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Japan and CP+ Trip 2018 - Part 1

13th March 2018 Image Science News

Japan Trip 2018

In late February 2018, BenQ invited several key people from Australia to attend Japan's biggest photography show - CP+ in Yokohama.  

I've broken up my coverage of the show and the trip itself into three  articles:

I have also made two complete galleries that show more than the images here.  The best way to use these is to click the slideshow button in the top right corner and you'll get captions as you go:

The Trip Crew

BenQ invited four of their key supporters on this Japan CP+ 2018 trip - so that we could meet each other, and key players from the Photogenic by BenQ display teams from Taiwan and Japan.

I was invited in my role as the longest supporter and supplier of the BenQ colour accurate monitors in Australia - we started with them way back in late 2013 with the introduction of their first colour accurate model - the excellent PG2401

Since then we've been helping spread the word far and wide about the emerging new player in colour accurate monitors and have developed a superb relationship with the very supportive folk at BenQ. 

The last 12 months in particular have been very exciting as BenQ have fleshed out their range with a series of exciting (and very aggressively priced) new models.

Other than myself, the rest of the Japan 2018 CP+ trip experts were all from Western Australia:

  • Dan Avila - accomplished travel and lifestyle photographer & journalist
  • Alex Cearns, Animal Photographer at the highly successful Houndstooth Studio
  • Saul Frank - a true gentleman, co-director of Camera Electronic, WA's finest photo emporium

Filling out the trip crew:

  • Shawn Zheng, Product Manager for eSports and LCD Monitors at BenQ Australia
  • Gordon Lien of G & W Design Studio, content creators who have worked closely with BenQ for many years now.

One glorious week in Japan!

Saul, Alex, Jeremy and Shaun at CP+ 2018 in Japan
Saul, Alex, Jeremy and Shaun at CP+ 2018 in Japan

We spent a wonderful week in Japan split between the show and taking in the amazing experience that is Japan itself.  BenQ looked after us wonderfully, including some truly stunning meals in authentic Japanese restaurants, and it was delightful to get to know everyone better.  (There may even have been some awfully sung team Karaoke in there...).

So - first, a huge public thank you to BenQ for their generosity, for providing access to BenQ expertise (particularly in the form of BenQ's head of colour, Chris Bai) - and for all the great times!  

Manufacturer support in general, and access to the actual scientists who develop the machines really helps build confidence in the brand and its place within the professional colour market.  There's simply no question BenQ are very serious about their place in professional monitors, and the future looks bright indeed!

CP+ - It's Big! It's Busy!

CP+ 2018 - Yokohama Pacifico

CP+ is a huge show - far bigger than any show I have ever seen in Australia, much bigger than the now defunct 'Digital Show' ever was.  Whereas shows in Melbourne have struggled to fill even a small portion of our exhibition centre, and attendances were disappointingly low for many years now, this show easily filled the entire Pacifico Yokohama hall, and over 68000 people attended the four day show.

I suspect one of the key reasons for its ongoing success is its unapologetic focus on all things Photo - specifically Photo - there's no half baked attempt to appeal to general consumer electronics or Audio Visual here.  Just cameras, lenses, drones, and accessories as far as the eye could see....  

The first few hours, open only to the Press and invited guests, was already busy and thick with people.  By the time the show opened up to the public, it was standing room only and audiences for some of the presentations had literally hundreds of people overflowing the seated areas.  Even with the massive attendance, though, the efficiency of the show was quite spectacular, with the ever polite Japanese staff making sure every one had a chance to handle gadgets on show, without too much waiting.

In a word: Impressive.  And it shows that there's still a massive appetite for hands on experiences of Photo gear, especially when there are real experts on the stands to meet and discuss the finer points with.  Indeed, I think that appetite is, if anything, growing again after a bit of a down swing (as camera phones became ubiquitous and the bottom dropped out of the pocket camera market).  

One notable thing was the near universal use of professional, working photographers as brand ambassadors (and congratulations to Dan Avila and Alex Cearns mentioned above - both have just been appointed new BenQ Australia ambassadors!).

Having these industry pros on hand means you get a real chance to talk to some of the best professionals about their real world use of the equipment in professional working contexts - which to my mind is vastly more valuable than the typical poorly trained product reps that we normally get to talk to over here at shows (who often seem to barely know one end of a product from the other).

