What is the future of film photography?

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by IanWilliams, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. IanWilliams

    IanWilliams TPF Noob!

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    OK, Here goes. This is not a debate as to which medium is best. It is simply a thread to establish where the future of film photography lies. I am a mature student at NESCOT, near Epsom in Surrey, coming to the end of a foundation degree in photography and for my extended study essay, I have decided to investigate what the future of film photography holds in the 21st century digital age, so any thoughts and opinions will be very gratefully received.

    For your information, I very much prefer film photography and shoot with a Mamiya 7 and Hasselblad XPan, as well as a Shen Hao 54 camera. Although it was digital that re-ignited my passion in photography it is film that really inspires me, so much so that I have sold pretty much all of my digital gear except my Panasonic GF-1. I also work for a Canon Pro dealer and Phase One retailer, and even being surrounded by this technology I really feel most comfortable with a film camera as my companion!

    Please let me know your thoughts on the destiny of film photography. For example, is it worth the investment of perhaps several hundreds, even thousands, of pounds in film equipment? Are there future advances to be made in film emulsions and papers? Is film photography still a viable proposition in the commercial arena? Which medium do you prefer (film or digital, and why?)? Are there more advances to be made in scanning and/or printing?

    I look forward to your replies.

    Regards

    Ian
     
  2. SoonerBJJ

    SoonerBJJ TPF Noob!

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    The future is bright.

    This question has been beaten to death. No offense.
     
  3. DScience

    DScience No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    NO future.
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    You know how the Society For Creative Anachronisms sponsors Renaissance fairs and modern-day jousting competitions? That's the sort of long-term future I see for film and film photography enthusiasts. It's not that long dresses and corsets for women are inadequate clothing, nor that long poles wielded by horsemen are inadequate battle weapons, or that ale that is brewed and sold only by the barrel,and dispensed by the mug or cup at taverns an inns is wholly inadequate for many people. Some things have been with our culture for centuries--the corset, the long dress, ale, ale mugs, taverns and inns. But over the centuries *certain things* have been replaced entirely,or almost entirely, by newer, cheaper, or more expedient methods or items. Like the lance or modern spear as a battle weapon; it died out in the 1860's as the "pike" in the American Civil War, after a long, long and illustrious battle career. School children used to practice their Three R's on individual slates--today they use paper. Pens used to be made exclusively of bird quills; then the metal nib revolutionized hand writing, followed many decades later by the fountain pen--no more dipping every 5-8 letters!!! Then, the ball-point pen replaced the fountain pen over a period of a few decades. The point, and I make it in total seriousness, is that film photography's future is that of a small-scale, niche activity within the larger society as a whole. I am most emphatically not saying that film photography will disappear, but that its use will become very uncommon among the majority of the populace, replaced by a newer technology--just like the fountain pen was replaced by the ball-point pen, or beer sold in cans and bottles vastly outsells the volume of beer sold in keg form. And so on. It's not impossible to buy a keg of one's favorite beer these days, but it is **hugely** more convenient to stop by a supermarket or mom n pop shop and buy a six-pack of 12 ounce bottles or 16 ounce cans.
     
  5. jameshilton

    jameshilton TPF Noob!

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    Hi there, a few thoughts from me:

    No, not worth investing thousands these days. If you love film £500 GBP will buy you a fine 5x4 and lens or a Mamiya RZ67 and lens if you want to go down the 120 route.

    The only area where film is still used primarily in very large quantities is cinema for capture and dup. Fast forward 5 to 10 years and I predict that newer incarnations of cameras like the Sony F23, Red One, Arri D21 will replace most film use, and more cinemas will have digital projectors. Depending who you ask, S16 is already on the way out.

    Yes, but not if people don't buy them. Arguably 35mm dup for cinema releases could go back to a dye transfer process for better colours but it is not worth the cost, for purpose a 4k projector is fine. A new cinema will have a digital projector, not a new film projector.

    I suspect that most development these days is in the direction of efficiency and alternative methods of production rather than reinventing the wheel. The raw materials needed for film are increasing in price, so being efficient during production is key.

    Advances will come in the inkjet paper side of things, but I doubt you will see much chance in silver b&w paper in the next 5 years. A new manufacturer may come along and offer a long lost paper type again, but nothing new, what is the point, most people are shooting on digital now, not film.

    Yes and no. Yes in the sense that the quality can be there (e.g. 120 film), but no in the sense that speed, convenience and efficiency are not there. If you photograph landscapes and blow them up to huge sizes then you can use 5x4, as your work does not require speed. If you shoot fashion, or news etc, digital is the route. I suspect a few photographers like Ross Halfin will use film for more years to come, but digital is the future. With margins being cut, added costs of processing, lost time etc are a no no for most businesses these days.

