Investing in Leica: How long will film be available as media?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by bjarni_m., Aug 6, 2014.

  1. I've been thinking for 2-3 years now, whether i should invest in a brand new Leica M7 or MP for 5.000 dollars, which is a fair amount of money.
    But the question, that keeps coming back to me is, for how long the film as media will be available? I don't want to invest in a camera, if it useless in few years.
    Do you have any thoughts about the question?
  2. Nobody really knows but it appears to me to be gaining a little strength. I expect it to be available for as long as I am able to make photographs. That's a lot of $$ for a camera but you should get a lot of use from it. Just IMO but I'd rather drop that much on something like the Leica than a top of the line DSLR that will be out of date (though still quite useful) in less than 2 years.

    Rick H.
  3. B&W probably forever, as Ilford appears to have a sustainable business model.
    Color depends entirely on when the movie industry decides to let Kodak sink. They've already nearly destroyed the market for movie print film by forcing theaters over to digital projection with the (passing) 3-D fad. Their current agreement with Kodak is through 2015, where the studios jointly guaranteed a certain amount of purchases of film.
    But this is why my only Leica camera is a IIIa, I can't see making the investment in an M6 at current prices (around $1000 to $1200). I have lots of Leica and Canon LTM lenses, which I use on the IIIa and a Canon 7s. I'm presuming my first M-mout camera will be a used Leica Digital.
  4. Well, as for Kodak and the studios, see this posting:
    It looks like directors are getting the studios to extend their commitment with Kodak past 2015.
    All kind of ironic, since the studios so vigorously pushed for digital distribution, to cut their demand for Eastman's movie print films. Now they have to promise to buy enough film to keep Kodak's (now) oversized factory running.
  5. Just my thoughts, Rick. I will rather spend my money on a decent film camera rather than on a digital camera, who is almost out of date when it reaches the shops.

    On thing is for sure: I will never invest in a digital Leica, as long as the company don't offer us buyers to buy just the image engine/processor every second year, when a new model hits the market, but keeps pushing us to buy a whole new camera for USD 6.000.

    I will rather buy a film camera - that is of course if film will be available for quite some years from now on.

    Anyone from the photo film industry in this forum, that can shed some light on the question?
  6. SCL


