Does film have a future? And if it does, how long have we got?
Now then, before you all just down my throat about film vs digital and all that malarkey, this is not a debate about that. They both have their merits and demerits, so let us just leave it at that.
This is about film, that lovely tactile unpredictable wonder that captures moments on something that you can feel. For years and years we took film for granted, barely even giving it a thought. Until the advent of digital, and then everything changed. Digital was faster, easier, cheaper and could make you into a ‘pro’ overnight if you were that way inclined. Many thought that this was the death knell for film…I mean, who needed that outdated-horse and cart-style fiddly cartridge that only took 36 shots?
For a while it seemed that nobody did, and it could be the end for film. But then we had the toy camera resurgence, trendy young types and new photographic ‘artistes’ came in their droves to film, partly because it was no longer mainstream and partly because of the effects that you could produce.
This gave rise to to things like the impossible project, the re-release of polaroid films by a bunch of passionate film nerds. After a wobbly start their films found their feet and are now immensely popular with the artistic photographers among us. There has also been a strong following for the classic camera shooters, which shows no signs of waning, at least for the time being. Along with Lomography and the lo-fi market it would seem that film has not been in such a strong position for a long time. But is it?
As passionate as I am about using film, I cannot help feel that is is a house of cards.
This is not just a statement based on guesswork, but based on evidence. In the last few years we have seen the creation of a number of new films, most noticeably Ektar and Portra from Kodak, but at the same time we have seen a reduction in a number of films including some of the greats like Ektachrome and Neopan 1600. Fujifilm has been cutting their range little by little every year. So it makes you wonder, what is next?
Well, it seems not much. Fujifilm and Kodak have both pledged to continue making (monochrome) film for at least the next ten years. But what about colour film? I hear you bleat softly.
Well, that is the trouble. The colour film market has been shrinking rapidly for years now and both companies have stated (not publicly, the walls have ears) that is too expensive and not economically viable to continue producing colour film. The main problem being the developing of the films, the chemicals being expensive to produce.
What we are likely to see over the next couple of years is the step by step reduction of the colour film ranges, leaving only the very specialist films that have commercial applications. And the consolidation of the monochrome ranges into something simpler.
So, if you like your slide films, now would be the time to go shooting crazy, because you might not have much time left. But is you are a black and white maniac, then rest easy, you have a while yet before you have to put that film camera in the cupboard.
Over all the prognosis is not all that bad. Don’t listen to all of the doom and gloom types, there is still life in the old dog yet. I mean, Fujifilm, Nikon and Leica are still producing film cameras, so there must be something in it if they are happy to keep on knocking them out. We will be able to use film in some capacity or another for at least the next couple of decades, although we may need to have a healthy bank balance to do so.
just bought a nikon f after reading your blog. nice…really nice. i’m going to do a shutterlog on mijonju’s youtube on that camera along with my minolta xg-1 and my soon to be acquired canon eos 7n (i know it’s not the greatest film camera but it will fit all my great Canon L lenses; 50mm 1.2, 35mm 1.4, 70-200 2.8 II, and my awesome 14mm 2.8..!). i’m also developing my own film and scanning it with an epson v750. (my digital cameras are a canon 7d & 5d) now if i only i had a leica m3, m6, and a rollieflex…well, need i say more…
That is brilliant. Thanks for following me and I m happy to hear you bought such a great camera. Now you just need to get your Leica….
Dude, is sarcasm …
I am so glad to have found your blog, I am a follower now. I started of with digital and yes it really made me feel like an overnite pro, hehe. It’s true digital is a lot more economical and efficient then analog but after shooting with films I am having a hard time going back to digital, honestly the only digital I’ll shoot with is my iPhone. Thank you for sharing your dedicated passion.
I Work as a photographic technician at a lab in England, and we still see a lot of film, and yes, it is going through something of a resurgence of late, and we are seeing a lot of teenagers and students shooting film. However one of the main driving forces behind the continued production and processing of colour film is for use in disposable cameras. Something that is often overlooked by many enthusiastic film shooters, but disposable cameras still sell in their thousands/millions/billions worldwide, and create a demand for film production and processing that I expect in some markets is a lot higher then that generated by professional and enthusiast use. It will be a sad day for film photography if/when the disposable camera disappears from the market.
I personally scared about the future fate of film photography. yes I have dslr, but film gives me something beyond clickin here and- here. I’m sad I can’t use any slide film anymore, because I can’t find any lab here in Indonesia that can develop it.
The doom and gloom sayers are what are killing the film industry. When consumers are told by fellow consumers “Don’t buy film, it’ll just be dead in a few years anyway… Well, time to go back to wallowing with my vintage camera, shooting two frames here and there” it puts them the fuck off of film. I know it did me, until I got a great deal on some Leica stuff
I enjoyed your blog post today.
I wrote a similar article at http://whatisafilmcamera.com/are-film-cameras-obsolete/ regarding the future of film. Your blog post was better, but then I am a happy amateur photographer doing the best that I can :)
One billion rolls of 35mm film sold in 2000. 20 million sold in 2010 plus 30 million disposable cameras. At best, film is 1/20th of the size it was in 2000.
But young people have brought a resurgence to vinyl records. Hopefully they’ll continue “discovering” the fun and value of using 35mm film.
Thanks again for your blog.
The Last Shot
By Bill Pryor
After the zombie apocalypse and worldwide nuclear destruction of civilization and only the dregs of humanity are left, endlessly wandering the burnt out landscape in search of food, with giant cockroaches and rats thriving in the wreckage, a lone figure is spotted limping slowly across the horizon. As we get closer we see the bedraggled man, clothes in tatters, feet wrapped in garbage bags. He has a camera around his neck. He holds the camera up to his eye, looking for a shot. He looks down at the counter on the old Nikon F. He only has three exposures left and has to make every one count. He mutters something we barely hear.
“…It’s digital that caused this. I told ’em but they wouldn’t
listen, hello. I told them. I have film. I can still shoot.
I don’t need batteries! All batteries are gone. But I
can still shoot, still document the…end…”
He turns away to continue his trek toward what once was a town, with only a few husks of buildings partially standing. He knows there is no hope, but he goes on anyway…endlessly searching for a way to process his film after he makes his last shot.
I found this here.
Some film types became discontinued, but also a lot of new are becoming released recently ( especially by lomography ). Even 110 film is back, what I never expected … frankly speaking.
There are still many good reasons for using film, especially for photographing people. Those do look 5-10 years younger on film without any retouch. Film cameras are also much easier to use. Shutter speed and aperture instead of an endless lineup of useless modes like on a digital camera. I like to concentrate on the picture and want to have control instead of wandering through hundreds of menus and options. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Another important point among many others is the format. Medium or large format on digital ? Still too expensive. So I think, film will still have its place for quite a while and young people are increasingly interested in using toy cameras as well. I am not a big fan of those, but I appreciate, that this lomography movement helps keeping film alive. Some film brands will go, others will come. As I roughly counted recently, there are still more than fifty types of film available. So what ?
I love your blog, so inspiring. I get “GAS” for film every time I visit your blog :) You and Eric Kim are the reason I got in to film, and bought my OM2 in May this year. Just want to say thank you.
Although I own a couple of Canon 20Ds, film is still my preferred choice for most photography. Digital is useful for taking pictures to upload on the internet but film photography is more fun. It is still possible to find film on dealers’ shelves and film processing labs are still around in India. Long live film and the images it produces!