Film News: Adox Interview
Jesse Struyvelt of The Film Foundation recently got the chance to talk to Mirko Boeddecker of the Film manufacturer ADOX about the future of film. And they were kind enough to share this with the readers of JCH. Check it out.
Interview Adox (Mirko Boeddecker)
This interview is provided by Jesse Struyvelt of The Film Foundation for JapanCameraHunter and may not be redistributed by other parties. Except for Bellamy Hunt, owner of Japan Camera Hunter. All rights reserved.
By TFF, we are referring to The Film Foundation
TFF: So, Mirko, tell us something about yourself. What is your function in Adox?
Since ADOX is a very small company I am responsible for the entire organization. This is mostly planning the production and to keep the company up and running.
TFF: Tell us more about your current film line-up? You have still a wide range of black and white films.
Being a small manufacturer we cannot compete with mainstream film products at current price levels. What we offer are specialties.
Our films are for example optimized for reversal process, are offered in the largest off the shelf variety of sheet film sizes or in case of CMS 20 have the highest resolution of all halftone recording materials.
This includes digital by the way. Film is neither dead nor outdated. Ektar can record about 20% more information on a 35mm film than the highest resolution 35mm DigitalCamera (Nikon D800) can capture. Our CMS 20 records 2,5 times more information and all of it is actually usable by the consumer if he stays within the quality of the analog process (wet printing until the final product). If you use a digital intermediate step you are cropped down of course.
TFF: I think people are waiting for some news right off the shelf… What is the current status of the film economy?
Due to the extreme overcompetition in the market for analog films and papers it is difficult to keep a selection today. Quantities fell but prices remained at an all time low. Thus we hope for better times to come. From a manufacturers standpoint this means the acceptance of a higher price level by the consumers.
TFF: Is it more difficult as a smaller company to survive in this market?
Yes and no.
We cannot compete with the large companies in the mainstream products as said above but since no money is made with those as well this point is neutralized. Our goal is to keep costs so slim that we are never dependant on large quantity orders but yet be technically in the position to manufacture everything from film over paper to chemistry. When the day comes we are here.
TFF: What would your advice be to the film community out there to keep film alive?
Do yourself something good and stop scanning like crazy. Listen to your eye doctor and get your nose of the computer screens.
Print and enjoy the real advantage of the analog imaging system by holding a superior product in your hands: a fibre base silver print from an analog negative. Paper consumption is what keeps the factories running. Not film.
TFF: What is your look on the future of film? Will there be drastic changes in the near future?
Things will continue as they have been in the past. Additional manufacturers will close and products will disappear unless the consumer is willing to accept higher prices for film.
TFF: As a company, owning machines to make emulsions.. Are you still excited about making new sorts of emulsions or improve the current line-up?
Yes. This is what keeps us driving along. If there are little economic reasons to stay involved it is always passion.
TFF: Is Adox open for community based help? By starting a new project (a new film perhaps) which is community funded? If yes, what would you like to start?
A new film kickstarted by community help can only survive if the same community is willing to buy substantial amounts of this film in the future at higher prices than the current market prices for film. This anticipates ofcourse that you are talking about reintroducing something which has been canceled by another manufacturer earlier due to diminishing profits.
After all film is a consumable. Kickstarter can be a great tool to pay for the initial setup costs but the other is more important or it will be a one day fly.
TFF: If you could change just a thing in the film scene that would benefit you as a company, and us as film shooters. What would it be?
As always things are more complex than we want them to be. Since this is especially true for silver based imaging systems I cannot find this one thing I’d like to change right now.
Rather there are many. But OK I have only one wish so I chose the one of which I think it is most important right now and you being in Belgium can actually do something:
“European Commission do NOT take hydroquinone away from us!“.
If they do as they have planned that’s the end for analog photography in general. This is at present the greatest threat although I cannot judge what the chances are that they will actually do it. For sure it’s on the list of substances to be evaluated for elimination since last year.
TFF: If you could collaborate with other film companies rather than be a concurrent. Would the prices drop? Would a stronger company evolve?
Any consolidation will help the market to become a little bit less independent from the unhealthy status that it is in right now. But if this consolidation shall have effect it means to close this little factory and shift over our production to a larger facility.
The immediate outcome is that all those niche products which we have made will be abandoned since they cannot be made in a bigger factory due to low demand. Then the larger facility will have a cost advantage but also a higher risk of being at one point to big for the market to be sustained. After all our goal still is somewhat that of Noa when he built his arche. So I see a great value for the community in our existence. We are here and already got pretty far. We lost a lot of money on this path and I don’t know if anyone else out there will be crazy enough to do it again. Companies exit the market quickly but step onto it slowly. So keep us alive like we are by buying our products.
TFF: I’ve seen that Kodak Alaris isn’t really caring any more about it’s film community. They just provide what’s necessary, or at least that is what they have told. How do you approach this different? Would you like to participate in the blooming communities like Japan Camera Hunter, APUG, The Film Foundation, ..?
