks from River. The counter top FotoCube allows retailers to stay in control of transactions, whilst the customers can place their own orders. It looks great, can be customised, is easy to set up and use and more printers can be attached. Cusack Photo still offers small C41 film processors and safety camera film processors from FC Japan, and quality used digital mini-labs and accessories for UK and export.
Quite justifiably, Justin is very particular about how the photographs he has so carefully taken are printed and one stand which can expect a visit from him is Hahnemühle’s where the German company will be showcasing two new papers, Bamboo 290 and FineArt Baryta 325.
Bamboo 290 is the world’s first fine art inkjet paper made from bamboo fibres. A natural white paper with a warm tone, it combines spiritual photography with environmentally friendly materials. Bamboo 290 consists of ultra-pure fibres from highly renewable bamboo grass and pure spring water.
The fibre based FineArt Baryta 325 paper with its unique glossy baryta surface similar to traditional baryta papers is ideal for brilliant black and white prints with the finest grey nuances and also for luminous colour photographs. This paper is a worthy replacement for the legendary baryta paper from analogue laboratories.
Justin is also expected to stop by the Harman technology stand where for the first time the company will be exhibiting three brands, Ilford Photo, Harman Photo and the newly acquired Kentmere. It will be a great opportunity for Justin to see just how effectively Harman has integrated Kentmere into its business without affecting the product nature, or performance, that loyal Kentmere customers have come to know and love.
In addition, Ilford Photo will be relaunching its print and process service at Focus. Designed to help safeguard analogue photography in today’s time poor, demand rich world, it’s a great way for the hard-pushed monochrome photographer to enjoy high-quality prints without the hassle, or expensive, of buying and using their own chemistry.
And finally, not to be outdone, Harman Photo will also be using Focus to promote the launch of its new Gloss FB AL Warmtone. This new paper, which will be given away in trial sized packs on the Harman stand, is the eagerly awaited follow-up to the manufacturer’s Gloss FB AL, a product which was launched in late summer 2007 to rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
First time Focus exhibitors Russell & Chapple’s specialty is supplying canvas for fine art applications. They produce a wide range of materials for digital printing, selling in particular Fredrix Archival Print Canvas, the USA’s most popular inkjet canvas, Exhibition Stretcher Bars, the market leading artists’ stretcher frame, and a whole range of related products for making up canvas prints.
At the show Russell & Chapple will be demonstrating to Justin and his fellow photographers two new products aimed specifically at the photographic market:
First there’s their own Inkjet Photo Textile, a new, bright white textile canvas, ideally suited for photographic reproduction at what’s being described as an extremely competitive price. The smooth grained canvas is very strong and the coating produces excellent results with aqueous pigmented and dye based inks.
Then there’s Fredrix 777 Inkjet Photo Canvas. Recently launched in the USA, this product is said to have set a new quality benchmark for photographic reproduction on canvas.
Also putting canvas prints under the spotlight is Innova Art whose three latest canvas products, released in October last year, were fine tuned to meet the demands of today’s art and photography markets. Each has been thoroughly tested to ensure complete compatibility with all leading inkjet printers, and give exceptional detail, colour and d-max, whatever the image, whatever the machine. Profiles for all leading makes, including Epson, HP and Canon, are offered.
Made from high-grade polycotton, these canvases are tough, flexible and easy to stretch without unsightly cracking. Photo Canvas Matte 350gsm and Fine Art Matte Canvas 340gsm are water resistant and can be finished with water based and solvent giclée varnishes to seal the surface and extend UV resistance. The unique high gloss coating of Photo Canvas Ultra Gloss 380gsm eliminates this stage altogether. All three canvases are available on 15m rolls on a 3ins core in 17ins, 24ins, 36ins and 44ins widths.
An earlier product from Innova Art, FibaPrint paper, carried off the TIPA award for Best Independent Inkjet Paper award.
But as Justin will tell you there’s a whole bunch of print options other than paper and canvas so you may well also find him chatting to the team on the Berbatech stand, which the company itself describes as “small stand with big ideas”. They use fade-free UV-stable inks to print directly on to a wide range of materials from canvas to wood, from carbon fibre to aluminium, from textiles to glass, mirrors, walls and ceilings, and also claim they’ll come up with a solution if someone wants to print on to a surface not on their standard list.
Another first time Focus exhibitor which could attract Justin’s attention is specialist reseller Jigsaw who will be concentrating on the Intelicoat Magiclée range of specialty large format media. This range is extensively used by photographers and digital artists in the USA where it is valued for its high technical quality and relatively low cost.
The Magiclée digital fine art and photo product line complements the Magic brand of large format water-based and solvent inkjet medias. The Magiclée branded fine art folio includes fine art papers, canvases and Mural Pro, all of which have been renamed to capture a more artistic tone. For example Verona for papers, Torino for Canvas, Siena for quick-drying photo papers and Firenze for coated matte papers.
The Magiclée portfolio offers a diverse range of archival media with superior imaging quality and durability. Compatibility exists with most water-based large format inkjet printers and free ICC profiles are available online for certain printers.
Justin may well also call in on the Hot Press stand to talk about mounting and laminating. Hot Press will be demonstrating their popular 26in and 44in Jetmounter laminators but will also be unveiling 18 and 63 inch wide machines to their range.
JetMounters can handle all types of flat artwork from photographs and paper posters to delicate plastics and vinyls. They are ideal for processing all kinds of board stock from simple card or foam centre board to rigid plastic boards and Perspex or even MDF and masonite.
Justin wasn’t at Focus last year (he had a top secret assignment which took him to some exotic corner of Milton Keynes). Had he been there he could well have been among those who are said to have pressed Ashgate Automation for an affordable product which could produce photobook inners using either photographic or digitally printed sheets, mounted on to card. The end result required was a lay-flat, panoramic, edge to edge photobook.
