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Feeling bullish about film

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................................................ I don’t see any use in bringing out new film camera’s; the old ones are perfect!: a Rolleiflex, an M4 and a LF with Schneider lenses are all you need.

 

 

Yes , they are, for some people. But it's the sort of thinking that might restrict the potential for film's progress.

 

Not all young or new photographers and potential users of film have the knowledge or interest for using old cameras, and unless decent quality new ones become readily available and are easy to use, those people may decide that digital suits them better.  And in the circumstances they'd probably be right.

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Film experiences a small renaissance - but it is country-specific. I can see a big momentum for adding film to digital here in the US, but I don't see it at all in Germany for example. One reason is that homes are in general bigger in the US where people have an easier time to set up a darkroom etc than in Europe where space is more limited. Environmental restrictions make it also harder to use needed chemicals in Europe compared to the US. Also a matter of availability of gear - the used market is certainly much bigger here in the US for film gear and darkroom related items. 

 

There are now several companies out there which purchase used film cameras, refurbish them, and sell them (for a quite high price IMO) - cameraventures.com is one of them based in Finland. Prices for well known and reputable film cameras also have increased in the past few years - the Leica M6 which I bought in 2016 increased its resale value about 30-40% caused by more demand in limited supply. I also observe increased prices for used darkroom equipment in excellent condition (you still get deals for free or very cheap for a bit run-down stuff to scavenge though).

 

Regarding film, there are two momentums in place in parallel at the moment - I don't see that there is more commitment by stores to develop film - Costco here in the US got rid of all film development about 2 years ago. I have the impression that this does not represent the increased interest in film because the majority of amateurs develop film on their own and also scan/digitize the negatives (or positives) afterwards. It is clearly a hobbyist mainstream and not a professional one (yet?). Some companies like Fuji made the decision to get out of the traditional film and focus on their currently more profitable Instax film instead as Polaroid replacement which is currently fashionable amongst youngsters. Others like Ferrania and also Kodak bring film back. Ilford also increased prices on photosensitive paper and other film-related items - I doubt they would do this if they didn't see more demand. 

 

Analog photography will remain a niche and will never by far be as big as digital - but as others stated above, I believe it has seen its lowest and is coming back since digital has become very generic and undistinguishable. Film seems now to be used by passionate (amateur) photographers and artists who want to stand out with a different medium than digital. Biggest danger for analog photography is IMO not the lack of film but the servicing of older film cameras. There are less and less knowledgeable people out there to service older mechanical analog cameras - we can only hope that some younger technicians find this field of interest and profitable enough to offer service. 

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At the shop where I worked recently, we have a customer who is a retired American expat living part-time near Guadalajara, Mex. Part of the year he scours the US for cheap pawn-shop or thrift-store Pentax K1000s with 50mm f/1.8-f/2 lenses, which he takes back to Mexico, where he has them checked and repaired by Mexican mechanics over the winter. He brings the store a box of 30 or so twice a year, which the store checks themselves (a couple per box are usually still duds) and buys for $60 each.

 

(I have no idea of the gross economics - presumably he gets the originals for $5-15 each, pays $25 for the repair labor, and makes $20-$25 profit each from the store - or thereabouts).

 

The store sells those to students for $100-$125, and is constantly running out (sells about 40 such cameras at the start of each school term). Numerous secondary schools, community colleges and universities in and around Denver still have film-based photography classes, and that store has cornered the market for providing the cameras (and film and paper - chemicals are supplied by the schools).

 

BTW - the store also buys functioning Canons, Nikons and Minoltas of about the same era (AE-1s, FGs, XD5/7s etc.) which also sell for $125 or so. There is a 50% "buy-back" policy (similar to college textbooks) to help keep the stock available.

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With the digital race to the megapixel, sharpness and 100 000 iso of the last 15 years .... People understood that top clear and clean perfect shot dont really feel that good in the end.

 

Thats why they put filter on instagram or add a vignette to the new lens they paid 2000$ to have none in post ... They want to go back to that dream look that film provided to the picture, not the clinical perfect shot.

 

You can buy film polaroid camera at urban outfitter ... There is a buzz in the photo community but also outside of it.

