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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

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Slide film vs color negative in the 1980's = flickr vs facebook in 2011. 55 billion vs 5 billion? And who posts anything worth anything on facebook? Flickr is no snobby art haven either, but at least the site caters well enough to accomplished photobugs that it attracts and serves all types.

Fifty. Five. Billion. Thats a LOT of blurry, grainy, improperly exposed, nasty looking cell phone pictures of absolutely nothing.

If you dont exclude that stinking pile from the numbers, what good are any of your statistics going to be, anyway? Its like understanding the enthusiast racecar market by analysing barrels of oil consumed, or by the number of chevy impalas sold.

Dear ILTim,

Who said I cared about "enthusiast racecars?" I didn't. I don't.

I'm interested in what people are doing, photographically. Not in what they're doing that someone arbitrarily deems important.

pax / Ctein

ILTim:

I spent most of the '80s in the photofinishing biz for a large Canadian camera store chain, and by the time I left, I felt like I had looked at 55 billion blurry, overexposed pictures of people's fingers in front of the lens. Nothing really changes.

But thanks for bringing up Flickr et. al. While we have no idea how representative a sample the 'social media' sites are w.r.t. picture-taking as a whole (3%? 60%?) they sure do represent something large. Some analysis of their vast databases might tell us something about the market e.g., % of pictures taken with film, then scanned (either by photofinisher or home equipment). Or whether Thom Hogan's prediction w.r.t. the takeover by cell phone cameras for 95% of general snapshooting (I paraphrase somewhat) is on track.

ctein:

Do you have any sense of what the trends in 'alternative' (chemical) photography are? Both the various individual processes and the number of practioners?

Ctein, you might want to take a look at the camera statistics on Flickr.

http://www.flickr.com/cameras/

You'll have to look around by camera make, but it can give you some ideas of what is being used, and how much by each model. There may be a way to compile all this programatically via their API, but I'm not a programmer. Might be an interesting project for someone with your interest in what's being used over time.

Creme?
Dregs?
We should have a poll for us poor remaining film users.
By the way, there may be dregs at the bottom of my developer but the wine I buy does not get a chance or is of a vintage to have dregs.

"Fifty. Five. Billion. Thats a LOT of blurry, grainy, improperly exposed, nasty looking cell phone pictures of absolutely nothing."

Well, what is "absolutely nothing" to one is "wonderfully something" to another!

My brother and I were in Yosemite National Park recently, and we saw cameras from MF digital backs, Leica digital, DSLR, compacts, cellphones, and ... throwaways!

We remarked how great it is that there is such a wide range of means by which people can capture their memories, with no concern for another's opinion of their equipment nor the quality of their photographs.

And, why not?!

Regards,

Richard

Dear Denise,

Sorry, but I have not a clue. Even in my own specialty, dye transfer, I've not known how many practitioners there were. Today, when it's a very small number, and a high percentage of them are in communication with each other, estimates still vary by a factor of four (low double-digits to perhaps 100 -- I favor the former).

pax / Ctein

@Richard, you said:

"We remarked how great it is that there is such a wide range of means by which people can capture their memories, with no concern for another's opinion of their equipment nor the quality of their photographs."

Could not agree more.

My thoroughly unscientific observations on Flickr suggest that 35mm is in the majority, but not by a huge margin like it used to be before the consumer market mostly moved to digital. I would suspect a lot of people who are now into film appreciate what MF can do for them and can afford the gear now that it's available used for pennies on the dollar.

By the same unscientific observations color negative is also in the majority, but B&W and slide share decent percentages.

Speaking personally I've mostly shot color neg in 35mm so far but lately I've been drifting more toward B&W, slides and medium format.

I had a roll of 120mm Velvia developed (and yes applause 9 usable positives :-)) and got them back the other day. My envelope was easyly traceble. The only green Fuji envelope between all the rest of the yellow envelopes of negative film. And the rest was a good 100 envelopes. My local photographer stacks up on 35 mm negative color (mostly Superia and stuff like that) and some Ilford black and white. Now that is a typical line up. But I guess a phone call to B&H Photo (and it's competitors could help). Personally I think color negative will be the dominant factor now as it has always has been. Easy to handle, large exposure compensating capabilities. Fit for the shooter and the enthousiast as well. Slide was always a niche market. I guess slide films have not caved in as much though as negative film. Slide films are rare, were rare and will be rare in the future, but since competition is limited I guess Fuji will still be able to sell them profitably into the future (probably at a higher price then the rediculous 8 euro per developed 120mm film they charge me today).

