I try not to talk about camera-gear on this blog; and I still hold by that sentiment, but I thought I would let my guard down this once to talk about something on my mind, and that is…
There is much rumour in the photographic world at the present moment about new analogue cameras coming to the market, just that, a rumour. On the face of it, it seems odd that none of the big photo companies are getting back into making new analogue products to sell; the analogue scene is thriving, more and more people (interestingly mostly young people who didn’t grow up with film) are becoming interested in film photography, and yet the camera companies seem slow to take up the opportunities that are there, why?
Only the guys over at Lomography are embracing the analogue scene, and as great as that is when you look at the cameras on offer you will see that they tend to specialise in niche/retro styled products; of the FISHEYE/INSTANT/PINHOLE variety, and the Lomo-LCA as a token compact. But what about other true analogue traditional-type compact cameras, where are they? The people over at Canon, Nikon, Olympus etc seem very reluctant to jump on board and join the party. Maybe they see it as a risk not worth taking, they sell in volume, maybe the numbers just don’t add up; but there is a way I believe, a way to produce an analogue camera that would sell, and sell in large numbers, a theory I will get to in a moment.
When I think about this my mind wanders to what such a product, if it were to appear, would look like. One of the most popular film cameras at the present time is the Ricoh GR series of film compacts from the 1990’s; the GR1, GR1s, GR1v and the rarer GR21. The problem with these cameras is that as wonderful as they are they are prone to electronic issues, ie: with the passing of time the small motors inside these cameras that drive the film advance and lens mechanism, simply stop working, and what you are left with in such a situation is what amounts to a very expensive paper-weight. Oddly Ricoh, probably the only company to still be producing a version of its older film compact in a digital form, in the form of the Ricoh GR and GR2, and therefore in an ideal situation to revive its film-arm, isn’t doing so, which is even harder to understand when they must surely be aware of how popular the older GR’s are and the prices they are attaining today. They don’t need to stop making the digital GR, they could simply produce an analogue GR to sit alongside it…
…and how welcome would that be?
There are many other examples I could give, from the likes of Leica, Canon, Contax, Nikon, Konica etc, but they are all now knocking-on a bit and are prone to similar problems; a new range of film cameras is what is really needed. But if you are going to bring a new film compact to the market you will want it to be as attractive as possible to as many people as possible, and with most younger people having grown up being used to the extremely simplistic operation of a phone-camera maybe the manual controls (exposure dial, EV control, multiple flash modes, half-press auto focus, etc) of a new analogue GR might not be the ticket to get the tills/check-out ringing. Maybe something that would get the tills ringing is a new version of something like an Olympus XA2/3 film compact (full auto-exposure, simple 3-zone focusing), although with the added convenience of automated film advance load and rewind, a simple easy to pick up and shoot camera that everybody could take to.
Tho’ the one problem with the Olympus camera was the lack of internal flash (the flash was a separate unit that had to be screwed onto to the side of the camera when needed, not ideal). So my idea would be for a camera that combined the simplicity of the XA2/3 with the convenience of something like a Konica Big-Mini with its automatic film advance/rewind and built-in flash; a camera that you could whip out of your pocket and shoot as quickly and conveniently as a phone. That I believe is the key, if it is too complicated most younger people simply won’t bother, it has to be as simple to use as their phone.
Will any of the camera companies be willing to take the leap necessary to make it happen?
There is talk that JapanCameraHunter @japancamerahunter (instagram) is planning on bringing out a new premium/analogue compact camera, ready for testing late 2018; but seeing as Bellamy isn’t a large camera corporation it will be interesting to see if he can produce enough units to keep up with demand, for it will surely be high. I really hope he can do it, if he can and it sells in sufficient numbers then maybe the Canons, Nikons of this world will finally sit up and take notice. One side note of concern about Bellamy’s camera is that he has mentioned that it won’t be cheap, it will be a premium product, and knowing his love of premium cameras in general (Leica/Contax etc) this doesn’t surprise me; so it will hardly be a camera for the masses, me thinks.
So that was my two-pence worth take on things as they stand, hopefully this time next year I will be able to upload a post reviewing a new analogue compact-camera… actually no I won’t – that would be another post about gear and I don’t do gear posts remember!
Back to normally gear-less posting forthwith.