A recent post on the darkside that is facebook got me thinking about the long term prospects of film photography and can it survive.
We hear both through industry sources and anecdotally that we are seeing a growth in interest and sales in film as a medium of photography.
There is a thriving community of film photographers with professionals also using it for shoots. But we in the film community surround ourselves with like minded individuals are we looking through rose-tinted spectacles?
Who are the main players in the industry
Ilford – Black & White films, papers and chemicals. Taken over by private equity whose message is they believe in analogue
Kodak – still producing colour negative film but with less variety than previously and of course the omnipresent Tri-x and more modern T-max. Moving back into super 8mm and umm smart phones
Fujifilm – still selling slide film, colour film and some B&W but prices ever rising and with a dread anticipation of them slowly moving out of the market
Agfa- thier Vista film and CT doing well but as we know these are rebranded Fuji films
Rollei – not done my research here but maybe someone can comment if these are rebrands
Impossible – Releasing new and interesting films, plus the launch of the new camera
Lomography – a good selection of ‘lo-fi’ cameras and again rebranded films plus ‘art’ lenses
Instax – I kept this purposely separate from Fujifilm as I believe Fuji support for this is strong unlike ‘traditional film’
Leica – Still making film cameras (for a price) and also the new Sofort for Instax
Ferrania – Don’t get me started on this one but hopefully one day we will see their slide films on the shelf
The above list is by no means exhaustive. Then there are those still creating niche cameras such as pinhole and large format or other such as JCH bringing back film stocks. The film labs seem to be striving, publications such as Let’s Explore and companies such as Filmshootco are bringing quality film related media to the market.
But hang on, when I look around many of us love shooting discontinued and expired films, are new film sales being impacted because of this? But wait you say that still means chemicals are required and papers so all good for the manufacturers of those. Its a fair comment, but film is a business and one main barometer will be new film sales.
For me there is an Elephant in the room we don’t talk about much and only one film type is addressing this. Where are all the new film cameras being produced to make up for the finite supply of 2nd hand cameras? Instax cover this and regardless if you like the look of the camera or not Impossible were very clever launching a new camera so people would continue buying their film.
lomo have a deserved place but again they are slightly niche. Where will we get the mass market new 35mm SLR, rangefinder or 120 MF camera systems? Yes I know Leica if you have the money. I do believe long term we need a company bold enough to release a ‘proper’ consumer camera.
2nd hand film camera prices are rising again, this is a good sign but this finite supply will dwindle as they break down and parts become scarce.
So is it all doom and gloom I don’t think so.
I look at what has happened with vinyl records here in the UK, from a hardcore that never gave up there is a genuine resurgence. You can once again buy vinyl in shops including the bigger supermarkets. Whilst turntables never fully went away, you can again easily pick up quality consumer turntables on the high street and Technics for example recently reissued their famous 1200’s
So whats the future. I believe there is still more change to happen in the industry in regard to films available and for example if Fuji go will we still get Agfa? But this should make the survivors stronger.
We as group need to be mindful that we support the manufacturers with our cash, as much as they enjoy it, they are ultimately there for the profit.
We need to keep promoting film photography anywhere and everywhere we can, people like Emulsive, Believe in Film and Film is Not dead to name but 3 do sterling work in this area.
But I do believe ultimately we need a manufacturer brave enough to bring out a proper consumer film camera system, vinyl succeeded so can we……
Note: I have written this off the cuff and on the train home, there may be inaccuracies but hopefully you get the gist, don’t hate me