View Full Version : What if: Kodak and Fuji abandon film

Brian C. Miller
19-Sep-2005, 12:43
Let's say for a moment that Kodak and Fuji both drop all film sales, because film has finally become a truly niche market and neither can sustain "reasonable" profit.

What do we do for color sheet film?

Sure, we have Ilford and various European companies producing B&W film. But color film is a different matter. Without Kodak and Fuji, what company would produce color sheet film? I don't know what's up with Agfa, but somehow I don't think that they would step into a market small enough for Kodak and Fuji to dump. Konica is also a niche player. Does Konica produce its own film?

Shooting three sheets with different filters kind of doesn't cut it for me.

Would color film simply be "lost" due to market economies, or would Ilford or someone else start producing it? Without the two major players, how long might it take before a replacement becomes available?

Pete Watkins
19-Sep-2005, 12:52
Many years ago Ilford did market colour film, the name Ilfochrome comes to mind. I don't know if Ilford made the stuff of rebranded it from another manufacturer.

19-Sep-2005, 13:04
WHat if the sky fell? What if you died tomorrow, what if...What if....How about use what you got now and enjoy it. It is going to be around for a long time to come. Digital LF backs are just out of the price range for 99.99% of LF photographers, plus what is here now is too damn slow.

Joseph O'Neil
19-Sep-2005, 13:44
Depends on your point of view.

I heard an interesting statistic a few months ago. Even though cars repalced horses and buggies over 100 years ago, a recent survey reported that there are physically a higher number of horses in our local county than there was 100 years ago when everybody depended on them for their basic mode of transportation.

The buggy whip makers might have gone out of business - mostly due to animal rights concerns, but harness and saddle makers are as busy as ever. And if you get into some of the more kinky web sites, you'll see that buggy whips are still sold in large numbers, but we won't go there out of politeness. :)

We have nuclear weapons, but fencing is still taught at many military schools. Guns have not ment the demise of martial arts.

Generally speaking, the most expensive carpets you can buy are hand woven, not machine made. Same is true for furniture, and many musical instruments.

Engines have replaced sails over 125 years ago as a primary mode of power for shipping, but the local harbour has more sailing ships in it that were seen 150 years ago.

Do you see a trend here, or am I the only one crazy enough to do so? :)

So, if Fuji and Kodka kicked the bucket at midnight, you know what I would do - buy stock in Ilfrod, Forte, Bergger, etc, because the economic viability of these smaller suppliers woudl skyrocket overnight.

Big companies "think different" than smaller companies do. I remember a few years ago a local clothing chain store was closed by the parent company from out of town. It grossed over a million a year in sales, and yes, it did turn a profit, but the profit ratio wasn't high enough,a nd neither were the gross sales, according to some bean counter at head office. After they clsoed some local business opened up ion their place, thier level of clientle, and they have been doing good business ever since. Economy of scale a million a year in gross sales might not be enough for a multi national, but for a small guy, it's the best news in the world.

So don't worry about it. I think we have it good, very good overall. About the only people who have a right to complain at this moment, IMO, are the guys who cameras and enlargers are still underwater in their basement back in New Orleans, or something like that.

Christopher Perez
19-Sep-2005, 13:47

Nicely said.

Michael Gordon
19-Sep-2005, 14:02
Since we're speaking wild hypotheticals...... we can all go back to hand-tinting b/w prints.

John Flavell
19-Sep-2005, 14:36
As long as they keep making crayons, I'm a happy camper.

Eric Leppanen
19-Sep-2005, 15:00
If color film was truly near end-of-life, then I seriously doubt Fuji would continue to introduce new emulsions (Velvia 100, 160S) and offer them in both 4x5 and 8x10 sheet sizes. Kodak appears to have zero R&D going on in film at this point, but film for both Fuji and Kodak has a high profit margin, so they'll continue to manufacture it -- scaling down manufacturing facilities along the way as demand continues to decline -- until factory capacity can no longer be cost-effectively reduced. Then they'll either sell the business to the third party or shut it down and write it off altogether (worst case scenario that they'll try to avoid, as they get no value for their property). But we're still many years away from such an endgame scenario, especially with regards to Fuji.

