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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Photokina and NDAs

A few basics on Photokina, for those who aren't already familiar with it: Photokina is the world's largest photo-equipment trade fair. It's held in Cologne, Germany every two years (even-numbered years). This year it begins on September 26th. About 1,600 suppliers from 50 countries are expected to participate.

Prior to the digital era, many manufacturers introduced most of their new products at Photokina or at the smaller annual trade shows in the U.S. or Japan. Nowadays that doesn't work so well any more, since the "shelf life" of digital cameras is not as long and products really need to be put out as soon as they're ready in order to maximize any competitive advantage they might have. Almost all the significant new products will have been officially announced in advance of the actual start of the show.

For those who aren't familiar with "NDA," the acronym stands for "non-disclosure agreement." The manufacturers provide the press with advance information so they can be ready with news about new products at the official launch date, a.k.a. the "embargo date" (the information is under embargo until that time). Information we receive in advance from companies can't be discussed until it is officially announced by the company, and everybody goes public with it at once. That's the idea, anyway. Various companies manipulate this arrangement by giving different press outlets different embargo dates or times (Phil Askey at dpreview consistently complains about this), or by "leaking" information in advance, sometimes actually by mistake, sometimes "by mistake," wink-wink, nudge-nudge (Canon has become notorious for the latter). It's difficult to keep secrets, especially for people who are, as David Vestal once said of reporters, "in the disclosure business," so leaks also come from the individuals under NDAs, in whatever fashion—whether deliberately, or simply because they share private information with friends, who then share it with friends, who then blab it all over town.

Leica, for instance, is known to have distributed digital M's to a number of "beta testers," some of whom I've spoken to. The beta testers try the product and give the company feedback. Once actual cameras are in the hands of working photographers, it becomes relatively difficult to keep details under wraps.

So if you see a press source discussing upcoming products, as I was discussing the new digital Leica M yesterday, it's a sure sign that they are not under an NDA and thus don't have any real information about the product from the company (I have not signed an NDA with Leica and don't have any hard information about the digital M). Those that do have the straight scoop about various new products are keeping mum until the appointed time.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

4 Comments:

Blogger chas3stix said...

Mike,
Jeff Keller at Digital Camera Resource Guide in his blog,everyone else is doing it has also complained about certain persons breaking NDA's.
I guess that some folke just don't have any scruples.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Just Plain Hugh said...

If Leica is waiting until Photokina to release the digital M , and as you say
"Nowadays that doesn't work so well any more, since the "shelf life" of digital cameras is not as long and products really need to be put out as soon as they're ready in order to maximize any competitive advantage they might have." then perhaps Leica has figured out a way of making the digital M less prone to obsolescence. If I ran Leica ( HA!!! ) I'd put all the digital bits into an easily replaceable and upgradable module. That way Leica would still be able to maintain their obsolescence proof nich in the photo market while keeping a reasonable upgrade path open to their customers.

Arguably Leica's obsolescence proof image is what is killing them, as their main competition is used Leicas,

On the other hand, without image stabilization I find that anything more that 11 megapixels is at wasted in a hand held camera, and Leica's market is for the most part concerned with hand held photography.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

just plain hugh said: "If I ran Leica ( HA!!! ) I'd put all the digital bits into an easily replaceable and upgradable module."

Actually, that's exactly what they've done with their DMR back for their R8 and R9 cameras (which also largely sustain their existence on the value of their excellent but all-manual lenses).

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Abdee said...

Sometimes I think that NDA in photo world should be renamed to PHIA (Producing Hype In Advance).

2:57 PM  

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