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Again, the death of film… pt.94

  |   Article, Personal views, Photography Business, Photography news   |   5 Comments

Once more the death of film is announced

Will it actually cause many problems

Despite, regular ‘film is making a comeback’ news, the industry continues to shrink.

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Kodak to sell its film business

Kodak Ektar film

How much longer?

In an announcement, they say they have “initiated sale processes for its market-leading Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses.”

Now that includes a lot more than just films, but the film business is the one that will have some photographers worried (I note that the cine film business is not included).

The reason for all this is Kodak’s dire financial situation, where they need money fast, and if that involves selling off the silver, then so be it. It’s already looking as if they will fall far short of the $2.5 billion they’d hoped to get from the sale of patents, so more is needed.

In the last week or so I’ve been making major changes to the layout of the Northlight site, and been updating quite a few old articles (checking links are still alive etc.) – it’s interesting that in 2004, when I moved to digital in a big way, that I thought film had at least 10-15 years of demand, even if it was in more specialised areas. The recent drop off has been sharper than I thought – I’d forgotten the way old technologies can crumble away quite rapidly as a critical level of interest and support is reached.

Of course any death of film story (as I  saw it on BBC news) wouldn’t be complete without wheeling out someone from the photography establishment to suggest that film is alive and well… (I didn’t see the ‘undergoing a resurgence of interest’ line this time).

In this instance we have that venerable organ, the BJP. This from the BBC

The British Journal of Photography said the news would concern the industry.

“A lot of professionals still shoot with film and like the quality it gives them,” Olivier Laurent, news editor at the journal, told the BBC.

“The resolution is still a thousand times higher than most digital cameras can offer so long as a good scanner is used.

“A film photograph has a different mood thanks to its grain – it’s about the love of the image and digital still has a hard time trying to reproduce that feeling.”

Oh really?  (Utter tosh IMHO)

What proportion of working photographers still use film? Actual working photographers that is, not just BJP readers?

A thousand times higher? I’m presuming this would be all those pro photographers who shoot 10×8 large format – did you see their massed ranks at the recent Olympics?

As to the grain… well, I’m happy to add it afterwards ;-) [DxO FilmPack review] if it makes a shot look better (and it can in some instances).

Nothing wrong in saying that any loss of film is a loss to photography, since photography benefits from a variety of means of expression. What I don’t like is that contrived story about just how serious it is, and that from a work point of view, many professional photographers are really that bothered – much as I thought at the ‘Death of Kodachrome‘.

I’m optimistic, and believe that some of the products will live on, when the business is sold. However, my business brain says, why should someone else be able to make a profit from the current (film) business, when Kodak themselves haven’t got close for several years.

This is what’s currently in the range – come back in a few years and see what’s left? (not to mention what it costs and where you can get it processed).

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  • Paul 'Spike' Reddington | Oct 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I started shooting digital commercially in 2001 with my Canon EOS D30 that cost a couple of grand with its 3 Megapixel sensor! At the time my film, processing and printing bill was £15,000 a year, so it made financial sense.

    Over the next few years I moved slowly more digital, and I think my last film image was a large group of 200 people on a Mamiya RZ67 around 2007.

    Apart from a bad incident of moire on a grey suit which came out with red green and blue stripes on the D30, a shutter blade breaking on my 1D Mk2, a Lexar card failing on me and losing all the images so I had to reshoot and a Sandisk card failing and losing some of the images, I have been pretty pleased with digital.

    I don’t know any professional photographers that have used film in the last few years. The irony is that the first commercially available digital slrs were made by Kodak – adapted Nikon and Canon bodies costing £20,000 with a 1Megapixel chip!

  • Keith Cooper | Aug 27, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Thanks Tim, the luxury of choice and working at ‘the high end’ is fine, but for some to suggest that film is of much relevance to the mass of working photographers is stretching things a bit ;-)

    I’ve met far more working pro’s likely to say ‘good riddance’ :-)

    One reason for film sales increasing is perhaps that there are less and less places you can buy the good stuff.

    My own last big print commission used a gigapan to create a 2GB image file of a shot I could have got with a single shot, but not a 40″x 66″ print. Of course this only works with relatively static subjects. Where it does work, it’s capable of passing 10×8 with a lot less work.

    I’m actively trying to market this against [some] of the film market – I need a few more big ones to show just how high res you can get from a 6-8 gigabyte image.

  • Tim Parkin | Aug 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Oh, and another thing, Kodak reported that their film division was one of the ones that was making money in their post bankruptcy financial reporting. I’m gone now – really!!

  • Tim Parkin | Aug 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    p.s. I should have added I shoot commercial large groups on 5×4 and 10×8 portra and shot my last landscape commission on film only – good job I did as they wanted a 100″ x 120″ enlargement!!

  • Tim Parkin | Aug 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Perhaps it would make sense to look at high end fine art photographers where the volume of work is low and the photographers can choose any capture medium they like. From my ad-hoc survey’s of such photographers (i.e. ones actually making sales) it does seem like a large proportion (between 10% and 30% depending on how they’re calculated – I was looking at mostly still lifes, landscapes, abstracts, portraits).

    However, I did see one 5×4 at the Olympics and one photographer doing promo’s on wet plate – probably a few medium format film cameras too..

    Obviously digital is taking over in a *lot* of territories, but when people don’t have restrictions or where people are trying to differentiate themselves they seem to be trying film. Whether this will continue I don’t know. I have chatted with various retailers who have all said film sales are going up rather than down at the moment though..

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