Terence Spross
19-Sep-2005, 15:18
Joseph O'Neil - couldn't have said it better myself

John Flavell - who said crayons won't be discontinued

I have an broadcast studio engineer friend who loved reel-to reel tapes and lamented the use of newer media. I know secretely he has copied some decent copy .wav files of orchestrations onto his analog reel-to reel and that is the way he prefers to esperience it. Guests to his house are not informed that what they are listening to was ever in a digital medium. Cynics may say he is deceiving himself along with others - but he is not evil - he just likes to see the 14inch reels move - and see the glow of filaments in his vacuum tube amplifier.

As far as I know, Fuji is still researching inprovements in film. They will be supplying longer than the others I think but eventually things will change.

Some new small companies will probably form based on purchase of intellectual rights to film making from the big players who will be eger to get out of a low volume (as compared to the digital volume then.) (Also as patents expire.)

Make no mistake - digital media will take over the mainstream - it will become cheaper and better to the point that few rational people will still argue. It might be a decade or two but there can be no doubt that a digital niche market will become viable for ultra-extreme resolutions that will eliminate the technical advantage of large formats for grain size. Software can already simulate the perspective that a swing-back can do. 32 bit photo-editors now , 64 or 128 bit depth then- superiority of an 8x10 architechual print ? no way- the digital will be better. That niche won't be in Wal-Mart and so will be available for a $$price just like large format equipment is pricey now.

However, just like some will want to get in their sailboat to spend a lazy day on on island some others will want to bring along a changing bag and take landscapes of the sailboats with the 'ol 4x5.

Brian C. Miller
19-Sep-2005, 16:14
After reading all of the "bah humbug on Kodak getting out of B&W" posts, I wondered what would happen with color. Its a bit different, as there really are just two major players.

Sure, somebody would step up to the plate. But who? When? Perhaps Fuji will be to color what Ilford is to B&W, i.e., last manufacturer standing. I think it would be neat if the Autochrome process came back.

Certaintly there are more horses than in 1900! Mr Horse + Mrs Horse = ponies. And everybody wants a pony! :-) However, its just a tad different in manufacturing film. Investors are needed, a distribution network is needed, manufacturing facilities, and of course a market. For instance, while I'm sure that a market exists for a 120 replacement for Techpan, nobody is stepping up to the plate to fund Gigabitfilm cutting a run for 120. I wonder how much trouble Michael and Paula had finding someone who would make an Azo replacement. And I also noticed that nobody is producing a commercial platinum paper.

Of course I'm enjoying color film while its here! Duh, dudes! :-)

Eric Rose
19-Sep-2005, 17:31
If the Chinese want color film, there will be color film. And they will probably make it under licence from either Kodak or Fuji. Naturally you will only be able to buy it at Wal Mart since there rather heavy investment in China will have to be rewarded somehow.

Don't get me wrong I have nothing against the Chinese or their ever growing economy. Just trying to illustrate the way things might be in the future.

Jonathan Brewer
19-Sep-2005, 18:20
There's nothing to argue,..........................go to www.alternativephotography.com.............the alternative processes, film as we know it, sx-70 Polaroids, Polaroid 'Chocalate' prints, Platinum prints, infrared,............................they're all alive and well, because of the internet, the internet has/will spread the 'word'. There will no longer be a selection of hundreds of films to choose from, that's obvious, but film will remain as long as there are people who love to use it.

The pursuit of serious photography for arts sake, never amounted to more than a 'drop in the bucket' from the getgo, the speed of whatever you use doesn't matter either,................................'Software can already simulate the perspective that a swing-back can do. 32 bit photo-editors now , 64 or 128 bit depth then- superiority of an 8x10 architechual print ? no way- the digital will be better'.......................................................................either a picture is good, or it's bad, because of you the artist, the digital aspect isn't better or worse than anything else, it's just there, to be used either very well, or badly, and in that sense it's no better or worse than film if you can't use it in a creative and imaginative way.

