Help us keep analog photography alive

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by Bellamy /

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Help us keep analog photography alive
Juho from Cameraventures has an ambitious goal, to save analog photography. Juho and I have been chatting for some time about how analog photography will change in the future and how it could disappear without help from us and the community, so he has decided to do something about it. But he needs our help, so please read on and get involved.

Hi. I am Juho from Finland. I have been feeding myself and later my family from the analog camera scene from the age of 15 – that’s for thirteen years now. Last year I wondered if my baby boy would able to shoot film when he was 15, so I set off to investigate if there will be analog photography in 15 years, and if yes, what it will be like.

During the last 9 months I have interviewed over 300 people – everything from CEOs critical to the industry’s survival to internet famous analogists like Ian Ruhter and Bellamy from JapanCameraHunter, all the way to a group of crazy Russian chemists and a 17-year-old teenager in Singapore. My focus was to form a comprehensive global picture of the future of film photography and find out if it can be saved. The truth is there is no short answer to that question.

The situation of the analog photography scene now

Was it just me and my social media bubble that gave me hope, or was there actually hope?
There has been a huge amount of positive news lately in the scene with big media outlets like Time and ABC running stories on the comeback of film and obviously Kodak actually announcing that they are bringing discontinued films back due to the demand increasing over 5% a year.

Adox, Bergger, Cinestill, Ferrania, Foma, JCH and other boutique filmmakers are making lovely new stuff. Different kinds of Kickstarter campaigns are being funded and on another kind of positive note, the huge success of Fujifilm’s Instax series is giving a first touch of analog to a multitude of teens around the world.

However even 9 months ago there were lots of great things happening, but then I had to stop and think – was it just me and my social media bubble that gave me hope, or was there actually hope?

The old empires of the photography industry have fallen

I decided to find out what the photography industry actually thought so I walked into the offices and shops of the guys whose work had serviced the analog community for decades. There I found a completely different attitude – for even the corest of the core companies that bred life into the analog scene for decades – like Noritsu – just laughed at my questions. I went to Photokina 2016 and tried to find big industry names that were ready for the second coming of analog. I found none of the big old players were interested in servicing the community whose growth I had witnessed online around various hashtags like #believeinfilm, #filmisnotdead and so on.

This hit me hard and at first I was heartbroken. Then I saw the positive side. If there are no old players, the whole industry can rebuild itself again based on passion, not on money as it used to be built. The new era is one that the new digital generation can enjoy and more importantly, can be built by those with a passion for analog. The pioneers of this movement can be seen in the like of Cinestill, Catlabs and Camerafilmphoto, tending to people’s informational and film needs in a new digital manner.

Film is available so is everything alright?

So if the availability of film and developing materials is secured by passion driven companies then we have no problem – right? Everyone can just develop their films by themselves or at the local camera club in 15 years. Well here we get to the interesting part. See, if you are reading this and agree with my last statement, then you are what I call a core member of the analog scene.

During my interviews I started to see the global analog scene divided into four groups; the Collectors, the Gearheads, the Artists and the Newcomers.

The Collector

By default the Collector is a male in his sixties. He has a collection of cameras that he has accumulated during his life. The biggest hoarders couldn’t help themselves when the prices plummeted when digital came by storm and have amassed hundreds or even thousands of cameras. The collector doesn’t actually use his cameras and they gather dust and decay slowly into a state where CLA is needed. More importantly the collector doesn’t use film unless someone asks him to shoot a portrait at the family reunion and he fires his trusty Metz at everyone’s faces.

The Gearhead

Typically a 34-year-old male engineer, the Gearhead is someone who loves to mount analog stuff on his digital camera. He has used film when he was young and / or dreamed that it would be nice to just shoot film and not worry about Lightroom pixel peeping. He loves the quality of gear almost more than the end result it produces. However he hasn’t ventured back into the analog world in a way where he would consume more than 2-3 rolls of film a year.

The Artist

Not as strongly defined by age or gender, the Artist is more of a a philosophical group. The Artist believes in film as a concept – an age old analog way to preserve time and emotion through the centuries without the worry of it becoming unreadable data. The Artist uses a lot of film, developers and photographic paper, but camera gear is just a means to an end for them, which usually makes them bad at helping Newcomers get an easy entry into using a camera without automation.