    Digital these days to be honest, because cameras have reached a level where the quality is as good as film, and we have high MP counts. I can print 20x24" prints from my 5Dmk2 which look amazing. Before I would have had to go down the 120 route for something similar. A bit more exposure latitude would be great but I can live it things as they are. A 50MP MF Back produces stunning images so quickly and easily, time after time.

    Film is now expensive and it can often be hard to find a good place to get your films processed, to a good quality level too.

    Plenty, but you can't scan what is not there in the first case. Modern scanners can resolve all the usable detail that is in film these days. Again I don't see too much chance in this area as there isn't the demand. A scanner in 5 years time isn't going to produce a scan that is much better than top machines today. The pace of chance for scanners has slowed down in recent years.

    Printers have come on in leaps and bounds, but progress has slowed in recent years too . Look at the difference between Epson 2100 and R2400. Compare a R2400 and R2880 and the jump is much much smaller. Expect things like larger ink tanks, maybe better gloss printing etc, but not amazing changes in print quality as quality is already there.


    To summarise, I believe they key word is maturity, 5 years ago the digital world was still rapidly changing and each release of a new camera, printer or scanner brought great increases in quality, speed or something else. These days you are not seeing the same. Things are getting better but at a slower rate.

    In 20 years time I may be able to buy a 100MP 35mm DSLR, but it is being waited if I only print 10x8 prints and don't use a tripod or great lens.

    In the next 5 years the biggest changes will come in video photography, not still photography I believe. Expect to see more >2k cameras, using some form of flash drive, with better codecs, larger sensors, more streamlined workflows, raw options, new lenses etc etc. There will be more convergence between the traditional DSLR and video camera too. I think it is a very exciting time if you work in video with some many changes round the corner.

    Another point, film uses Silver based compounds. Silver is not classed as a heavy metal, but environmental laws and regulations are being tightened, and will only continue to do so in the future. What could kill film off in the future are changes to environmental laws and the actual cost of raw materials, as I suspect there will always be some demand somewhere.

    The days of a business continuing to produce something because it is nice to have are long gone. Look at Kodak and Kodachrome, it was killed because demand was not there at given prices and existing processing turnrounds. Once we start to see massive drop offs in demand for cinema dups, the remaining demand needed to keep film prodution plants open around the world may not be there, who knows.

    I would not be surprised if in 20 years time, Kodak had stopped making film, and the only remaining makers were smaller specilist independents ( I would be surprised if 16mm makes it another 10 years).

    Derrel above sums it up very very will if you ask me when he says "The point, and I make it in total seriousness, is that film photography's future is that of a small-scale, niche activity within the larger society as a whole."
     
  6. maris

    maris TPF Noob!

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    I reckon "film photography" will re-emerge from the amorphous swamp of contemporary picture making techniques as a premium or ultra-premium medium.

    This will happen when folks realise that "film photography" is the only kind of photography that there really is. Everything else is some kind of painting or drawing whether executed by hand or by a concatenation of looking machines - cameras, thinking machines - computers, and painting machines - printers.

    A long thesis could follow but won't!
     
  7. compur

    compur No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I presume you're referring to resale value after use.

    The first generation of serious digital SLRs cost thousands when new and
    now are nearly worthless. Early Point & Shoot digitals that cost hundreds
    when new are now worth even less. I see no reason not to think that the
    current "hot" digital cameras will suffer the same fate after, say, 10 years.

    For that reason I feel that buying the right film equipment is always a
    better investment. Especially lenses as they can always be adapted to
    film or other technology cameras.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  8. SoonerBJJ

    SoonerBJJ TPF Noob!

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    Consider your audience. You are on a forum that is vastly populated by digital shooters, many of whom wouldn't know how to load a film camera if their life depended on it.

    If you want the other side of that coin go post your query at APUG.
     
  9. den9

    den9 TPF Noob!

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    i bought a 3500 dollar 35mm from 1994 for 200 bucks with a power booster
     
  10. compur

    compur No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  11. TheSolicitor

    TheSolicitor TPF Noob!

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    As long as I've got my Diana, the future is good. I'm buying film as quickly as it comes in at Urban Outfitters...judge me.
     
  12. Professional

    Professional TPF Noob!

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    I started into photography late [say by late 2005] and since 2006 until 2008 i've bought almost 7 DSLRs including my ever first P&S digital camera [Nikon Coolpix 8800] in 2009 i bought digital medium format, because of it i bought by the mid of 2009 2 film medium format camera, and i added Holga later, just in this year 2010 i started to shoot film for first time, i don't care if many people convert to digital or i use film very late, but looking at film shots i feel there is something i can't get with all my digital, and now i am trying to learn on film and see what i had missed all those years about film.
     

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