A two year old thinks of 5 seconds ago as ancient history, for a 5 yr old it's 5 minutes ago, for teenagers, it's last year, the older you get the farther back you can connect to your place and connection w/the past as opposed to the tendency of youth to view themselves as apart from it despite the fact that most of them were created in the dim mist of ancient history.

I've been around long enough to watch the first steps on the moon and from way before that until now, I can see the changes, for some folks, the so called present is all they know, they can't see a connection to the past, so that anything before 'right now' is passe',.................a while back, I went to LACMA to see the work of Andre Kertez, .....................work so creative, so imaginative, that those images will be shown someplace, somewhere, for long into the future.

The work of Kertez, Weston, Alfred Langdon Cobun, and many others was shot on hopelessly slow film, on sometimes equipment that was considered flimsy even 50-75 yrs ago, the art is the main thing and the art doesn't depend on technology, that's why we have 'sketches' done by pencil hanging in some of the most prestigious museums and galleries, worth megabucks.

All of this was/is/always will be about what you can do as an artist, not the brand of your pencil/crayon/paintbrush/film/digital back, and/or how quick it is to use them. Go to the alternativephotography website and look at some of the work, some of the stunning work on that site took was very 'slow going', that doesn't make the work any less great, nor that you shouldn't continue to do work like it, because somebody has come up w/a faster digital widget.

Everything has always changed, and always will change, in life and in art, so what? Everything is relative, the folks reading this post 300 or 400 years from now will be having a big laugh at the mention of 32-64-64-128 bit photo editors, because for them this will be as ancient as the film we use. Technology is the most fleeting and ever changing entity of all, but those folks of 300-400 years ago will still admire the work of Van Gogh, Rembrant, Caravaggio, Christian Seybold, Weston, Eugene Smith, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Paul Hindemuth, Picasso, Rodan, and on and on.

Ralph Barker
19-Sep-2005, 18:26
John Flavell said, "As long as they keep making crayons, I'm a happy camper."

I heard a rumor that Bill Gates was buying all rights to Crayons, and will be replacing them with a digital version that will only work part of the time. ;-)

Brian Ellis
19-Sep-2005, 18:34
When (not if) Kodak and Fuji abandon color film then either there will be no more color film or someone else will step up to the plate and make it. That's all that can be said. BTW, Ilfochrome (formerly Cibachrome) wasn't a film, it was a printing material and process.

While I think it's entirely possible that the Chinese or some small company will step up to the plate when Kodak and Fuji get out of the business as they inevitably will some day (sooner rather than later in Kodak's case I think), I don't derive any comfort from the fact that there are more sails or buggies in Joseph's county today than there were a hundred years ago. I suspect that there are exponentially more people in his county as well. And horses, sails, etc. don't require the capital, technology, manufacturing facilities, quality control, raw materials, patents, etc. that films do.

Michael Kadillak
19-Sep-2005, 19:03
Rather than concern yourself with a negative hypothetical, the best thing you can do is continue to purchase B&W and color films and support these products with your consumer dollars and encourage others to do the same. Go to Lowes of Home Depot and get a 20 cubic foot chest freezer (about $200 or less) and keep it stocked.

Next time you are out shooting and you come across someone that expresses an interest in LF photography, take a few minutes to point them in the right direction and encourage them to check it out. Each new shooter represents a portion of the solution to maintaining what we all enjoy in sheet film.

Lastly, when you have an opportunity to participate in a unique opportunity to purchase sheet film in sizes that has not been offered before, step up and show your commitment to the medium.

If we all stay with the program and continue to do what we all love to do, all will be very well......


Jeff Morfit
19-Sep-2005, 19:38
Awwww, Brian is just trying to start trouble, that's all. If he is not careful a bunch of large format photographers are going to show up at his house with a lot of tar and feathers. Halloween is not that far off, either.