The Newcomer

Newcomers are more concerned about having their shots on social media than as prints. They want good quality scans and are willing to send their film to another country if the lab has the right amount of Instagram followers. The Newcomers love Canon AE-1:s with Portra loaded into them. They shoot a lot of film when they find a good working camera and a good lab to service them, as they are still not ready to do developing themselfs – especially for color pictures. The three previous groups may not understand the ways of the Newcomers, but there is a lovely esthetical philosophy in their photography – they just do things differently than the previous generation.

Obviously these four groups are categorical and someone can be 70% of a Gearhead with 20% of an Artist and 10% of a Newcomer. The core of the analog scene seems to be half Gearheads and half Artists at heart – that’s why they tend to have a growing, almost unhealthy desire to shoot large format.

As a side note it is very interesting that different countries seem to be predominantly one of these groups. In Finland we are born more or less to be engineers (I am what they would call artsy in Finland) so we are mostly Gearheads and Collectors. The same applies to Germany and South Korea. In Vietnam the Newcomers seems to make up 90% of the analog community while in Spain there is a very Artist-based community.

The four major problems to solve now that the fight for film has been won

We need to provide the Newcomers the services they need.
In light of recent news I believe that the first fight for film as a format has already been won, and now we are entering the next set of problems. Understanding the four basic user groups of the analog community and their relation to the industry led me to make some conclusions of what would be the biggest problems for the analog scene in the next 15 years. The core of it is that we need to provide the Newcomers the services they need so that the demand for all of the industry’s services will be big and continuous for the next 15 years. It’s time I introduce the four major problems the analog scene will face.

1. The developing and scanning machines will have to retire.

Even if everything would stay the same or grow 1-5% a year for the next ten years we have a major problem on our hands with the renewal of the machinery in labs. Fujitsu, Agfa, Kodak and Noritsu, the biggest manufacturers of automated developing machines have already or are about to stop their support services for analog machines. Only the best labs will survive because specialized labs will have good technicians to take care of the machinery, but they will run out of spares in 10-15 years. Scanners will die sooner – as they are already now getting hard to manage and even the newest models of professional volume film scanners run Windows XP.

For a Gearhead, a Collector or an Artist it is all the same. They will take out their Jobo or new Lab-Box and a flatbed scanner and keep going. Hell most of the labs will also do that, but therein lies the problem. When the volume is not sufficient, the prices must go up. A Newcomer will never mature into a core analogist when they have to pay 50 EUR for a film, developing and scanning combo – which is already happening for example in E-6 developing around Europe. To keep the genre accessible for Newcomers we still need to raise the volume of film and concentrate the existing business to the passion driven companies.

2. The big film production lines will have to retire.

Yes, it looks good for Kodak and Fujifilm for now, but one day they will do the FP-100s and say that they just cannot run the old machinery any more and demand for the product cannot justify for the new machine to be as big. At the same time all the grannies loading their occasional film compact have left this earth and as a grand total this means that there will be no Fujifilm C200, Superia 400, Kodak Color Plus or anything in color that you can get for under 4€ a roll. As with developing machines, the core won’t care, but the entering masses will.

3. The cameras will retire, if they are not serviced.

Almost every single film user I have talked to in the interview process has told me that they know this one service guy left in their area, and that he is a Collector era guy. In five to ten years most of them will have retired and whole countries might be without a proper service to send their gear into.

Well can’t we just 3d print cameras or ask the Chinese factories to pop out remade cameras? Well we can, but playing with plastic Holgas won’t amuse a Newcomer for a lifetime. Not when the option is shooting digital virtual reality memories easily on a phone. They will want proper mechanical cameras and they can’t cost too much.

4. The already available cameras are not actually available.

Most of the cameras a Newcomer would want to use, are in the ownership of the Collectors. The Collectors are not selling their gear online and if they are, not every Newcomer will want to risk having to CLA the camera by their own means after a deal with a Collector on craigslist. The cameras have to start moving and finding new loving homes. And no, even though there is way more cameras going around in the US, Japan and Europe than there are users, the reality is that analog seems to grow faster in countries like Russia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey and China – and they do not have old stock laying around in cupboards and flea-markets.

Is there a solution that will save analog photography?

In Finland we have this mentality, that we don’t moan publicly about shit without actually trying to fix it. It is a very core Finnish thing. Hence I wouldn’t be writing this without having a solution. So how do we fix this?

Well problems 1 and 2, retiring heavy machinery are fixed by increasing the demand. The demand can be increased by fixing problems 3 and 4 that are restricting the flow of Newcomers into the genre. To fix 3-4 I have a plan that can be summed up in one sentence: ”Save Analog Cameras”
Both 3 and 4 are fixed by connecting the Newcomers with either already existing or just emerging companies in a new way. Existing companies have the connections to get the cameras from Collectors and repair them for use, but not all of them speak the language of the Newcomer generation. For this translation to become reality I have started a start-up called Cameraventures.com.

