Photokina 2018 – my very personal show report

Many many folks have been blogging about Photokina and all news and exciting releases have been covered already in great detail. 2018, as you probably all know by now, has been maybe the biggest year of mirrorless systems, seeing that Canon, Nikon and even Panasonic are now entering this future market – finally.

I’m a mirrorless shooter since 2012 when the first somehow “grown-up” mirrorless systems cameras have been entering the market, the Sony NEX-7 and Olympus E-M5. Loving this technology since then! So naturally I’m highly interested in all that new stuff and have taken the opportunity to look at the Canon, Nikon, also the “super full frame” Fuji GFX-50R, even the Leica M10-P and the Hasselblad X1D (already introduced in 2016, but hey).

But again, the mirrorless cameras have been covered in great detail already so in this blog entry I thought I’d just share my general observations of that event. I’m going to try to also give you a glimpse of the general atmosphere of the event. Which booth was the nicest to visit, and what else!

Photokina 2018 was definitely smaller than in previous years. I reckon the main reason for this is that it’s going to be every year from now on, and also switches from late September to May, so the next show is just in a couple of months again. So some big manufacturers actually skipped this event, the most prominent maybe is Zeiss. Yes, there was no dedicated Zeiss booth at Photokina 2018!

Pricing and free tickets

Pricing for Photokina tickets is just a mess in my opinion. Friday it was 8 Euros, but only if you arrived at 2 p.m. or later. If you entered the show before that, it was a whopping 35 Euros, or even 56 Euros if you didn’t buy the ticket online! Wednesday and Tuesday were 35 / 56 Euros all day. Saturday was 12 Euros all day. And on Sunday, the show didn’t even open, even though I’d guess that a lot of potential visitors would love to visit at the weekend days?

Anyway, the fun fact was: Why buy a ticket at all? I noticed that there was an abundance of free tickets available. Manufacturers invited you via all kinds of newsletter subscriptions or online contests. In the end, me and my friends actually had more free tickets than we even needed and I went two days :)

Who had the coolest booth?

Nonetheless, the big industry players of the camera industry all attended and their booths were huge and some of them really awesome. I think there were two definite winners in this respect, #1 Olympus and #2 Canon. Let me explain why!

#1 Olympus “Perspective Playground”!

I would say that out of all the big manufacturers, Olympus definitely provided the nicest visitor experience of them all! Most other manufactureres (except Canon) just set up very traditional booths where people would stand in a big crowd next to some display counters with cameras on top, and you’d be always standing in that unorganised crowd.

Olympus, on the other hand, launched a big online campaign, inviting people to subscribe to their newsletter and get a free Photokina ticket as well as a registration to their “Perspective Playground”. You’d only stay in a queue once up front to borrow an Olympus camera from them and then you could stroll around in their “playground” booth area for as long as you want, trying out that camera and taking your test shots.

I was especially amazed at how many people were standing in line to get an Olympus camera to try out. Especially given the fact that there was not a single new announcement from them this year! Anyway, we didn’t do that. In fact, one of my friends already had an Olympus camera and just commented “oh I have a camera, don’t need that”. It didn’t even occur to him that he might try out something more flashy or bigger here – refreshing thinking compared to my normal “where’s something bigger, better, newer” attitude :)

Of course, you could also visit the playground without having to borrow an Olympus camera. It was all very playful in there, a welcome change from the important-business-style of other stands at the show. The Olympus booth area felt more like a small circus. And the hall was vast so it never felt crowded at any time.

There was even a snack bar in there, and the food you got at Olympus was much better than at the rest of the show. We paid 6 Euros for a nice Panini or a filled tortilla-like wrap, which really was enough to get you through the whole show day. While soft drinks were the same prices as anywhere else – 4,50 Euros for a 0.5l coke – Olympus also offered a selection of nice coffees and tea.