Jorge Gasteazoro
20-Sep-2005, 05:21
Then you are just going to have to learn how to make dye transfer or tri color carbon prints from B&W in camera negatives... :-)

tim atherton
20-Sep-2005, 08:00
"When (not if) Kodak and Fuji abandon color film then either there will be no more color film or someone else will step up to the plate and make it. That's all that can be said. BTW, Ilfochrome (formerly Cibachrome) wasn't a film, it was a printing material and process. "

Ilford marketed a transparency film in the late 70's early 80's and I'm pretty sure it was called Ilfochrome - this was before the change in Cibachrome ownership. Have to dig some out some time - not sure who made it for them?

Brian C. Miller
20-Sep-2005, 11:20
"go to www.alternativephotography.com.............the alternative processes, film as we know it, sx-70 Polaroids, Polaroid 'Chocalate' prints, Platinum prints, infrared,............................they're all alive and well"
Johnathan, I don't see anything on that site for creating a color photograph without using current commercial materials. I think that Polaroid would be gone before Kodak. That's the problem I want to solve: how to create the color photograph with no commercial support.

The first commercial color film process was the Autochrome, and it was a commercial process for about 30 years. The process produces a positive image on a glass plate. Looking at various web pages, this process could be done at home. The hard part (of course) is making the plate, but then its developed as a B&W negative and then processed into a positive. There might even be enough demand for it as there is for Azo paper.

As for suggestions that China may be the last source of color film, yeah, that's likely true. Of course, Kodak also laid off some staff from that operation. And if (when) Kodak and Fuji drop color, Chinese film won't be available at Walmart, and I'm sure that it won't be available as sheet film. Look at how much trouble a group has been having getting a shipment of developer chemicals.

Could Autochrome be our last color film? Maybe. It is reported to have an ASA of 4, so it is somewhat useable. At least that's more useable than making three seperate exposures with different filters.

20-Sep-2005, 12:04
It's hard to imagine something like color film being discontinued by the big companies unless there is an alternative that's so good and so affordable that demand for film dries up.

It seems that there's a big difference between what commercial photographers (the big market) and artists (the small market) need from black and white materials. But I don't see that being so much the case in color. People seem to have a similar range of ideas about what makes color materials good. Whether the alternative is some brand-x film or a newer, high-quality, low-cost means of digital capture makes little difference. Anyone who needs to make a great looking (technically) color image is going to be able to.

John Kasaian
20-Sep-2005, 13:08
Will someone else step up to the plate to produce conventional color film? Sheet film? Will you buy enough of it to make it profitable for them to do so?

I don't like answering a question with a question, but if I understand the original question correctly, you already have the answer.


The Chinese as Eric Rose pointed out. The eastern european manufacturers could also be players---they certainly have produced some wonderful B&W films and have my support. How about Tua? They are well known for producing private label 35mm color film, so why not sheet film if someone made them an attractive enough offer? I could picture an outfit like Freestyle doing just that.

I'll stick with B&W.

Cheer up---paranoia is corrosive!

Brian C. Miller
20-Sep-2005, 14:04
Thing is, though, Kodak has made a decision to discontinue it entire B&W paper division. That's rather significant. I don't think that color film will be discontinued because of something radically better, I think that it will be discontinued due to lack of demand. The real question is, what does Kodak consider to be a lack of demand?

I have this theory that the average consumer and corporate user need something that is good enough, and that's it. Once the minimum is met, they move on. Thus digital, even lousy digital, gains ground on film and displaces it. Thus a medium with superior resolution gets displaced by a medium with inferior resolution, based solely on convenience.

There are now "disposable" digital movie cameras. "Disposable" film cameras can be easily replaced by "disposable" digital cameras. Therefore, if the consumer side of the color film market dries up, that's going to crimp Kodak and Fuji big time. The professional digital side has lots of adherents. How fast that market sector is dropping, I don't know.

