There is a scene in the movie ‘Spinal Tap’ where the band’s manager gets questioned about why they are booked into smaller venues than the last tour. Has the band gotten less popular? No, he says, more selective. That’s also true of photographic film, 35mm in particular.
Film has moved back from the mass market and its not longer available in many of the shops that it once was. There are virtually no film cameras on sale in the major retailers and many brands have disappeared over the last ten years.
The second hand market has risen. Because the price of film cameras has dropped significantly you can buy a high end film model which costs £100 and is the equivalent of a £10 000 brand new digital SLR or a £900 second hand. Also, film can still render an image more accurately than digital, so if you combine 35mm negatives with a scanner and the latest photo manipulation software, you can have the best in quality with the latest advances in technology.
The problem is that many sewcond hand cameras may be bought as collectibles or only used the once. If 35mm isn’t being used then it’s production will fall and the price will rise. That could mean its end.
We lost lots of film brands, Kodachrome being the highest profile victim, but now new brands are appearing on the market. The reliable Fomapan from the Czech Republic and Kentmere from Ilford are two. Ilford is a firm that had its financial problems but restructured and now appears to be on the rise again. Kodak has also announced the new Porta 160 colour negative film. Developing and printing a role of black and white film is still a right of passage on many photography courses.
Film is ‘cool’ now. That means that its gone from ‘old fashioned’ (which means rubbish) to ‘retro’ (which means artistic). Japanese and some European photographers see it as a medium worth using.