Future of LF

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by joseph_finch, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. I know this type of question has been posed before, but it seems the
    status quo changes every day. I've had my heart set on a new 8x10,
    but have been told by lots of friends to forget it because there's no
    future in film. Fewer and fewer film makers are willing to invest in
    existing product lines because everyone has gone digital. I refuse to
    because I already spend 5 - 7 hours daily at the computer with work-
    related issues and that's enough! I'd really like to have the 8x10,
    but don't want to spend 5 grand in something that will be obsolete
    without a computer. Even the photography classes at USC are now going
    totally digital. The last purchases of enlargers/darkroom equipment
    they made are quoted as being "their last". Does anyone have an
    insider tip or more accurate predictions? Or should I just abandon
    photography altogether?
  2. As much as there has been an almost complete switch to digital technology, there has been a countertrend toward a LF and ULF renaissance as well. Enjoy both or either one and have fun!
  3. Hey don't worry about it, buy your 8x10, that format will be around for a long while yet. Just think about how long LF cameras have been around to give yourself an indication. LF cameras have seen the extinction of many formats and they are still the masters of their domain. There is more to a LF camera that just the resolution. Perspective controls and tonality are just a couple. And by the way, just because an educational program at a school is moving in a certain direction doesn't mean you have to, pick your own path and see where it takes you. Just because everyone and their grandma is shooting with a digital camera and printing on a inkjet at home doesn't mean you have to. I say you show those naysayers a thing or two.
  4. Insider tip? No, just reality. Film will be around a while. There is nothing out there that has the information density of film in a package that size and weight. This is particularly true in LF. Also, film is a serial capture device, and the only digital competition (I use the word loosly) in LF is a scan back, which is a parallel capture device. The artifacts in the field are interesting, but I'll take serial capture any day (Steven Johnson not withstanding).

    When we get 8x10 serial capture for the size and weight of a film holder, for less than USD 1000.00 ask this question again. Until then digital is just a niche in the LF market. IMHO of course.
  5. This is what you do, get your 8x10, make a contact print in pt/pd or azo and show it to your friends. Tell them that when digital can deliver the same quality of prints as an 8x10 contact print, you will admit film is dead....

    Not every body has gone digital, as a matter of fact if RH Phillips and the other manufacturers are any indication, film is doing very well, they cannot keep up with LF camera demands. While Kodak or Fuji might be scaling back in the name of the all mighty dollar, there are plenty of alternatives, Ilford, J and C, Photowarehouse, efke film, etc, etc. As a matter of fact, at least in B&W, we now have more choices of emulsion than ever before, and in many more sizes than before.

    I shoot 8x10 and 12x20, if I could afford the 6 grand for a new 12x20 I would do it in a minute, do you think I am dumb enough to throw away this money if I knew film was dead? not on your life...but the truth is, digital people wished film was dead so they did not have to compare their ink jet prints to finely crafted contact prints.

    In the end Joseph, look at it this way, lets say that yes, film is dying and in 3 years there will be no more film (highly unlikely) if you get your camera now, you will at least get 3 years of enjoyment out of it. if it takes 10 or 20 years, so what? you would have enjoyed your photography that much longer. And remember, by then, there is always glass plates and hand coated paper....:))
  6. Hi Joseph,

    This is an interesting question that I wrestled with many years ago before buying some new 4x5 gear. The conclusion I reached then (and I still hold to it) is that film probably won?t ever really go away. There are a few reasons for this...

    1) Old technologies often take a long time to die (especially when there is an emotional attachment from a core group of users) ? for example, you can still buy valve amplifiers because a lot of people think they have a warmer sound, the same goes for vinyl records.

    2) Digital is not truly archival. I know this is a controversial statement, and I have had many arguments with digital people over it. But consider ? negatives/glass plates from 150 years ago can still be printed. But I have Commodore 64 disks from 15 years ago that are completely useless. Do think you?ll be able to read a CD in a 150 years? No, because file formats and storage media change every 5-10 years. Digital proponents say ?you just have to upgrade the format every few years.? But think how many historical photos would be lost if people had to upgrade a negative every five years. Thus, I think there will be a core of users who will keep film alive, if only in libraries/historical users.

