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Tuesday, 31 May 2011


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Wow, have YOU opened a can of worms! :)
Someone will immediately post that the data is wrong, that film use is actually increasing, and film will be around forever. I've seen too many of these threads!

I would like to see how much vinyl record sales have plummeted in the last three decades following the introduction of CDs in 1983; yet, I can still go to a very mainstream Best Buy store and find vinyl albums for sale. Even if Kodak and Ilford get out, a small operation could still do well with a Tri-X variant and some color options

I shot a few rolls of K64 as part of the Kodachrome going away party. I got a few good pictures, but I was mostly annoyed by the limitations of the cameras. And, now the pictures sit in a box rather than somewhere I can easily show them to people.

Nostalgia is a killer.

Erhm, link problem!

In 20 years film will be like Glass plate negatives. I love film but its days are numbered.

"(I do understand that that might not be the exact conclusion everyone will draw from this data.... :-)"

That's the conclusion I made. It's nice to be a contrarian like you, Mike.

Is this surprising considering that neither Canon or Nikon make film cameras anymore?

I'm pretty sure that the only new film cameras you can buy are probably disposable and large format, with maybe a medium format folder thrown in.

That link to the graphic doesn't seem to work?

It's also a great time to pick up a film camera or two. I bought a Nikon Action Touch underwater camera for under 20 bucks the other day. Still works! Takes sharp above-ground shots, too.

I'd take your advice a bit further. If you're new to film, why not try out a few cameras, too? Get 1 of each of the following: a rangefinder, a TLR, a manual-focus SLR with a fast lens, a Holga. Maybe throw in a P&S, too. Shoot with a camera without a built-in meter, or try one with zone focus. Buy an old folder and convert it to pinhole.

If you stay away from the popular brands, this can be done on the cheap. There are a lot of Ricohs out there that perform great and cost next to nothing.

Buy film from Freestyle at $2-3 a roll. Or bulk load!

I think doing all these things has made my digital pictures better, I really do.

Mike, tomorrow morning I'm heading out for the annual Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography Weekend. While making ice to put in my cooler I found a big bag of film in the freezer. So the Pentax 67 is coming along.

Don't worry, Mike; all that graph's saying is film is getting cheaper every year.

For which geographical region? Are they global numbers for the planet? Also, the link to posted link to AP leads to the home page with a US map, not to the story. At least from here...

Never a better time to distinguish yourself!

Some might even say that it's the virtuous thing to do.

20 million rolls is still a lot of business for somebody. As long as I can load a roll of Tri-X into my XPan, I will shoot film until the End of Days (or until the Xpan dies and I can't get another one :-) ). Of course I also shoot digital but horses for courses.

Sorry if anyone had problems with the original links. Should be fixed now.


Make of it what you want, but here are two links which say that film sales recently were increasing for both Kodak and Ilford:



The first picture shows 220 rolls and seems dated very recently. But I knew (wrongly, then?) that 220 had been discontinued?!

Hi Mike,

This chart though doesn't include motion picture film sales, which I was led to understand are the reason the mainline film coating machines are still kept humming to feed the distribution networks. I wonder how those sales are changing and when we will see the same cliff happen as cinemas go to all-digital projection?

Of course, the economics of that for cinema operators don't make sense yet, and the digital standards only got set in place in 2007 (and probably not in final form).

Time to learn those hand-coating techniques for 4x5 glass plates..

I think we all need to realize that affordable film is not long for this world. Kodak will only continue film production until the profit margin wears to thin. The other manufacturers will fill the void for a while, until the overseas markets dry up. What will be left are niche manufacturers like the Impossible Project, selling film at prices which will drive many holdouts from the medium. I predict ten, MAYBE twenty years and film will be a memory. Until then, I will be buying and stockpiling like a conspiracy theorist stockpiles ammunition.

Take your film, camera, and buggywhip and have a blast Mike!

What I find amazing is that Kodak's film business is still profitable! Who would have guessed?

Hmm... still can't see the graphic, even with the switching of the links...

As far as the Scott DiSabato quotes are concerned, you have to interpret them in light of Kodak corporate culture. Kodak has long made a very firm distinction between amateur and professional product lines. Scott DiSabato works for the professional side (he's U.S. Marketing Manager for Professional Products). So when he says "It almost feels that there is a very real resurgence for film" (quoted in the BJP), he's talking about Professional products (always far smaller than the amateur products)--certainly not the worldwide market as a whole, but (probably) not even Kodak in the U.S. as a whole.


"Take your film, camera, and buggywhip and have a blast Mike!"

I'm having a blast with my beautiful reissues of '50s jazz records on vinyl played through my replica Dynaco Stereo 70 tube amp, so why not? ;-)


"after looking at digital prints by Charlie Cramer recently, I certainly can't be convinced that traditional color processes have anything to offer over and above what digital color does"

While I agree, my 4x5 setup cost a tiny fraction of what a PhaseOne digital back goes for. As a professional the cost difference can be rationalized, but not for a hobbyist like me. Film keeps quality affordable.

I can only hope that by the time good 4x5 color materials go away, a high-end digital medium-format kit becomes affordable enough to take its place.

@Steve According to the Nikon USA site, Nikon still makes the F6 film camera and the FM10 (which I believe is manufactured by Cosina).

I once saw an interview with a 3M guy about coating technology, and about how it was super-important and involved in all kinds of things from Scotch tape to sandpaper to cookies to window films and license plates, and on the way, he mentioned photo film -- 3M made film for a while, both under its own name and as "store brand" film for various chain stores. Twenty million rolls is what, a $100 million industry? I bet 3M would set aside a few hours of coating time for a $100 million dollar market...or even a much smaller market than that. What may happen, though, is that competition will push costs down to the point where nobody can make much of a living at it, so while one small company, like Ilford, maybe could make a go of it, an industry can't. It's almost crying out for a monopoly or a duopoly where film users pay a premium to keep using it...that might not make you happy if you were shooting a couple thousand rolls a year, but if you were shooting, say, a roll a week, an extra couple of bucks a roll shouldn't disturb you too much, if it kept your cameras viable.