So when there isn't enough profit, the big manufacturers will drop color. Glazer's, Seattle's big store, has moved its film business into a small building. Optechs, Seattle's other big store, has dumped film entirely and is now all digital and is doing well.

Film demand is falling. The time to look at alternatives is now. So far I know of only two valid alternatives for color, and they both have drawbacks. One is grainy and a bit slow, and the other can be fine-grained and is definitely really really slow.

Stocking a freezer full of film isn't a long-term solution. A truly long-term solution is for Kodak and Fuji to get off their butts and market film. "Gee, mommy, the flood wiped out all our pictures!" "Don't worry, dear, the negatives are safe and we'll make more pictures." They haven't been marketing film, they've been marketing pictures. They've been doing it so much that people don't even know the value of a negative.

20-Sep-2005, 15:11
"I don't think that color film will be discontinued because of something radically better, I think that it will be discontinued due to lack of demand. The real question is, what does Kodak consider to be a lack of demand?"

But why would demand go away before there's something that professional photographers like better (taking quality, convenience, and price into consideration, and keeping in mind that any pro who uses large format color film must care a lot about quality). The collapse of a consumer film market doesn't tell us anything about the market for large format color film. We need to look at what commercial photogs are buying and asking for ... they're the ones who buy the most of it.

Currently the only viable substitute for LF color film costs as much as an expensive car, and is only useful for some types of photography. That situation is going to have to change fundamentally before the demand for film dries up.

It will happen, at least to some degree, but it's not going to happen overnight. And when it does happen, it's going to mean there are more alternatives for us to choose from than we have now.

Eric Leppanen
20-Sep-2005, 15:49
Currently the only viable substitute for LF color film costs as much as an expensive car, and is only useful for some types of photography. That situation is going to have to change fundamentally before the demand for film dries up.

The counter-argument to this is that the LF market -- amateur and professional -- is far too small to influence Fuji and Kodak. If 35mm and 120/220 color film demand drops beyond commercial viability, then Fuji and Kodak will exit the color film market and let LF be damned. If you want high resolution or camera movements, use an MF digital back on a 6x9 view camera, stitching multiple images together if necessary.

My take is that Fuji (maybe not Kodak) will continue to make color film at a reduced rate for years. The motion picture industry still has a strong attachment to film (quoth Mr. Spielberg: "I am a Luddite!"), so film manufacture will continue for the foreseeable future. Producing still capture film is a lucrative incremental market with high profit margins and little or no R&D expenditures. Why not milk it as long as it lasts?

Janko Belaj
20-Sep-2005, 16:16
I just don't believe that any (major) type of emulsion will disappear from market. And by type I mean general types (b&w pan, color neg, color dia, maybe even b&w ortho) not brand names we today know or use. Demand and profit dictates market and both are dropping. But as long as there will be demand, I believe that someone will find way to produce film for us. Maybe we won't have so many types to choose, maybe you will have to order and wait for your batch (as I'm right now ordering and waiting for efke film), but I think about future of film same as I see present of LF equipment. Demand dropped, prices are higher, but not just old models, even new models arrive on the market.

On the other hand, I believe that at approximately same time when big firms might stop production of films, there will be useful digital alternative to current color processes. Problems today are high price, high heating and still slow processing. That will change. It is slow process, but we (and our ancestors) have already seen and felt such changes. Even discovery of photography was shock - some people accepted photography as a new tool, some have seen it as a devil's job. I'm not afraid of digital. For my Job that will be nice. And good. For my pleasure? B&W negative.

Jonathan Brewer
20-Sep-2005, 18:02
Brian.................the Chinese already make color film, but I have no idea if they manufacture color in 120 or LF, I mentioned the alternative processes because they were here first, straight B & W came later,......................now as to what do you do if color film disappears, I have no idea, I won't be losing sleep over this proposition any time soon, as I don't believe that will happen in my lifetime.

Truth be told, there are enough diehards here and elsewhere, and examples of the great work of the alternative processes/traditional proecesses/analog processes/old school on the internet that all chances of this stuff going away ended with the emergence of their exposure on the internet.