    3) There is probably a sufficient number of obsessive LF users to keep film alive. Even if the worst came to the worst and Kodak decided to abandon film, I have to believe that some entrepreneur somewhere would buy the license and continue to manufacture. Perhaps at much higher prices, but it would still be possible to get film. And anyway, I gather that Kodak built a new film manufacturing facility in upstate New York a few years ago, so presumbly they see more than a few years left in the medium.

    Anyway, I would echo a previous poster and say ? buy the camera, and if worse happens, you will get five years, probably ten (probably a lot more..)


    Andrew Herrick
  7. A good friend of mine is one of the largest new and used large format camera dealers in
    the USA. He says that his large format business is very robust, unlike the market for
    medium format and 35mm cameras and lenses. Still large format photography has always
    been a relatively small fraction of the photography marketplace.

    Film will be here for awhile but how an image goes from a film to a print has definitely
    changed from enlargers and chemistry to scanners/ computers and printers. There is still
    a place for those who want to work in a real darkroom as opposed to a real one. My
    prediction is that it will become increasingly a domain of the serious amateur and "art"
    photographers as opposed to professional photographers.
  8. With the advent of photography, painting was declared dead. When TV came along, the obituaries for radio were written. Books were to replace calligraphy. And on and on...

    Digital's great for some things, but it won't replace film any more than film replaced painting. True, you can't go to the corner store and buy oil paints any more, but you can still get 'em. Assume that the manufacturing of film will slide from the "big boys" who dominate the market today (i.e., Kodak) to smaller firms (i.e., Forte), but don't assume film will disappear.

    I've backed up my predictions on this front by moving into LF in the last year and a half (first 4x5, then 8x10). I'm having an absolute blast, and I firmly believe that I'll still be shooting LF in 20 years.

    As to the USC classes: I'll bet that classes in film photography will reappear in the next five years. Maybe most of their classes will be digital, but I think that interest in film will be strong enough to bring back at least some classes.
  9. Like others, I don't believe LF film will die anytime soon, but
    let's just pretend, and say that five years from now, all film makers
    stop production entirely. You'll be back in the position that
    Mathew Brady was in. He managed to take some decent LF photographs
    without the help of commercial film manufacturers. Dedicated
    hobbyists could still do the same today, but most find it
    more practical to use commercially made film.
    In reality, of course, there's a much bigger market for LF film
    today and for the forseeable future than there was when
    commercial manufacturers first started making it. Maybe one
    or more of the big manufacturers will be too big of a
    dinosaur to adapt to conditions, and will stop production,
    but there's enough of a market to keep at least a couple
    of small manufacturers open.
  10. Joseph, if your friends don't shoot LF, they won't understand why there is such a passion
    for this type of photography. Are you looking to shoot commercially or for fine art -
    personal enjoyment?

    If you look at the commercial marketplace, you will find that many fields that were
    traditionally 8x10 such as architecture, automotive and food photograpy, have been going
    away from 8x10 film and going toward digital, but that's the world of commercial
    photography. Digital can be more efficient (if done well) especially with pours and motion
    work. Also, some film is getting hard to get (the late great Fuji 64T, in particular).

    However, as for personal photography, you should go with what interests you, after all,
    isn't that why you are doing photography in the first place? I completely understand your
    desire to get away from the computer with your photography. I don't shoot
    8x10 and 8x20 just because it is high quality. I love the quiet contemplation of the analog
    view camera. Working this the equipment and shooting a couple images a day is much
    more rewarding than popping off some digital images. Just like Jorge, (yes, we agree here)
    I would much rather spend the time and money doing something I love rather than not
    doing it-even if it is only for three more years. But even if that happens, I, along with most
    of the rest of the LF and ULF users will buy up remaining stock to extend shooting as long
    as possible.