To save analog photography, we need to save the cameras.
But wait. Aren’t startups all about monetization and high risk of failure? Well some tech startups might be, but there are a lot of startups aiming for effect, not money. We are one of them. We aim to save the part of analog photography we know how to save – the cameras. And when it comes to the risk of failure it would be a lot bigger, if I hadn’t already done this once.

You’ve done it already? Well yes, but only in the small scale of Finland where I have built up a platform called Kameratori.com where all the analog camera shops do their business. We have a local film distributor, we provide the best and most modern developing services in the country and we even have our own team of technicians with four Gearheads learning from two Collectors.

Working together globally is the key

However Finland is only very small, and to reclaim enough analog cameras to keep global demand high, I need your help. Cameraventures.com aims to do what has happened in Finland globally and to do that I need to map the passionate analog houses of the world so they can work together. I need you to tell me what is the local shop that really cares for the analog scene?

What do I do with the info then? Well our team will double check it, structure it and release it online for the whole worldwide community to enjoy and use. Our team will try to make the best possible online visualization (map, chart, app etc) of the top content creators, developing houses, camera stores, film distributors, accessory manufacturers and service centers to be browsed by the community. With the help of some friends around the world (this has been released in five different localized contexts/languages so far), our small team from Finland can map the first trully global maps of the reborn analog photography world.

This will make the resources for Newcomers easily findable and linkable for the core members. At the same time the growth potential of the industry focuses on the most passionate and professional service providers – giving them more space to develop the scene, something that has partly already happened for example within the instant film side of analog photography with Impossible Project.

United the passionate small businesses around the globe just maybe, could find the fixes for problems 3 and 4, so that I could still do this in 15 years – and more importantly, so that my son could shoot his first own rolls of film in 15 years.

If you want to help to create a global map to save analog cameras, please go to cameraventures.com/help and fill in the form. It is the first step to #saveanalogcameras.

A huge thanks to Juho for stepping up to the plate on this. This is something I have been saying for a long time, but have not been organised enough to put it into a proper package. If we all work together then there are no limits to what we can do for the future. Get involved and help keep analog photography strong and ready to face the future.

JCH

25 comments on “Help us keep analog photography alive”

    Philip Steblay April 22, 2017 at 11:11 am / Reply

    Film photography is not something that needs to be saved. It’s value and benefits are growing increasingly clear. Many analog trends are well in motion and will continue to grow as folks increasingly realize the binding limitations and lack of soul in the digital world. Digital isn’t bad, but differs hugely from the analog experience. As a lab owner, I see a growing trend of folks experiencing film photography for the first time as well as “old collectors” getting back into the pleasure of film again. So, fear not for the future of film photography!

    Carlos April 22, 2017 at 3:33 pm / Reply

    If you want to create a modern successful business, develop Your social story and promote the heck out of it. Provide a Platform for exchange and let the crowd waves float in the resources you need to do business and the story motivated crowds get in and buy the resources others have provided. classic platform business – a business, no more. Not saying right or wrong, only what it is.

    To me, who honestly wants to give newcomers tools to work on film do CLA them, first, then sell them with a warranty for the service. Does this raise cost? Sure it does, but there are the ones that ask hipster prices and the others who ask for the hard value to be paid.

    I need no global fleamarket with all its trust and logistics issues to get involved in film photography. Fleamarkets or even camera bourses can be found everywhere, sure not every day, but you don’t need each day a new old camera. The best working cameras I bought where the ones I bought local, face2face, no anonymous online platform involved.

    So yes, support the honest efforts to keep film – take your old camera, CLA it, get out on the street and shoot film, develop it and develop prints with the local businesses. _That_ makes your local shops rethink and offer film products and services.

    Film is not dead, digital cameras as we know today and the last few years will disappear before. Ask me in 15years. Watch “CD”, “DVD” vs. streamflix vs. vinyl. Looking at that even more reason to start a business like the one presented – for obvious business reason, only.

    I go now, take my CLA’d Leica III/Summar 2/50 and restored Weston Lightmeter, some HP5+ and watch the space in “real world”.