This makes me really angry. People are so quick to believe the pervasive digital myth; debating about all the latest digital compacts that cost upward of £500 when the fact of the matter is this:

There are only a few digital SLR's (and only one rangefinder, which costs £4000) that are actually full-frame!!!!!

Why on Earth any serious photographer is happy to discard the 35mm resolution for the convenience of an intangible, ununique digital image is beyond me. It's really sad.

The funny thing is; we are going backwards! We aren't 'progressing' - technology has democratized photography at the expense of quality. Just like what has happened with music. See:

Large format > Medium format > 35mm > APS > all Digital compacts...

Even then, the unique qualities of individual types of film cannot be emulated. You will never produce a digital image that looks like a transparency film - even if you had the best digital camera ever made, the image it produces will always be intangible, virtual.

There are too many sheep; and not enough shepherds, as usual. Make a stand!

Our daughter gave us a Canon Digital Rebel a while back. I guess I should bone up on its use more carefully, only I still balk at learning to do RAW. However, I suppose I could be forced into it if worst comes to worst. In the meantime I think I just keep on shooting, but not buy any more film cameras...for a while!

With best regards,


If film disappears from the market, there is always wet plate.

As the guy who alerted Mike initially, my apologies to those who experienced problems with the original link. AP, as is the case with some other media outlets (BBC comes to mind) sometimes restricts its content by region.

Direct link to the graph in question (may not be available to all viewers). If that doesn't work, go to Google Images and enter the search phrase "us camera film sales" which links to what is presumably an unauthorized use of the graph at another photo forum.

Some of the comments here are reminiscent of my father's assertion, "Big bands are coming back!" Big bands never really came back but haven't completely disappeared, either.

What Mike said, though: go shoot some film!

>I do understand that that might not be the exact conclusion >everyone will draw from this data....

Data is the plural of datum. It should be _these_ data.

Sorry, I've been writing the same on undergraduate assignments half the night.


any chance they will ever make kodachrome and materials for dye transfer again? bring back the classics, i say!

Well in Sydney a pro black and white darkroom, Blanco Negro, run by a guy called Chris Read has started importing Foma film, paper and chemicals including film from 35mm to 8x10 and seems to do well with it. I certainly use him, even though I own a Kodak store! In my store colour film has died completely we don't even process it, but I do an increasing trade in black and white, mainly tri-x to the lomo generation who are all madly running 120 through their Holga's, god bless them.
Anyway I reckon Chris's style of cottage industry is the way forward.
Personally I'll be getting out of my store within the next two years as printing digital photos for the masses bores me to tears and is a dying business anyway as most kids only want to put their photos on facebook! Few happy snappers print these days.

Stephen Mack,
You really should get "RAW Without FUD" or Adobe Camera Raw by Schewe and Fraser. RAW was what made me like digital! It's great. Just the ability to set white balance after the fact makes it worth it, but the greater highlight recovery and the robustness of the file--its ability to withstand corrections and still look good--are great too. I didn't take digital seriously until I got Bruce Fraser's book and started shooting raw. Try it, you'll like it.


I think film will have its place in the market
especially black n white film. I still have my range finder Nikon 35TI, and use it at least once a year. It just reminds me of time when you had to think a little more before just hitting the shutter button. I love digital as well it has it perks but it has some short falls like anything, nice post.

Interesting topic. To add three small points:

NIkon at least still sells new F6 and FM-10 film cameras, the former going for as much as a mid-range DSLR. Nikon also continues to make a selection of the older manual focus lenses. That is in part to fill gaps in the lens line, but there is still demand for some of them.

As for who will keep film alive, in Japan at least there is a continuing demand among mid-aged amateurs and professionals. May of the monthly photo magazines continue to produce images shot on film. However, that dynamic will probably change with shifts in age demographics.

Lastly, looking at the film "biosphere" here, many stores selling used camera gear still have large stocks of camera bodies and older lenses. For example, Map camera in Shinjuku, as of today, has over 100 Fs, F2, F3s, many that are marked in the 30,000~40,000 range. Beautiful equipment, and the prices have not changed much over the last several years. However, give the shifts outlined above, interest in such stock will not remain steady (if it has not fallen already).

As demand declines, the value of such items will depreciate unless the sellers find some new outlet. Map camera sells enough in other areas to weather the loss of potential review coming from unmoved film camera stocks, but there are many other smaller stores that are more film centric. We will probably see these wither in the coming years--kind of like the sea critters that go away once their tide pool stops receiving an inflow of fresh sea water.

That being said, on a world-wide level, there may still be a demand for parts for older cameras. While not staving off final extinction, the last of the film-cameras-only stores might be able to extend their existence (and make back some of the investment), if they can tap into parts exchange. (A "ghoulish" thought.)

I think the most reasonable interpretation for much of the data is that fewer players (film manufacturing and processing labs) are consolidating market share in a shrinking market. As the overall market shrinks (for both manufacturing film and processing film), marginal participants leave the market and the remaining participants will increase their own market share as they pick up the business left behind by those exiting the market. So . . . you can ask any one surviving market participant (itself a survivorship bias)and find that their view of the world is that their own business is good or growing.

So, should I sell off my hugely redundant stock of film cameras and buy a Leica M9? Or will I be crying bitter tears of regret ten years hence?