    As for the death of film, one great advantage of the large format is that it is a perfect
    boutique industry. Small companies can easily produce the necessary equipment and
    supplies as can the giant companies. Thus, I think that LF users will be supplied for many
    years in the future. It just takes one company to have the interest to acquire the
    equipment to produce the film.

    If you still feel a little worried about jumping into 8x10, you can easily buy quality
    used equipment for 3 thousand or less to get started. I suggest not going too cheaply with
    the camera - 8x10 can be a struggle with good equipment, much less a camera that isn't
    stable, or has poor controls.

    Go ahead get into 8x10, a whole new world will be opened up to you.
  11. Well I was just at a product shoot and the are using both 4x5 digital backs and film every day, so like others have said use what works for you.
  12. There's a difference between commercial work and 'art' or personal work. If you look at what is hanging in most museums and galleries, the norm is for large (50x40) and larger prints. There's not a digi back in the world yet that can produce more than a 66meg 8 bit file (single shot RGB), so even a 20x16 is a stretch without interpolation (yep it can be done and much larger). A drum scanned 8x10 digi ouputted print is absolutely amazing. Whilst the art world can sell big prints, artists will need lf. As artists we hvae amazing choices now, good quality LF cameras and film, and the ability to output (digitally) with a wider colour gamut than traditional methods.
  13. I firmly believe two things when it comes down to LF photography, they are the only cameras where you can truly create photo art and secondly film is not going to dissapear anytime soon, I recently purchase a 30 year old Linhof so I can leave my monorail Toyo at home.

    An 8x10 would have been nice, but that defeats my desire for portability.

    Having said all, I think that if you are going to get into LF head on you don't have to worry so much about film dissapearing as good BW labs going the way of the "dodo", I recently have an interested conversation with a lady who co-owns a very reputable lab in my area and in all candor she admitted that business is not all it can be, and when they retire a few years that may be it.

    So, after I complete my purchase of Linhof accesories on eBay I will start looking at a darkrom setup to do my own BW printing, which sad to say I don't do now.


  14. when i initiated my studies in 1991, i was told film is dead. that is one comment that pisses me off to this day. go and buy your fuckin 10 x 8.

    lighten up and have some fun will you..! the negs will make you wonder why you even asked...
  15. Jorge and Andrew said it all, but here's the insider tip. Ten or whatever years from now the LF guys are going to still be making their 8x10 and ULF contact prints. Azo, Platinum, Carbon, Gum, etc.
    It will all be considered esoteric art and therefore quite valuable.

    And the collage kids will still be saying that their inkjets are just as archival, detailed, pretty, valuable and handmade as the dinosaur prints.

    By this time enought buyers will have been burned by faded "Archival" inkjets to know that a machine made photocopy is just that. Not that there is anything wrong with a computer made photocopy. Just stop being ashamed of what you do. They have their place, newspapers, magazines, granny's scrapbook and birdcage liners.

    Go to a Edward Weston show. If you stay until the guards throw you out, you will then have your answer.
  16. I am more concerned about being able to get high octane gasoline for my Rover 10 years from now than worrying about the availability of film.

    If there ever is going to be a shortage of film buy a freezer and a few thousand sheets of film! A lot easier than digging a hole in your backyard for your personal gasoline supply tank!

    Who cares what people say about digital advances! If you like the look of film use it!
  17. Hi Joseph,

    I will be a heretic, and suggest that you now go post your same question in the "Open Talk" forum on www.dpreview.com. (...maybe with some explanation of what "8 x 10" means.)

    It would be interesting to see the totally different responses you get from the techie kids on dpreview.com.

    BTW...I am a recent (i.e., amateur) convert to 4x5 (Shen Hao & 4 used lenses), I love the whole large format field experience, and chose 4x5 'cause I figured it was a safer compromise for the future of 4x5 film/ equipment/ accessories...versus 8 x 10.

    Good Luck!

  18. If you have to ask that, then YES, you should. This is all about money, right? Why not enjoy life/LF photography since it is here now.

