The future of film: A new hope

Posted on by Bellamy


The future of film: A new hope
Film is changing. And it is getting more and more exciting. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on that you will all be seeing soon. I took a trip to Hong Kong last week and learned a lot. Come and check it out.

Over the last few months there have been a lot of changes in the film world. Not least with the Lomo/Kodak partnership, Fuji going on the slash and burn, Ilford quietly sitting there happy churning out the film, Cinestill becoming a huge hit and Ferrania making a comeback. A while ago I wrote this piece on the future of film, and I was optimistic that film would change for the better. And it has done.

Recently, as some of you may know, I made a trip to Hong Kong. This was not really a vacation, as I had business to attend to whilst I was there, but I also had the time to check out what is going on with the film scene there. Hong Kong has a strong and vibrant film scene and more and more I am seeing it as a barometer of what is going on with the film market. Trends move quickly in HK and there are a lot of really passionate film shooters. Whilst I was in HK I visited film shops, darkrooms and I met a lot of shooters. And the message was really positive. Film is not going anywhere. In fact, it seems to be gaining traction in Hong Kong and Asia. And China is rapidly becoming a huge market as people have more expendable wealth.

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Hong Kong has an excellent range of films available, more than Japan by a long way and this is going to increase. I was fortunate enough to meet with a group of people who are dedicated to bringing film to a wider market, and they will be bringing a huge range of films from makers such as Ferrania and Rollei back onto the international market. This is a very exciting venture and I am looking forward to working with them on this. Yes, JCH is going to start selling film!

In Hong Kong I had the opportunity to meet a lot of really interesting people, some who shot film, some who shot digital, but all who were passionate about photography. One of the questions I was asked by someone new to photography was “why should I shoot film?” and it gave me pause for thought. Why should you shoot film? I am not going to say what you should or should not shoot, but I explained that shooting would give him the chance to learn a great deal about the basics of photography, he would have a hell of a lot of fun, and he would get the chance to slow down for a while and take some time for himself.

As I explained, Shooting film gives me discipline and also gives me the chance to step back from my busy schedule (JCH takes up a huge amount of my time) and do something for myself. Not to mention the fact that I love the grain, the feeling of burning an image on to something indelible. We have made everything in our lives about instant gratification now, we must have things immediately. For some things, this is great, but I feel that for others it is less so. We take a million shots on our phones, but never print them. We have hard drives brimming with images that we rarely look at. I feel that film photography has a role in grounding us and giving us an escape from this frenetic lifestyle that often consumes us and leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

I am not discounting digital photography in any way, it is useful and necessary (and has its own artistic merits), and the two mediums can work alongside happily. But for personal projects I think film is a great way to express yourself and hold yourself to a standard of discipline that it is all too easy to ignore when shooting digital, especially when you are a beginner.

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And in a nub, this is the future of film. We are looking at film becoming an artistic standard for those who want to create something indelible. Film photography is an artistic medium and it is not going away, it is not even dying. Judging by the ongoing popularity of this site and the upcoming developments in film, I would say that film is actually the healthiest it has been in years. Cinestill and people like this are making exciting products. Ferrania will be back next year with a whole new range of film, Rollei are making quiet inroads into international distribution for their films (of which there is a huge range) and hopefully Kodak/Lomo will actually come through and re-release some of the classics.

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The future of film is bright, and getting brighter. I am dedicated to this and I am going to do my best to bring you all film without it breaking the bank or becoming an inconvenience. Shooting film does not have to be expensive, you can shoot with a $10 camera and still have a fantastic experience. And developing at home makes it even cheaper (and a lot more fun).
Make film part of your lifestyle, you will not regret it.
Want to learn more about film, developing, cameras and techniques?
Click here and check out the treasure trove

As always, comments and thoughts are greatly appreciated and encouraged.
JCH

21 Responses to The future of film: A new hope

Nathan December 4, 2013 at 9:32 am

Hey there,
With all this positive movement in the film industry what about the camera side?
Do you think we will see companies develop small batches of new film cameras?
Most of what is on the market were made up until the early 2000s and most won’t be able to be serviced in a few years time. So that gets me thinking if we have a resurgence of film what will happen for film cameras?