One of the biggest problems facing the film market is the death of affordable, high quality scanners.

Now, that Nikon has killed the 5000/9000ED there aren't a whole lot of alternatives left out there. I don't really believe that consumer grade flatbed scanners are a viable alternative to a dedicated negative scanner...

We live in the age of the internet and if you can't get your film images in the the digital world, you have a serious problem.

The vast majority of us don't have a darkroom and need to scan our negatives for printing and distribution over the internet. Personally I live in dread of the day that my that two Nikon scanners die. It would basically cripple my film cameras.

You would hope that Kodak, Fuji and Ilford would realize this and would try to fill this gap. Kodak certainly has the technology and experience to do so, but I don't think anyone has ever accused Kodak of having great business acumen...

If you saw Ilford, I doubt you would think it to be a small company. The output, and the rate of production, are considerable. I've been there recently.

Same with Impossible Project. The scale, though not enormous like old Kodak was, is a lot more than most "small" companies.

>This chart though doesn't include motion picture film sales, which I >was led to understand are the reason the mainline film coating >machines are still kept humming to feed the distribution networks. I >wonder how those sales are changing and when we will see the >?>same cliff happen as cinemas go to all-digital projection?

Digital projection has in most of the western world essentially killed film prints.

The arrival of viable digital cinema cameras like the Arri Alexa, Sony F35 and RED is starting to put a serious dent in to the use of film for movie and TV production. The Alexa in particular is driving the transition, because it delivers around 14.5 stops of range, a good deal more than it's competitors. This is the same exposure range as Kodaks premiere movie stock, Vision 3. Dynamic range has been the one key advantage film had over digital capture and now that too has been lost.

I love film, but unfortunately the handwriting is on the wall and the next 2-3 years are going to be very telling in the movie business. It's no longer a question of if the transition will happen, but when.

So, how many manufacurers are still making film and film cameras?

• Kodak
• Fujifilm
• Ilford/Harman
• Cosina/Vivitar
• Nikon
• whoever makes the Efke and Arista films
• someone in China?
• large-format makers
• others?

"I would like to see how much vinyl record sales have plummeted in the last three decades following the introduction of CDs in 1983; yet, I can still go to a very mainstream Best Buy store and find vinyl albums for sale."

But I thought Vinyl LP sales were up again as of last fall..


Maybe film will have a resurgence to 4% of the market too.. nah...

...what will kill film will not be that someone won't be able to make money at it, it'll be that they won't be able to make the AMOUNT of money at it that their stockholders want them to make...Kodak has a long history of cheapening stuff until you look for alternative suppliers, then killing it because they can't make the profit margins on it because people are going elsewhere...

In addition, it just might be impossible to even get the products you want, without testing and testing all the time. The local lab I use changed from making 'wet' prints five years ago, to scanning negs and outputting them on a digital printer because the paper just wasn't 'there' for them any more, and they said they got tired of changing to and testing new paper, only to have it disappear a year after they'd get comfortable with it.

I adore film, and still use it every time I can sell it to the client, or when I'm doing what I call 'legacy projects' i.e. musicians, politicos, artists; anything I want around for a while. 50 years from now, you'll still be able to scan a neg, print, or transparency into a computer, but unless you rigidly keep up with file migration, you may not be able to open your digital images. I have friends who have valuable research and literature, written on early computer word processing programs, and they cannot open the info on any current computer, and have lost the hard copy! They look at the diskettes like a monkey looking at a Blackberry, and scratch their heads! Not to mention all the problems with virused files, and other corruption. I know enough to keep my negs away from the sump pump and sewer in the basement, and open flame, but computer problems are ethereal!

That said, I was comfortable with my world even 5 years ago, shooting black & white film and transparencies, but 2 years ago I started feeling the 'pinch' as labs started disappearing in some of the cities I work in, and now I am getting very uncomfortable!

I openly tell people, if I was coming of age today, I might not even consider photography as a career. Maybe I would have gotten more involved in oil painting. People always say, you have to keep upgrading with the technology and the times, but the chemical/film process was one of the things I adored about photography. If it doesn't exist, then the total process is not that interesting to me. Spending 4 times as much time sitting in front of a computer to get the photo I want out of the files, isn't a positive for me like spending the darkroom time was before this all happened...

Several people have made similar comments already, but I think it bears repeating: there is no good-quality, moderately-priced film camera on the (new) market now. My sister still uses her Nikon N80. No one makes a comparable camera now. When it dies, she will either have to move way upmarket to the F6, way downmarket to the FM10, invest in a niche product like a Voigtlaender, or buy a toy camera. She won't do any of those things. She'll either buy a used camera or go digital, probably the latter. My mother insists on shooting a 90s-style zoom P&S. When her last Olympus Stylus zoom died, I found her another on KEH. Her only new option was a rather expensive no-name Chinese model.

For the time being this isn't a problem. There's all kinds of great stuff at KEH and fleabay. But even Nikon Fs break eventually. If some manufacturer doesn't move into this market, it won't matter whether Kodak or Fuji is still making film.

This is a problem with the analogy to vinyl records. In part because of the DJ market, it has never been impossible to buy a new, decent quality, not-too-expensive turntable. That's not possible now with film cameras.

I hope somebody will move into this market. I don't want to see film disappear. But the lack of film camera makers is an issue that can't be ignored.

A lot of wedding and portrait photographers in the high end use film. Hell, I just bought a Super 8 camera for wedding work.

People still buy vinyl records, and will for the foreseeable future. I think the same is true of film.

Wasn't Kodak on the leading edge of digital photography at one time? From what I've heard, they didn't want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg (film). Instead they killed the goose that would have laid the golden egg (digital).

