View Full Version : Color Film co - op to secure its future?

19-Jan-2006, 11:28
Ok, I run the risk of getting blasted for this, but it's an idea while this film subject is fresh on my mind. I am curious if this concept may have some legs. Sometimes pre-planning is the ONLY solution for future disasters.

This post relates mostly to LF color film, as B&W is not as vulnerable to the big two makers. Of course there is no reason not to incude B&W, but color seems the most likely to suffer total extinction in the near future.

When film ends its life, just think of the all that is effected.... photogs camera gear will be near worthless, LF camera builders will slowly go down with the ship, LF lens makers will suffer greatly, MF film cameras such as 6x17 cameras, rotational cameras will be probably fold, workers in film plants will be forced out of work into early retirement as their skills are not very marketable, (like a Zepplin builder after the Hindenberg disaster), many users who can not afford digital will loose their passion / hobby, libraries that desire to archive using film will have no source, thousands of stereo camera users will abandon their craft as film is their end product, even though it is mostly, 35mm, etc. To the big two film makers, this volume is not worthy of their consideration, but it may be enough to find alternatives?

Anyway, I am curious what has happened in other fields through history where markets decreased so low there was very little demand for that product, factories shut down, yet there was still a need for the product, but on a significantly reduced basis? I assume this is one of the reasons co op's were formed?

Now, I know the idea of a film co op is a bit of a stretch after other posters have shared just how capital intensive the film making process is, which could be the dagger to this concept. But what if an organization was formed that included all those who had in interest in the future of color film (and possibly B&W) and the chemicals to process such, joined together, invested into a co op, and all agreed to buy film from the co op. Is it possible enough demand from all these parties could start some type of film making facility by acquiring assets such as those from companies such as konica who will probably scrap their machines? Maybe the world wide demand is so small, it would never make sense. Of course the biggest problem would be finding someone to spearhead such an effort which would take years to develop. Maybe someone who owns a LF magazine publication could spearhead an article on this subject to see how many players step up to the plate and show interset? Maybe there is more worldwide interest then we think?

Any thoughts?

19-Jan-2006, 12:39
I don't know about the co-op notion. I'd be worried that even a coop might go "belly up". But I do like the idea of notionalizing a film manufacturer. We should be talking to our Congressmen (and all other legislators) to develop a govenrmental solution to the demise of film a significant national objective. The US has done this before, and can do it again. Maybe the same is true in other countries. If the government is behind us, then we can see the tax dollars of the digital photog crowd being used to support the film photog crowd!

Here's what happened in one industry when technology changed drastically: Back at the turn of the 20th century, phonographs started replacing music boxes as the popular form of home entertainment. The music box makers either changed their product line or went out of business. Some music box manufacturers tried bridging the gap with a hybrid machine. It wasn't successful. One Swiss company (Thorens) expanded their line to continue music box manufacture AND build phonographs. They supported both lines for many years. The bulk of their music box line were cheap novelties, but they managed to make a number of mid-grade products to satisfy the desires of the few that wanted a nicer music box. Eventually they went out of business but their music box line continues under the company that assumed them.

What I find interesting is that all of the high-end music box makers all failed to make the technology transition, but the low-end makers survived. Many, many years ago people stopped crying over the fact that their music box became worthless because of new technology. They've been listening to music in newer, better ways and don't seem to be missing the old, archaic, music box technology much.

I'm not looking forward to the possiblility of film becoming archaic and unavailable, but I'll bet we'll all still find a way to create great (or, not-so-great as is too often the case with me) photographic art in the future with whatever technology exists.

19-Jan-2006, 13:26
Brian, well thought out post......

In our current scenario, the problem lies in the fact the new technology is not better than certain aspects of film, such as shooting 8x10 format size, panoramics, etc. This differs from the change from 8 track / cassette tapes to CD's, as the new technology clearly beat the old technology in every area. Also, in the case of music, the sound can simply be transfered from one media to another. This is not the case with film, as image capture continues, its not a one time event like a music recording. In the end, some people simply preferred the old music technology. If digital matched film in every category, well, it would be a different doomsday scenario.

However, the problem in the film scenario is..... there is not enough LF shooters to justify film making operations to continue, so, its just a small niche that goes unsatisfied and dies. Althouth I fully agree with your position that photographers will always find a way to make images with the equipment and tools available, there is still some areas that will suffer, such as rotational cameras, 6x17 cameras, very large print makers, etc. I doubt the market demand would ever be large enough to entice a chip maker to make a 6x17 chip. So, we stitch the images that allow for such.

This is all part of being the minority. Maybe I should be happy with my Digital SLR's and load stuff up on ebay now!

19-Jan-2006, 14:26
Buy up all old machinery, plant the film factory in China and continue there under a new name. The Chinese have been copying the LF gear, so they should be able to copy the LF supplies as well.

Of course this is said in jest, but it could be possible. I just can't see Foma setting up a color line in Eastern Europe, where the labour prices will go up in a couple of years.

19-Jan-2006, 14:40
If there is any hope of this occuring, your scenario is a good one. I see two problems though, the big companies will not sell the plants to them, (why make competitors) and more importantly, they won't sell the film recipies for pennies on the dollar.

Instead, why not Fuji or Kodak move production to china so it can remain more profitable? My guess is, at 2% of gross sales, and soon 1% of gross sales, its not worth their effort. If anyone can pull this off, it's a country in these developing regions of the world, who would love to have what US / Japan Giant corps discard as unprofitable.

tim atherton
19-Jan-2006, 14:43
Of course, as I understand it, Kodak in effect control over Lucky Film Co Ltd, China's only major film making entity, with Kodak putting in a colour emulsion coating facility in order to gain access to the worlds second biggest film market.

As the Chinese State seems to be the other controlling interest of Lucky, maybe all those Chinese LF cameras stem from the unofficial support of enthusiasts in the Central Committee Of Communist Party of China - and when Kodak nixes colour film they will fully re-nationalise the film line... ;-)

tim atherton
19-Jan-2006, 14:46
you can already get 35mm colour Lucky film from J&C


Oren Grad
19-Jan-2006, 14:47
The Kodak arrangement with Lucky isn't just serving the Chinese market. Next time you're in a supermarket, pick up a roll of Kodak color print film off one of those racks of convenience items by the checkout and take a close look at the box to see where it's made.