Nikon Solutions Expo 2008

Nikon Solutions Expo reviewed by MC rebbe

When I first heard about the Nikon Solutions Show, I, quite naturally, assumed it would be little more than evangelism for the converted. Then I saw the lineup which, boasting names like Joe Cornish and Andy Rouse, turned out to be even better spec’d than Nikon’s latest DSLRs!

Two of the highlights of the show were, unquestionably, Cornish’s and Rouse’s talks. Joe Cornish co-presented with fellow top UK landscape photographer, Paul Gallagher, both of whom continue to work traditionally using 5×4 field cameras (the former using colour transparency, the latter using black and white). This being the case, some may wonder what they were doing at a show sponsored by a company that has never made 5×4 cameras and that recently announced they are to stop manufacturing film cameras altogether (ya boo). But I give major props to Nikon, for hosting talks such as this, which were about photography in its purest form, not an excuse to sell kit.

That said, Cornish did show a couple of pics he’d shot on a D3, which, it must be said, looked seriously impressive (both aesthetically and technically), but his and Gallagher’s talk was a masterclass in landscape photography, not a sales pitch. Despite the fact that neither photographer had worked or presented together before, they complemented each other perfectly, with their tag team themes of ‘light’, ’emotion’ and ‘expression’ (Gallagher) and ‘craft’, ‘art’ and ‘soul’ (Cornish), in the process covering everything from 17th Century Flemish painters, to digital.

Andy Rouse’s talk was another masterclass, this time in wildlife photography. Packed to bursting point with tips on technique and equipment, he was a little less platform agnostic than the aforementioned duo…to put it mildly. In fact, talking about his recent and much publicised switch from Canon to Nikon (currently he uses two D3s and a full complement of Nikon lenses), he mentioned how much venom has been directed his way in internet forums, as a result.

Since I’m far too busy actually taking pictures to spend much time on photography forums, this is something of which I was previously unaware, though having spent a bit of time on the Nikon stand, it didn’t come as a great shock…not, it must be said, by virtue of the Nikon staff, who did an excellent job of letting people play around with every conceivable combination of bodies & lenses imaginable, to order noch…but from some of the punters at the show, because it seemed that every time I picked up a D3x (yup, they were on demo!) with a 200-400mm lens, a punter would ask me which camera I use, to which I’d reply a Canon EOS 5 film body with Sigma lenses! Based on some of the reactions this received, it was only the possibility of being whacked round the head with said D3x and 200-400mm lens combo, that prevented me from being physically attacked…well that and my reputation as a teenage mutant ninja rabbi…

Yet another masterclass came in the shape of ‘How to Make It In Movies!’, a presentation by film stills photographer Alex Bailey‘s, who had only just completed work on the set of Guy Ritchie’s new film ‘Sherlock Holmes’ (My dear Watson, you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off, you slag). To say his talk was comprehensive, would be to do him an injustice. In the space of an hour, he seemed to cover not just the role of a film stills photographer, but the roles of pretty much everyone else on a set, practically every stage of a film’s production, technique, equipment, how to get into the field and, of course, his own experiences of working on some major productions.

But it wasn’t just all about talks. At one corner of the show, Nikon had set up a studio, comprising two wireless Speedlights on stands, attached to Lastolite softboxes, controlled from a remote flash commander, on a WiFi’d D3x 9try saying that half way up a mountain with a maglite in your mouth). This setup was used to demonstrate bridal and high fashion portraiture, with the resulting 24.5million pixel shots appearing (with only several seconds delay), on large screens, to either side.

At the end of each demo, they offered onlookers the opportunity to take some pics with this kit and, having seen some truly awful attempts, I decided to show the crowd what to do with a willing model…so, like a good rapper, I slipped it in…the Extreme IV card that SanDisk recently sent me for review, that is (which performed admirably in the D3x), then slipped it out again and took it over to the Mitsubishi stand, where they did some prints for me on one of their dye sub printers.

Dye sub printers have, until recently, had a bad reputation, but this latest generation, from Mitsubishi, produce results that are arguably better than inkjet prints, in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost, making them ideal for event photographers. Without any tonal adjustments or retouching, the results I achieved from the D3x were seriously impressive and though I’ll reserve judgement until Nikon send me one for review, from what I’ve seen so far, I reckon it outperforms low end medium format digital backs costing far more money!

At the other corner of the show was a stage featuring fashion shows, Chinese circus and ballet performances, all of which were snapped ravenously by hoards of men with beards, who, it appears, don’t get out much…

Situated in between were stands from all the usual suspects, including respected publications such as BJP, Professional Photographer and the recently relaunched, which I’d highly recommend to all freelance (and aspiring freelance) photographers out there.

The conclusion? With talks and demos that covered practically every genre of photography, lead by acknowledged masters of their art, without being force fed the gospel according to Nikon, this show felt like Focus on Imaging (in miniature) does London (which is a good thing). So whatever brand of equipment you use, make the Nikon Solutions Show a permanent fixture in your diary.

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