Its funny. An amateur chemist can easily resurrect the daguerreotype or wet plate process, even brew and coat a decent B&W emulsion. Color emulsions may be too technically complex to coat, yet I'm still totally amazed that Kodachrome was the invention of a couple of musicians (Mannes and Godowsky) dabbling with photo chemistry in their spare time. All this gives me hope the big guys (kodak and Fuji) may license their technology to smaller enterprising companies when the time comes that they don't want to sell film any longer.

I could be totally digital now if it were not for landscape photography. No way can I afford the medium format digital backs, and while one can photostitch the fine frequency details with a lesser camera, it's not a true photograph IMHO, rather a photo illustration, when you can't take capture the scene in one image. Thus, landscape photography still finds me using film... medium format, 4x5, 5x7 (yes, I still shoot 5x7), and perhaps 8x10 once again when I can reacquire an 8x10 camera. You'd think this stuff would be really cheap on Ebay by now, but the the prices tell me that more than just myself are still following this traditional path. Jobo processers going for over $1000? Yikes!

I'd guess that part of the reason film can remain profitable is that the costs are mostly amortized and there's not much active R&D. Manufacturers also don't have to be too worried about continuing to carry marginal products just to maintain a full lineup to satisfy their most demanding customers and bring in new buyers. So they can drop everything except the most profitable products and not worry too much about the long-term consequences. That can give a short-term boost to profitability.

In the longer term, I wouldn't be surprised to see a rich dude with too much time on his hands buy a retired production line and turn out small batches to sell to hobbyists. It seems like something that somebody would find fascinating, and there would probably be enough of a market to make the hobby more or less pay for itself. The biggest obstacle I can see to that would be environmental regulations making some of the noxious chemicals used in film photography illegal.

That PMA figure on camera sales would be much higher if it included sales of used cameras. But then PMA doesn't consider the used market part of the supply chain. Most photographers do; I've lost count on the number of dream cameras from the 20th century I've bought over the last 10 years. An easy way to determine the future of film is to ask your local camera store clerk if anyone under 35 is buying film. If not, then film will likely fade away along with its present users. But considering how much fantastic work is being done on film by young people, often using quite vintage gear, I think it will be around for a long time, at least B&W. Though I think eventually film will only be made in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Strangely, I feel narry a twinge of nostalgia for film, vinyl or valves any more than I do for slide rules, CRTs, typewriters, cassettes, 8 tracks or VHS tape. They were not particularly environmentally friendly and used up too much attic space. I will be glad to see the back of CDs, newspapers and paperbacks as well.

However my 23 year old nephew has hardly touched his hand-me-down K20D. He'd much rather load his battered K1000 with HP5 and go out for a play. This is a kid who plays in a rock band, owns a macbook pro and has several hundred hours of studio recording experience, so he's not tech shy. Apparently it's just "cool" and all his mates think so too.

It takes all sorts, and that's fine by me. The world would be boring if we all agreed.

I never cared much for 35mm format in film - with the exception of a few specialty films. I use a DSLR now for some jobs and some personal projects for the ease.

But large format color negative has a range and feeling I haven't seen in digital capture. I prefer the look. The MF digital backs may have equal or better resolution, but the look and feeling often feels flat - lacking volume.

Scanned color negative film (LF) has a volume, depth, and range of tones (especially skin) that feel more natural. It also seems to handle backlighting better, with smoother transitions. Has digital (or film) capture improved upon the perceived depth of a daguerreotype yet? Has digital capture and printing improved over dye transfer or carbon prints? Ctein???

I do prefer working with scanned film in post over traditional printing, and would not repurchase the darkroom I sold in 1999.

20 million rolls is probably around $20 million dollars. Kodak, Fuji, et al, don't sell directly to consumers. I can imagine most of the film sold is actually the cheap stuff.

I've been hearing film will be almost impossible to get in the next 4-5 years.....but I've been hearing it for like 10+ years now!

I've bought more and shoot more B&W film in the first five months of this year than I have ever done before. I'm very happy with that and I'm way ahead of my project of 'a roll a week' for 2011.

I really enjoy it. I plan to continue enjoying it for as long as I can. I'll stock up and freeze to prolong the fun as long as possible. Soup and fixer can be made at home. I'll miss Xtol and HC-110, but if they can't be sourced its not a problem. Caffenol works great.

When it is over, it is over and that will be that, but at least I'll know that I've enjoyed it for as long as I could.

Someone will immediately post that the data is wrong, that film use is actually increasing, and film will be around forever.

O.K. then!


Maybe so Mike, but a digital back doing the same as my medium format Velvia and Delta's can do, well I would be interested if someone forked over the 20 to 40.000 dollars a thing like that would cost.


I agree that we film nuts are a dying breed against a world of digitaly enhanced and kitsched up HDR shooters. But look at it this way, if I see art photos nine times out of 10 a film was involved in the proces. From medium format to 8 x 10 and I don't think that part of photography will change that soon (4 x 5 inch fovean sensor is however welcome at a reasonable price tag). For 35mm however I see no emidiate future that much is true (unless you are talking niche market). I have seen Charley Crames picture and I was not that impressed with the digital back shots. I personally liked the Velvia's better. A good 4 x 5 (or 8 x 10), developed well (and that is getting to be a bigger problem, since most labs seem underequiped to handle Velvia these days, as recent experience shows) scanned high end (on a Nikon 9000 ED or drum scanned) can hold image detail that allow the large format wall to wall prints of the Düsseldorfer Schule (and the like) to happen in the first place. You don't do that digitally with an 10.000 pixel side back. 80 Mp is the limit for digital at the moment, and I'm talking of files in exces of 2 Gp here. And if an emulsion has to be cooked up, hell if you put is on sheet or roll film, that does not matter that much.