Now Finnish company Maping has extended it Fastbind range (Ashgate are UK main agents) with Fastbind FotoMount, a product which meets those criteria and which will be launched at Focus. The FotoMount is available in manual or electric versions and produces books up to 304 x 304mm with spines up to 80mm.
Knowing Justin he’ll have at bagful of discs full of images with him at the show so if he’s quick and pops along to the Atech stand he could get one of them printed out in photobook form. Atech is launching PhotoStory at the show and the first ten people on the stand each day with a disk of their images will be given a free Photobook to take away with them.
Manufactured in Italy, PhotoStory has been designed to meet the growing demands in the digital imaging industry for a professional finish to albums and portfolios in an affordable way. Its unique approach means that the photo is the page; each page is a centrefold. The whole process is completed on one machine, eliminating the need for outsourcing and with a range of covers to choose from PhotoStory provides a truly professional finish.
The Atech Stand will feature demonstrations of the complete PhotoStory process, from creating bespoke layouts within the software, to covering the finished product.
Photographic wholesaler and distributor Maple Framing are exclusive distributor in the UK for I Nobili albums and SPC Album Design software. I Nobili manufactures a range of superior quality wedding, baby, portrait and commercial albums. All are handmade rather than mass produced, and most are finished in real leather. They are individually hand-made by Italian craftsman and are supplied with a bag and in a case or box where appropriate. Albums have gilded or silvered edges on which the couples names or Studio brand can be etched.
SPC Album Design is an easy to use Photoshop plug-in that enables photographers to design stylish story-book albums. The system is so simple that it’s possible to redesign the supplied templates to suit the story. Masks, frames and special effects are also available within this program.
At Focus on Imaging 2008 Stand B50, Digital Photo Solutions Ltd (DPS) will be demonstrating the latest large format printers from industry leaders Epson, Canon and HP. Capable of outputting widths of 17in (A2+) to 44in (B0+), DPS will show professional photographers and fine artists how they can significantly cut costs without sacrificing quality and control by bringing their printing work in-house.
Enhancing the workflow, the brand new Shiraz Focus software (being launched exclusively at the DPS stand) will allow professional imagemakers to easily layout, crop, colour control and gain the maximum efficiency from their chosen media and significantly cut ink usage.
Once printed, images should be protected by using an over laminate.
See how straightforward it is to apply an overlaminate to printed media to protect and enhance an inkjet print ready for framing. The sheer range of finishes & wallmounts is staggering and can help imagemakers and framers increase their profit potential. If canvas is the media of choice, the DPS Quickmate Canvas Stretcher can help turn canvas inkjet prints into ready to hang pieces of art within minutes!
Come by the DPS stand to see the complete professional print to finishing solution, and benefit from very attractive show deals on all the equipment, hardware and software shown on the stand.
Many of the companies Justin will grace with his presence are young and dynamic – just like Justin himself. Photography, however, is a pretty old craft and there are plenty of companies about which are much older than Justin though no less dynamic. Among these is Denis Wright, which has been supplying albums, mounts, folders and frames since 1936. The company specialises in producing bespoke products at its factory in Devon, from very small to large quantities – so Justin, who is always on the lookout for something personalised or unusual, may well drop by and have a chat with the experienced sales team on the stand.
Though a first class photographer who is always in top form, Justin has never been involved in schools photography. However, with online sales increasing every year and the average order value being 75 percent greater when placed online instead of via an order envelope perhaps he should check out the myschoolpictures.co.uk stand.
Reducing the work load and administration for both schools and photographers, myschoolpictures.co.uk is cost effective and integrates seamlessly with the paper proof system proving to increase overall sales for both low and high volume photographers.
Benefits for the photographer include their own log in allowing them to manage their schools, set commissions, track orders, choose which products they want to offer and set their own prices/discounts and to advertise their other photography services on the delivery notes.
Word has it that Aaduki Multimedia Insurance will be following the example it set for itself at Focus 2007 when it launched a new policy aimed at amateur photographers and will be launching a completely new product for professional photographers at Focus 2008. Details are still under wraps so Justin will need to call at their stand to find out what the details are.
Meanwhile, if he was based in Southern Ireland instead of fashionable Croydon (he thinks it is anyway) he would normally have to look to the Irish insurance industry to protect his photo gear. However, Aaduki has now been authorised by both the Financial Services Authority and the Irish Government to offer cover to photographers, journalists and videographers / film makers in Eire, becoming only the second insurance provider able to do so.
Aaduki Multimedia Insurance was formed in November 2005 when Versatile Insurance bought out the media division of Anchorman. It’s now recognised by the BPPA (British Press Photographers Association), the PPANI (Professional Photographers Association of Northern Ireland) and the APV (Association of Professional Videomakers) as insurance providers.
Someone of Justin’s stature in the photographic industry might argue that he has no need to join a professional organisation but for many of those who aspire to follow in his footsteps such memberships can be priceless. At the Bureau of Freelance Photographers' stand, for example, they can learn more about the world of editorial photography and also sign up for two months free trial membership. As well as getting the monthly Market Newsletter giving information on editorial markets looking for pictures, members also have access to an advisory service and - once they are full members - receive the annual Freelance Photographers Market Handbook. Membership of the BFP consists of both professionals and part-timers – those who earn money in their spare time selling their pictures to magazines and other markets.
Focus on Imaging 2008 takes place as usual in Halls 9 and 10 at the NEC. It opens on Sunday, February 24th, and runs until Wednesday, February 27th. Trade, business and professional visitors can pre-register for free admission for the 2008 event via the website. Admission for non-trade or non-professional visitors, including amateurs, who are also very welcome, remains at £6.00 but they can save time on the day by registering in advance via the Focus website.