The Future of Film

OK. After seeing a few articles about the imminent demise of film, i’ve decided to have a little fun. What i’m going to do is predict what will happen to film over the next few years. One thing to remember. I LOVE both digital and film. I believe they can co-exist. I hope both reign supreme together.

It was all started by an article that forecasted the possibility of the demise of film in the USA within ten years. I’ve been surprised at the level of conviction shown by both ‘film die hards’ and the ‘digital is the future’ crowd who have fought bitterly to defend their positions. Both make good arguments, although sometimes it  seems to come more from an zealous idealogical standpoint than calm reason and deduction.

The claim that film use is going down is correct. It’s bound to as digital cameras have caught on. Most people have embraced digital for convenience and cost reasons but my argument is that so far it has only really impacted the 35mm film market to a large degree.  The launch of a 200MP digital Hasselblad retailing at around £28,000 (plus tax) goes to show that although a good 35mm style digital camera is easily affordable these days, most medium format digital versions are still squarely aimed at a limited number of highly paid professionals or the rental markets. Yes there are cheaper alternatives but the prices are still prohibitive for many amateurs and professionals alike.

Until this situation changes, i believe that film in 120 and 5×4 formats will continue to be the only affordable alternative for large format photographers who want great quality images. As for 35mm, well film will continue to be produced as long as it remains profitable to do so. Colour will probably suffer significantly more than black and white, but it may just still have a place in the digital world. If the Impossible Project can succeed with the business model of selling ‘Polaroid’ film, then i see a potential market for selling film. Small but solid. Digital is the future but some film will remain on sale as long as it is profitable to do so.

In the UK we have a chain of photo stores that go under the Jessops name. The stores used to provide a good range of photographic gear and materials but in the last decade the photo chain’s fortunes have suffered quite considerably. I believe that in part this is due to the widespread adoption of the digital camera. Film is purchased, used, and processed. At each stage something has to be replaced especially if you process your own stuff; the film, the chemicals, and even the negative file you place the negs in have to be purchased on a regular basis. That doesn’t include the printing materials. Digital removes all that because at its core is the memory card that can be used over and over again. No wonder the camera shops are often empty. If i owned a camera shop i’d be actively encouraging film photography over digital – instead it’s vice versa.

A final thought. It’s only a small thing but I often get the professional photographer tag because i carry a film camera. I may be carrying both my digital and film cameras, but it seems that many of the public see film as solely the domain of the professional/uber photo enthusiast.  I’ve even been labelled a ‘proper photographer‘ because of carrying a film camera. I don’t agree with that but i certainly would recommend using a film camera – it’s a more challenging experience than using a digital camera. It complements digital.

A final, final thought. I intend buying a 5×4 camera this summer so i am going through the motions of putting my money where my mouth is.

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