    CU

    Alexandre Kröner April 22, 2017 at 8:59 pm / Reply

    Great job. I have so much to say about that. I´m from Brazil and here is so difficult and expensive to work with analog photography. But i´m working. It´s a concept of going back in life and turning photography in something ‚“only for special moments“. Instead making 10 photos to tell a story, tell it in only one photo. I photographed these way for more than 20 years and when i went to digital gear in the last 10 years i coudn´t photograph these way anymore. Think and shoot, and not, shoot and think. The gear is not the most important, but of course, it makes difference if you want an enlarged print. I will stop here, my english is not the best, better germany or portuguese. At facebook, Alexandre Kröner (profile is a large format camera), or at insta @akrealphotography @alexandrekroner.

    Michael Penn April 22, 2017 at 11:19 pm / Reply

    I’ve seen no growth in film photography over the last 5 years and in fact seen many photographers who have sworn to never use digital and in fact have switched over for one reason or another. Even those who shot film and scanned have given up. Labs are all but got in the major American cities and those who remain are getting more expensive every 6 months. Personal darkrooms are non existent to those who don’t already have one or aren’t forced to downsize due to skyrocketing city living expenses. The average size apartment in my city of Philadelphia has shrunk by over 30% in the last 20 years. The slight resurgence effect of film more than 5 years ago was caused by the “hipster effect” who have since leapfrogged the traditional camera and went right for phones . The only way you’re going to get more people interested in film is by handing out cameras, film and offering them a place to learn developing.

    rolf schmolling April 23, 2017 at 12:03 am / Reply

    Hi folks, be optimistic. Just opening my own darkroom, knowing many people who do the same – only NOT like in say 1990… What is missing from Juha’s initiative though is this whole angle of analog production of images – not just negatives. And buying and using photographic paper is what ultimately keeps the companies in business (search for the interview with Adox executive on this).

    There should be sth. between artist and enthusiast.

    I am optimistic about film and analog photography. It’s going to stay.

    Cheers, Rolf

    Salty April 23, 2017 at 12:20 am / Reply

    In my opinion, there are some steps that has to be done to save film photography. First of all we have to “educate” the people by “introduce” it to the generation Z which majority filled with teen to young adults whom would like to try something new. The introduction can be done by copying the success of “ice bucket challenge” or “teloloet om” or even any other odd things. The drawback of this introduction is, it will not survive long enough to buy time for film photography but it might increase the population of this community. The next step is “increase the availability” the market is too small and its not cheap to do. i do not know whose fault is this but sometimes the processing cost even more than the film. The cost comparison is like 1:1.5 – 1:2 which is insane, and I think this is the turn off for some people they could just easily buy digital camera and use it until the end of it’s usable life and they can see the result straight away. Back to my reason why I jumped from digital to film is because “I’m so fu**king sick and tired of the photoshop” -Kendrick Lamar. These are just words from a 21 years old student #keepfilmalive.

    Jordan Lockhart April 23, 2017 at 1:27 am / Reply

    I can’t find any help page with the form nor does the link work. I’m curious as to what I kind of information you are looking for. I’ve cataloged all the places in New York to buy film cameras. I know where to get film developed as well. I’d like to help with this information if it is applicable.
    https://www.cameraplex.com/blog/complete-new-york-film-camera-buying-guide

    I’m currently cataloging the same information for Budapest, Hungary and Belgrade, Serbia.

    Juho April 23, 2017 at 2:56 am / Reply

    Here is the link straight to the form Jordan:
    https://cameraventures.com/save-analog-form

    bertram eiche April 23, 2017 at 8:19 am / Reply

    Is there enough silver left for analog photography?

    Zoe Beamst April 23, 2017 at 11:18 am / Reply

    I think a good way to save film photography is to stop calling it analog. There is nothing “analog” about it. It panders to the digital medium, and takes away the qualities that film provide and present.

    Brady Fullerton April 23, 2017 at 1:47 pm / Reply

    I don’t mean to sound overly negative but this seems to overstate the problems in a way that is ultimately self-serving. Bellamy is providing a wonderful service that many people are willing to pay for, and if you want a reliable, quality camera, then this is an excellent option. Juho may be doing something similar with his site, but this article seems to miss the point. Saving analog photography, and saving analog cameras are not the same thing. Of course Juho uses an argument about 4 types of photographers and 4 types of problem to make it seem that this is in fact the case, but he begs the question by inserting the infrastructure and machinations of certain types of photography into his 4 problems.

