Ilford FP4 Plus in the Nikon N90s

Tavern at the Point

After I got outstanding results from Ilford’s classic FP4 Plus black-and-white film (photos here), earlier this year in my Olympus XA, I wanted to try it again.


The kind people at Analogue Wonderland sent me another roll to try, in exchange for this mention. They sell more than 200 films from around the world! That includes all of the classic films from Ilford and Kodak plus all the fun new films from small and boutique brands. And they ship just about everywhere. Get your Ilford FP4 Plus from them here.

Up Illinois St.

I hadn’t used my Nikon N90s in a while so I got it out and mounted the basic but fun 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens. Nikon included this lens with most of its consumer SLRs in the early 2000s. I got mine when it came with a used Nikon N65 I bought. Except for some barrel distortion on the wide end, easily corrected in Photoshop, it’s a good performer.

Monument in the sky

That lens weighs just seven ounces, which is great, because the N90s is a large, heavy semi-pro body. Read my review of it here. This “gelded” lens lacks an aperture ring, limiting the camera to Program mode for exposure.

Wheeler Mission

I left this kit in a drawer at work over several weeks and took it out for a photo walk whenever I could get away at lunch. As you can see in the photos above, FP4 Plus does a great job rendering clouds in the sky. But as I shot this roll, summer faded into autumn. In Indiana, that often means more cloudy than sunny days. The FP4 Plus delivered a great range of tones in all weather.


One of my pet peeves with some slower-speed black-and-white films is a tendency to blow highlights. FP4 Plus has never done that to me. It returns good detail for me even in strongly reflected sunlight.

The Artsgarden

Old School Photo Lab developed and scanned this roll and did their usual excellent work. But as I’ve been teaching myself to develop my own black-and-white film, I’m wondering how this film will look in Rodinal, my developer of choice. I’m eager to try it.


Ilford FP4 Plus is a fantastic medium-speed (ISO 125) black-and-white film. If you’ve never tried it, do, right away. You can get yours from Analogue Wonderland, in 35mm and 120, here.

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35 responses to “Ilford FP4 Plus in the Nikon N90s”

  1. wilwahabri Avatar

    Having been an avid user of FP4+ since it’s inception, I have to say it is brilliant to use and easy to develop at home using Ilford, Kodak or Agfa chemistry. It’s modern equivalent Ilford Delta 100 gives exceptionally smooth tones and extremely fine grain whilst retaining the useability of FP4. Hertily recommend trying Delta. It also develps quicker when processing. 6 minutes in HC-110 as compared to 9 minutes for FP4 in HC-110

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I should probably give Delta another try. I shot one roll about five years ago and wasn’t pleased with the results, but perhaps that was more photographer error than the film itself. But I also like what I’ve seen of FP4 enough that I could easily just keep going with it!

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’m a big FP-4 fan, when Kodak killed Verichrome Pan in 120, I switched over and was pretty happy (had a short affair with Agfa APX 100, tho). Unlike W , I’ve never been a “tabular” film fan, The Kodak stuff never had good skin tones (most of my work), and never tried the Ilford stuff. Chemically precise, tight grain was never a big seller for me, loved the organic look of film (plus, I’m a large format user). I always said Kodak was answering a question that no one asked, when they invented tabular grain film; they just divided up there own market so they lost more money! Going back to FP-4 and HP-5 is all about me supporting companies that still support film!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The more I use this film the more I think it needs to be my go-to ISO-100-ish b/w. It’s just lovely. I don’t know that I have a strong feeling about t-grain films. I like T-Max 400 a lot but am not as jazzed about T-Max 100. I can’t put my finger on why.

