(news & commentary)
The Professional Photographer's of America trade show, Imaging USA, was earlier this week in Phoenix, Arizona. Canon was there as usual with the biggest booth and offering free sensor cleaning on the spot. Leica was there, Panasonic was there, Sony was there, Sigma was there, Tamron was there, but Nikon? For the first time in the last six years, Nikon did not have a presence at the show.
I'm not exactly sure what the attendance figures were at this year's 14th Imaging USA show, but PPA has over 25,000 professional photographers in the organization. It's one of only a few organizations left serving the pro photographer community (ASMP, APA, and PPA being the largest, I believe, with NPPA and WPPI being other important ones [disclosure: Thom is a member of APA and NPPA]). At the moment, Nikon is still listed as having a booth at the upcoming WPPI conference in Las Vegas at the end of February, but it's still disturbing to see Nikon cutting back on supporting pro organizations like PPA, yet spending the fortune it costs to exhibit at shows like CES (Consumer Electronics Show), where they basically are invisible. (Cameras are a small sub-category in consumer electronics, and the press covering such shows is highly focused on trying to find new trends in tech. Nikon launched some Coolpix and the D3300, hardly qualifying for "new trend.")
I've long said that one of Nikon's bigger issues is a disconnection to its actual users. Even with Imaging USA and WPPI and CES and Photo Expo presence, that presence is basically US employees, and the "connection" between the camera designers and the camera users is actually a big baton pass with translation issues at best case. I go to a number of shows, both here in the US and worldwide, and I probably find about one or two Japanese employees to speak directly to a year. Even then, it's rarely the decision makers or hands-on personnel who determine features, performance, or quality.
I've long written that I believe that in high tech you either need to be a consumer of your own product and/or very closely connected to your customers in order to understand the problems that need to be solved. I'll give you an example why in the next article I'm posting.
I'm pretty sure the reason NikonUSA would give about not being at Imaging USA is that the decline in camera sales has put them under profit pressure and they've had to pick and choose where to spend their money. I understand the rationale, but I worry that this becomes a circular problem: if you don't connect to your users, you won't be selling more gear. What did all those PPA members think when they walked into the exhibit hall and saw a giant Canon booth with CPS support and no Nikon booth? I know what they thought, because they've been emailing me. I sure hope they're emailing Nikon, too.