Greetings, Ed

Ctein, fair enough. And I suppose the mass trends drive all aspects of photography to some extent. The extremes are easily identified, cell phones vs medium format backs, 110 cassette film vs 4x5 sheet. There is no crossover between the extremes, they are distinctly separate markets with equipment marketed specifically to that subset of users, regardless if there is 15 billion customers on one side and 100,000 on the other.

But it gets weird in the middle, where the extremely casual photographer with a little extra cash to burn wants to buy something 'more good-er', or the accomplished hobbyist or pro wants something smaller or more autonomous. It can be a funny area where 90% of sales of a particular model are to people who cannot set the aperture value, but 10% can and want to.

Thats where I fall with my Panasonic GF1 and the progression of that model line lets me down a little. Its like watching good cheap enthusiast cars become overweight and porky because they need more cushy sales brochure features. So anyway, thats the background of why my comment takes the shape it does, my perspective or interest in these figures is a bit different.

I disagree Ctein, that information can be collected in metadata, whether it be EXIF or in the page which the image is published on. Even assuming that a small percentage of all photos are published online, this would still be a good enough base to work out:
- when the photo was taken: time of day (not possible with film)
- what camera used (not possible with film)
- what focal length used (not possible with film)
- ... and perhaps a couple of other things too!

So I think that this would be a question for Yahoo/Flickr or Google/Picasa no? I think somewhere in there is a good idea for a future Google product though.

Pak

Richard:
'My brother and I were in Yosemite National Park recently, and we saw cameras from MF digital backs, Leica digital, DSLR, compacts, cellphones, and ... throwaways!

We remarked how great it is that there is such a wide range of means by which people can capture their memories [...]'

Considering that wide range of means, how about people drawing or painting - did you see any of those? Lately I've come to thinking that the world wide family of image makers should include them as well. What I mean, really, is that we (photographers and other artists working figuratively) are truly related. It is not in the tools.

"Are film photographers now the cream skimmed off the top of the milk...or the sedimentary dregs at the bottom of the wine bottle?"

Why such polarised hyperbole? I suspect the spectrum is still varied.

Adding my own experience - in the 60's I shot B+W film - because I grew up in a darkroom and probably didn't know there was anything else. 70's 80's and 90's slide film because a projected transparency, or even one viewed on a little plastic battery powered viewer was a pulsing vibrant image compared to a colour print. And my darkroom had disappeared..... and printing was ... just too much bother.

2000 - present, equal quantities of B+W, transparency and colour negative. Why? I'm afraid to say I now scan and digitally print everything - so that makes a level playing field, and I use the emulsion to suit my mood, whim or subject....

As an aside, from 2000 onwards I started with digital (earlier actually if I count my first Sony DSC-1) but the crucial development was digital printing. That took me back to film, ironically

Well, for those who still prefer to make their own prints in darkrooms, I wouldn't be surprised if there's been a shift from colour to B&W simply because it's getting harder in many areas to access colour supplies, even by mailorder. As the crow flies, my B&W supplies travel 3000 miles across an international border. Colour? It's no longer feasible.

Dear LM,

Because it amused me to write that.

Both a necessary and sufficient condition.