    It's not an investment unless you expect a return...such as from selling your photos; so it is probably more of a hobby or pasttime. If the total $ cost seems high, there is always the 2nd hand market, which, for the same amount of cash, buys you not only a good user body and a CLA, if needed, but also allows more money for lenses - which is really what Leica is all about. In 1969 I bought a new Leica, all subsequent ones have been 2nd hand, and all were wonderful to use. Most of my Leica lenses over the years have also been 2nd hand saving me a lot of money and producing excellent results. The whole question of film continuing to be available is a little different. It will probably be available for quite some time, but at a cost. For many, however. it is more an issue of processing the film unless they do it themselves. So the real question is whether you want to put money into film or digital, arguments can be made either way, so it becomes a personal choice. Personally I continue to split my shooting, but increasingly do more digital than film, although I still own a number of film cameras and have lots of film in the freezer. The digital Leicas are still too expensive for me at this juncture, although I would love to own one.
  7. If you want an M7 as a lifestyle prop, why not, but it's not an investment. Just too much used Leica film gear washing around. Forget the online blather about the pent-up steam behind a nascent film revival. Too much evidence to the contrary for anyone who has actually watched the collapse to beleive it. Hope you're fond of b&w and willing to get into survivalist/hybrid workflow as labs continue to falter and C-41 film choices narrow. As Stephen noted above, the thinning of processing options and the attendant cost increases and simple inconvenience aren't strengthening the case for film.
    If you can afford a new M7, you should look seriously at the Fuji product line.
  8. If you shoot B&W, I wouldn't will probably be around forever. Color is another matter. If you research the film
    forum, you will find various opinions. Some believe that once Hollywood finishes it's move to digital, kodak will stop
    making c41 color film. But interestingly, there are some smaller players that don't have the benefit of large-scale
    Hollywood but they still survive. So perhaps that analysis is flawed. It is interesting that at one time, Ilford made color film.
    Perhaps they would again if kodak stopped? I suppose Fuji still makes transparency film and hopefully intends to do so,
    but who knows. The worst that can happen is that you lose much of your $5000. There are worse things in life.
  9. As other have written, I suspect (and hope) that black and white film, chemicals, and paper will be available for a very long time. I do expect the price to increase over time. Color is a different matter. When the movie studios drop film, Kodak will stop producing color film leaving only Fuji. How long they will continue is an opened question.
    However, you may find that commercial processing may either disappear or become prohibitively expensive. You should learn how to process and print your own film. Good film scanners for 35mm film are scarce or very expensive. The "big three" of home scanning - Nikon, Canon, and Minolta - no longer make or, more important, service their scanners. If you intend to stay with film, a home darkroom will become a necessity.
    Me, I still shoot mostly film. I use a Nikon F100. I do not think I would get any better photos with a Leica. In other words the limiting factor is me, not the equipment. I suspect that is the case with most people. If you want to shoot film, I would recommend you purchase a late model film body that matches the lenses you have - a Nikon F100 or F5 if you shoot with Nikon bodies, a EOS3 or EOS1V if you shoot with Canon lenses - in EX+ condition from a reputable dealer like KEH and enjoy shooting. The lenses would be interchangeable with your digital camera. If film disappears, (or more likely you decide it is no longer worth the trouble) you are out only the joy of shooting film and the cost of the body and processing equipment.
  10. Film of some sort and at some price will be available for a long time.
    If you buy a Leica to use, it will interfere with its value as an "investment" (see Stephen's note above). Pristine, unused, in original box might be an investment, in the strict sense.
    I'd recommend getting a "user", they'll be a little cheaper than pristine ones. Of course, at $5000 for camera and lens, you're probably talking a good "user", anyhow.
    Actually, older generations of digital cameras hold their value rather better than do ordinary film cameras, always excepting collector specials like Leicas and real rarities. I don't know why; collectors trying to get in on the ground floor, maybe?
    Kodak DCS cameras, for example, commonly go much higher than the mantra of "old digital is worthless" would want you to think. I've been pushing the worthless idea quietly, but the prices keep going up anyhow.
    I amassed a mess of early AF SLR film cameras and rarely paid more than the cost of a pizza for any single one.
  11. Film still has quite a lot of users, and seems to attract new users too still; a niche market, but still there and I see no reason why it would go - Ilford seems to be OK, also Fuji seems to have found a right balance for their production of film. Development labs are trickier, but that's something that can be learnt, at least. Things probably won't go cheaper, but as long as the interest remains, somebody will find a way to supply the required products.
    As the lure of owning and using a Leica kept itching me, some time ago I finally gave in. But since I wasn't (and am not) too convinced a rangefinder is the right thing for me, and to save a lot of money, I went the R-route. Found a pristine looking (and well working) R6 on the auction site, and I'm enjoying it a lot. Maybe it doesn't have that same thing as the M series, but it is a well-constructed body (though I think my F3 feels sturdier), and the lens I have with it (60mm macro) looks to be exceptionally good, plus it's a joy to use. All together costed less than a used Summicron-M 50mm.
    The "immediate outdated"-ness of digital is a bit over the top, though. My DSLR is a model introduced in 2008, and in my view, there is little outdated about it. Yes, there are cameras that do quite some things better - but mine works, I've got it and delivers stuff I can work with. One should not act like a camera becomes dysfunctional when a newer model appears. Manufacterers love you to believe it, but it's rubbish of course. I'd happily get $5000 worth of digital with a lens or two if it does what I need it to do, and if it is of good quality. In the end, as much as I like to shoot film, the ISO800-3200 performance of my digital camera do make it a more useful tool more often for me.
  12. My dresser is coated with a couple dozen classic film cameras, several of which can take pictures better than a Leica (Mamiya 7ii, Rolleiflex), or nearly as good (Nikon with primes.) I've never spent $5,000 on my entire film hobby, everything included, over the last decade. So, blast away with film for the love of it, and don't worry! It's cheaper. ;-)
  13. Another vote against a brand new film Leica. - It might be tempting to own one. - OTOH I doubt it to take better pictures than my user-beater M4-P. - Leica digital: What shoud be wrong about it? - Here I failed to earn a M8 in its days. - It might not be the best camera for its current used price, but feels worth every cent. - The megapixels rats race? - Who cares? - I never sold more than an 8x10" and 10MP and a 4K monitor are a fairly good match. I doubt I'd be able to scan more from fast 35mm film. Of course the M8 isn't my wildest dream of a digital Leica, but I want to find out if the entire thing feels right to me and if those who blame pre-M240's flaws and faults are right, before I buy a Monochrom.
    Side note: I am absolutely not sure if it really takes only one Leica to enable you to shoot Leica happily.
    Upon film in general: I am not really worried. I see some hope to remain able to mail order it from artist supply stores for a while. Ilford is all I need and tiny East European brands should cut my cake too somehow. (Even if I'll end mothballing the film Leicas and shooting bigger cameras instead - TMax & Delta seemed a must have grain wise).
    Upon the film Leica investment: - Lets be honest: Prices for film bodies dropped. Old farts like us die and kids want nothing that doesn't ring and access the internet on its own. - That means the used market will get continously flooded with more and more Leica gear while potential customers die out. Bad base to consider buying a new Leica an investment. - Considering the fact that Leica own Minox and Minox film is continously on short supply if available at all I wouldn't put any hope into Leica themselves as a film supplier in the long run.
  14. Frozen film should last for quite a few years. If you want color, buy a few 100 foot rolls of your favorite. Making chemicals is a lot easier than making film, and so there is hope that they will be around for a while.
    I have used 50 year old black and white film, not even refrigerated, and it was just fine. Black and white developers are even easier to make, so that shouldn't be a problem at all, even out to 50 years.

    I hope that at least one E6 and one C41 film continues to be made for some years, and that there will be at least one place to develop it, though 50 years might be too much to expect.
  15. The logic totally escapes me. You invest in something that's likely to appreciate, at least I do. This is likely to become an obsolete antique sooner rather than later. Leica is an overpriced, under-featured trophy camera for photographers more concerned with their image than the image. Yes the image quality is superb (for 35mm) but so is a used Contax G1 or G2 system for 1/10 the cost.
  16. When thinking about the availability of film, I think the availability of thermionic valves (tubes to Americans) is a useful analogy.
    Valves became obsolete sometime in the early 1960s for most purposes. In 2014 I have five pieces of valve equipment that I use regularly, four of which are commercial products, of which three started production within the last ten years (and one within the last two). Yes, I am a guitarist, and four of the five pieces of equipment are guitar-related.
    Availability of replacement valves for these bits of equipment (including the old amp) is unproblematic: there are several manufacturers producing compatible valves. In about 2000 the valve-manufacturing industry was growing at 10% a year (I presume it no longer is, though it is probably still growing). There are probably thousands of products being currently manufactured – mostly guitar and hifi amps – which use valves.
    What has happened is that a lot of very specialised kinds of valves, such as the sets of valves used for portable radios and for other special applications, have gone away: if you have an old valve radio where the valve heaters are run in series across the mains you probably are out of luck when it dies. But even then, some oddities have survived: you can still get valve rectifiers, because some guitar amps use them.
    I see no reason why the same will not happen for film
  17. I would buy a second hand M6. The market for collectors' Leicas after film is out of fashion might not be good, but since if you want to use it, a second hand one is going to be just as good and far less than less than half the price. They last for ages. As said above, the lenses are one of the two reasons to have a M series Leica.
  18. All the film cameras the world will ever need had been made by about the year 2000. Definitely buy second-hand. Use the money you save for film, alcohol, and travel to where the pictures are.
  19. I agree with all the others. Buy a nice condition s/h Leica (M5, M6, M6TTL, M7, MP if you want a meter) and save yourself lots of cash. Leicas will work pretty well forever so you are losing nothing. As to film - I don't see how anyone one knows for certain. I personally think color film will die but black and white will remain, but it all depends whether film is suddenly seen to have advantages over digital at some time in the future (longevity, look, process, craft, Art etc).
  20. Film will be available much longer than the lifecycle of the newest digital cameras.
  21. Valves became obsolete sometime in the early 1960s for most purposes. In 2014 I have five pieces of valve equipment that I use regularly, four of which are commercial products, of which three started production within the last ten years (and one within the last two). Yes, I am a guitarist, and four of the five pieces of equipment are guitar-related.​
    I build audio recording equipment with valves. As you say, there is no problem sourcing them. In fact, it is probably less of a hit and miss affair than it was years ago as companies such as Groove Tubes now measure and grade them and sell them as matched sets.
    As for film, ten years ago, people were giving film five years before it was gone.
  22. Well, K14 is already gone, and some others may be gone soon.
    The movie industry is keeping C41 going, but E6 might not stay much longer.
    But prices will rise as the economy of scale is reduced, and when they get too high, people will stop buying them.
  23. Looking down the road, I think ultimately the problem will be the availability of film cameras. In the 35mm size, AFAIK there are 2 Leica models available new, one high-end Nikon (F6) and one low-end Nikon (FM-10), plus Lomo oddballs etc. This does not of course matter right now because there is so much good quality second-hand gear available, but it will matter in the future as this gear ceases to work (problem #1 in my view - lens fungus - costly to fix, impossible to fix if left too long). For example, many newbies trying out film want to have the classic Leica experience, a camera body is no problem, but getting hold of a classic 50s or 60s lens in a clean condition is far from easy. At present film photography is a cheap option with regard to hardware - but this will gradually change.
  24. I came into Photographic social media 5 years ago. Gloom, and Doom for film was in full regalia then, yet today, film forums thrive, and film? Film is just niche, that's all. Also, Photographic social media is far from the reality of issues pertaining to Photography.
  25. I just can't imagine why one would take 2 to 3 years to decide whether to get a film camera.
  26. Bjarni, I agree with those who suggest a cheaper option. For example, a second-hand M6.
    Film will be around for a long time, IMHO. What is interesting is that I prefer digital for b&w and film for colour. Digital colour is clean and sharp but not as nice as film colour. However, I think film still trumps digital even for b&w, as I would never buy a b&w print unless it was optical - not that I have yet purchased prints from anyone, although I've had my eyes on a few for a while.
    I just can't imagine why one would take 2 to 3 years to decide whether to get a film camera.​
    Some people have that kind of luxury. It's of no concern to me how long you take to make a choice. If you ask my advice, I'll then give it. You may have heard the latest findings that planning a holiday makes you just as happy as actually travelling?
  27. Old cameras, even close to 100 years, are very cheap. Many old items, such as toys, are thrown out, and so are now rare, but people don't tend to throw out old cameras.