Let me know what you think

Thanks

Nathan

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Martin December 4, 2013 at 10:39 am

Interesting article, but isn’t this really only true to an extent? Whilst companies refuse to produce new film cameras to mass market, film only exists, it cannot thrive. What is really needed is a big company to acknowledge there is still a demand for film and produce film cameras for sale, instead we have things like the retirement of the hasselblad.

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Jim December 4, 2013 at 11:41 am

While it sounds promising with some old films making a comeback or new films, I worry about in 10 years time where will film cameras be? There are very few models currently manufactured. And as parts supplies dry up for servicing cameras, then what? If Ricoh still made a new film GR model and provided repair services for them, I’d be happy to pay for a good quality new film body. As things stand today, my guess is that owning a Leica film camera is probably the best bet for long-term serviceability.

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Rolf Schmolling December 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

well, good news… on the future of film cameras… I am using a camera from 1973 (Nikon F2 Photomic) which was serviced last year by a dedicated artists (Sover Wong) and enhanced in fact (by adding night lights for the finder)… there is no indication that he might run out of parts in 10 years time. Then there is my Zenza Bronica ETRSi (645) and lenses (currently 3.5/15 PE and 3.8/75 PE). Again there are still a lot of ETR(x)-bodies and lenses around. I might get me a Mamiya RZ 67 in the foreseeable future… and that camera even has the option (shuddering) to go digital. [Why is digital not an option for ME? a) Price of equipment (doesn't have to be a Leica, sorry ;-) ) b) look of film, I mean especially the connection between film formats and lenses – DOF etc. Yes, there is hideously/prohibitingly expensive full format… but! c) haptic quality of analog film gear: no Nikon F100-equivalent for me with program and little wheels to set aperture on the body. The only compromise I see is aperture-priority automatic – expecting a Nikkormat ELW. d) self-development (black & white) with my choice of film (Tri-X 400) & developer (SPUR HCD new for up to ISO 3200). e) I learned with film. I feel at home with film & analog gear. I donot fancy spending hours in post-processing to mimic the look & feel of film. Note: me writing about a very personal choice here, mind!]

Nice blog!
Regards,

Rolf

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jukka Vatanen December 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I think peolpe who preach the “doom of film” are looking to wrong direction: Kodak is definitely passe`. I think the Alaris project is just a smoke screen to hide the fact that once the old Kodak stocks around the world are used up, there will be no consumer Kodak films anymore… We have to look, as you mentioned to “smaller players” such as MACO/Rollei and Adox in Germany. Harmann/Ilford in Britain and now to Ferrania in Italy for color film. It remains to be seen, how long Fuji will still be in the game. I don`t understand why Fuji cannot set up a smaller unit for film and continue to produce their stuff in a reduced scale, have their own internet retail selling unit that sells film at “retail prices” we don`t need anymore those huge corporate buildings and warehouses to handle our needs for stuff to put into our analog cameras. We handle and develop our materials is a small scale, why not produce it also in smaller scale…

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    Rolf Schmolling December 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Hi, well, I respectfully disagree!
    Future of Kodak: The new owners do have an interest to keep making a profit from film sales. This is facing problems, because Kodaks machinery & productio is still geared towards a mass market of film users which plainly does not exist any more. Changing this means using money, investing a mot of money to reduce in size and still keep the formula and knowledge & skills necessary to produce the same quality stock as they have in the past. And this is partly an answer to Fuji’s strategy. They do shun that expense. This might not be the right decision and one we would prefer but to me it seems easy to understand in the sense of analyzing the motives behind it.

    R.

    Reply
cgw December 5, 2013 at 1:02 am

Optimism, like hope, isn’t a business plan. I’m reading the same “happy talk” here that’s not taken much notice of any actual quantitative evidence of a film “resurgence”(shots of a fully stocked shelf in HK don’t count). I’m guessing there isn’t actually much. Lomography stores are all but gone in the N.American market. Pro labs(make that any film lab)are on the endangered list in many N. American cities that always provided a large part of total demand for film materials. Higher film prices are probably the best index of demand. It’s a residual market, what’s left after 10+ years of rapid decline in demand. The Alaris group made no bones about further reductions in Kodak film selection being dependent on profitability. Just keep buying Portra and Tri-X. That’s all I can do. But I’m not seeing any line-ups.

