Shanghai, China —It’s an old adage that photography is the universal language. Today the technology is global. Imaging Expo has joined photokina in the global status of imaging technology. Koelnmesse, sponsor of the world’s largest photo imaging exhibition—photokina—has focused its organizational skills and years of photo tradeshow experience in positioning its involvement for the second year in China’s International Imaging and Photographic Equipment Fair. This is a joint venture with the Shanghai International Exhibition Co. Ltd., held in July in what’s sometimes been described as the world’s most exciting city.
The opening ceremonies featured a Chinese brass band and a series of speeches in Mandarin. Oliver P. Kuhrt, executive VP of Koelnmesse, gave the only English presentation. It was the Germans’ foresight that was “able to establish a major imaging event in a very short time.” He pointed out, “A growing number of companies from all over the world are becoming aware of the significance of the Chinese market and want to exploit its potential. We have come a major step closer to our common goal of making Imaging Expo/Interphoto Shanghai the most important trade fair for the Chinese photographic and imaging market.” Prior to Koelnmesse’s involvement, the show, which dates back to the 1990s, was organized by PIE.
This was a small show, compared to PMA or photokina, yet an estimated 21,000 tradespeople and visitors ignored the blistering heat and lack of air conditioning to absorb the image capture and output products. Every man had a camera, every woman a fan. The international companies displayed on the first floor, while Asian firms were upstairs. Downstairs offered English and other foreign languages, but a Mandarin interpreter was a necessity to cover the second floor.
Fortunately this reporter had with her Song, a Shanghai native who lives in Brisbane, Australia, and was previously indoctrinated in imaging capture and commercial output.
The 200 firms exhibiting at the show were a diverse lot. The largest foreign contingency was Germany, with 12 companies represented in its section, an increase of 25% over last year. Many of the big players were onboard: Canon, Eastman Kodak, Fuji Photo Film, KIS Photo-Me, Noritsu, Mitsubishi, and Sony. The U.S. was not just represented by Kodak, but by X-rite, CPAC, ColorVision, Mekko Co., Micromedia, Photo Imaging News, Photo USA, and Electronic Graphic Inc.
Stanley Gulbin, president of CPAC Imaging, was typical of the U.S. exhibitors: “This is a very good market for us…we are concentrating on chemistry, and although film is down, the professional business has increased.” Not only has CPAC created a Chinese catalog and organized dealers, but together with a new four-month-old factory in Taishan, China, Gulbin expects new Asian markets to open. The fact that film is fading all over the world doesn’t bother him, because film is still 20% of the Chinese market, and CPAC is happy with this piece of the market. They were demonstrating their latest version of ProPac professional retouching software. It includes multiple languages, clothing, background, and scenery changes, soft filter, and sharpening.
The interest at the show was strongly directed at digital cameras and kiosks. Visitors were busy making free prints on the various kiosks, and focusing the digital cameras at the Canon and Fuji stands. However, there were professional finishing products, both upstairs and down. Kodak represents Durst in China, and behind the Russian showgirls, the Theta 76 was its only product on display. The other emphasis was on workflow. Fuji was across the aisle, and it appeared to be a contest as to which company could output the loudest music.
Sky Top Digital Image Technology, Inc., the professional division of Beijing Apex Trade Co., Ltd., exhibited the ZBE Chromira 5X printer with a Colenta processor and the Polielettronica 30-inch laser lab in their large stand. This company offers China’s most professional and comprehensive digital solutions for the industry, including specialty labs, studio portraiture, albums, Photoshop, online, sales, and service. Although Kodak owns the consumer finishing market in China with its 8,000-plus Kodak Express stores, Beijing Apex presents a more extensive coverage of the digital imaging industry and is committed to color management, workflow, and education.
Sean Tao, Beijing Sky Top’s strategic alliance & business development director, reported that they sold the ZBE 50-inch Chromira and processor off the floor. China is foremost about price, and three prospects vied for the system because a show model is always a better bargain. Kodak, on the other hand, sold three Thetas. Tao offered another piece of good news. Last year he was concerned with how to get cameraphone users to print their pictures. This year he says that those cameraphone users have realized that you can’t get good prints from a mobile phone and are buying compact digital cameras and having their prints made at labs. “This trend has been good for us,” said Tao.
After sorting through all the tripods and lighting equipment, we came upon some interesting new exposure and finishing products. Photo book production, including new wide-format laser imagers, liquid coating machines, and bindery equipment, held the most interest. Imetto showed 30-inch and 50-inch Tera laser printers with the Agfa Zeta engine, and Colex Digital Ready processors. Holden Zhu, Imetto Market’s development director, said they would like to bring these printers to PMA, but realize that the market for wide-format laser is limited. The RA processors sold with the Tera 32 and 50 were labeled Colex [Imaging] Digital Ready processor and are manufactured by HU Qui Imaging Technologies. HU has a joint venture with Colex Imaging and is now producing its processors in China.
Wide-format inkjet printers could be found on both floors, but only one company, Fortuna Imatek Chemical Co., Ltd., was a professional manufacturer of inks and media. This is an ISO 9001-certified company, and its Premium High Glossy Photo Paper is gaining market share in many countries. Its inks and media for Epson, Mutoh, Mimaki, Roland, Canon, HP, Lexmark, and Brother meet high standards and are sold in the U.S. HP and Canon were demonstrating printers on their stands as well.
Because China’s labs are heavily promoting photo book production for value-added sales, liquid coating machines were displayed in sizes ranging from 12 inches to 50 inches wide and primarily were for use with photo-print media. UV-coating machines were the most prevalent. JDI, Jet Digital Image Technology Co., Ltd., showed UV-coating machines in sizes up to 70 inches wide with adjustable thicknesses. This manufacturer is also interested in exhibiting at PMA.
In conjunction with Imaging Expo, there was an art and photography exhibit, but seminars were sorely lacking. As Tao says, “Chinese photographers need education.” Germany’s GfK held two days of seminars covering marketing analysis and trends in China and Asia. The group monitors 70 countries, and is the number five marketing research organization in the world. GfK anticipates the Chinese economy to grow at least 9% in 2006, with a wide disparity between urban and rural areas where they still shoot film. Digital cameras (DSCs) are showing a growth of 40% in units for the first four months in ’06. Five- to six-megapixel DSCs have the highest market share. GfK often separates China from Asia, probably because the Chinese market is so huge. However, Asia and China lead the growth in capture devices, including cameraphones, DSLRs, and digital P&Ss.
The seminars offered were presented in Chinese and English, and included Don Franz, from Photo Finishing News. GfK presented information on various aspects of the global imaging market. Europe, while poor in printing devices, is strong in digital cameras. Japan is the pixel leader and dominates the 6-megapixel market. Below 6MP is no longer relevant, and the U.S. is behind with only 20% of these units. Europe leads the DSLR market over the U.S.