Greetings, Ed

While I myself sold my MF camera and film SLR a few years ago, I always thought that LF film would last longer than any other type of film. It is easier and cheaper to make than 120 or 135, and LF remains the most expensive form of digital.

If I were to wake up tomorrow with a desire to shoot film, it would be on LF.

I'm one of the new breed of B & W shooters, having only been doing it for two or three years. I used to be a big Velvia and Provia fan, but virtually gave that up after buying my first DSLR. But I had these great film cameras lying around, and I really like using them, so I gave B & W a try. Like a lot of newcomers, I'm finding it so much more fun than shooting colour. It is easier to get involved in the whole process including developing, printing and trying an endless variety of different techniques. Plus, B & W is cool -you don't feel like a computer geek (no offence intended to IT gurus). Instead you actually feel as though you are doing something creative. (Although admittedly, I wouldn't consider my B & W prints better...just more fun). I might only shoot one or two rolls per month and fire up the darkroom every few months, therefore, I'm hardly going to keep film viable on my own. But I do get the impression that there are a lot of people out there like me. B & W will have an enthusiast market for a long time to come.

While I love my digital cameras, I think there's a lot to say for specifically color films, especially today. Have a go with the newest portra films for instance; unreal latitude, extremely good skin tones even in busy, color-reflective environments, and good scanability. Plus no moire problems, easy highlight and contra jour handling, and puts a lot less stress on your lenses. ( I recently had to spend 6 weeks without my best lenses, "reduced" to an m6 + cv40/1.4--a lens that is an absolute dog on my m9--and it mostly looked great with film.)

I truly hope that the big players can afford to build on the direction they have taken recently--to optimize film for integration into a digital workflow. But it is looking grim... And the big move to 3d in movies may be the final nail.

Wow! Digital camera sales must indeed really be hurting, for another "film is dead" article to come up and be given *any* attention...

I'm quite sure all us film users at APUG, dA, Flickr and rangefinderforum are gonna change our minds about our hobby as a result of this.
Yes indeed: straight away!



I guess that the majority of photographers that still stick to film (exclusively or casually), stem from the minority of competent film users from the film-only era. Those that gave up film for digital are rather i) new to photography and unfamiliar with film; ii) converts that used film unsuccessfully; iii) converts that embrace the improved control over sharpness/colour/content that digital technology offers.

"...what will kill film will not be that someone won't be able to make money at it, it'll be that they won't be able to make the AMOUNT of money at it that their stockholders want them to make..."

That's what killed Agfa. It was still profitable when it went away, it just didn't meet the 10% profit standard set as a minimum by its parent company. C'est la vie.


It might be worth having a think about what people want to spend their money on. My guess is that monochrome film will attract purchasers longer than colour film will. Perhaps the demand will just be for a product like FP4 and a product like Tri-X. Maybe a developing country with low labour costs might be a good location for a factory. It will be interesting to see which survives longest, 120 or 35mm. LF users should be even easier to satisfy.

The mass market has already gone digital because if you want colour family pictures why look elsewhere. I wouldn't expect demand for film to decline quite so steeply from now on. It's a fascinating situation.


In the "for what it's worth" department: I placed two Pentax 67 bodies and a Pentax K20D body in the "for sale" thread at Pentax Forums. The two 67 bodies sold within two days, the 20D languishes still after two weeks.

Jeff K,

That's my point; nearly three decades ago, arguments about the demise of vinyl mirrored today's debates about film's longevity, and yet, here it is, 2011, and vinyl remains viable enough to make its way into mainstream outlets. Likewise, I don't see film vanishing in my lifetime.

And to Andrew Burday, consumers of vinyl extend beyond DJ's, and reasons for vinyl's continued popularity (relatively speaking of course) go well beyond the availability of affordable decent quality turntables.

True, film camera choices are going to be limited mainly to the second hand department, but so what? I love my 1954 Leica iiif and 1934 Leica 50mm Summar. To note, I switched from digital to film; this ain't no nostalgia trip I'm on, and yes, I scan, so a Luddite I am not. And one of the reasons why I switched was to get an affordable rangefinder…and the first one I bought was new, an excellent Voigtlander Bessa R2M, which I still use.

If you want a full frame 35mm digital camera, you are basically stuck with an SLR format, unless you have the money to throw down on a Leica M9 (which was not even available when I made the switch). With film, I can not just buy, but also actually afford, excellent SLRs, TLRs, medium format, Holga, and rangefinder cameras…sure, they might be used, but I bet I'll be using my iiif long after most people have ditched their Canon 5D Mark V's or Nikon D6x's.

"This makes me really angry. People are so quick to believe the pervasive digital myth; debating about all the latest digital compacts that cost upward of £500 when the fact of the matter is this:

There are only a few digital SLR's (and only one rangefinder, which costs £4000) that are actually full-frame!!!!!"

T - What's the "myth" that you're speaking of?

There's nothing special about "full frame". People arrive at the size format they want based on other factors, including size and cost. As you said, medium format > 35mm. So why did anyone ever shoot "full frame"? Why didn't everyone have 8x10 cameras?

The answer is obvious, but the rationale behind moving to smaller formats applies below 35mm as well, just in subtler ways.

And as for digital, there's a very direct relationship between format size and cost. And you might be surprised to know that in terms of "quality" (for many definitions of that word) modern digital APS-C/Four-thirds type sensors surpass 35mm film. Not to mention the fact that a lot of photos can be better perfected due to digital's instant feedback that otherwise would have been junk on film. Plus changeable ISO, post shot white-balance setting, etc.

I'd say we're definitely moving forward.

"...even if you had the best digital camera ever made, the image it produces will always be intangible, virtual."

