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This month’s Letter reviews observations on the growing popularity of film photography and lists two new films from Fiji and Ilford. Plus: film camera in the unlikeliest of places, and the first modern SLR system.
Do they still make this stuff?
Over a decade after the crash of the film industry, we still enjoy the art and science of analogue photography. Most amateur and pro shooters continue to choose DSLRs, phones, and mirrorless cameras, but the cracks in the economy of endless upgrades are beginning to appear.
Digital sensors are still getting better, having left film’s ability to recreate impeccable detail in the dust a long time ago. Still, the advances are no longer as commercially impressive as they once were.
Meanwhile, film is getting more interest. Online, prominent photographers address the medium as a matter-of-fact, rather than an outdated relic. The number of articles and videos on the topic is exploding. A print magazine brand dedicated to film photography is selling thousands of copies in multiple languages. Kodak, the largest supplier of photographic emulsions, just reported another year of growing sales. The number of small retailers like Analogue Wonderland is also increasing.
For what seems to be the fifth year in a row, film’s popularity is looking up.
Fuji Neopan Acros II is set to hit the shelves within a few weeks. This new emulsion carries special meaning as it is the first new film from a company known for mercilessly killing off its legendary photographic products. During the past few years, they discontinued a slew of colour and monochrome lines, including the original Neopan. The fact that a company so focused on profitability is investing in analogue imaging is yet another sign of a modest film renaissance.
Acros is a fine-grain ISO 100 black and white film. It’s one of my favourites. Acros II will be made with a new formula, promising the same results, with eco-friendlier chemical compounds.
Curiously, its initial batch is produced in the UK.
And another one: late October, Ilford announced and shipped a new black and white film, Ilford Ortho Plus. This ISO 80 chemistry renders red colours as deep blacks since it’s unable to “see” them. Available in 35mm, medium format, and as sheet film.
Unexpected film use and SLR manufacturing setbacks.
A custom large format camera made its appearance at the impeachment hearings in the US. Surrounded by a cloud of DSLRs the photographer took a handful of shots through the entire event. The results are not yet published, but you can follow David Burnett — hopefully, he’ll share his adventures soon enough.
Reflex, the first modern film SLR systems’ team, has reported a setback in production. While disappointing, their honesty and perseverance are quite welcome. Seeing how the analogue medium is growing in popularity, we are destined to run out of cameras. Manufacturers like Reflex would be the first to satisfy the demand for working modern tools as the antique pieces become inevitably frail.
That’s if the demand for film does not push major manufacturers to join in.