    Yes, there are many different types and groups of photographers, but I would be hesitant to break them down so neatly, and then to say that individuals may be made up of percentages of each group. Honestly, if you’ve really interviewed 300 people then why do you name so few of them? With 300 interviews you could have developed real statistics that might be compelling. Instead, we get anecdotes about how Noritsu finds the idea laughable. If this much work has been done then the arguments shouldn’t be based on anecdotal evidence.

    So, from the introduction we begin with something like a scare tactic. Film may not be as stable as we think. Watch out. Ok, absolutely. We can accept that. But now we get into the infrastructure problems with problem 1. Already we have abandoned the original question “How do we save analog photography?” in favour of “How do we save a particular flavour of analog photography?” Maybe that is your concern, and maybe it is a legitimate concern but you can’t make an argument about saving analog photography into an argument about saving analog cameras by begging the question. This just comes across as self-serving.

    I think this article is flawed in several ways, though I agree with the sentiment, but I really think we should be asking a more sensible question, like “What types of analog photography are sustainable?” This question doesn’t just come out of nowhere, it comes from careful consideration of historical obsolescence. Vinyl is still selling today, and vinyl seems to be the go to comparison. But keep in mind, in the sense that film is analog, vinyl is also only one of many analog audio formats. While vinyl survived, 8-track didn’t. 8-track is a magnetic tape format of analog audio recording. There are many magnetic tape formats, but not all of them have survived. Most of them haven’t. But do we really need a renaissance of 8-track or Betamax? Again, Betamax hasn’t survived, but some forms of magnetic tape video recording have. Is this regrettable? Maybe. But those who love analog hi-fi sound still have ways of getting it. In fact they have distilled the analog options into those which are best and most sustainable. I don’t think anyone is going to argue that 8-track is superior to vinyl and that it’s a crime that we haven’t preserved all the 8-track infrastructure etc. The fact is, it may not be realistic to ask that all aspects of analog photography survive indefinitely. However, on a positive note, it’s very hard to think of any broadly understood historical format that has completely vanished. All of the oldest photographic methods are still practiced. No, one day we might not be able to get certain types of film. And that might be a shame but I don’t particularly miss APS film or 110. Sometimes I wish I could get my hands on some 127, but usually 120 will suffice.

    If we ask the industry to supply all aspects of our hobby then this might not be realistic. It might just be that analog photography becomes distilled, and yes, some of our favourite cameras may become obsolete in the process, but there are ways of working through this. Take 35mm for example. I don’t think 35mm is going anywhere anytime soon because of the movie industry, the prevalence of cameras, and the fact that most manufacturers have a familiarity with making this type of film. But do I think that all 35mm cameras will survive with 35mm? No. And I don’t think Bellamy does either. He recommends on this site that people avoid purchasing the Ricoh film cameras (at least from him) since they can no longer be serviced. One day Contax may run out in just the same way. Leica is actually, despite the difficulty of finding a qualified tech, likely to survive for quite a while since the mechanical cameras can be repaired without making use of obsolete electronics and the company shows a dogged commitment to the format. And that makes me wonder why Juho seems to speak negatively about large format. Large format cameras are some of the only non-lomo film cameras being manufactured today. They can, in most cases, be easily serviced, and large format film actually competes with digital for quality when we consider resolution.

    So, is the answer to saving analog photography to save analog cameras? No, I think the answer is to save some analog cameras. The problem is that we can’t know which ones will become obsolete, or unserviceable, first. Mapping the resources is great, but your form (of which only the first page is working) seems to be gathering statistical data that you claim to have already gathered. I think we should begin with a little more perspective and accept that we probably cannot save all the cameras, and maybe we shouldn’t.

    Jordan Lockhart April 23, 2017 at 8:17 pm / Reply

    My knowledge in mainly in photography but, having owned a 1967 Mustang and having a friend who owns an American muscle car garage, I’ve always seen state of film photography strangely mirroring many of the concerns relevant to muscle car enthusiasts.

    Old machines that were built to last. Parts becoming more and more unavailable. You’ve got your newcomers, artists [drivers], gear heads, and collectors.

    I know of a guy who purchased some molding machines from a famous manufacturer when that particular cars production ceased. He know makes replacement bumpers and hoods from the original machines and sells them for top dollar. This reminds me on a smaller scale – of the Impossible project.

    This is just in interesting observation, maybe there are some useful associations that can be made by looking at how this industry handles their dilemma.

    I do know that there are car shows and gatherings in nearly any city you can think of. Maybe we need to get some camera shows [show and tell type] organized to bring the community together if nothing else.