I disagree. Once you print a digital image, it is very real, as real as any photograph from another process. The pixels are too small for the human eye to see. Thus, the digital part of the photograph disappears, and all that is left is the photograph. Digital is just another way of recording light, just another means to a photograph. It is not more or less real than chemical photography.

It's done, stick a fork in it, move on forward not backwards.

"It's done, stick a fork in it, move on forward not backwards."

Ironically, I find that to be a hidebound, reactionary attitude.


MHMG, and others,

If you are concerned about the high prices on e-bay for Large Format film equipment, join the Large Format Photography forum, and after a 30-day waiting period, you can access the classifieds. Every day, people are selling their equipment (and darkrooms) for quite reasonable prices. APUG is also a good resource.

One warning about the end of the film era: money spent on cameras isn't necessarily recoverable in the used market anymore. I see nice "starter kits" on various forums not selling, even though they are being offered for really reasonable prices.

I think I see a future where Fuji's film production lines are reduced to one, underwritten by "cultural preservation" grants. Every year, they would announce which E-6 film they would coat, and the first 1,000 rolls off the line would sell for tremendous prices to hobbyists and collectors.*

Likely Ilford will also survive. I don't hold out any hope for Kodak's film division, which is a pity, because I really like the new Portra and Tmy-2. Hmm. Might have to stock up on HC-110 & T-Max RS.


*I'm not kidding. Google for "gift fruit" - often the first crop of the season, sold for tremendous prices. E.g. $600 watermelons.

The scene: some where in Paris, 1880s

"My god those cretins Monet and Van Gogh, they actually go outside to paint! And with paint from tubes no less! It's the end of Art as we know it."

Cue the violins.

T -- I'm sorry it makes you angry. Whether the current situation is a good one for any individual photographer is a question of what kind of work they want to create, and how they like to work. For me, it's wonderful -- a tremendous improvement over the old world.

"Full-frame" isn't in any way magical. It was cobbled together by doubling the motion picture frame, and caught on as the new low-end format, probably because it came at the right time and because it was implemented in a good camera. Smaller and larger film formats existed around it, used for various things.

Despite being old, I trend with a younger set in regarding information that exists only in physical form as LESS real than digital information. Digital information can propagate; physicalized information just sits there, largely inaccessible. If my house burns, or is flooded, my film photos are mostly gone -- except for the ones I've scanned. My digital photos will be fine (the off-site copy of a backup from this weekend is sitting in the desk drawer by my right knee; I'm miles from home).

I shot film fairly seriously from 1969 to 2003 or some such (first digital camera in 2000, first DSLR in 2003). I did B&W darkroom work from the beginning, and in the early 1980s some limited color printing (I was pretty decent at B&W, barely competent at color).

My first inkjet printer, working from Photo CD scans of slides or negatives and with grossly primitive software, instantly made me a better color printer than I'd ever been before.

My first DSLR let me make larger prints that looked good than I was ever able to make from 35mm film. My current D700 lets me take pictures under conditions I really struggled with on film (and low-light work has been my specialty pretty much from the beginning).

I always regarded the different renderings of different films as a bug, not a feature; it was another constraint on picking films for various shoots, having to worry how they'd look side by side. So digital has been a big convenience there for me. I've never tried to duplicate the look of any individual film, and am massively uninterested in doing so. I try to duplicate looks I like, some of which were approximated by some films in the past.

So, following your admonition, I'm making a stand: digital is a huge improvement for my work.

I'm sorry digital isn't good for your work -- wait, you don't actually say that, though; you say lots about how digital is inherently less good in general, but nothing about how it's less good for your actual work.

So, let me challenge you a little. Try not to worry so much about how digital is "hurting photography" as a whole thing (we'll let each individual worry about their own work, okay?), and think more about your own work. If you shoot exotic color film in strange sizes, you're right to be worried about the future; if you shoot mainstream B&W film in common sizes, though, I don't think you run the slightest risk of being unable to get film and processing chemistry. Even the basic E-6 slide films should be with us for quite a while (you mention "transparency film").

Quote: "If film disappears from the market, there is always wet plate." Bobby Chitraker.

Dry plate, my darlings. Dry plate. As lovely a process as wet plate may be, it is not much more comparable to film than dags, and it's a hard, nasty business to make.

Dry plates are silver gelatin negatives on glass, and making them is one of the easier and safer 'alternative processes. Glass plates are perfect for contact printing (no film scanner needed) and LF cameras can be handmade, if ebay ever runs dry. A bonus: roll film is hand-makeable, too. Bonus #2: Even at the current price of silver, dry plates are cheaper than commercial LF film. You have to embrace the philosophy of 'slow photography', but the reward is engagement (the antithesis of boredom.)


The retail scene is pretty grim. I went to Calumet in NY to get some Xtol and was told they didn't stock it anymore. Any developer you want as long as it's D-76.

I finally bought a tilt/shift lens, just so when I say the Sony A900 doesn't have enough lenses available for me to consider a purchase and someone says, Oh, yeah?, do you even own a tilt/shift lens? I can now say yes, in fact I do! Oops, wrong post :)

The first filter I bought for the T/S lens was a yellow-orange to spruce things up for my Black and White film camera. Do not go gentle into that good night...

Why do some film fans find it necessary to be so scornful of digital technology and the people that use it?

I know quite a few expert film users who made the switch to find that many skills were transferable. They love the control and flexibility it offers. It's still their creativity that counts. Tools are just tools. Use what works.

I know others who freely admit they are not interested in digital and just want to enjoy shooting film. Many of them are youngsters.

Others use both but feel that for certain applications film still works better for them. B&W and large format users mainly, I seldom hear this from 35mm colour photographers.

There is nothing wrong with any of these choices or opinions.

