Unsolicited editorials on cameras, lenses, film, developer, and black and white photography in general.

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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Film Cameras in a Digital Age - A Rapid Extinction

Each month for the past few years, film photographers have lamented the loss of some entity tied to film-based photography. Kodak announced the halting of R&D for black and white developers, Agfa (Germany) discontinued film production, and Ilford (England) briefly halted the manufacture of film. Clearly the digital age is making the film and developer industry a losing enterprise.

The film camera industry is also beginning to unravel. It began with medium format cameras, the tools of professional photographers. Medium format camera makers are abandoning the genre at an alarming rate. Bronica bowed out, most of Fujifilm bowed out, Mamiya bowed out, Pentax bowed out, and Contax bowed out. If you want a medium format camera, Hasselblad and Rolleiflex are still available, if you have deep pockets. If you don't, you might think about something built in the Ukraine. And the 35mm camera makers are beginning to fold up. No more Contax film cameras. Minolta and Konica merged, then dropped out of the camera business. Nikon dispensed with most of its film cameras. And yesterday I read that the Hasselblad XPAN, a panoramic 35mm camera, is being discontinued. The reason? They use solder in their circuits, and lead is not enviro-friendly. It would cost too much to re-engineer the circuits to eliminate lead solder.

Enviro-friendliness and homeland security are making procurement of darkroom chemicals problematic. Local camera stores don't want to get saddled with developer and fixer sitting on the shelves when digital is what is moving. You can buy it from the larger retail stores on the web, that is, if they can ship it to you. Toxic? They won't send it.