    Martin Seelig April 24, 2017 at 7:51 am / Reply

    My small contribution to this effort is to make replacement mirrors for TLR cameras. Once these go “dark” there are only a few options to enable you to continue to use your trusty old TLR camera. Now while I haven’t made replacements for every version I have done many varieties and I’m willing to add more mirrors to the list.

    c.d.embrey April 24, 2017 at 8:24 am / Reply

    From Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days: ” …And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
    But I probably will
    Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
    A little of the glory of, well time slips away
    And leaves you with nothing mister but
    Boring stories of glory days”

    I was born before WW2. I raced cars in the 1950s/1960s. I had my picture in the magazines—but you couldn’t give me an un-safe gas-guzzling. air polluting muscle-car today.

    I haven’t developed any film since a lab class in the 1960s. No Pro Labs will kill a lot of interest in film for many people. The expense …

    If you can make money selling Lipstick to Pigs, more power to you!

    Larry April 24, 2017 at 6:42 pm / Reply

    I think this a good idea, but am uncertain how it will work out. Ilford also has an effort in this area, and they are providing a listing service for small or large darkrooms.

    I am also concerned about the lack of new film cameras. I once thought Cosina Voightlander was going to occupy the new camera space, but they seem to be concentrating in the area of manual focus lenses which work with both digital and film cameras right now.

    Some old film cameras are basically infinitely repairable, because they are purely mechanical, and it would be nice to have a listing of the places that repair them. An expansion of the list to include what models of cameras are eligible would be great.

    nicholas April 25, 2017 at 1:49 am / Reply

    sounds great. and my sense is that access to CLA is a big hurdle. (as is cost of CLA…)

    Brent April 25, 2017 at 6:13 am / Reply

    I think this is worth the effort, if for no other reason than that I’m personally very curious about the number of film shooters out there.

    Anecdotally, I definitely see more and more film shooters out and about every time I walk through the city here in Melbourne. Quality classics have also exploded in price over the last two years, and the few times I’ve listed something on eBay the interest has been surprising.

    So, there’s definitely a growing market, here at least, but who knows if it’s just a fad?

    Good project though. I look forward to seeing the numbers.

    Dan Castelli April 25, 2017 at 11:16 am / Reply

    Hey everyone,
    Look for a book “The Revenge of Analog” by David Sax. Don’t download it, buy the hardback copy. Just read it. Sax puts much about new technology into perspective, and explores why we do seek alternates to modern trends. The chapter about Moleskin notes books is most interesting.

    I tend to take the long view of history. No new technology has replaced an existing technology. One becomes prominent, but the other co-exists with the new [i.e. – the Swiss Guard is equipped with the most up-to-date weaponry, yet their armory still contains the weapons of the middle ages – all in working condition.]

    The blowback with digital photography has been a long time coming. Just like there was a blowback with slick, digital illustration among artists, and digital drums with bands.

    The fly in all the digital ointments is the fact we’re human…unpredictable, fickle and prone to evaluate and make choices that baffle the best algorithms. Yes, digital makes sense on so many levels, and everyone should be gleefully embracing it. Why not? It’s so close to perfection :-)

    Yet, I’ll still shoot w/my M2, process the film and make prints in my darkroom, then scan a few to post on my flickr account. Oh well, it’s just me being an imperfect human…

    Marcus April 25, 2017 at 5:51 pm / Reply

    There are many aspects that are not covered in most of the articles I’ve found on the internet and this one seems to be just a personal point of view. The identified groups of analog photographers are not verified and the author seems to promote his own business.