    "The USA is going metric soon" (my first grade teacher...1965)

    On a serious note, I can say I hear you on the computer usage at work. I think that's one reason I've stuck with film/LF/darkroom, and have taken up other "hands-on" hobbies like woodworking and carpentry. Nothing gripes me more than to be in the backcountry hiking and some a-hole is sitting on the side of the trail with a PDA or cell phone.

    Take the LF plunge, you won't be sorry.

    Tom in Seattle
  19. In ten years, I bet you'll still be able to get sheet film, but it may be made by Lucky and not Kodak. And you may have to buy it from a niche supplier, somebody like Film for Classics.

    In ten years, I bet you will not be able to buy a new Linhof.
  20. Well, the point is that in 10 years, heck in 50 years, you'll still be able to get your film somewhere and you'll be able to get it developed. No doubt your emulsion choices will be much smaller than they are today, but you'll still find something you love.

    If you want to shoot 8x10, shoot 8x10. Film is "dead" every year... but then it turns out it isn't. Don't worry about it and get the camera!
  21. You could always do like Michael A. Smith and fill a walk in freezer with a lifetime supply of your favorite film and paper, although you might have to mortgage your house to do it. It's really a question of dedication. If you're dedicated to LF photography, no manufacturer will be able to put you out of business. If you are a casual shooter, and prefer to have customer support of widely available materials, you might be better off with a digital camera.
  22. pvp


    Give up photography now, and never look back. It's silly to think that large format films and photography will always be a viable choice. On the other hand, it's equally silly to say that digital will erase film photography in the next six months. Who knows how long the bubble will last? No one, I dare say.

    You probably don't forego human relationships just because you know that they will invariably end badly (to paraphrase C.S. Lewis) so why not take a chance on a pasttime that will likely be both the most challenging -- and the most rewarding -- photographic endeavor you'll ever try? It's only money, and in the long run either choice will cost as much as you're willing to spend.
  23. What they all said ...
    You don't need to spend anywhere near $6K to get into 8x10 with style.
    1. Get a used $300 Ansco/$800 user Deardorff/$1200 Zone VI etc.
    2. 8x10 film holders go for $25-50 each
    3. there are tons of great reasonable lenses -- G-Clarons, Dagors etc. etc.
    Pick up some Arista.Edu 200 film ... which is essentially the same as Berrger, a few 11x14 trays to develop in, a few chemicals and you are good to go. Good Luck. :)
  24. Of course everything everyone has said about why LF and ULF will continue for any period of forseable future one can think of, makes good sense.

    Interestingly so many "digital" officiandos are increasingly becoming like religious fanatics - they cannot consider for one moment that film has a place in photography and that any of us who benefit from film in any format are tired, stupid, technical Ludites that can't see the real world. They want us to believe that it is a question of digital or nothing! We should simply treat them with the contempt that they deserve.

    My only concern is the ready availability of large format film - manufacturers' commitment to making alternative film sizes and types and having their distribution channels stock it. Ultimately customer demand for these film products will determine manufacturers' committment. Keep buying guys!
  25. "don't want to spend 5 grand in something that will be obsolete without a computer"

    Huh?? Photography is based on chemicals, not computers! :)

    I think that I have less than $500 (total!) invested in 8x10. I got a Calumet camera from Ebay, a couple of holders from Ebay, a lens from Kenmore Camera, and off I go! Nothing I have is new. Nothing. Except film and chemicals. OK, and some cheap trays.

    Have you heard of a film called TechPan? Its produced by Kodak. TechPan is a film with an amazingly fine grain, and it requires a special developer, Technidol, to give excellent negatives. Did you know that this film is available in 8x10? Its not because of photographers, mind you, its for industrial users. There are industrial and scientific applications which require the film in this format. If a significant set of users requires a film like this, do you think that its going to be replaced by digital?

    Can anybody calculate the number of pixels required to be the equivalent of an 8x10 TechPan negative?