So why the pointless disparagement from the minority of diehards? Denial perhaps? Do you find the thought of having to learn new skills uncomfortable?

When I started shooting digial in the 90s, I was excited about the huge potential of the technology. But I could hardly share the pics, nobody had suitable computers to watch pictures and there was no easy way to send the files. People wanted to hold prints and pass therm around. My pics only existed within my computer, and nobody wanted to hunch behind a monitor to see pics.

I got a bit bored with digitl and today, I shoot film and make a print. I still can't share, because today, photos only exist when they are on facebook, and nobody wants to pass around prints anymore.

Irony, isn't it?

"It's done, stick a fork in it, move on forward not backwards." (Posted by: Glenn Brown)

Ironically, I find that to be a hidebound, reactionary attitude.


I'm determined NOT to get involved in a film/digital scrum. But...

Hidebound or not, Mike, Glenn's sentiment points toward the only practical and productive path for most folks. It is actually "hidebound" to hug film. Someone sincerely interested in honing his/her photographic skills can only benefit from embracing and exploring the digital medium, which offers exponentially more versatility and opportunities for creative success. It's been my observation that devoting primary allegiance to the recording medium (of film) wastes a great deal of time and energy that should be better invested toward improving one's visual skills.

Loosely-related anecdote: Yesterday I had the opportunity to see some 35mm and 8x10 transparencies from the Irving Penn archive here at the Art Institute. The images were created for a commercial ad campaign around 1951. They were compositionally lovely but the colors were turning to shit. (Although, ironically, the fading of the greens and yellows was making the images more painterly and quite beautiful. But I'm sure that's not what Penn would have planned.)

'T' wrote:
"There are only a few digital SLR's (and only one rangefinder, which costs £4000) that are actually full-frame!!!!!

Why on Earth any serious photographer is happy to discard the 35mm resolution for the convenience of an intangible, ununique digital image is beyond me. It's really sad. "

Rewind 10 years. Why on Earth any serious photographer is happy to discard the medium format resolution for the convenience of a "small format" negative is beyond me.

It's always been about "good enough".

I compare the experience of shopping for film to that of my visits to the paint store. Sherwin Williams here and not the art supply store but let's continue. Aside from the nuances of variety and selection, and discounting the physical nature of cans of paint stacked on shelves, it's simply inspiring to see tangible, touchable supplies of potential on display and available for perusing. Same with the film stocks at my local camera store and the hum of the pro-film refrigerator only adds to the atmosphere, even if it's been mostly empty the last few years.

Perhaps we need a variety of memory cards? Cards with built in Photoshop "super-saturator" routines that spice up the color in your shots. Cards that are only for B&W shooting, imparting that mystical grainy glow. Maybe even an "Electrochrome" card for that backyard birthday party picnic color. Cards that have yellow labels while others are of green. Maybe keep all of them in the refrigerator just so we can say we do.

Sherwin Williams - I can smell the paint fumes right now. How sweet it is that I've been shooting film during times which have been both the best and worst for film.

The only thing that makes me sad is the "good riddance" attitude of some who seem to pursue film's disappearance as rabidly as others are trying to cure the classroom from the evil Magisterial Lecture, that pedagogical backwater putatively responsible for unmotivated students, meaningless diplomas, under-technologicalized teaching, and probably random abortions, smallpox, and the clap.

Some people have a bone to pick with film, as if it did to them a violence unspeakable.

I have mixed feelings about the demise of film. I hate to see all those beautiful film cameras I've used going silent and useless....I still don't feel like I'm REALLY photographing unless I'm using film...

But,I accept that digital is the wave of the future, and you have to move with the times. And I hate to say it, but digital is more economical than film--one reusable film card vs the cost to me $13-15 a roll for film and processing....and I have full control of the "print process." Of course, sorting through 200-odd images looking for just the right ones CAN lead to burnout...

Can't help wondering if there may be a photographic equivalent of the "vinyl movement" among audiophiles, with a certain small niche market for film. Expect it will likely be black and white film, develop and print it yourself.

Imagine...going right back to where I started, lo, those many years ago...

Photography has been going downhill since the creation of the Kodak Brownie. IF you look at those glass plate negatives from the 19th century, they have amazing quality. Really, during the last 110 years, photographic technology has focused on accessibility and consistency of materials. The quality of the image itself has gone downhill. Digital is completely consistent with this 'progression'. The only real attraction to the digital image is it's portability and ease of manipulation.
The quality of the digital image becomes insignificant.
I'm going backwards and getting into wet-plate, but I"m also going to keep buying black & white film.

It seems there are plenty of high-quality used cameras on ebay and craigslist to satisfy the demands of the market. For me, as long as there's film to be bought and chemicals to process it with, I'll stick with shooting film. That said, if film dies, maybe someone will finally make that non-bayer filtered x-100-esque camera I've been pining for all these years.

"So why the pointless disparagement from the minority of diehards? Denial perhaps? Do you find the thought of having to learn new skills uncomfortable?"

That goes both ways, so I suspect it's just human nature we're dealing with where that's concerned. There are a minority of film adherents who scorn digital, but there are a minority of digital users who scorn film. What's pertinent is probably that a minority of humans are just scornful, is all.


"Irony, isn't it?"

Made me laugh. My irony is that I used to make 6x9 prints on 8x10 paper. I liked the way they looked framed and I liked looking at them in the hand. But then I was convinced by friends that I had to print bigger to be taken seriously, so I switched to making bigger prints.

Now, none of my bigger prints will fit a scanner bed, so I can't show them to people. Serves me right--I should have stuck to my guns and kept doing what I wanted to do from the start.


Mike said...