If it did not amuse you, better luck next time. I am a repeat offender.

~~~~~~~~

Dear Pak,

Unfortunately, that only gives you statistics on the highly-self-selected subset of photographers who uploaded *some* of their photos to those sites.

Unless one has some strong evidence that this subset is representative of photography as a whole, it offers no useful statistics directed at my questions.

pax / Ctein

Hans Muus wrote (concerning my Yosemite trip)

Considering that wide range of means, how about people drawing or painting - did you see any of those? Lately I've come to thinking that the world wide family of image makers should include them as well.

Yes indeed! I spoke with several people who brought portable chairs and easels, set up along the trails in the meadows, and along the Merced River. One in particular comes almost every month to draw/paint! One gentleman who lives near the park comes quite frequently with no camera -- just to enjoy and come away with many memories tucked inside. I'm sure his recollection of scenes (images) is no less significant or important than those who capture those same scenes on some type of media.

Again, Hans:

What I mean, really, is that we (photographers and other artists working figuratively) are truly related. It is not in the tools.

And what about those who transfer their visual memories into poetry or prose!

See:

http://www.restorecalifornia.net/yosemite-poetry.html

http://www.restorecalifornia.net/yosemite%20haiku.html

Regards,

Richard

"Thirty-five millimeter had seriously eroded the medium-format wedding market by the end of the '90s.The major portrait makers jumped onto the digital bandwagon in the 1990s, because they could make effective use of the ultra-expensive cameras of the era. Were it not for the prestige of medium format it simply would have disappeared from the marketplace. "

I can't find anything credible to back up these statements.
If 35mm film had seriously eroded the MF market, and (MF) "portrait makers" jumped to digital in the 90's as well, why was there not more (low priced) used MF equipment on the market at that time? The bottom didn't drop out on MF equipment until 2004/2005.

My experience during the 90s-00s: Editorial & commercial "portrait makers" were primarily shooting MF, some still using LF. Today there are still some of the top photographers in these sectors using film - MF & LF.

While there were a few wedding photographers turning to 35mm film, most worked with MF (Hassys) until digital was decent: Fujifilm FinePix S2/S3 Pro & Canon 10D. It took several years after these cameras were on the market and in use before the majority of image makers hit the tipping point and switched. This tipping point change resulted in the huge supply of used MF (fire sale prices) equipment.

Digital capture in the 90's was nowhere close to the quality of MF film - especially for skin tones in portraiture. Even today, color film often looks more natural with skin tones than most dslrs (including portraits from some digital backs).

Color negative is still a great medium, but it scans much nosier than trannies - requiring larger formats: MF - 8x10 to print good quality enlargements.

Dear Scott,

My medium format sales information came from a high level official at one of the major film manufacturers who was in precisely the position to know just what the film business, industry-wide was doing.

I won't give name or company, because I have no idea how much in confidence I was being provided with that information. I do know that information was being provided entirely in good faith and with as much accuracy as said official could muster over a dinner conversation.

You'd be making a good case if I didn't have such primary sources for my statements. Given that, though, I consider them more reliable than your circumstantial arguments.

pax / Ctein

Dear Ctein,

A single (manufacturer) source is not the only source for accurate information during the period of time in question. There are a number of other sources which describe the industry. These are no more circumstantial than your single source:

-Lab sales/production #s
-Equipment sales
-Used equipment sales - supply #s, prices
-Associations & organizations (ASMP, PPA, APA, AOP, etc.)
- Publications
-Publications and contests from photographers Ass. & Orgs.
-Online
-Sourcebooks
-Annuals (CA, Archive, Graphis, etc.)
-Stock agencies (Getty greatly preferred MF film, I believe the first DSLR images they would accept were from the 1Ds - 2003)
- The health of all these businesses.
- Production models
- Dates of discontinued models (Fuji GX680 - 2007, Kyocera/Contax -2005, Rollei 6003 Professional - 1996–2003)


Keep in mind during the period in question, there was a collapse of the economy across most of Asia, the dot com bust, 9/11. If MF film was not selling, this does not mean these sectors switched to digital or 35mm - at that time.

My empirical data is sourced from the commercial industries in L.A., N.Y.C, S.F., Singapore, and Japan. In commercial, corporate, advertising, and editorial almost everyone was still shooting film - a majority being transparency. Fashion was mostly transparency too until the late 90s. There was an occasional large still product studio that may have gone to the 3 pass 4x5 backs, for catalog work.

Commercial wedding photographers in large part went from Hassys straight to digital. There was an occasional (commercial) wedding photographer shooting 35mm. But big print enlargements were still very popular in the 90's. The big wedding and family portrait studios existed to deliver quality and sell prints. The business model at the time was primarily around selling as many prints and albums as possible. Quality was important, MF delivered that quality. Smaller enlargements became more popular in the 00's when reportage became vogue in wedding photography. Even into the early 00's brides still were asking for negs - not files. Most of the wedding magazines and online articles at the time referenced film - not digital.

Dear Scott,

Thanks for making my point more clearly: applying inferential logic and intuition to the question doesn't necessarily produce the results one gets by being able to go directly to the source.

pax / Ctein

Who cares - and I mean that respectfully :-)

I also worked commercial photofinishing for about a decade and I blame the slow demise of medium format on newer / younger photogs choosing the convenience of 35mm over the hassle of MF. The quality difference was staggering, especially when you hand print and analyze several thousand rolls of film a week. No 35mm print film in existence can produce a 16x20 analog print like 6x7 can. However, brides and photographers started shifting to a different market starting in the mid 90's. The landscape / commercial market was more more specialized on chrome film and has been dictated by their printing needs. Given that nobody buys newspapers and magazines anymore...ahem.

Lab die-offs are of course responsible for a self supporting cycle of diminishing interest in MF. The fact is that with B&W you are obligated to process it yourself, and E-6 is still better controlled with one-shot hand processing, especially if you're using Fuji materials which simply don't workin in Kodak calibrated lines, which most are. Why you'd even bother with print film, professional or otherwise, unless you're shooting a wedding dress is beyond me.

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