Do I sell my film body or keep it?

The debate over film versus digital photography is still strong, but is there an obvious winner?

This article has been a long time coming, since I always have the same discussion with my photographer friend Alan.  He is an avid photographer, who has traveled the world with his Nikon F6’s and Leica film body’s capturing amazing images.

Alan still buys film as fast as one buys diapers for a new-born child, but he uses it sparingly due to the high cost, and limited availability for processing.  He does own a Nikon pro-level dslr (digital single lens reflex) body, but still prefers his film over the digital medium.  Why?  I don’t know, perhaps it’s the nostalgia behind it all…

In September of 2003, Eastman Kodak announced that there would be some changes coming in the near future of how business is conducted, and that efforts will be made to increase commitments in emerging countries; here’s what was said back then.

“Kodak is, and will remain, committed to manufacturing and marketing the world’s highest quality film,” said Bernard Masson, President, Digital & Film Imaging Systems, and a Senior Vice President, Eastman Kodak Company. “Consistent with our strategy, we will focus our film investments on opportunities that provide faster and attractive returns, while reducing investments where we see unsatisfactory returns.”

Hmm, what were they saying? We’re not successful or seeing profits in the future of their large markets?  I think they saw where technology and the future of photography was going, but didn’t wan’t to say it too loudly, as to upset their long lineage of supporting their bread-and-butter, the film photographer.  (George Eastman founded the company in 1892) I don’t recall if Fuji made any announcements like that back then.   Anyhow, moving on…

In keeping with that approach, the company will:

  • Increase its commitment to 35mm reloadable camera sales and manufacturing in emerging markets, such as China, India, Eastern Europe and Latin America;
  • Introduce worldwide new high performance 35mm and APS films next month;
  • Continue to manufacture APS films, consistent with consumer demand;
  • And, end distribution of reloadable APS cameras worldwide, and reloadable 35 mm cameras in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe by the end of 2004.

“We are reinforcing and expanding our commitment to 35mm film and cameras in emerging markets because of the significant demand from China, India, Eastern Europe and Latin America,” Masson said. “The 35 mm film industry continues to grow at double-digit rates in those markets.”

Also in 2003, the Kodak EasyShare LS633 Digital Camera was unveiled as the world’s first digital camera to feature a full-color, active-matrix organic light-emitting (OLED) diode display.  It was a small screen that measured 2.2 inches (56 mm) and had a 165° viewing angle.  OLED technology was developed by Kodak. The retail price of the camera was $399 USD

Since 2003, things progressed quickly in the digital imaging field.  More cameras, better sensors, better light sensitivity, and just more choices.  But, it was all digital.

Then came affordable consumer cell phones with cameras.  This changed the landscape of photography even more perhaps then the first consumer digital cameras.  Now you have a device that not only would you carry all the time, but it would soon allow you to share those pictures taken with  your camera phone to people everywhere instantly.

In January of 2009 Kodak posted a $137 million dollar forth-quarter loss, and ended up selling the OLED technology to LG by December of the same year.  Also, in the middle of the year, Kodak announced the end of the Kodachrome color film do to dramatic declining sales.  I’ll say it again; dramatic declining sales.

I talk mainly about Kodak, because they were the top dog in film, both consumer and professional level.  There was always other players in the market too, like; Fuji, and Agfa as well as others.

I think film still has a couple of years left, but by 2016 it will go the way of cassette tapes, and laser disc movies.  As we move more into the future, theses new and emerging photographers will have been born into, and started their careers not with film, but in digital medium.

Film to them will be something of the past the only lives in digital (re-captured for archiving), in museums, and in the hands of collectors like my good friend Alan.

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