  3. P Avatar

    Very nice images here, Jim. As I think I’ve stated before, I’m a huge fan of FP4 PLUS. It is hands-down one of my favorite stocks. My only real complaint about it is that it runs $6.49 per 36-exposure roll, minimum, which is quite expensive. At least it’s cheaper than Delta 100, which is a whopping $7.49 per roll, minimum, and I actually prefer FP4 PLUS anyways. That’s just my personal preference, however. All the Delta stocks are also very nice. There’s no denying that. FP4 PLUS looks great in Rodinal, even in 35mm. You should definitely give developing a roll yourself a go! My favorite of the images you posted above is “The Artsgarden.” But out of this entire roll, I think my favorite overall is actually “Parking,” with its nice array of urban signage, older architecture, brick sidewalks, and moody tones. The entire roll was a joy to look at, though. As always, thanks for sharing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      For years I’ve looked for a great cheap b/w. I think Fomapan 200 is the one for me. But now I’m realizing that I truly can afford film even if it’s $6.49 a roll. My plan is after I master developing 120 film to shift to 35mm film, and then it matters even less what the film roll costs as I will be saving a boatload not sending my film out to a lab anymore.

      Was it this one you liked best?


      1. P Avatar

        Yep, that’s the one! It really stood out to me for the reasons previously stated. I love old architecture, signs, and brick pathways.

        Fomapan 200 is one of my go-to stocks because despite recent price increases it’s still much more affordable (i.e. more fairly priced) than others and the results one can achieve with it really can be stunning (the general consensus seems to be that it likes Rodinal, by the way). It’s actually a hybrid emulsion from what I understand, containing two emulsion layers, one comprised of traditional cubic grains and the other of more modern tabular-style grains. Regardless, it’s pretty. I also really like Fomapan 400, but its grain can be too much for some.

        If you’re really liking FP4 PLUS, and the cost isn’t a barrier for you, then by all means make it your go-to ~100 ASA stock. I’ve definitely enjoyed your work with it thus far, and I’m sure I’ll continue to! But my issue, personally, with paying $6.49, or honestly even $5, for a single roll of B&W film is that it really does add up in a hurry if you’re shooting a decent quantity of film, even if you’re developing it yourself, which by necessity due to how outrageous the cost of lab processing has become I think most of us probably are doing our own developing these days. Plus, logically, I just don’t see how any B&W film stock should be selling for that much. B&W film should be cheap, cheaper than any other film type. There’s just no way the real-world cost to manufacture most B&W emulsions (or honestly most color stuff as well) is such that their current prices are justified. If consumer-grade color negative stocks, all of which are a lot more complicated to produce than B&W and require additional raw materials to boot, can still sell for $4 or less per 36-exposure roll, of which several do (Fujifilm C200, Kodak ColorPlus, and at times others as well), and still turn a reasonable profit for the manufacturers (which it quite obviously is), then B&W should logically be even cheaper — much cheaper, in fact. It just doesn’t make sense on any level. So I can’t help but feel like I’m being terribly ripped off every time I buy a “name-brand” roll of B&W film today. And sadly, I think the days of film manufacturers actually caring about providing truly affordable, low cost film stocks to the community as they once did, allowing anyone with the interest to actually get into film as a hobby and shoot a good amount of film without making them go broke, are gone. Unfortunately, I see that this is going to do nothing but create a barrier to entry that’s too great for most would-be newcomers, and force out a lot of current film shooters who don’t have the financial means to continue the hobby in the way they’d like due to the excessive cost. And for whatever reason there seems to be a vocal group of people within the community today actually defending the current incredibly high cost of film and associated services, even if it clearly doesn’t add up.

