During CES 2017, DIR writers covered the vast show floor, gathering feedback from show attendees, from photo specialty retailers to manufacturer executives. Here is a sampling of their insights and perspectives.
Scott Farber, President
Hunt’s Photo & Video
Hunt’s Photo & Video has eight stores located in New England, catering primarily to photo enthusiasts from about age 16 on up.
“We serve passionate photographers at any level, from emerging enthusiasts to pros, primarily in urban markets,” says Scott Farber. “The company was founded in 1889, and Hunt’s has been a Kodak dealer since 1900 and may well be the longest running franchise in the world!
“We have only been at CES for half a day,” notes Farber, “but so far the new Steadicam Volt is the most exciting new product we’ve seen. It’s a gimbaled image stabilization device for iPhones and the like that can be used as a standard gimbal or electronically stabilized. And it’s the only product at this price ($199) that performs at this level. You can even hold it upside down or at any angle up to 360º.
“What’s moving in our stores? DSLRs and mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras are doing quite well, especially mid and upper level models like the Canon 5D Mark IV, the Nikon D500 and D3400, and the Canon Rebel T6. The Sony a6300 and the new a6500 are also hot sellers. We’re also doing very well with independent and camera makers’ lenses. And LED lighting is selling; the ProMaster is selling very strongly. We do a good job with light-shaping accessories, from Westcott for example.
“On the whole, 2017 should shape up to be a strong year as the market is stabilizing and there are no more double dips in national camera sales,” concludes Farber. “The people who are buying cameras today are inveterate enthusiasts. While that may represent a smaller market overall, it’s a much more committed one. And that’s good news for photo specialty retailers.”
General Manager, North America
Humaneyes Technologies is the company that introduced the Vuze camera, adding to the VR (virtual reality) story by shooting 3D, 360º content.
“It’s been an exciting show for us so far,” says Jim Malcolm. “The reaction of many visitors seeing 3D, 360º for the first time is that they are blown away. Many have seen 2D VR, but we’re the first company at CES to offer 3D, which makes the content much more immersive, especially when you add 3D audio, which we offer through a partnership with VisiSonics.
“This seems to be the year VR will begin to infiltrate the imaging world and offer new content possibilities. Retailers are optimistic about the sales potential; at the same time they understand the challenges associated with demonstrating the product to customers. Developing retail displays and in-store education are going to be key to adoption. The more people who see VR through a headset, the quicker they’ll understand the potential.
“Our Vuze camera is simple. Any novice can pick it up, press a button and create 3D content. We’ve had visits from filmmakers and videographers who want to use it for VR content they’re creating. Because we record in the MPEG-4 format, they can take our content and put it into their workflow. We’re also working with software partners to enhance our content.
“For example, WalkingApp has a product called ENTiTi, which enables storytellers to overlay augmented reality (AR) content onto our 3D, 360º content. As an example, I can shoot a night scene and then overlay an eagle I created using ENTiTi into my story.
“There are so many possibilities in VR when you add user-generated content. We’re excited about the future of 3D, 360º and defining the future of virtual reality, making it easy for people to create interactive experiences. Our Vuze camera, which is getting a lot of attention here, will ship March 7th for $799.”
Moishe Appelbaum, President
Midwest Photo was founded 28 years ago by Stuart Appelbaum, the current owner’s father, now retired. It’s a single location store in an urban environment, and its primary clientele consists of professional photographers and serious enthusiasts. However, the store is located in a “family neighborhood” and also serves people who just want to take pictures of their kids and family events.
“I come to CES in order to find new products that expand our offerings in the photo space,” says Moishe Appelbaum, “and I found a surveillance camera that fills the bill. We’re also doing a good job with film cameras.
“Film is making a mini comeback, as indicated by Kodak’s reintroduction of Ektachrome film. We don’t do any film processing ourselves, but we started offering prints from smartphones, tablets and cameras, and we’ve built a rental darkroom that has helped drive interest in film. We also have a number of Fujifilm kiosks that use Dakis software.
“I plan to check out the new Nikon D5600 and Canon PowerShot G9 X,” notes Appelbaum. “And I’m happy to say I’m really optimistic that 2017 will be an amazing year. We just moved into a new 15,000-square-foot store and everything is incredibly ‘shoppable.’
“We did our best to create a destination location for all things photographic. We’re offering classes, printing and rentals in addition to retail sales. It’s not only going to be a good year for Midwest but a good year for photo specialty, because the dealers that have survived and prospered are the ones that have refined their formulas to carry them successfully through the next five years.