I have been thinking about film lately; if you look just a little into the future you can see a pattern emerging, a pattern where some of the larger corporations are either continuing to scale back their operations and discontinuing stock; (Agfa-Vista, Fuji Acros-100) for example, (although it is nice to see Kodak bucking the trend with the reintroduction of Ektachrome this year), or maybe just getting out of film production altogether.
This seems odd, because it is unquestionable that the film-arm of photography is the fastest growing sector of the industry right now; on the other end of the stick it is being left to the smaller companies/start-ups to bring new emulsions to the market to replace those that we are losing; Agfa-Vista hitting the dust is probably the hardest of the lot to except, for Vista was extremely popular amongst the enthusiast, lower end of the market, students especially. It doesn’t bode well for the other less expensive films on offer.
This brings me to another point… price
If the larger corporations pull out altogether from producing cheaper consumer emulsions, instead concentrating on their core-stock, Kodak Portra/Fuji Pro 400H for example, then at what price will the start-ups be able to produce their offerings at? Will there come a time where cheaper film simply won’t be an option any more, when photography will just become an expensive pass-time that few will dabble in? This recent resurgence that we are experiencing could all be a last bounce of a dead-cat, (as I heard it described in a recent photography-podcast), and soon there will be no film available, cheaper or otherwise, lets all hope not. Whatever the outcome I feel that the film-market will be a decidedly different one to the one we have today in ten years of so.
Will it still be here? fingers crossed. Better? who knows, we can only hope so.
P.S. Ending on a positive note, looking at a list of discontinued films on Wikipedia down the decades I can see that films going out of production is nothing new; even in the days when that’s all there was and digital didn’t exist, so maybe we shouldn’t panic just yet, the market may just be adjusting to current consumer tastes for particular emulsions; and as I refered to in a recent post…
it is new analogue cameras that we need right now, not necessarily film.