BenQ have made excellent choices with Alex Cearns and Dan Avila as their new BenQ ambassadors - two absolutely industry leading professionals

Alex must be the most successful animal and pet photographer in Australia, with over 1000 animal portrait jobs booked a year!  In addition, her charity work is wide, and her love for all things living is immediately obvious in her work.

Dan is also a highly in-demand, accomplished professional with a superb reputation for getting the job done, on time and on budget, for tourist and travel organisations across the globe.

Indeed, the idea behind this is actually the basis of our whole approach at Image Science too - something we're very familiar with. 

We really use the things we sell, in our service offerings, day in day out in our fine art production environment - a completely different approach that is remains unique in the Australian market place; it's the approach we've built our entire business on. 

It's our 15+ years of working professional experience that informs our in depth advice in product sales and that is the primary reason we have great reach as a business - despite remaining a deliberately small team of people.

The BenQ Stand and Team

The BenQ stand and SW240 Sneak Peak

A key part of our visit was of course to check out the BenQ stand, and meet with BenQ team members from Japan and Taiwan.  In particular, it was a great chance for me to have a more in depth chat with Chris Bai.

Chris Bai is the Senior Colour Scientist and Colour Technology Lab Manager at BenQ Corporation.  He is currently also Vice Chair of the ICC (International Colour Consortium) Display Working Group.  Put simply, he's the big gun for colour at BenQ.

The stand showed off the full range of current BenQ models, and a sneak preview of a new model - the very exciting BenQ SW240 model that should start rolling off the production line soon and be available in a couple months here in Australia.  This will be a 24 inch, high quality, wide gamut monitor with direct hardware calibration support at an industry first price point of only $699 - including all the usual BenQ extras such as a high quality hood, the programmable hot key puck, and Palette Master Elements software.  

This model will be a real market shaker as this is a way lower price point than has ever been reached by a monitor of such quality.  Very exciting news as this means there really will be no reason any more for people to buy rubbish like e.g. Dell Ultrasharps etc, when a considerably superior and properly supported monitor is available for such a low price.  And for those already enjoying bigger and better screens, this would also make an ideal second monitor, or studio / location monitor, given it's smaller size, low weight, and easy clip on clip off stand.  More news on the ETA for this as soon as we get it!!

Q and A with Chris Bai of BenQ

I first met Chris Bai around late 2013 or so when he visited as part of the initial BenQ colour accurate range launch (coverage here).  So it was a real pleasure to catch up with him after several years - especially at a time when BenQ have really hit their stride with colour accurate monitors (and have pretty much entirely displaced NEC in market share in a few short years!).

I had a wide ranging chat with Chris, some of which was recorded, but here are a few highlights and thoughts from Chris as I remember them.

BenQ have settled on two lines of monitors:

SW Range - targeted at serious enthusiast photographers, and those that deliver electronically.  High colour quality, wide gamut screens with direct hardware calibration that aim to offer a market leading price to performance ratio.  In particular, they are very happy with and excited by their superb value new offering, the BenQ SW271 - (now discontinued but it's successor, the SW271C, is the obvious choice right now if you want a great quality, colour accurate 4K screen at a reasonable price.)

PV Range - the PV actually stands, I am told, for Professional Video - but really these monitors are targeted at both professional video AND professional print work.  They are another quality level higher again than the SW range, with more stringent quality parameters to meet, and are uniformity corrected - but still at very aggressive price points. 

We discussed a bunch of things at various times, but here's a few FAQs of particular interest that Chris was able to answer for me:

Whilst we're getting to the point where higher end monitors are getting very near to 100% coverage of AdobeRGB and DCI-P3, Rec.2020 support is still some (if not several) years away.  Rec.2020 is a new, very wide gamut colour standard that is considerably wider than the current main standards in common use - AdobeRGB (print) and Rec.709 and DCI-P3 (video).  But at the moment it's more of a capture only standard, as panels are simply not yet able to achieve this gamut, and won't for some time.  

I asked about OLED - if and when we'll see this coming to desktop monitors.  OLED is an exciting technology and, at its best, and in terms of sheer display of imagery, offers unrivalled image quality thanks to 'infinite blacks' - that is, true blacks emitting no light whatsoever - giving a huge contrast range to images, and an incredibly vivid and life like appearance.  Of course, for print work this is actually the opposite of ideal, as we are constantly reducing contrast to match paper, rather than increasing it.

