Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.

— George Eastman.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Is Film Dead or Just Dying?

Some one asked recently, "How much longer can film manufacturers continue producing films?" Here is my take on it. In the future, if any of us are going to be able to get film, paper and chemicals, it will be from "craft" manufacturers.

I say this because the consumer market has largely abandoned film. 71% of US 25-34 year olds owns a smartphone and with it a camera. A good camera. According to National Geographic 37% of all images taken in the US were captured with camera phones and they predict that to grow to 50% by 2015. As of January 2012, there were more than 100 million of these "cameras" in the US and more than 1 billion worldwide. Face it: the 200 million photos uploaded to Facebook daily are not taken with film. They are most likely taken with a smartphone and not even a humble digital point-and-shoot, sales of which were off by 30% last year.

It has been 36 years since Kodak had 90% of US film sales. Now, trying to emerge from bankruptcy, the only part of their film business they are going to retain is motion picture films. Sadder still, having invented digital photography 37 years ago, and having brought us the first "professional" digital camera 21 years ago, Kodak has stopped manufacturing digital cameras themselves.

For all of that, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", and he will still make film and paper and chemicals in the future. The Nikon F6 was rumored to have been out of production in 2008, but it is still in stock at both Amazon and B&H Photo. Kodak will no longer be making consumer and professional films, having put those assests up for sale in August, but somebody will buy that part of their business. Agfa-Gevaert sold its "Consumer Imaging" business in 2004 to AgfaPhoto. Ilford B&W film is made by Harman Technology which bought that part of Ilford's business in 2005, the color part of the business being owned by the Oji Paper Co. of Japan. Fujifilm established Fujifilm Holdings in 2006 and Fujifilm became a subsidiary. Although Fujifilm has reconfirmed its commitment to film, it only accounts for 3% of sales. Yes, there will still be "wet" photography, film and paper and chemicals. They will just be harder to find and more expensive to make in limited quantities.

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