Are we or are we not?

The Photography Show – NEC Birmingham
For the last decade and more my fellow photographer Colin and I have faithfully attended The Photography Show in Birmingham. This year, more than any other, we find ourselves in a dilemma. Do we go ……… or not?

In terms of carbon footprint our journey starts in Eastbourne, meaning a round trip of about 380 miles. I personally only usually do this sort of mileage on a holiday. There is also the expense to think about! The cost of the fuel, the overnight stay that is needed, food, plus any exhibition costs including parking. I am very irritated that, when the last show was cancelled due to Covid, no refund was given for pre-booked parking which I tried to get back! This could perhaps happen again.

Before the widespread use of online purchasing it was easier to justify going to the show. The photographic retail sector on the high street has become extremely minimal and has now sadly gone in many places. Colin and I both, at one stage, worked for family businesses in photographic sales. Both those businesses no longer exist and people have become used to websites and reviews as part of their decision-making. The show itself is probably only 30% to 50% of the size it used to be.

However, our generation is used to travelling somewhere and to being able to talk with a sales person and ask questions. We would also hope for a demonstration of the product if at all possible. There is a lot to be gained from handling and viewing a product. I have looked at the ‘marketfest’ which is online. There I can find dimensions – diameter, weight etc, but that doesn’t tell me the ergonomics, or how it will feel to me when I hold it. Will it sit comfortably in my hand? Does the design hold up to the glossy image? Years ago Nikon released a camera I was expecting to buy at the photography show. When I saw and handled it at the NEC, I realised it was wrong for me ergonomically, so the trip proved worth it.

Furthermore there is a website for the show which lists the talks that are available and which can be pre-booked. While my hearing impairment often makes these inaccessible to me, it is a feature which might draw others.

Finally I am not actually planning only to browse if I go this year. I need to renew my specialist printer as my current model is distinctly temperamental. This is a tool I need, and it is a significant investment. For me it is also an aesthetic decision – yes, it’s a black box but some are more appealing than others! I will be sure about my purchase if I am able to see the product and talk to salesmen about my reservations.

If we go, which stands will we make a beeline for? What can we recommend?

1901 Fotografi
Owner Mark Lewis is an award-winning portrait photographer based in the UK. Dissatisfied with the camera straps he found on the market he began to make his own, out of top quality Italian leather and the best metal accessories. As one photographer remarks on his website, ‘A bad camera strap can really foul an otherwise wonderful day of photography’, so this is a stand worth visiting.

Analogue Wonderland
This is a new company with a big YouTube presence which imports camera films from companies all over the world. It is run by a young guy with plenty of enthusiasm. He is doing a good job of giving the analogue world options. As he knows the products, speaking to him will cut down on your research time, and it should be an interesting stand to visit.

For aforementioned printer.


Fotospeed and Permajet will have a presence where we can check the different way colours are produced on their types of papers and their surface finishes. Maybe they will have a roll for Colin’s panoramic images?

The Intrepid Camera Company
Based in Hove this company supplies large format cameras and enlargers. Colin owns one of their cameras. They are fascinating cameras because everything is reversed on a 5:4 camera. The drawback is both the initial purchase cost and the cost of developing the films. They also provide a pinhole for their cameras which I am very interested in seeing. Who knows, I may end up buying one for Colin for his 5×4 camera, as I really enjoy his film pinhole images. (Yes, I would like to see him make some more soon).

Fujifilm UK Limited
This is a stand where I will be able to look at the Fujifilm 100S’ camera body. A friend has one which I have used, but an opportunity to visit their stand would increase my knowledge of the GFX system. I think that stand will be busy!

STC Optical and Chemical
This is the company from which GCM currently purchase their camera lens filters, some of which we have reviewed on this site. Based in Taiwan they are currently experiencing flight restrictions, so they may not be there this year which is disappointing. We like to share a cup of tea together, and enjoy learning about their new developments.


Zone Imaging Lab
This is a company I am interested in taking a look at. They produce a Pyro black and white film developer which is something I am interested in trying.

Kosmo Foto
An interesting new company marketing some existing film emulsions under their own branding, if they are doing a deal, well we shall see.

Interestingly;  Intrepid, Analogue Wonderland, Zone Imaging Lab and Kosmo Foto are all on the same stand  (G600) so not too far to go to see them all.

WEX, London Camera Exchange and Camera World.
I am looking to purchase some more memory cards and maybe a lens so the above three exhibitors will be getting a visit.

So, are we going? Watch this space …

Additional text by Colin

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