As I roamed the halls of the International CES this year, it became obvious that some may have underestimated the advantages of strutting their stuff on the show floor. Gone were a number of industry stalwarts who had graced the show floor over the last few years. For example, Fujifilm, like Olympus, chose to conduct their meetings off the floor, and Sigma decided to take a break.
The Digital Imaging/Photography Marketplace (formerly the PMA@CES TechZone), while relocated in the LVCC’s South Hall this year, lacked the energy and excitement that I’d noticed in years past. And the PMA show seems like a distant memory.
But those who chose to stay reaped the benefits of technology-starved visitors yearning for the creativity and passion that have been hallmarks of the imaging industry.
While walking the Central Hall, you couldn’t help but notice certain booths practically busting at the seams. Nikon, with its photographer presentations and unique 360º Project, taking portraits with 48 Nikon D750s, practically stole the show with their combination of technology, showmanship and diversity. Everywhere you turned there was action—and people! Nikon is always true to their roots, marching out a diverse group of pro photographers who demonstrated their outstanding products, and giving the people the eye candy to keep them engaged.
The same can be said for GoPro, still the new kid on the block but certainly one of the more powerful brands in the industry. GoPro knows who they are and understands their target audience. While not overwhelming from a trade show presence standpoint, their brand has become well entrenched, thanks to some smart marketing. I’m looking forward to seeing what Michael Kenny has in store for future branding efforts.
I also liked what Ricoh Imaging did at the show this year. While not as big as some of their competitors, Ricoh invested in a presence on the show floor, and they demonstrated why they’re different. Products like the Theta and K-S1, along with a fresh branding effort and the most colorful products in the industry, set them up as a new, forward-thinking alternative to the tried and true. Jim Malcolm, president of Ricoh Imaging Americas, certainly has the market looking over their shoulders once again at the Ricoh-Pentax brand.
Polaroid was another brand making noise at CES. They seemed locked into a very different target than almost anyone else (except maybe GoPro): very young, fun and savvy, who are less concerned with great pictures and more concerned with just having pictures! Their tiny Polaroid Cube shoots 1080p video and has a 124º wide-angle lens, and their newly announced Zip Mobile Printer is the perfect party companion for high school and college kids (not to mention wedding tables!).
Canon is, well, Canon. Conservative, solid—nothing flashy about their booth per se, but their products are always rock solid, and they are in the enviable position as a market leader in the DSLR category. Canon introduced five PowerShots at CES, featuring optical zoom ranges up to 50x and with built-in Wi-Fi, demonstrating their commitment to the important long-zoom market. And, of course, the Cinema EOS line is a true winner.
Sony, Samsung and Panasonic continued to strut their stuff at the show, but their imaging products tend to get lost in their mega booths. (This is where I miss the old PMA show.) What they lack in focus (no pun intended), they certainly make up for in strength and purpose. Each of those companies has made their mark in the mirrorless segment—especially Sony, whose market share in the segment is hovering around 70%. It will be interesting to see how that battle continues, particularly when Nikon and Canon enter the fray at full force.
Some others made an impression in the back halls of CES (Fujifilm, Olympus, Kodak to name a few), but there’s something about being out on the show floor, and ingrained in the action, that keeps our industry relevant, creative and exciting.
So what does the future look like? I’d be surprised if PMA has any sort of separate presence next year, as their show area this year bordered on anemic. But the imaging category has to stay strong and relevant in the CE world, and it’s up to the leaders in the industry to continue to command an audience. I would love to see Fujifilm and Sigma back on the show floor, if only to make a strong impression for the industry. But far be it from me to spend their money!
CES show booths are about personality, so here are my CES impression picks. Nikon was the winner this year for sheer excitement. Ricoh hands down for innovation. GoPro for cool and compelling. Polaroid for youth and fun. Canon for trust. Samsung for sheer craziness. Panasonic for diversity. Sony for their strong brand consistency and sense of purpose and direction.
As a side note, it was gratifying to see the industry come together at the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association’s Person of the Year Award event at XS on January 5. More than 200 guests came to pay tribute to Go Miyazaki (Fujifilm), John Clouse (Nikon), Wataru Ohtani (Ricoh), Gaby Mullinax (Fullerton Photographics) and photographer Joe McNally, and to really shine the light on our accomplishments as an industry, and as an organization. The sheer camaraderie in the room demonstrated to me the importance of our industry coming together and challenging ourselves to be better.