If trade shows are indeed barometers of an industry's health, this year's Photonics West indicates that the photonics industry is in a state of cautious optimism. When this will translate into increased capital spending, however, is the question still to be answered.Held in January in San Jose, Calif., the conference and exhibition sponsored by SPIE actually dipped a bit in attendance from last year's show, but event project manager Scott Walker said he had expected that. He reported a total of 13,250, with a rough breakdown of 3500 technical attendees, 3550 exhibit representatives and 6000 exhibit-only walk-ins.Although the technical programs drew attendance at levels similar to 2002, numbers dropped slightly because Electronic Imaging, the largest symposium of last year's group, was held the previous week at another location. Replacing it was a relatively new microfabrication symposium, which has doubled in size since it was last held as a stand-alone in San Francisco 18 months ago, but it has yet to reach the maturity and, hence, to attract the numbers of its predecessor. However, the topic is a hot one, and SPIE expects growing industry interest to fuel future attendance.A continuing bright spot was the BiOS tabletop exhibit and conference colocated with Photonics West. Attendance showed modest gains over 2002, and several exhibitors reported satisfaction with the quality of leads. Leeward J. Bean, director of sales for Ocean Optics Inc. of Dunedin, Fla., had representation at both BiOs and Photonics West. He reported that his company generated more than 204 leads for the biomedical event alone, which he called "excellent" for a two-day tabletop exhibit.Bean's comments mirrored those of several other manufacturers. Show attendees seemed to be in town looking for answers to serious problems, unlike last year when several appeared more interested in handing out résumés.