My involvement centered initially on the export of American photo products, especially studio lighting and plastic filters, slide projectors, Airequipt magazines, radiant screens, and portable electronic flash units.
By 1952 the first inkling of Japanese cameras attracted my attention. My appetite for choosing the difficult caused me to become associated with Konica at a time when the American photo trade looked with disdain on anything Japanese.
My wife, Marian, my brother, Max, and I started the first Konica Camera Company in Philadelphia in 1952—and the rest is history. Marian designed the first Konica trademark, and I registered it for customs protection and held it for 30 years.
With the cooperation of people like Joe Ehrenreich, who became the Nikon importer, we prevailed on the Japanese government and industry to establish the JCII—Japan Camera Inspection Institute—which was then pioneered in Japan by a most progressive political couple: the legendary Mr. & Mrs. [Kenji & Mayumi] Moriyama, both members of the Diet (the Parliament).
With this Institute, a quality seal of approval became a landmark—and prevented unauthorized products from being exported to the USA.
The first American advertising agency to pioneer Japanese cameras was Kameny Associates, headed by the brilliant Nat Kameny, who coined the Konica slogan, "The lens alone is worth the price."
With photojournalists covering the war in Korea and purchasing lenses and cameras in Japan, the pro's approval and the publication of sensational pictures in American magazines catapulted Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and Konica into best-sellers.
The electronic evolution into the photo world became a threat to all 8mm and 16mm movie cameras and projectors, as Sony and Panasonic battled for BETA or VHS market shares and equipment primacy.
The ability to make and see home movies as video productions killed the entire 8mm, Super 8, and almost all of the 16mm camera and projector business.
With the advent of TV viewing, the transfer of old movies to VHS or BETA by means of video transfer equipment—and the increased ownership of video recorders—provided a platform for dealers to enter the film-to-tape transfer service. With my partner Jan Lederman, the cooperation of Sony and Panasonic, and Goko editing equipment, we developed the machines that many dealers called their best money-makers—and some are still in use to this day, known as Froehlich video transfer units.
The marketing of photographic products, long handled by traditional distributors, underwent a major change as manufacturers and importers provided direct selling organizations, set up marketing and service facilities, and divided the retail world into distinct categories of professional, semi-professional, and consumer classes. Each required different sales and marketing approaches.
And then came the digital revolution. The much-maligned original digital cameras with low resolution were not considered a serious threat to the film world—whose image quality appeared to be of unchallenged superiority. The instant gratification had already been experienced with Polaroid. Thus, a major shift to digital seemed eons away in the future.
The eons turned into years, the years into months—and then it happened. Suddenly, quality began to equal or exceed film, prices came down with each image improvement, and the three markets of pro, semi-pro, and consumer were dominated by digital equipment in price ranges that went from astronomical to supermarket level for each market category.
Many dealers attempted to serve all three segments. Some found it possible, but many concentrated on the levels that required their photographic expertise. A new generation of customers and sales staff learned the digital language that could relate to their computer experience.