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Tobias W. December 5, 2013 at 11:46 pm

There is NOTHING positive about a collaboration of Lomography and Kodak. Lomography puts a HUGE markup on all their items, both the items they sell as their own branded items as well as commodity items they just resell. They have promotions, rebates and discounts running all the time – which just shows how huge and unreasonable their profit margins on their non-discounted pricing really is.

Take this for example: they resell Agfa CT Precisa slide film at €6.9 a roll!

http://shop.lomography.com/de/catalogsearch/result/?q=Agfa+CT+Precisa

You can order the same product with a 33%(!!!!) advantage at either Nordfoto or Macodirect online. You can save even more money at Macodirect, if you order in batches of 10, then the price of a single roll goes down to below 5€.

http://www.macodirect.de/agfaphoto-precisa-p-2475.html
http://www.nordfoto.de/Analoge-Fotografie/Verbrauchsmaterial/Filme/Farbdiafilme-Amateur/AGFAPHOTO-CT-precisa-100-135-36::108.html

Lomography will put a huge stupidity/hipster tax on any Kodak items they will sell. This cooperation will mean that buying Kodak products through those gangsters at Lomography will increase already increased prices by another 33% or something.

No thanks. I’d rather chew my glass than buying my film from Lomography.

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    stuart January 21, 2014 at 7:22 am

    FYI- no need to order precisa CT from maco or nordfoto – you can buy a two-pack at any DM for 8,50 EUR…you can also buy Agfa APX 100 at DM for 3,50 EUR if I remember correctly…Rossman has also got these film stocks. I assume that you live in Germany, so you should check your local drugstore! Cheers!

    Reply
Karl December 6, 2013 at 8:46 pm

About the cameras, there will be somebody, using 3d printing techniques, to make new customized cameras as soon the old camera’s start to break down.
About film, we will lose some but then there will be new ones, so don’t worry.
The main thing is…enjoy film now it is still there. Enjoy it, picture by picture.
We are just photographers, we can’t predict the future…!? ;)
(oh and Lomography is not the enemy… there are always alternatives so choose what fits best…)

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Alan December 7, 2013 at 3:09 am

Hi there,
Good news! I am going to Hong Kong soon. Can you post about some of the places that sell film there?
Many thanks!
PS a series on your readers’ home developing and printing setup, similar to “in your bag”, would be great!

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ted December 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

People bought the cheapest digital cameras they could find then tried to “edit” them on a computer they really don’t understand and wished they could still shoot film. Getting the film in the mail and then sit with their friends and hand photos back and forth. The problem I see is the shortage of easy film developing. Cheap isn’t as important as finding developing. These companies are missing the boat. All you have to do is talk to my 86 year old mother who wants to hold photos in her hand like she used to and think about the numbers of people in this country (the U.S.) and around the world just like her.

Ted

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Big G December 12, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Ferrania coming back ? Interesting.

Last month I was watching a demonstration of Ferrania’s 35mm metal cassette making machine. Excellent piece of kit costing millions of euros and massive in scale.

The good news is that it was recently installed in Mobberley at Ilford’s plant. So, I conclude that from now on Ferrania will be buying their film in Cheshire, UK. :-)

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Scott W December 29, 2013 at 5:58 am

With the new Lomo/Kodak partnership, I’d like to see the production of Kodachrome again. Most people mail their exposed film off for processing already. Why not create a Kodachrome processing mail order service. I know, I know, very unlikely. I like to dream though.

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jean valjean February 21, 2014 at 5:38 am

As I’ve said to many people (including family members who tell me I’m wasting time & money), film is not dead. Clearly, it is no longer the dominant medium – does that matter? Interest is clearly increasing, but it seems the future (to the extent it can be predicted) is with the smaller manufacturers – not Kodak or Fuji – who manufacture for a smaller market. We may even see more interest in home processing and scanning (although I prefer the darkroom even I have thought about buying a film scanner for my colour prints).

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kostas April 8, 2014 at 4:10 am

As long as there is film around I will use film for serious photography. The feel I get with my Nikon FM3a (build quality and manual operation) can’t be matched by digital. Surely, I will use my mob camera for family snaps. Recently I found I can hire darkroom facilities for free at the university. Darkroom use relaxes me and it is magical to see the first shadows of ypur photos taking form. Something you can not much in digital. After all it is a personal statement.

Kostas

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