 

For the film camera market I dont know if there will be a comeback, maybe when the old current one will really be outdated with non working body, when the market will need a new film camera someone out there will probably take the risk to do it. It could be a huge marketing play to rebrand as a true photo compagny supporting the classic film alongside the digital .... But right now I dont think its the time, to much camera film owner have camera that still work and will refuse to move over to a new one because they are lets say it close minded about change regarding this. We will need to wait until working film body will be so rare, so expensive, so in demand that people will have no choice to choose and will be forced to move on and demand new film camera.

 

But for the film roll as long at they sell before they expire and brand have a motivation because its making money or for their reputation in the industry film will continue to exist.

 

VHS to DVD services still exist, AM radio still exist ...

Edited by Julienmm

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With the digital race to the megapixel, sharpness and 100 000 iso of the last 15 years .... People understood that top clear and clean perfect shot dont really feel that good in the end.

 

Thats why they put filter on instagram or add a vignette to the new lens they paid 2000$ to have none in post ... They want to go back to that dream look that film provided to the picture, not the clinical perfect shot.

 

You can buy film polaroid camera at urban outfitter ... There is a buzz in the photo community but also outside of it.

 

For the film camera market I dont know if there will be a comeback, maybe when the old current one will really be outdated with non working body, when the market will need a new film camera someone out there will probably take the risk to do it. It could be a huge marketing play to rebrand as a true photo compagny supporting the classic film alongside the digital .... But right now I dont think its the time, to much camera film owner have camera that still work and will refuse to move over to a new one because they are lets say it close minded about change regarding this. We will need to wait until working film body will be so rare, so expensive, so in demand that people will have no choice to choose and will be forced to move on and demand new film camera.

 

But for the film roll as long at they sell before they expire and brand have a motivation because its making money or for their reputation in the industry film will continue to exist.

 

VHS to DVD services still exist, AM radio still exist ...

 

I sort of agree and disagree here: I agree that certainly there is a trend currently to move away from the clinical digital look of photos which seem more and more undistinguishable between modern cell phone cameras and >$3K expensive FF or small medium format digital cameras when posted on the web. Nevertheless I enjoy in digital photography (which I do in parallel to my film photography) new technology, high MP FF sensors, high dynamic range etc. I can see the difference to my digital camera from about 10 years ago clearly even on my 21" monitor screen without making a large print. Or in different words: I enjoy in digital what I am not going after when shooting film. I don't try to make my film photos look digital nor trying to give my digital photos a film look. Both ways don't work for me - I simply want to use each medium to its best where it is good at. I don't belong to the group of people finding all kind of reasons why more resolution in a FF camera is not needed and for example 22 MP are sufficient - IMO this is not true, and I lurk for more sensor quality and up-to-date technology in my digital photography. But I would never compare this to my passion with film photography which I am using for different kind of photography where digital doesn't fit the bill for me (street photography is one, decayed structures in B&W another, some portrait effects with highlights etc). 

 

Yes, there are many film cameras still sitting around in homes, but many of them tend to decay in one way or another at this point depending also on storage conditions. Regarding SLRs from the 70s-80s, one thing which always goes now is the rubber gasket around the matt screen for example. Shutters tend to be stuck since the lubricant hardens. There are many other failure paths - in theory this all can be fixed/repaired/replaced, but often the cost is not worth the value of the camera if it's not a Leica or another valuable one. I expect prices for good high quality analog cameras to continue to increase due to lower supply and likely increasing demand in the next 10 years. 

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I was at a business lunch the other day with a speaker about life as a librarian, and she was giving views about how libraries are still relevant despite the growth of digital books.

I compared this to film versus digital and concluded that in both cases there is a place for both depending upon purpose outcome. It seems to me that although digital imaging is getting better all the time, what they are really racing for is technology to match the perfection of film. I am sure that sooner or later digital will reach an ultimate point where it can go no further - rather like the Concord aeroplane which was so good then became redundant resulting in other alternative plane designs based on completely different criteria of materials/economy/efficiency instead simply of speed. I still rate film images far superior to digital, yet that technology remains solidly proven and basic. To a certain extent, one can only put the digital developments down to "because you can".

Richard

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