Written by Rick LePage
As I’m typing this, I’m sitting outside the exhibition hall at the Javits Center in New York, watching a stream of photographers, graphic artists and a large group of art school students pass into the packed hall at Photo Plus East. I have always liked this show—the focus on imaging is right up my alley, and I like the mix of digital tools with the traditional stuff like lighting products and wedding portfolios.
Make no mistake, though, this is largely a digital show. The only place on the floor where I saw film was at Kodak’s booth. The company was actually giving it away, which I guess is one way for them to de-emphasize their film business (something they keep reinforcing halfheartedly, as they also keep losing money).
Kodak’s struggles aside, there’s an energy at this year’s show that I haven’t seen in years past. The digital imaging world has always been a competitive one, but watching from the sidelines, I can tell you that we’re entering a whole new realm. Competition is alive and well, and the most prominent battleground right now isn’t between Canon, Nikon, and Sony, but between Apple and Adobe. The weapons? Aperture and Lightroom (excuse me, Photoshop Lightroom).
If you go by numbers alone, Adobe’s owning this show. Their booth is more consistently packed than Apple’s, and they have a pretty heavyweight group of big-name photographers demoing Lightroom (Apple does too, to be fair, and I’ve had to wade through their packed booth on occasion). But a simple comparison of numbers belies the fact that this is a battle that won’t be won here in New York, or in the next few months. Both companies are girding up for a long fight. (I’ve heard a number of people close to Adobe say that they keep hearing “We won’t let that happen again,” a reference to Apple’s Final Cut Pro taking the film market away from Adobe Premiere.)