"There are a minority of film adherents who scorn digital, but there are a minority of digital users who scorn film. What's pertinent is probably that a minority of humans are just scornful, is all."

I believe you have a point there, Mike. Personally I am just scornful of anyone who has to employ scorn to support an argument ;)

Dear Mike and Steve,

Some people are not comfortable simply saying they prefer X; they need to feel like they have some objective reason why X is superior to back up their preference.

That does not mean, of course, that said imagined superiority has reality or primacy.

pax / Ctein

"But,I accept that digital is the wave of the future, and you have to move with the times."

Sure. But not digital *still* photography. Stills mark you as middle-aged, a retiree, or worse, a damned hipster. Video, digital video, is the wave of the future.

I mainly shoot film, but I'm a curmudgeon who believes that process is important and a romantic who likes the process associated with film.

YMMV, etc.

A few responses...

Firstly, how is full-frame an exotic format? In digital terms this should be the absolute baseline in terms of resolution, just as it is in film. Yet to hit this in digital you are talking about a minimum spend of £1000 and then it has to be a DSLR.

@ David Bostedo
The digital myth I speak of is evident in your quote: "modern digital APS-C/Four-thirds type sensors surpass 35mm film" — if you take the sensor from your Four-thirds camera and place next to a piece of 35mm film you will see that it is simply not possible to capture as much detail on a smaller sensor — you are arguing that the resolution of a stamp is greater than that of a postcard.

To expand on this point, the myth is this: Digital means film is dead. I have no qualms with digital photography at all, just like I have no qulms with writing by hand rather than typing on the computer. But one should never be considered as the only option — that's what makes me angry, an ignorance created by markerters bombarding us with all the crap. Take the Fuji X100, it is all veneer, the images are crap, there is no value there whatsoever... for less money you can get a Leica M4-P - a better camera that takes better images. This is the thing that makes me angry.

"Once you print a digital image, it is very real, as real as any photograph from another process." Again, a total misunderstanding here. A digital print is NOT a photograph. A photograph is created by physical film using physical chemicals, the image therefore has a tangible density that you can see without the need for a computer and that will remain latent forever unless it is physically developed.

I still love film. Digital still can’t touch the dynamic range. However, I shoot 99% digital now. Why? simple economics--digital is WAY cheaper to shoot. For me the math is simple. I shoot 10,000 images a year. 10,000 / 36 = 278 rolls of film. 278 * 4 bucks a roll = $1,112. 278 rolls to develop. 278 * 10 = $2780. Total cost for film and developing = $3892.00. I keep 2 cameras a 5 D mark ii and & 7D I ll keep them for 4 years. For both cameras and a couple CF Cards its only $4000.00. Same cost just to develop and buy the film. Almost $16,000.00 over four years. Film is way more expensive. Don’t want to hear about the time it takes to put all your digital images on computer and the software cost. It’s a terrible argument. No working pro that shoots film doesn’t have to scan it and sort it and process it on a computer. Plus you have to find physical space to store the negatives. It probable takes more time to get film ready for a client that digital images and it’s much more expensive. Remember I still prefer the look of film to digital but can no longer afford to use it in my photo business.

Dear T,

You are attempting to compare apples and zucchini. It doesn't work.

Best commonly-used films resolve circa 150 lp/mm (and you'll never achieve that in-camera, in the field). Best commonly used digital camera sensors double that number, and their fine detail is a lot cleaner, to boot.

No one gives a crap about the tangibility of your slide or negative, unless you're forcing them to view same on a light table. They're either looking at a projected image or a print made from a negative. The original slide is only marginally viewable without a projector; the negatives are entirely unviewable in any meaningful way without intervening instrumentality.

Same as with digital.

You really demand tangibility? Burn your digital files to CD-- it's just about as viewable as your negative, without technical intervention.

If you still think digital is a sham and a fraud, consider that the likes of me, Bill Atkinson, Charlie Cramer and Joe Holmes don't. You don't know who we are? Look us up. Then think carefully and hard about whether you want to assume we don't know what we're doing.

pax / Ctein

T: Size isn't everything, to invoke a cliche. This should be obvious -- compare the resolution of Panatomic-X to the resolution of Tri-X, in any given format.

Especially, size doesn't relate terribly equally across drastically different media, such as from film to digital sensors. Digital has better quantum efficiency than film does.

Resolution needs to be measured end-to-end -- photograph a resolution chart under controlled conditions, and then you can talk meaningfully about the resolution of the equipment you tested.

And in any case, resolution isn't the only important quality of an image capture.

Here's what I know from practical experience with film and digital (I got my first film SLR in 1969, and was already doing my own darkroom work at that point): I can make digital inkjet prints much larger than I ever could make darkroom prints (that looked good), and doing this from a film scan is a LOT more work than doing it from a digital capture.

Your post sounds highly theoretical; you observe things like the physical size of digital sensors, and claim that tells you something basic and important about the imaging potential. While in theory, theory and practice are the same -- in practice, they differ.

Mike-re your comment " I certainly can't be convinced that traditional color processes have anything to offer over and above what digital color does":

I would much rather shoot all digital, but have had to stay partly with film for two simple non-ideological reasons.

1. Camera/viewfinder preferences: I have not been able to find a really good digital substitute for my Mamiya 7 in terms of viewing, aspect ratio, quietness, etc.

2. Dynamic range. Yes, I have seen many comparisons. But in my experience in extreme conditions (indoor available light with light sources included in the image) color negative film has almost 3 stops more usable dynamic range than my 5D mk2, especially in the highlights, with careful digital post-processing on both. YMMV, but I have tested this in my work many times. Most people admittedly don't try to work in such extreme light. The 5D is certainly excellent *most* of the time.

I would love to give up film entirely, but I don't feel I can yet.

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