I don’t blame Kodak. If you can’t make money with a product why advertise for it?
First this needs to become a market again then commercial companies will become involved again.
Crazy enthusiasts like us on the other hand simply do a lot of things without setting off the costs against it. I have just built a new website for ADOX in my spare time (online soon) and I am involved in working on new emulsions myself. Since I am not expensive to employ for ADOX we move along slowly but steadily. Kodak cannot calculate like this. They would have to touch much more money if they wanted to redo their website or develop a new emulsion.
TFF: Campaigns, promotions, .. The internet, magazines are fully loaded, digital photography is ruling in these campaigns. Wouldn’t it be a good idea, to start making campaigns about film again? It will sure pop a lot of questions with some people and it might get the ball rolling again. But eventually everything comes back (look at LP’s). Is there budget for publicity in your company?
Right now, the consumer power is so strong that besides making the product available at all not much can be done if you are a commercial company reporting to your owner. I am under the impression that this is exactly what the consumer wants. Cheap film nothing else.
Whenever we raise the price 5 cents above the competition sales drop to zero.
Our “marketing budget” is my own time which does not get compensated plus a few packages of promotional paper.
TFF: Would you accept help from The Film Foundation or other communities to make campaigns for Adox?
TFF: I feel like the world has forgotten about film. With film photography they think: “bad quality”, “does it still exist?”, “old looking”. What is your advice to those people? How can we get those assumptions out of this world and let film coexist with digital?
Like I said above film is still superior to digital just no one knows it! But since people don’t like to be corrected in their wrong assumptions I ́d say we do something else.
Revive film giving it a mystical sexy touch.
Shoot nice images on film and show the user that this was captured on film.
If you want to help put a little “captured on real film” claim next to the copyright on any image.
If enough people would do so we could move analog photography out of the shade with a positive spirit! OK, Who designs the logo? Let ́s go!
TFF: Thanks for your time, Mirko! Be sure to check out their website on www.adox.de
Thanks to Jesse and Mirko for sharing this with us. An interesting insight to how a modern film company works.
Smart interview and great spirit. I’ll try they products.
One of the more pragmatic articles I’ve read on maintaining film as a legacy product.
Scanning film, putting it on the web at 72dpi, that’s nice. It’s costly and time consuming for a 72dpi CRT/LCD screen image. Even top end scans and prints (of which I’ve reluctantly done plenty) of 35mm film to sizes of 13×20 are disappointing, beyond that it’s pointless. People go digital and Voila! instant success.
But provide them with wet printing resources and the eureka moment of seeing a silver print. That’s taking 35mm film buyers to (or back to) the quality, the epiphany of the print.
Nice to read this article. I am a big fan of ADOX, and have had to pleasure of email conversations with Mirko.
For paper, I highly recommend to anyone ADOX Variotone. It is a warm paper on a white base, and can be made to look cold by toning in a gold toner if you like. Wonderful split tones can be achieved with selenium toner.
Mirko has told me that buying paper helps a lot to funding film. So, buy both to keep this company going.
is anyone stocking Adox films and chemistry in japan in particular the 4×5 Planfilm?
seems to be the place in japan to answer my own question
well, I have started to move in the direction Mirko is pointing, re-establishing a darkroom. At the same time I notice that things did change from say the 90ies (last time darkroom use for me). I have started to use hybrid processing now as a tool for pre-selection; pretty convenient and then printing (or still re-learning to print) the ones worth it… helps my discipline that I do not have scanner for 4×5. the haptic feeling of a real image on real paper is just worth it, however slow all that feels. Nice interview. R.
Yes we can help. give those old extra film camera you have to people who are interested if they are just seating in the shelves…teach young generation about using film for free…your gain later when they start buying film…
Mirkko needs to do the following to raise the Adox profile in the USA… there are a LOT of young people turning to B/W film..including darkroom.. and a lot of schools teaching film as part of the photo curriculum… but ADOX has no facebook page, neither does Mirkko.. this is a great way to spread the word – it’s how I found this interview … He also needs to contact Glazer’s in Seattle..they have a good selection of Ilford B/W materials, why not ADOX? And other large photo stores across the US… and put contact info on the web page… If Mirkko makes it easy to contact him via Facebook, he will get a lot of leads and new customers… he also needs to start putting up customer photos on Instagram… and telling the story of how and why Adox film/paper made the photo possible…
A most interesting interview! Thank you very much for sharing it.
I would like to inquire something: Is it feasible for a somewhat small organization such as ADOX, to provide “limited edition” film stock and paper? That way, (adopting a PULL approach to sales) you would not incur in production costs until the entire production run is fully-funded.
I imagine, also, that having a sizeable amount of orders for a pre-sold product, would go a long way to assuage potential investor’s fears.