Chris told me there are several major issues to be solved here - with cost being the obvious one.  Larger OLED panels remain very expensive, so it simply won't be possible for some time yet to bring OLED to market at consumer friendly price points (OLED studio monitors are available already but they cost circa $20,000 currently).  

Second, achieving high quality wide gamut results with OLED is more difficult (and expensive) than with LCD, so that further complicates things.  Finally, Chris also raised the fact that OLEDs are very susceptible to humidity - the units need to be completely sealed, and the lifespan of these units tends to be around the 5 year range.  If moisture creeps in, the panel fails.  And it's clearly not practicable to retrieve units for re-sealing every few years.  Thus it's clear some big challenges remain before OLED is likely to make a significant impact in the desktop monitor space unfortunately. That said, Chris did seem to think it was the inevitable long term direction for high end monitors.

I tried hard to gently prise details of new models from Chris, and he was gracious enough to share some details with me.  We have the SW240 coming soon - mentioned above.  I also asked about what, for me, is the obvious super exciting model in BenQ's future - the PV271 to match the just released (and excellent) SW271 (now discontinued - see the BenQ SW271C instead).  It seems BenQ is throwing everything they have at this model, hoping to achieve 100% of both AdobeRGB and DCI-P3, on a highly uniform 4K panel with individual measurement and correction, and host of features for video editors as well - including, remarkably, direct SDI inputs (which I've yet so see in any other normal desktop monitor).  They see this model as being a real winner in both the print and video spaces.  At this stage, it's looking like late 2018 for this model...and we'll let you know as soon as we have any more details about this very exciting prospect.  That said, if you're wanting to get started with 4K now - don't hesitate, grab the SW271C - you'll be very happy with it!

BenQ SW271C 27" 4K Monitor
The new and improved version of the extremely popular SW271 is a 27" 4K photo-editing monitor with excellent colour accuracy and uniformity.
Ships free to most locations! See notes.
More info

More Chat, on Video!

If you're keen to see more BenQ monitor chat, see the video of more of our conversation below. 

(We were mic'ed up, but even so the audio quality is not super great as of course this was shot live on the stand at a very busy trade show!). 

Jeremy & Chris Bai from BenQ chat about BenQ SW and PV monitors at CP+ 2018

The Other Monitor Makers

Notably Absent - NEC

NEC did not have a stand and were completely absent from the show - I didn't see anyone using NEC monitors - on any booth at all.  

Rumours at the show were that NEC is actually considering leaving the high end display business altogether!  This would be a shame, as for years we supplied NECs to many happy customers, but after their recent decisions in this market I can't say I'd be too surprised if this was in fact true.  Only NEC USA seem to be active in this space at this time.  

Something has definitely gone wrong with NEC displays - the PAxx3 line of monitors is now more than 2 years overdue, and they've certainly lost momentum.  It's been years since we've seen NEC show up or support anything at all in the photo industry in Australia.  Again, this is a great shame as there's no per se issue with the PA series itself - they are good screens, if now a little out of date versus the competition.  But they must be backed up properly with an appropriate warranty, of course, to be comparable to the excellent efforts from BenQ and Eizo. 

We're hopeful they'll turn things around, but unfortunately there's no sign of it yet..but we'll keep asking!


Eizo's stand CP+ Japan 2018

Eizo had a nice stand - no new models on show, but with an active little tutorial section and display of their current ColorEdge CS and CG line ups. 

Their main emphasis was on Quick Colour Match - their new consumer focussed calibration system.  They've teamed with some printer and paper makers - and notably Ilford just announced their support in this area - to make a very simple system for automatically adjusting your ColorEdge monitor for a particular paper.  

I'm keen to spend time with this system, as of course easier solutions are often appreciated, but I do personally think that ColorNavigator is a very refined piece of software - once you've spent a little time getting to know it, it's capable of doing almost anything in the print simulation space you might want to do.  That said, it's not a one click type solution for sure, so I can see why they are attempting to simplify things.  I plan to do a write up on this new system soon.

End of Part One

There's a gallery of CP+ image with captions here.  Use the slideshow option, top right corner, for best effect.

Please follow on to the remaining two parts of our Japan trip coverage:

I have also made two complete galleries that show more than the images here.  The best way to use these is to click the slideshow button in the top right corner and you'll get captions as you go: