What now?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by joemoree, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. I picked up a copy of Popular Photography today.I am not a regular
    reader and browsing through found 80% about digital.I am not
    starting this forum to bash digital,I think it has its place just
    like any "tool" but I feel a deep remorse on the fate of film.I love
    film,the gratification you receive when you get your prints,and your
    meter exposure was just right.I know digital is the "thing"and the
    future.But does that mean that all production and R&R will cease on
    film products?I dont really understand this?If I took a flash card
    up to my printer instead of a 35mm roll of film it would save me
    3.50 processing and the cost of film.Surely this cant be the end?
  2. I dont want this to get to a digi vs film fight,it will get deleted.I just want to know what you think on the future of film.
  3. I think the big reason film is dying is the moms, dads, and snapshooters have gone to digital and IMO that used to drive a huge part of the film side of photography. With that massive amount of business gone its no wonder film sales is diving.

    On the flip side, Midwest mentioned there LF business had never been better. Huh, I said. I figured it had picked up a little, but the comment was their best year for LF to date.

    Interesting. The digital market place has a lot of people looking for more quality via film, me included.

    As far as actual film, I expect it will wain for a while and other countries will pick up certain film types and make their version. J+C is already selling a lot of european films like efke 25, and microfilm. They even have microfilm that is 4x5. I think the top fuji and kodak films will continue for quite a while.

    I am still waiting on someone to come up with a super duper color film for scanning with a similar grain structure to microfilm.
  4. Like Troy says: (a) the casual snapshooters are using their cellphones instead of Brownies, (b) the gear-oriented Pop Photo consumer crowd has largely gone to digital, and (c) the high-volume pro users have all dumped their Hassies and gone digital.
    That leaves a shrinking market of nonprofessional creative photographers, which is how most of us would like to see ourselves, supplemented by some commercial use. Film will be around for a long while, but film and materials may get expensive.
    "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
    W. Churchill, 1942
  5. PopPhoto caters primarily to the mainstream crowd. Which is overwhelmingly digital today. It's not the end of film, but film no longer rules the market. Film is to digital today as B&W was to colour 10 years ago. A solid market and not going away, but not a dominant market. Note that film P&S's are essentially dead.
  6. Digital is doing to film what film did to deguerrotypes. It is faster, easier, and more reliable. I like film, and I like my Rolleiflex a lot, but digital is getting better every year. The 1Ds Mk II is as powerful as medium format, and in a few years the Nikon D5X (or whatever) will be better than 4x5 film.

    I use a 20D and a Rolleiflex. In five years the R'Flex will be a collectors item more than a useful tool.
  7. There are still people making daguerreotypes.


    Silver will be around for a while, eventually it will be mostly an artist's medium and maybe the quality will improve.

    It'll be pretty expensive though
  8. In 1851 the painter, Paul Delaroche, upon his first seeing a photograph, said, "From today, painting is dead". Well, it didn't die and there are more painters today than in his day. People will continue to use film, particularly black-and-white, purely for the joy of the medium. I teach photography and there is a steady stream of students wanting to learn about silver-based 'wet' photography. And many of these are the generation who grew up with digitial technology but are intrigued by the 'arcane' practices of 'real' photography.
  9. Chris,

    Your observations about painting are undoubtedly true. But your analogy isn't a perfect one because the capitalization required by an outfit to produce painting supplies is considerably lower than what is required to produce silver-based film and paper.

    Silver-based photography can exist as a niche market only if the financiers permit it to do so.
  10. No one knows how this will play out in the next few years. We're starting to see the squeeze -- Agfa folding, Ilford almost folding, Kodak with massive layoffs. Film sales have plummeted. As the market for film shrinks, there may only be enough film users left to support a single large manufacturer (and perhaps a few small manufacturers). Ilford seems the most dedicated so I'm considering switching to Ilford films for most of my B&W shooting.
  11. While I sort of understand the inclination to throw your support behind a single manufacturer - I don't see the logic.

    Is Ilford really the most dedicated or do they merely seem that way because they have no obligation to report discontinuations of products or statements concerning their finanical health (they are privately held) and at the same time produce a lot of statements that are easily understood (they are British, so there press releases are in English, after all)?

    Who really knows.

    And even if they are the most dedicated - well, even if they were to assume 100% of the B&W paper market overnight they'd still likely be producing less than their present level of paper in less than three or four years if current trends were to continue.

    IMO, the best practice is simply to use whatever materials appeal to you regardless of manufacturer. It's too easy to outsmart yourself otherwise.
  12. This is to all film-shooters who have been finding it difficult to get the film they want these days.

    I feel its the suppliers (middlemen) not the manufacturers that are causing the problem.

    I work in Singapore and get all my gear and film from a store called Cathay Photo (one of the biggest in S'pore). Recently I went over there to get Fuji Astia (135) for my portrait work. There wasn't any stock available.

    This is what my mates at Cathay Photo said, " The suppliers are squeezing us out when it comes to film. They know that there's still a market for film here, but they seem to be promoting digital exclusively. Everytime we order 5000 rolls each of Provia and Velvia, they send just 1500 rolls each, and the prices they quote seem to get higher by the month. We spoke to a rep from Fujifilm last week and he said that although their production of slide film has remained pretty constant for the past year and a half, suppliers don't pick up as much as they used to. The suppliers make a bigger profit from digital with the sale of P&S cameras, memory cards and all other types of digital accesories, and so they dedicate most of their monthly budget to these items."

    Note: These are their words, not mine.

    It kind of makes sense coz the profit margin dealers make from a roll of 35mm film is less than a dollar, and I'm guessing suppliers make even less per roll.

    They also told me that Fuji Japan has recently started selling directly to dealers, but only if they take large orders. How large? I

    With regards to other brands, no news from Kodak, but Ilford films are now readily available at speciality dealers at moderate prices. It seems Ilford is back on track after their recent problems.

    There's still hope.
  13. I understand your dilemma.My local supplier has been cutting back on his film stock.My fav b&w film is Illford 125 and they have been out for weeks.I keep asking when he will reorder and he keeps telling me soon.Same for IR film.He also stated that they will soon stop slide process.
  14. Joe,

    I think your refering to dealer, not supplier. I'm guessing your dealer is probably a lab.

    Suppliers are those that sell to dealers. The middlemen between the factory and the dealer.

  15. Really, where there is a demand, even a small one dwindling as of today, there will be someone who will meet that demand as long as there is a nickle to be had. Film will cost more in the future even without the cost of living increases and of course we film shooters will have to pay. If worse comes to worse we can always make our own B%W. 4x5 glass negatives, just as long as there is gelatin to be had, or even denture super hold powders. Don't look so glum, the future can be bright! Places las J&C will help to meet our demands.
  16. In 1851 the painter, Paul Delaroche, upon his first seeing a photograph, said, From today, painting is dead. Well, it didn't die and there are more painters today than in his day

    True but art took a giant leap from representative art, through impressionism surreal expressionism pop primitive and everything else between. What is really interesting to me is that happened, and then here we are again since hyperrealism has come back into focus. For some artist it was never lost like the wyeths. In some cases it has come full circle though.

    Interesting too is photography is going through changes related to digital image manipulation, which just was not possible with wet processing. Now photography has gotten more abstract and more surreal such as Natalie Shau's work and a lot of others and quite frankly I like a lot of the new styles. It kindof turned into a combination of grapic arts and photogrphy in some cases.

    What is wonder is if Photography will come full circle somewhat. Dont get me wrong, as i hate running to have film developed for snapshots, but for Art I think it might eventually.

    Time to go buy a wet plate camera !
  17. Just took a weekend photoshop course at the local CC, real beginner stuff.
    The instructor was a graphics designer by trade, and she was sorry to inform
    us that she did not have a syllabus for the course because the day before she
    dropped her laptop and the harddrive no longer operates. She lost most of
    her professional and personal work from the last four months. And this lady is
    a pro.

    The P&S crowd doesn't stand a chance, IMHO.
  18. Funny story, I've got a good one too. Two LA Times photographers came to my town in the Eastern Sierra to shoot a local rock climber. Neither of their pro digital cameras would work, so they ended up shooting with their back-up film camera. I think digital cameras have allowed many consumers to be more interactive with their pictures than they would have been before, which is great. But I sure have seen some bad prints made from digital camera.
    On the whole film companies are shifting away from the 'dominant' roll that they have had. Once this all settles down, film users will still be able find most of what they want, for maybe a bit more money. I don't believe that digital cameras are going to save consumers money though. If an industry made a certain amount of money before, why would they settle for less. If one's thrifty, one can outfit a nice darkroom, a medium format camera and lenses and some basic studio equipment for the price of 'medium format' compatible digital camera, not including lenses, computer and software...oh yeah, and memory, memory, memory. For the fine art photographer, the economocal choice is still film.
  19. Film will be around for a few more years and b&w will probably outlast color film. But dont expect to be able to buy film in a camera store to way you use to.

    My guess is that, save for large metro cities, film will only be available over the internet. Which is a good thing, cause then everybody will have access to it.

    Distribution will the key to to film's continued use.
  20. PopPhoto is just a poorly camouflaged sprawled up ad. Probably 80-90% of it is ads. So there is not any surprize there. Just in case though, I maintain a small stash of film in the freezer :)
  21. Sure - it's going down, but why worry? You're in good company, and there's still time to do a bunch of shooting.

    With the loss of military, news media, printing shops and document recording accounts, who were possibly the main mass consumers of film, it's hard for Kodak, at least, to keep their most recent manufacturing mode in place.

    As others have said, look at all the profits in digital too - a new camera system every couple of years, coupled with all the money for extras that have short life spans ( hard disks, conversion software, etc. ) - how could we expect publicly held corporations to be satisfied with small consumables and durable goods once they sink their teeth into what amounts to subscription equipment, expensive inks and papers that don't last long, and technologies that give instant gratification in exchange for fast turning sales? The days of walking into the corner supermarket or drug store to purchase film may be numbered. For all the snapshot shooters, what could be better than sharing their memories instantly over the net?

    I think sometimes the big K company gets ahead of themselves. They were a little hasty to phase out the product they are known for, especially considering what digital products they offer. They invented terrabyte optical drives some years back, however since at the time, the average PC had a 40 megabyte hard disk, they scraped the whole process. Seems like a terrabyte optical disk would be pretty handy today. So, with film, they could have started a boutique business of sorts, trimmed things, and made their research public for a tax writeoff instead of destroying so much of it ( their archival B&W research ). Ah, but that would be taking a long term risk. I'm not holding my breath that they will open the Ektartist or Eastman Fine Arts lines any time soon.

    On the other hand, if you look at the prices some very worn out film equipment of good quality brings on the auction site, as well as the prices for decent film cameras in the larger sizes, it's clear that quite a few people are looking into the larger film sizes as an avenue for art as well as in some cases, better quality than they can get with almost any digital camera. Many people shoot film, then use a digital process for printing. I do it a lot, because a nice big piece of film, even scanned at a low resolution, makes an image over 12,000 pixels wide. There are not many digital cameras that I know of that will aquire such an image ( at shooting time ) in less than a 25th of a second, perhaps much less. Ever tried photographing moving cars or landscapes with blowing trees using a scanning back and a laptop?

    Many of the local labs around Los Angeles have cut their hours quite a bit, however when I pick up my film I see that there are still many baskets behind the counter, and many pro shooters dropping off large bundles of professional film to process. Sure, mom and pop are not into it, however not every pro out there has been able or willing to completely ditch film.

    A large photo store here in L.A. (starts with S ) says that they are selling a lot of film, even a ton of Polaroid Type 55, perhaps more than ever. It seems like 4x5 and 120/220 is very popular.

    Eventually, we may be left with a few fine art film makers. Who knows? If the fine art people look like they are making money, Kodak might take interest in a boutique sort of thing. Fuji has been very good about making great films. Perhaps Fuji may be the last to make color film.

    At the rate digital is improving, we've probably got at least five years of a nice film selection, both B&W and color. As the labs have adopted digital printing ( as in Lamda and Lightjet ), they should be able to pull through okay, and perhaps offer E6 for that long - it's anyone's guess. If we can have a 150 megapixel, 10 stop dynamic range, decent sized chip camera in a few years, the desire for film may go away even for most purists. At that point, the glass plate people might just rule the world!

    I think we've all got a few years to explore all we want with film, and then get some images that, conditions willing, people 100+ years from now may marvel at. If it the old process of film based photography looks arduous and barbaric to them, yet the images speak about our time, our feelings and our lives, that would be fantastic.

    The cool thing about it all is that one can enjoy the film part if one finds that the way to go, and then later, if "forced" into digital, at least it may be a lot cheaper for a better digital system.

    Prices at the pro labs haven't gone up very much. The hard part though, seems to be getting "analog" prints. Most minilabs and some pro labs offer "machine prints" that are actually low-res scans instead of the former minilab optical/analog prints. Sure, they still do optical prints, however they cost a lot more than the old minilab small optical prints.

    Many great photographers "collected negatives" for years before sitting down to their most serious printing. If film ever runs out, hand coating paper is still an option ( easier than a glass plate ).

    This is a great opportunity to use a medium that is in so many ways, at the top of its game, even if it may be the end. If they stoped R&D on film completely at this point, I could be very happy with the products available today. There are so many good choices.

    I shoot both film and digital, and both are great. Meanwhile, I'm headed out for the high country to enjoy some film based photography.

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