#2 Canon – a comfort experience instead of stress and chaos

At first glance, the Canon booth seemed exceptionally dark and a bit sinister, even. We went there to try out the new EOS R mirrorless camera. Nothing else was of interest to us. :) Well … you had to line up in a queue to get to the EOS R part of the Canon booth that was separated from the rest of the hall.

Ugh! Queues! I hate them! So we went to the other manufacturers first on Friday. Only later, maybe at 5 or 6 p.m., it got more quiet and the queue in front of the EOS R area all but disappeared. But actually, we could have gone even earlier – the queue looked much longer than it actually felt, until the very! nice staff would let you in. They made sure that an equal number of visitors were inside the area at all times. So basically everyone who got in would at least find one free EOS R camera to try out immediately.

So my two small points of criticism were: #1 it felt a bit very dark when you entered the Canon booth, #2 you’d see a long queue that looked not particularly inviting. Maybe they can think of something that makes it look more inviting at first glance and encourages you to wait in that line?

But, again, once you were in, there was such an abundance of EOS R cameras, all the lenses were there as well, even many many adapted DSLR lenses, so you could spend as much time there trying out and learning everything you would want to. Also there were many Canon folks and they apparently had a lot of training and knowledge about their products. The only catch was that you could not put your own SD cards in the cameras as they still were pre-production. (But then, you could not do that at Nikon either cause they are using a completely new card format in their Z7.)

Big thumbs up! You felt that Canon was putting much effort in customer experience!

At the other booths

Well it would be seriously unfair to not honor all the other manufacturers for the effort that they all put in their own presentations. Still, they all failed to provide the same level of customer experience that Olympus and Canon created for you. It’s especially tiresome to stand in a huge uncontrollable crowd of people to hope to literally “grab” a camera to try it out while everyone’s standing directly next to you. No silence, no comfort there. That applied to Nikon and also to Fuji who had a huge, huge booth with plenty of nice displays – but I skipped having a look at their new X-T3 altogether cause it was just way too busy there.

See the picture above of the Nikon booth, for example. That was where they showed off their brand-new Z7 cameras. It just wasn’t a nice experience. You felt being a camera grabber instead of a potential customer. But, at least the Nikon staff I talked to were very knowledgeable about their new products. Whereas at the Sony booth I was actually dealing with a guy who basically could hand out camera bodies and lenses, but not really answer any more detailed questions …

It was big fun to stroll around the lower floors (at Photokina, several halls have an upper and a lower floor). That were where all the small and specialist companies had their booths. I did not realise how many different companies are offering tripods and lighting system these days!

We also had big fun at the Laowa booth where they were showing their impressive lineup of ultra-wideangle and macro lenses. Especially their 24mm f/14 relay optics macro lens with integrated LED lights was cool – it was set up with a fish tank and gave a superb live view of those tiny creatures in that tank!

More reports on the show in the net

Basically, there was so much to see and discover – even in two days I did not get half of what was on display there. I am sure I missed so much!

By the way, a nice point of the Photokina 2018 was that they – at least that was my impression – actually showed more photography, compared to the years before. There were actually some pretty nice photo gallery areas at various locations in the show.

If you want, see more Photokina reports and photos here:

And watch all these great video reviews from Photokina 2018:

Kai W

Samuel L. Streetlife

Gordon Laing

What about the new mirrorless camera systems?

"Designed in Krasnogorsk, Russia": Zenit M with 35mm f/1 Zenitar lens.
“Designed in Krasnogorsk, Russia”: Zenit M with 35mm f/1 Zenitar lens.

I know that literally everyone else in the net already posted their first impressions and reviews of the new mirrorless system cameras – Canon, Fuji, Leica, Nikon, you name them.

Still, I’ll promise to also give my first thoughts on these camera systems in this blog. Hopefully in the next few days! When I did so, you’ll find the link to that blog entry below. :)

Thomas

PS: Special thanks to Takahiro for some of the pictures above!

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