Prying my film from my cold dead fingers

Today, even though they are distinctly technologically obsolete, you can buy oak barrels, hand-forged iron items, hand-spun fabrics, biplanes, heirloom plants, and a variety of painting processes that Acrylic paints were supposed to replace.

Some things people don't develop an emotional attachment to, and not always in a predictable fashion. I have yet to talk to somebody who has a special place in their heart for their old fax machine. Nor do I hear people reminisce about how good the distortions and temperamental nature of their old 9 inch color TV was. But if the curves of a downhill highway are just right, it takes me back to driving home from high school.

Recently, an Reuters UK news article indicated that Canon, like Nikon, was going to halt their film camera manufacturing and development. The article was quickly changed to discuss how Canon "might" halt development.

It's another log on the "film is dead" fire, but it's not nearly the end.

It is important to realize that many of the big traditional companies in the camera business are public companies, and therefore must cater to the desires of the shareholders. Right now, because of a number of missteps, their investors are big on digital photography and skittish on film photography. If you consider how camera companies have made significant sales over the past few years selling digital cameras that are replaced within a few years to people who weren't taking pictures before, at the expense of film, it's easy to see why the shareholders would think this.

On the other hand, people still like their film cameras. Some people like shooting film. So, there's a market that any smart corporation would want to continue to sell into.

If you compare technological levels, you will notice a few things. First, flashes have not changed much since the late nineties. Exposure meters have not changed much since the late eighties, nor have film transports, or lens mounts.

Most of the advancements in digital SLR cameras have been about having a higher resolution camera with better image quality for less money, not by dramatically improving all of the non-sensor areas of the camera. The rest of the camera is, for the most part, "good enough".

So, the real problem is not necessarily the lack of advancement in technology, it's production efficiencies. See, right now medium format film hardware is dead cheap compared to the new stuff. It's a great deal for somebody who wants to take better pictures than a cheap digital SLR but who doesn't want to have a camera that's worth more than their car, but who don't shoot enough that any decrease in gear costs is made up for by developing costs. The medium format camera makers were geared up to make expensive cameras for the premium market, and now they need to be able to sell more inexpensive cameras to the advanced amateur market to compete with the used market. This hasn't been good for them.

Furthermore, the hazardous material laws in Europe have required many camera manufacturers to redesign their hardware. In many cases, the money's just not there to rebuild a product around entirely environmentally safe materials.

There's a bright side, however. Apparently some film shooting markets have stabilized. College darkroom classes are in high demand right now. I've been getting other photographers to keep shooting film, or people to discover shooting film. So film's not dead yet.


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