    There is not enough space here and I do not have the time to cover the whole story (if there even is a true one).
    To understand the state of analog photography we have to go back in time and examine the history of Kodak, Polaroid and some other major film brands of 2000. Not much has changed on the technology site due to the lack of research and development. Yes, new films were introduced, but they do not reflect the possibilities in chemical advances that have been made in the last 15 years. Due to restrictions in use of hazardous chemicals formulations have to engineered regularly.
    Films have in most cases a DX coding and that’s it. Some professional models had (have) the ability to imprint the shooting data on the film and some stored it in camera. There is a break in the flow of digital information if the picture is digitized. It is cumbersome and time consuming to put the right information to an image. In 2017 we are used to search databases and find images by date or location information.
    In Europe there a two established photo labs that develop, archive, scan and present online your film in very high quality (https://carmencitafilmlab.com/, http://www.meinfilmlab.de/). Only two dedicated scanners (Noritsu/Fujifilm) are left on the market for high volume. But you have to send the film in and it is very expensive due to time consuming process even if the machines are fast. It would be easy to develop a machine that would develop and scan the film very fast in high quality and volume. But there is no market for such a machine at the moment. Even if the digital files could be offered on the web with additional services (prints, sharining…). Everyone who wants to scan on his own has the choice of only a few products that differ in price and quality. Many manufactures left the market due to decreasing customer demand.
    The classic photo labs that survived often do not offer a cheap scan service because they can not afford the investment in the described high volume scanners and IT systems. Opening hours and location of these labs is a major problem for many people interested in analog color photography. That’s why black and white photography is also very popular.
    Instant film is very popular at the moment and the sales are sky rocking. At the same time packfilm is gone. The kind of film used by professional photographers for proof before shooting film on medium/large format cameras. Polaroid offered beautiful materials that were very expensive. The most common product was the Fujifilm FP100C that was discontinued last year due to decreasing sales. The truth is that this material is about 20 years old and to some it has a special character but it is awfully slow in speed, lacks colors, sharpness and dynamic range. Most professional photographers who used this material are more than happy to use digital backs even if they love the lock of film. The cost of about 1€/1$ per exposure has also to be taken into account. Only a small amount of people were upset. I wonder if the analog communits evern recognized the loss of one of the most important films in history. If there were so many active analog medium format camera users there would have been a real shitstorm on the internet. But truth is that most people didn’t even care.
    So, film photography has a lot of issues that have not been addressed in the past 20 years and the situation got worse with the bankruptcy of Kodak and Polaroid. The market is reduced to less than 5 % of its peek volume and it is hard to keep the production alive as the running costs are extremely high Without the film business in Hollywood analog color photography would have been already dead.
    Digital photography has come a long way and is now in all aspects superior to film at this point. But then Kodak sells film to Hollywood companies and sees a growing demand. Why?
    Not just for aesthetical reasons. Digital film productions can not be upscaled without quality issues. Film can be stored easily over decades and scanned in great quality. Advances in digital imagining also improve the process of digitizing analog material. Lawrence of Arabia was recently scanned by Sony to offer a 8K digital reproduction. A 70mm Panavision film about 50 years old! Cost of film vs digital production for a Hollywood movie differ only slightly. The combination of digital and analog seens to be the future for Hollywood.
    Digital photography has issues that come into play when the files are stored on your devices. The most important are image processing software, archive, backup, color reproduction, printing, Most people do not think about these workflows involved in digital imaging. Photographers with an established post process know that digital photography not comes cheap. In fact the total costs (including time) is much more than with analog photography. This is also true if film is scanned.
    Let’s face it: Analog photography is expensive, has many issues and is at the same time very fascinating. There is a place for it but there will never be a mass market again. The survival of film depends on many aspects and not all of them can be addressed soon. It is very important to encourage all people regardless of age and social background to take a look at analog photography (again). There is no competition between analog and digital because both have their places due to their advantages.

    Jose April 29, 2017 at 12:05 pm / Reply

    I also agree with his initial supposition but think his logic from that point may be a little bit flawed. First and foremost in my mind is if these newcomers are so important, and according to everyone they don’t give a crap about prints, what’s going to be the biggest limiting factor for getting them involved? Is it collectors driving up the prices of Contax T2s? I don’t think so, you can get an AF P&S anywhere in the world today for peanuts that will take great photos. Is it film availability? Once again, not really as there are still plenty of choices and the prices may go up a bit but economies of scale are on our side here. Developing is so easy a rhesus monkey could do it and freaking caffenol isn’t going anywhere soon.

    It’s scanning, scanning, scanning. 35mm is almost useless with a flatbed. 35mm scanners are all entering their teens and twenties, and there is no one to service them. And there’s a lot less Coolscan EDs and Noritsus out there than Olympus Styluses. To this new generation if you can’t share your pictures on social media, you may as well not bother taking them. If you can’t scan then you can’t share. We need a new source of fast and minimal effort 35mm scanners, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting them any time soon.

    Also many of the movie directors currently so enamored with 35mm (or 70mm…) are of the boomer generation and will be retiring very soon. The financial side of Hollywood isn’t a fan of film as it’s often much costlier than digital source (or at least they firmly believe it is). I’m not sure stills hobbyists can count on Hollywood to save us.

