View Full Version : Film, Kodak, and the Future
I have a subscription to Popular Photo, given by well meaning friends. There is very little, however that I find relevant to my own pursuits though I do read it. The January 2004 issue arrived and I experienced a(to qoute Red Fox) "I'm a comin' Elizbeth!" kind of a siezure. After a year of being told and reinforced countless times that I am a sewer-dweller for not embracing digital, Pop Photo's editorial entitled "Film: It's Alive!!! 9 reasons film won't die" was a pleasant read that went nicely if strangely with a short in the "Snapshot" section by Herbert Keppler giving notice that Kodak Ektachrome production has left the USA for Guadalajara, Mexico and Xiamen, China, and asks the question how can Kodak warn about the dangers of "gray market" film when their film is, well, gray market to begin with? I happened to later venture into Mel Pierce's website where I found reference to a New York Times story announcing that Kodak has paid 250 million buck cash for Scitex Corp.'s digital printing unit----strange times, indeed!
film is dead, digital can do everything film can do, sell your camera and buy a computer (every two years) - I, of course am being sarcastic. I just thought I would bring some photo.net into the conversation. ; )
John, I do agree with you. Film which is sold to the USA market place and made in "other countries" by Kodak is gray market film. To paraphrase an old adage, "Truth is the first casualty of marketing" or something like that. I buy gray market film, film from other countries like Croatia (Efke is wonderful film) and film which is out of date but stored properly.
I still think Kodak has become an unweildy beast like the American car manufacturers of the 70's. They don't pay attention to the market place, but have become complacent due to years of too little competition. Fuji is giving then a good ass woopin' and they're still wondering what went wrong. Combine this with the new digital technology and you have a classic marketing dilemma. "Do we go digital or do we compete with Fuji, or both." I think the answer is that they have tried to push the market place, not listen to it. This is all very much like the old style communists, they decide what consumers need, what it costs and how much to make. Then "they pretend to pay and we pretend to work follows." The bottom line for us as consumers is simply to stock our freezers and wait things out. It is interesting to see that the "natural selection" of the market place is still at work and alive. Will Kodak go the way of the Dodo (or is that doo doo)? Only time will tell. Another vote for John at J&C and for his vision in the market place. The better mouse trap is still alive and well, at least in America.
I haven't read the article and don't know the reasons given. I'm sure film in one form or another will be around for quite a while, if for no other reason than the fact that there are still plenty of film cameras out there plus lots of people prefer disposable cameras. But clearly it's use is going down rapidly. The people at my local pro camera store (yes, we still have one, but only one) tell me their camera sales are now about 10-1 digital. And that's a pro store, I'd bet places like Ritz have a much greater ratio of digital to film camera sales. It seems like every time I turn on the TV I see an ad from Canon, Olympus, or Sony promoting their digital cameras. I don't recall seeing an ad for a film camera in quite a while though Fuji Film still sponsors some show the name of which I don't recall.
"John, I do agree with you. Film which is sold to the USA market place and made in "other countries" by Kodak is gray market film."
Well a lot of Kodak film has been made in Canada for quite some time now - and you have been buying it... (presuming you buy kodak film). - it's not grey market if it is imported and sold by Kodak USA
Also, what about Fuji film? Is Fuji film made elsewhere and imported into the US by Fuji USA a grey market product...? Don't think so.
Your definition of grey market (which is a technical term) is incorrect - it generally has nothing to do with the location of the manufacture of a product. Rather the channels of import into a particular market (you could have grey market and official market Kodak film in Japan - even if it was all made in the USA or China).
The issue of film versus digital is muddied by the fact that digital technology, as a young industry, offers far higher margins than film technology has for decades. Naturally all the money and hype is moving to digital - essentially we are in the midst of a producer-driven digital gold rush. This is totally separate from any quality issues of film vs digital, but simply reflects the industry's ability to stimulate sales. Not until digital becomes more commoditized (with commensurately reduced margins) will the marketplace more accurately reflect the long-term demand for either technology. Right now, most buyers of digital are buying it for the first time. We have no idea how many will stick with it in the long-term. The same goes for those who are abandoning or bypassing film altogether.
As long there is some demand for film, there will be an industry to supply it. This is essentially proven by the fact that there is a robust, albeit small-scale, industrial base serving small niche areas in photography. If firms can make money serving a market one ten-thousandth of the size of Kodak's color print film market, then I think we can be assured of film-based technology in the future.
What's the latest on Ilford?
Tim Curry said: "I still think Kodak has become an unweildy beast like the American car manufacturers of the 70's. They don't pay attention to the market place, but have become complacent due to years of too little competition. Fuji is giving then a good ass woopin' and they're still wondering what went wrong."
While my work in LF has remained predominantly B&W (so that I cannot accurately comment on the quality of LF color film), my experience in 35mm and MF has proven quite the opposite of Tim's suggestion. I regularly shoot Kodak's Portra line of color print film in both 35mm and 2&1/4, and I find it to be far superior than Fuji's comparable line.