    Are there now enough high quality cameras, top end prosumer 35mm SLRs, to last for many years? I would guess that there are, even without CLA. New full-frame lenses will still work with older cameras.
    As far as I know, medium and large format high end cameras are not yet getting so cheap.
  28. Lenses for the Leica will work on various digital cameras with adapters. Even if film goes away, the lenses will remain usable.
  29. What Allen Friday says is something to think about. Instead of spending that sort of money on the box that holds the film, buy a used Leica body (they are easily serviceable even if the one you buy isn't perfect), and spend your money on the lenses (and film and processing costs.) The lenses will always be valuable and useable.
    On the other hand, if you have the money to spend and want to buy yourself a treat, there's no real reason why you shouldn't buy a new Leica film camera. People spend money on all sorts of things that make them happy; expensive food, fast cars, big screen TVs, etc.. None of them are "investments" but they do have a certain amount of use value (including the emotional 'feel good' sort of thing.) There's nothing wrong with that provided you're not being reckless about it and find yourself not able to feed your dog anymore.
    Film in some flavor will always be around. People are still doing processes such as cyanotypes, gum bichromate, tintypes (, glass plate collodion (e.g., Sally Mann, etc..) Bostick and Sullivan, Photographers Formulary are still alive and kicking and will be for a long time to come. Ilford is strong, FILM Ferrania should eventually be on line. Kodak is still producing as is Fuji (Fuji may even increase production if Kodak does eventually have to stop.) fwiw, Wiki lists 12 companies still making film today. I personally wouldn't let the fact that film is no longer the primary commercial medium have much affect on your own decisions to use film today and tomorrow.
  30. If you really want to shoot film then I would recommend buy a good used film camera and it doesn't have to be a Leica (unless you have some good Leica lenses but even then there are some alternatives when it comes to camera bodies). But if it's Leica mystique that's triggered your questions... that... well, that's a completely different matter :)
  31. Get an EX+ or LN- condition Leica from KEH or equivalent source if there is one. You'll save a lot of
    money and hardly notice it's not brand new.
  32. Film is going to outlive digital as we know it and anyone who has posted on this thread. Of course I am talking about
    black and white, unless Ferrania really takes off with what they are trying to do, color will eventually go away. I would
    never buy a new Leica when there are so many nice used ones for thousands less. In fact, a friend of mine has put me in
    charge of selling a set his father gave him years ago. It's an absolutely mint M6TTL with a 35mm Summicron Asph and
    modern 50mm Summicron. PM me and I will get you a good price on it, a great camera by the way.

    I ran into a guy shooting a medium format Contax the other day, after a good ten minutes of conversation he told me that
    almost every wedding photographer he knows in LA now shoots at least part of the wedding using medium format color
    film, some shoot all film. So there is definitely a noticeable film revival going on, especially with the younger set who just
    love the whole process.

