At CES 2018, DIR writers covered the big show floor at the LVCC, interviewing show attendees. They spoke with everyone from photo specialty retailers to manufacturer executives and reps. Here is the second installment of our series of CES 2018 interviews.
Moishe Appelbaum, Owner
Midwest Photo, an attractive, well-appointed, 15,000-square-foot camera store near the center of downtown Columbus, Ohio, was established nearly 20 years ago in 1989.
“I bought the business in 2014,” says Appelbaum, and we position ourselves as a destination location focused on providing an inviting, knowledgeable, consultative experience for our customers. We are located in a diverse middle-class neighborhood. Our customers range from beginners to pros. In addition, we serve a number of educational and corporate clients.
“We attend CES primarily to see new products, get new ideas, explore new markets and, of course, to meet with our vendors,” notes Appelbaum. “There are always a slew of innovative products and concepts on display. They provide a good overview of how the imaging industry is expanding and evolving.
“For example, I’m really excited to see the new Nikon 180–400mm f/4 telephoto zoom. I’m looking forward to getting a hands-on demo to see just how they seamlessly integrated a 1.4x teleconverter into this lens. I think it’s a really cool idea, and it will be a great seller and rental item in our store.
“The Panasonic GH5S is another winner, because it’s a forward-thinking product in a rapidly growing category. This high-performance Micro Four Thirds video-priority mirrorless camera shows that Panasonic is focused on the priorities of the next generation, and I think they’re right. I’m also going to see the interface on the Sony camera control box for the RX0, the Vuzix Blade smart glasses, the Huawei Honor View 10, the Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra and the HTC Vive Pro.
Looking Forward to 2018
“I am quite confident that 2018 is going to be a flagship year for us,” continues Appelbaum. “I also believe it’s going to be an outstanding year for the industry as a whole. We are firing on all cylinders. The positive trend that began in 2017 appears to be accelerating going forward. We will continue to explore adding services. They include more in-store printing options, shoe box and other types of scanning, video transfers, lens adjustment services, etc. We have changed so much over the past two years. So we plan to focus primarily on refining our newest initiatives to enhance their reach and effectiveness.”
Sean Robinson, Product Manager, Imaging
Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company
Newark, New Jersey
Panasonic is a leading electronics and imaging manufacturer with about 250,000 employees worldwide; 800 in Newark alone. The innovative company is celebrating its centenary this year and will officially reach the 100-year mark in March 2018.
“We service all of North America from our Newark, New Jersey, location and have a high-tech office,” notes Robinson. “We handle all our cutting-edge imaging products such as cameras and lenses plus a wide array of consumer and B-to-B products. Apart from key meetings, our retailer and end-use customers do not generally show up at our offices. However, we do have a very responsive communications system and a robust online presence.
“We have a large, strikingly modern, multifaceted booth at CES and we’re one of the CES show’s major exhibitors,” continues Robinson. “Business is the main reason we attend, but it’s also a fun and crazy week of hard work and a great opportunity to see old friends. This time, the greatest challenge was the heavy rains early in the show that resulted in a two-hour power failure on the afternoon of January 10.”
Baptism by Fire
“The big upside was that we introduced what was widely hailed in the press as the most exciting and innovative camera at the show. The Panasonic GH5S is a flagship mirrorless entry aimed at serious and pro video shooters. Ironically, when the lights went out, we were able to demonstrate its awesome low-light capabilities by continuing to shoot video interviews in virtual darkness! It was a real baptism by fire and the camera performed amazingly well.
“What enables the GH5S to achieve this remarkable level of low-light performance is its newly developed 10.2MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor,” observes Robinson. “Dual native ISOs bring the ability to shoot at increasingly higher ISOs with limited penalties typically felt by traditional ISO systems. With a low-range native ISO of 400, the GH5S excels in bright light while shooting with V-LogL without the requirement of ND filters to keep exposure controlled while striving for shallower depth of field.
“At the same time, with a high-range native ISO of 2,500, the GH5S thrives in situations where lighting is a precious commodity. It enables low-light image quality never before seen in a Micro Four Thirds camera. You can shoot at ISOs up to 51,200 without extending the ISO. This sensor is also a multi-aspect type. It has a sufficient margin for realizing the same angle of view in 4:3, 17:9, 16:9 and 3:2 aspect ratios.
“I haven’t had much opportunity to walk the show yet, but I was impressed with SlingStudio from Slingbox,” says Robinson. “It allows lower cost video production for multiple camera arrays and integrates with Panasonic camcorders and GH-series cameras. As for 2018, it’s likely to be a banner year for Panasonic and the industry as a whole.”
Jeff Gerstel, Chief Marketing Officer
B&H Photo – Video
New York, New York
B&H Photo – Video, founded in 1973 and located at 420 Ninth Avenue on the corner of West 34th Street in Manhattan, is the largest single-location photo and video equipment store in the United States. B&H targets professional photographers and videographers. It also serves a broad-spectrum customer base ranging from casual shooters to serious enthusiasts.
More than 5,000 customers visit B&H in person every day from Sunday to Friday, but most of the company’s business comes from the Internet and corporate sales. It also runs a warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The store carries a huge range of electronics products, with emphasis on professional and specialty photographic equipment.
“We built our New York City store as the place to find expert advice, comprehensive education, the biggest selection and, of course, the best prices anywhere,” notes Gerstel. “Together with our e-commerce business, B&H has become a major retailer covering photo, video, audio, computers and many consumer electronics areas.
“Rather than focusing on demographics, we think of ourselves as the one-stop shop for creative gear,” says Gerstel. “Our B&H experts cater to all, from professionals to those who want to elevate their art.
“Our superstore is definitely a NYC tourist destination. Many of our store visitors are international tourists, and we also welcome many visitors from throughout the USA. In terms of driving visits, it’s simple. We treat customers how we want to be treated, and we provide a truly exciting shopping experience. As a result, we have enjoyed strong growth both in our online business and in our physical store.
B&H Covers CES
“We attend CES because we’re passionate about technology and innovation. Also because we want to bring the excitement of our industry to our customers,” Gerstel continues. “We also cover CES on our website and through social media, bringing the experience directly to our customers. There are so many new products and product categories we are checking out at CES 2018. I really can’t get into specifics at this point. However, I invite you to come visit our store and our website or call us for all the exciting details!
“Imaging is coming off an incredible year of innovation through new product launches,” observes Gerstel. “We see this momentum growing in 2018. We see our mission as educating customers in how to use our industry’s innovations to take their creativity to new levels in 2018. In addition, we take the long road and partner with vendors who do the same. And we build our business by investing in our customers.
“The hot new items we saw here are great. And we want to be the place that meets all of our customers’ needs every day. To give you some idea, it would be impossible to walk CES and not get excited by what’s happening in VR/AR, smart home, gaming, voice assistance, drones and almost every area. Maybe the most exciting thing has been seeing how strongly the leaders in imaging are innovating and pushing the envelope.”