If color for LF dries up, I deal with it by using B&W w/my LF, and color in my MF cameras, if it dries up in 120, and in 35mm, I'll be making a swith spurred by an artistic sensibility to pursue my vision in monochrome, switching up when I feel like it with colored pencils,..............................Mortensen and the tone-abrasion process here I come!!!

This kind of proposition is kind of like your wife/girlfriend coming to you and telling you she doesn't really like a certain position, the next thing out of your mouth will likely be 'well...............let's try something else', 'cuz of course it's the end result that counts,............................I want to make pictures, even if I can't make them in color, I still want to make them.

20-Sep-2005, 22:41
of course, in the near future, it's not our wife or girlfriend ... it's the executives at Kodak and Fuji, we are their bitches, and they like the current position just fine: them on top.

Thank you Mr. Fuji, may I have another? Ow! Thank you Mr. Fuji, may I have another ...

(Dramatization. Apologies in advance for any graphic nightmares.)

Brian C. Miller
20-Sep-2005, 23:56
"I just don't believe that any (major) type of emulsion will disappear from market."

How many photographers here actually foresaw Kodak dropping its B&W paper business this year?

Kodak didn't just drop an emulsion or two, they dropped paper! Does anybody have any idea how much paper Kodak sold last year? How much they sold in comparison to Ilford? They already had moved their paper production down to Brazil, so I don't think labor costs were an issue.

How many photographic materials manufacturers have been reorganizing or going out of business? Forte, Agfa, Ilford, all have had financial problems. B&W material manufacturers are limping along. All of it is being curtailed. Does anyone really think that Kodak will keep rolling out color film for just one director? Perhaps Spielberg will be buying Ilford along with the rest of us.

Janko Belaj
21-Sep-2005, 05:23
Brian, that is what I'm telling... I'l put some numbers in. my numbers, just for illustration, not even some guess... let say that Kodak was producing 50% of material on market. 5000 of something (really doesn't matter for this illustration). And the rest 48%. 2% are those who boil their own emulsions (o.k., maybe 0.2%...). And they sold only 50% of their material. So 2500 of something was unsold. People needed just 2500. Now Kodak produces 0. And people are still making prints. Someone somewhere will make and sell those 2500. That won't be Kodak's finest receipt, but do you REALY care? I don't. For me, photography is pleasure and business.
As for business, customers really (or most of them) don't care what you use. They WANT picture. For print, usually. In may case. They want vivid color, shallow dof but really sharp. 4x5? 8x10? digital one-shot or scanback? if you are able to take a picture of ski champion with Sinar, that don't care for your troubles in the field. If you are able to produce giant print from some "pocket-more-like" digital stuff, and that looks as they want, they won't ask and want care. That might sound cruel, but is true.
As for pleasure, if I can't find some material on the market, I'll try more of the rest till I find something I like. I have learned what and how to use to change basic film/paper definitions. I had to - as a kid I had no money for paper, with 2 friends I have started one formal club just to ask Fotokemika for some charity. And we have got what then seamed like a fortune... but mostly grades on the edge. low and high contrast emulsions. You just have to learn what chemistry to boil to get from gived paper what you wanted when you made the basic shot... For my pleasure, (am I lucky?) I'm not interested in colour what gives me potentially more freedom in choosing and creating my own workflow. just my 2 cents... ;-)

Terence Spross
24-Sep-2005, 18:37
Eric Rose - your comment gave me a bit of a nightmare: Wall-Martchrome. In my dream I turned over the box and it said Wall-Martchrome Pro. I woke up.

Actually the Chinese have plants making color film now: The Lekai (known internationally as The Lucky Film Co,Ltd. has made 100,200, and 400 speed color film for a long time. And while their website shows only 35mm film in color, they also make B&W sheet film and if the demand where there due to Kodak pulling internationally out early I could see them making the transition and coating the wider base stock with color emultion.