Thoughts on PMA@CES

Thoughts on PMA@CES


The more things stayed the same, the more they changed.

As the news hit that PMA 2011 had been cancelled and the show subsequently co-located to the 2012 CES in early January, I immediately thought back to a PMA I attended in the mid-90s. 

There were whispers at every turn back then that digital cameras were coming. Kodak/Chinon quietly showed a 640×480 model, demoing how a picture snapped could be uploaded to a PC and viewed instantly. Fairly new to the “photo” industry at the time, I was awed.

The technology moved quickly from that point as 1 MP models soon followed, 2 MP shortly thereafter, and we were off to the races. Looking back at that time period now, I had no idea how dramatically (and swiftly) it would change the photo landscape over the course of the next decade-plus, but forever change it most certainly did.

Perhaps reshape might be a better word.  The many missteps along the way not withstanding, the advent of digital image capture changed photography radically, the first major change of any kind the industry had experienced in years.

And, to be honest, I think it caught many folks by surprise. For an industry that had been referred to as a cash cow for so many years, there was a new sheriff in town and he was going to be doing things very differently…and so too were consumers.

I harken back to this time today to simply point out that it was during this period that “photography” became a consumer electronics product. New technology had opened the doors to the old club and in stepped all the major CE players – Apple, Sony, HP, Samsung, Panasonic, et al.  It was a classic “there goes the neighborhood” scenario for the tightly knit photo crowd.

Just as CDs killed album sales and then digital music downloads replaced CDs, digital cameras killed 35mm models and now smartphones are creeping in on digital point-and-shoots. Technology marches on and keeping pace is not always for the faint of heart.

PMA@CES is simply about keeping pace. Ideally, we all would have preferred the show had made all the right moves the last 10 years and somehow managed to stay a bit more current and ahead of the curve. There are myriad reasons they didn’t, not fodder for this space, and perhaps it’s fair to say last week’s announcement is the most “right” they’ve been in the last decade.  Time will answer that one best, not me, not here.

So, they’ll be no stand-alone PMA Show in 2011, a loss for all of us. However, the reinvented version in Las Vegas in early January, 2012 may turn out to be the PMA Show we’ve all been waiting for. I’ll betcha a three-pack of Agfa 35mm Scala 200 film it is. 

Michael McEnaney