Kodak has produced a line of color film that does what it claims-- offers virtually seamless transition from one speed to another, with little to no change in saturation or contrast. Their colors render pleasantly for portrait and wedding photography, and stand up well for landscape shooting, as well. What is more, they appear to be in constant development of this line, as it has evolved over the past few years with significant strides.
Fuji's color print film has never satisfied me (except Reala); it has always had a blueish-greenish cast to the color that has bothered me, and also tends to be a bit flat. This is especially the case with even the most modest underexposure-- to which you rightly reply, expose correctly and the problem is solved! However, as a wedding photographer, I sometimes find the lattitude afforded for occasional underexposure allows me to deliver prints which I otherwise would have to discard, and sometimes these are among the best shots. Color correction in the lab is never a satisfactory answer to this problem, so I'll stick with Kodak.
My sister-in-law recently asked me why her photos (shot with a fully automatic Canon SLR) did not come out right; I took one look through them and said, "did you shoot Fuji film?" The answer was yes. The characteristic blue cast gave it away. She should not have to face this problem, either; if exposure lattitude is going to be that tight, why not shoot chrome? (Which, by the way, is one of the MAJOR reasons why many wedding photographers go digital and then go back-- they can't afford the loss of exposure lattitude...)
I hear that Fuji's chrome films are among the best, but I don't shoot enough chrome to know... I'll stick with Kodak.
"My sister-in-law recently asked me why her photos (shot with a fully automatic Canon SLR) did not come out right; I took one look through them and said, "did you shoot Fuji film?" The answer was yes. The characteristic blue cast gave it away. She should not have to face this problem, either; if exposure lattitude is going to be that tight, why not shoot chrome? (Which, by the way, is one of the MAJOR reasons why many wedding photographers go digital and then go back-- they can't afford the loss of exposure lattitude...) "
Photoshop CS - 'Shadows and Highlights' adjustment - gives you DSLR pix that look like supra or portra - basically deals with the exposure lattitude problem very effectively (works well with good scans too - it's giving me a much more effective range to my transparency scans)
All I'll say on the whole 'film is dead'...
It had better be. I want to know that at the end of a printing session that it's sitting quietly in the negative sleeves where I left it, and hasn't gone and crawled off behind a cabinet or back into the negative carrier where it's warm.
More seriously; blue cast on Fuji? I've always had a problem with the prints having a yellow-green bias. I used to hear that was because Fuji was optimizing for healthy skin tones in their home market (as Kodak used to do with the reddish bias of Kodachrome); maybe they're pushing the other way for the export market?
Tim Atherton: To my understanding, the "gray market" Kodak has referred to in the past is film that is made for foriegn markets that is re-imported into the US and sold for less than film originally intended for the US market. The "danger" Kodak has been so concerned about was that film shipped halfway around the world is subjected to temperature & humidity fluctuations that would adversely effect the product(and I suppose, Kodak's domestic distribution system;-)) What I gathered from the Pop Photo article was a concern that shipping film in from Mexico or China could likely be subjected to the same fluctuations warned about regarding the dreaded "gray market" product.
What I found rather unsettleing in the editorial was that none of the reasons why film "Isn't Dead" touched on the Large Format market. Oh well........
"To my understanding, the "gray market" Kodak has referred to in the past is film that is made for foriegn markets that is re-imported into the US and sold for less than film originally intended for the US market. The "danger" Kodak has been so concerned about was that film shipped halfway around the world is subjected to temperature & humidity fluctuations that would adversely effect the product(and I suppose, Kodak's domestic distribution system;-))
John, that's really a (Kodak) red herring apart from the last part. The concern and issue to Kodak and the like is basically pricing and control of the market. The issue of quality control or such is just to scare consumers away from buying grey market products.
"What I gathered from the Pop Photo article was a concern that shipping film in from Mexico or China could likely be subjected to the same fluctuations warned about regarding the dreaded "gray market" product"
Well an awful lot of Fuji film comes here by ship (N America - all that nice new sheet astia and velvia etc) - Fuji (Agfa, Ilford at one tiem or another) all seem to be able to cope with shipping film around the globe.
No - it's really a trade, pricing, distribution etc issue - in this sort of realm - major brand cameras, film, electronics or whatever - not really a qaulity one
I don't know what Phil has been reading when he says that margins in digital are higher than film but that's exactly the opposite of everything I've read. Margins in digital are very low because the competition is intense right now, tooling and other capital costs are high as are R and D and promotion costs. Margins in film are high because there's virtually no R and D going on, the same things have been made the same way in the same places using the same machinery for years even decades in some instances (yes, I know Kodak recently built a new black and white facility but that's one company and a small segment of the overal film market), plus advertising and promotion is nil. The reason the stockholders of Kodak had a problem with its recent announcement about concentrating on digital is that film is a cash cow, digital isn't.
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