    Should you abandon photography altogether? Either photography is in your blood like a parasite or it isn't. Either you can hear the voices or you can't. Life is about choices, and life is to be lived!!
  26. Hi

    I just recently started out in LF after a long struggle trying to get acceptable results (to me personally) with various digital set ups. I usually shoot with a Nikon D100. A couple of observations seem relevant to this discussion:

    First off, even a scanned 35mm negative on a good scanner beats the Nikon D100 hands down (I mistakenly believed when I bought the D100 and sold my F3 that I would be able to take a short-cut by having the digital file ready rather than wait for the scanner to scan a roll of film). It has taken me a long time to realise this going over old shots of scanned film and new shots on the D100. The D100 is fine for what is designed for: 8x10 inch prints. I have spent endless hours trying various software to get better and bigger pictures with the D100: rezzing up images, noise reduction software etc. etc. It still doesn't outmatch 35mm film except in very specific subjects. Often the results are acceptable to many people, but I always had a nagging doubt about things. Landscapes, for example, are awful with this camera at bigger than A4 size to my eyes. Just not enough resolution.

    Last week I shot my first landscapes and still life with my new Shen Hao and Ilford FP4 film. I developed the stuff in trays which was the first time I ever did it and with some trepidation. But what a result. For the first time in my life as a photographer I have got images that I am truly happy with. When you look at that first glistening negative in 4x5 and marvel at the detail, is there really any going back?

    Yes, the digital photography age is upon us and it has its place. Let's hope that film lasts for many more years. It won't if everybody gives up on it so easily.

    And yes I will carry on using my D100 as well. Oh, and I also still print digitally using carbon pigments on archival paper.

  27. pvp


    ..."digital" officiandos are increasingly becoming like religious fanatics They want us to believe that it is a question of digital or nothing! We should simply treat them with the contempt that they deserve.
    I don't (treat them with contempt.) I pity them for their narrow view, in exactly the same way I pity large format photographers who decry digital photography in any form as a heresy to the true way...
    I got my first LF camera a couple of years ago, and it was a revelation after 30+ years of 35mm and medium format shooting. But I'll admit that I look forward to getting a digital camera, not to replace anything I now use, but to augment the whole.
  28. Looking at the Kodak product list i guess that maybe the format 5x7 could vanish in the future; for example TMax 400 and Ektachrome 100 Plus is available in 4x5 and 8x10, but not in 5x7.
  29. Each camera serves a specific purpase, and large format cameras have tilts/swings, this makes it obsolescence proof. Fuji has their 6x8, but it is still limiting. The film area of the view camera is the only thing that changes, today it is adapted to handle traditional sheet film, readyload/quickload, and digital backs. In the future I bet it will still be the same, because some prefer film for archivability, others digital for speed. If the market goes all digital, the backs will be there.

    As technology improves further (better film, better digital backs), I cannot see the need for 8x10 which only adds bulk. In the future I doubt there will be any digital backs developed for the 8x10, because even now the file sizes from scanned images are too large. You only need about 2000-2500ppi to scan a 4x5.
  30. Digital changed our darkroom (no need for enlarger) and what we attach to the back of our 4x5 camera(digital backs vs film only). Nothing else changes! We still need tilts/swings for architecture and superior depth of field control. Digital only changes our media, from RA4 paper to digital paper, and film to digital backs...it doesn't change the camera itself.
  31. Joseph,

    I think sheet film will be around for a long time if we keep buying the stuff. While Kodak has cut back and Agfa has bailed out, there are more manufacturers and choices available today than anytime in recent history. If you're going to be paranoid about this, get some glass plate holders or shoot paper negatives. 8x10 is great---enjoy it!
  32. As technology improves further (better film, better digital backs), I cannot see the need for 8x10 which only adds bulk. One reason to use 8x10 is to make contract prints. Some alternative processes such as Azo, platinum, albumen, etc. can only be done by contacting printing. Some practitioners will want to do this with negatives made in-camera.
    I think LF film will be available for the forseeable future. Some of the current producers may drop out, and it may become a niche product, but enough customers will remain that someone will make film.

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