    Medium format might actually be a better “time capsule” for analog photography as graphic art flatbed scanners actually do a good job with it and those aren’t going anywhere. The problems there are cost, and teenagers probably aren’t lining up to carry Pentax 67s around all day.

    amigo toro May 2, 2017 at 4:40 am / Reply

    If analog photography is to continue, we need to keep track of positive & negative news. While it is highly unlikely that analog will become the dominant photographic medium again, it seems to have carved out niche for itself (with certain film lines continuing & being revived). Clearly, Juho has identified certain concerns & bringing in newcomers is essential. I agree with Bradley that we shouldn’t try to save all types of cameras or film formats, but focus on keeping the medium going. I personally think more needs to done to encourage the traditional darkroom printing (I’ve been told anecdotally that demand has remained constant, along with some articles I’ve read confirm this as well).

    TSL May 21, 2017 at 9:37 pm / Reply

    Film photography depends on the mass consumption of a mass manufactured product. it ends without the former creating the latter. This is NOT a medium (much less and “industry”) than can survive without the mass production/consumption cycle. There is no way even a small producer like Ilford can survive without this critical massing, and that means the continuance of C41 processing by machine and scanning. It is the linchpin behind all film photography now.

    The majority of effort needs to go into the lab structure. Home developing and printing and/or scanning can never substitute for mass development processes. This is what makes the entire supply chain for film viable, even for the B&W aficionados who engage in the craft end of the business. Their film bases and chemicals depend entirely on large volumes produced likewise at the commercial point of the cycle, to drive down costs and amortize investments.

    Analog equals tangible, but it competes with digital’s relentless affordability at producing quantities of images (the qualitative debate is a subjective, useless one). The key is affordable mass developing, including high speed, high quality scanning as we cannot ignore the need to publish analog derived images via digital media; it’s just the way things are and is so baked in to the reality of the market expectations that to not do it from a puritanical standpoint (APUG, looking at you) only adds to the decline of analog film.

    If the developing and scanning can be preserved en masse, then a market can exist to continue emulsions. But the only way emulsions can go forward is if there is a huge quantity. This industry simply does not scale down. You cannot make film in a barn. Realistically the world will only need Kodak’s single Rochester facility to supply the entire world forever. The idea capital investment would be for Ilford and all the others to pile into that as a joint venture.

    Cameras follow the mass of developing and emulsion. They are the end of the chain, so to speak, and I leave others to discuss those options, though the SLR/RF/Compact trio are pretty much necessary.

    Dan Platon June 19, 2017 at 4:46 pm / Reply

    Film photography depend first on film cameras, that is the starting point. When I am saying camera I am saying body+lenses.
    The actual manufacturer of lenses are 2 kind: camera (body+lenses) and lenses manufacturer.
    The camera manufacturer Canon, Nikon are very strong against film sales., they want to sell sensors, their own stuff (Leica will make his own instant film).
    Most of the film cameras are ugly and clumsy, they dose not have appeal and are laborious to get the picture. More, the film is a little bit unreliable. So go digital.
    But digital looks like Inflatable Perfect Woman. Who cares? Is there a picture then it is OK.
    Other weak point of digital is the software. The exposure and the recording of data are in the stone age and it seems impossible to evolve. Matrix or evaluative metering no matter how many zones use are equivalent to the early Selenium meter or something like Sunny 16. Learn Sunny 16 plus the variation according to the angle of sun and it is enough for negative, but for positive you need more precise values. The so called spot meter is not at all a spot meter. This is why when you are serious you need a handheld exponometer.
    So we have Canon and Nikon lenses plus the other manufacturers that makes lenses with Canon and Nikon mount.
    Again we need a film body.
    A processor for exposure and focus must to be very cheap in our days, remember recording is instant and does not need to be processed at the time of shooting.
    So only if someone from China decide to take the original Canon approach (a good and affordable camera) the film photography will survive. The chances are very slim.
    A good and affordable <> with a Canon and/or Nikon mount .
    But remember a quality image is not in our days trend.

    glenn August 22, 2017 at 3:29 am / Reply

    If Canon and Nikon will make new FILM cameras… it will boost film photography for sure… I hope they make new cameras even every 10 yrs.

    For photography schools, I hope they will require film camera on their first or 2nd year. This will also boost film photography

    Hope they consider…

    Blar December 8, 2017 at 7:55 pm / Reply

    Hello!
    Working together, yes!
    And one of the key point is, i think, the growth of repairing skills.
    I am doing CLA, but each camera is different and knowing them, learning particularity of differents models is pretty long. Knowledge is quickly disappearing with the analog generation of repair men that are getting old.

    So, how to develop together repairing skills that benefits to everybody?

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