Journal, Photography

Photo Fair in San Jose

The organizers of the annual Photo Fair state that the show is one of the largest on the West Coast with “hundreds of dealers.” With a description like that, you’d expect something along the lines of the upcoming MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, at the cavernous Moscone Center, right?

Uh, I don’t think so.

Held at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds, the 26th Annual Photo Fair was largely a disappointment for me. Compared to the camera show in Oakland that I went to last year, there were more dealers, but they still numbered less than two dozen by my count. I remarked back in March that the majority of the equipment was of little use to me.

Déjà vu.

In speaking with a few of the dealers, I learned that most of the stuff at the show appealed to hobbyists and collectors. I wonder how many times some of the items on sale have changed hands over the years. Were these treasured photographic pieces being sold from dealer to dealer in some never-ending cycle of buy, resell, buy, resell, never to be purchased by consumer’s hands? It certainly appeared so at the Photo Fair, which at times — pardon the harshness — resembled a flea market or swap meet.

Going Digital

I’m confident that digital camera sales will overtake film within the next few years. While it is true that overall digital camera sales slowed in 2001 compared to the previous two years, I think the dropoff was more a symptom of the sagging economy than any problems in the marketplace itself. In the film-based photography space, we’re already seeing the effects of lower demand and slowing sales. Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in October, 2001, and Minolta recently announced that they were exiting the APS camera market in order to focus resources in the digital camera market.

The growing shadow of digital photography did not cover the Photo Fair today, however. I might have seen one or two digital cameras for sale among hundreds of old Minolta, Nikon, Leica, Pentax, and Canon bodies. I must admit, though, that the workmanship on some of these cameras was pretty good. For being decades old, they have held up pretty well. I doubt that today’s consumer to prosumer digital cameras would do as well as these old stalwarts. On the other hand, they probably would get far more usage than their film-brethren.

My tests with the 1D continued today when I brought along both that camera and the D30. I shot primarily with a 50mm f/1.4 lens, though I did test an old non-IS Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens (sharp, but boy was it heavy!). The lighting conditions were horrible, and I had difficulty getting good color reproduction. It’s all the more reason to shoot RAW, but I’m not yet willing to make the sacrifice in image capture/processing times. The more that I shoot with the 1D, the more I feel that overall image quality is indeed better than the D30, so as long as you take great pains to ensure that you’re properly exposing the image.

Someone mentioned on the Canon SLR Forum on DPReview that the 1D, unlike the D30, does not take well to underexposing. Isn’t that the truth! If you don’t underexpose, however, the images it produces really are quite nice. Underexpose and say hello to banding and dark horizontal lines. I’m working on a section of the site dedicated to my technical analyses of the 1D. It should be up within the next week.

So, the Photo Fair was a bit of a disappointment. I felt very much out of place among all this old-school photography equipment. Will I go to another one? Maybe, but probably not.

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