    And if you are unconvinced by these replies for some odd reason, then join APUG and talk directly to Ilford via the very
    approachable Simon Galley, he will put your mind at ease.
  33. As long as there are enough people who want to buy.
    Color film prices have been steadily creeping up. Perhaps an indication that there are not enough people to cover the cost of production.
    However, I believe film WILL continue to be available indefinitely.
  34. Great post as always Daniel. And yes...a lot of people have been going back to using some film for wedding and
    portraiture work.
  35. Leicas aren't cheap, but they're not necessarily an investment either. A few rare models appreciate rapidly, but mostly you won't lose money if you buy used and change your mind later.
    Film is available, probably for the long term like vacuum tubes (made in China) and vinyl records. However it's getting expensive and processing is hard to find too. Budget for about $20 with processing, prints are extra. Scanning is $2 to $15 a frame, depending on quality. I couldn't meet deadlines with film because it took every evening for a week to scan and edit 10 rolls of film. The last time I tried was 2003, the year I bought a Nikon D1x and retired from full time work. I continued with medium format film for another four years, then bought a digital back for my Hasselblad.
    You can buy an used M9 FF digital body for under $4K, or an M8 1.3x cropping body for under $2K. They will accept any Leica lens except for an enumerated handful. Unfortunately the DR Summicron 50MM is one of those proscribed. You can pay for that body in lieu of 200 rolls of film (1 to 2 years of reasonably active photography).
    Lenses! Now that's the challenge. New lenses are expensive beyond comprehension. However there are a lot of perfectly serviceable lenses from the 60's and 70's for under $1200. If that's too expensive, and you're set on "rangefinders", get a Fuji X-Pro or Sony Nex or A7R. You don't need a bag full of lenses. You are well equipped if you have a 35, 50 and 90. It's a different kind of photography and a different mindset.
  36. Thanks a lot for all your thoughts.

    I'm doing as somebody in this thread suggests: I've bought a second hand M6 in very, very good condition from 1998 for 1100 USD from a guy, who was short on money.

    Instead i will spend the larger part of the money on a brand new Summicron 35 mm, which is my preferred focal length.

    @Edward: I already have a Fujifilm, so it's not just that i want a rangefinder regardless of the brand and model. I want a Leica for film, since i did use film for several years (and was very pleased with the output) and have been in love with Leica for some years now.
  37. As a committed E6 film user ( I also use Nikon & Canon digital plus B&W film) all I can say is that it is getting more expensive to use film. In the early 2000's I was able to get developed and mounted E6 for as little £4 per roll. Now I have to shop around to get it at £10.00 for one roll. I have not used colour print film since 2000. Print film costs are also up - but less worthy of it IMHO.
    E6 Film is also going up in price too and I try to buy for as little as £10 per roll. Above that, it seems a bit difficult to for me so I shop around as often as I can and get short-dated film stock that I then freeze. I am not a commercial photographer but I can understand why digital makes sense for those who need to make a living. But for someone like me (a hobbyist) who likes E6 film for the experience and the look, it makes sense to keep going for as long as I can because it gives me pleasure. I don't smoke, do hard drugs or go to the pub, or frequent lap dancing establishments so I need at least one vice in my life!!
    As a hobbyist therefore, I have cut down to using one roll per month - even 2 months - to keep the cost reasonable (especially when one considers the wage stagnation currently taking place). If the likes of Fuji can amend their production of E6 for a slower market, then I don't see why film (E6 film) should go. They could still make enough to meet slower demand. However, in a business world dominated by shareholder returns, even this may be unattractive and unrealistic.
    It will be a sad day when/if E6 disappears. I will then set out to become a B&W photographer with a vengence - the success of which has eluded for some time! But a challenge keeps us going eh? And I will not be using colour print film - period.
    I recently changed labs to save me £4.50 per roll and it has worked out OK except that the turnaround times are longer. I contacted this lab because I was concerned that a film had been lost. Well, it turns out that they've had it for a week but they are holding back until they have enough on order to do a development run on E6. The turnaround time will be a week or just over rather than a day at my old lab. Obviously, this is to do with business economics - why initiate a process for just one film? If this means that E6 survives, then that is not too high a price to pay for a hobbyist photographer to keep doing what he or she loves. Again though, it might not do for a commercial photographer. I'm willing to wait longer to have what I want.
    So maybe that is the key - that the film makers and developers can adjust to a lower and slower market for their wares and that is where the sustainability will be? Producing too much of something is where the problem is - that is where waste occurs. The savvy companies will adjust and also make the most of a much reduced market.
    Who knows!!? Anyhow - I 've just got some fantastic light come through a storm here in Derbyshire, England which would be a fitting end for my last roll of Fuji Velvia 100F in my Nikon FM3a. See you later!
  38. Buy film for that 5000 and use the gear you already own. Or if you want a Leica, get an used one for a litttle fraction of that money and invest what remains from the 5000 in film.

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