        I really do see the near total lack of any available B&W stocks that could truly classify as “budget” these days as a major problem. The availability of affordable, budget stocks is what a lot of people have long relied upon to be able to be a part of the film community. Furthermore, for those who really desire to master the medium (both in-camera and processing techniques), they need to be able to consistently shoot a lot of film to do so, not just an occasional roll. With today’s costs, I’d venture to say that’s entirely beyond reach for your average person, and as such the film manufacturers are excluding a ton of people that would otherwise likely become their best customers, not to mention showcases for the incredible capabilities of their products. For the first time in literally decades, budget stocks really no longer exist, with the exception of maybe the Ultrafine films, but they’re still substantially more expensive than they and other budget B&W stocks were even just three or four years ago. I just really don’t see that this is going to help the film divisions of these companies long-term, and it’s certainly placing a lot of film shooters with limited budgets in a tough spot. They can either shoot very little film compared to what they were able to do historically, or they can decide only shooting the occasional roll isn’t worthwhile and call it quits altogether. Logically speaking, neither situation can be beneficial in the long run for the manufacturers. And maybe they’re fine with that if they don’t have any real plans for supporting film as a product for that many more years into the future, as incredibly sad as that would be. But based on the actions of certain manufacturers, that’s precisely what I’m afraid of. I’m happy for people within the film community that have the financial ability to shoot film today without breaking the bank in spite how expensive the whole affair has become, although my suspicion is most of these people are still not actually buying and shooting that much film unless they’re in the small camp of pros. Regardless, I don’t believe these people are a good representation of the community as a whole, and I worry that the vast majority of would-be film shooters are being entirely alienated, which means a much smaller and less diverse community and far fewer sales. Again, that can’t ultimately be a good thing if a company is planning for the long-term survivability of a product.

        Well, Jim, if you’re still reading, thank you, and I apologize for going off-topic and writing a book just to explain why FP4 PLUS, being sold at $6.49 per roll, is not something I regularly shoot, even though it’s one of my favorite film stocks. As you know, I’m long-winded, and when it comes to the topic of film and the current state of both the industry and the community, I have some pretty major concerns about the future based on the present trends and the recent past. What it really boils down to is that I love film, and I don’t want to see it disappear just because some bean counters somewhere decided that the best business decision was to maximize short-term profits by milking a small group of pros and amateurs who are willing and able to bear the cost, and then exiting the industry altogether once it dries up, ultimately meaning its demise and the end of film altogether. I really don’t want to see that happen, and I highly doubt anyone else who reads your blog does either, but I kind of feel like that’s the mentality driving the decisions of certain huge corporations that happen to have a division that manufacturers film.

        Anyways, I really enjoyed your photos from this roll of FP4 PLUS. I look forward to you developing a roll of it yourself in Rodinal, and to whatever else you’ve got planned.

        Take care of yourself!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I don’t know a lot about the film business but I do see evidence that we will see nothing but price rises over the next few years as the players adapt to film’s current scale. Film is a niche market now, plain and simple, and niche products suffer from the same supply and demand curve as anything.

          I’m looking forward to trying some Foma 200 in Rodinal. Maybe I should get some in 120 to try soon.

        2. P Avatar

          I worry you’re right that film prices will continue to rise over the next few years (but I hope not). Unfortunately, I think that’s exactly what doesn’t need to happen. They’ve already risen way too much just in the last few years. This was kind of my point. The average person within the community can only deal with so much before it just forces them out altogether. This won’t be a choice for many people. They just won’t be able to afford it anymore, and they’ll be done. I think it’s already happening, it just isn’t immediately apparent yet due to the number of pros dabbling in film again and the number of people with little more than a passing interest (i.e. not long-term, devoted customers) that collectively are filling the sales gap. Film may be niche now, but making it even more so by bleeding the community dry is going to make that problem worse, not better.

          If they’re serious about the survivability of film, then the manufacturers need to be working overtime to grow the community, exponentially, and bring new generations of serious photographers (amateur and pro alike) into the fold, not alienating them or excluding them outright due to an impossible cost barrier.

          And this is why I think these companies having budget film stocks available is of such critical importance. They used to understand that. Ilford/Harman has their Kentmere stocks, and they’re lower cost, but I would still say they’re too expensive to qualify as being truly “budget.” In terms of B&W, Kodak and Fujifilm have nothing even remotely budget-priced. Nothing. That’s a problem — for us, for them, for everyone. If they’re serious about the long-term viability of their film divisions, I would think they’d address this, which is why I have to wonder if they are serious about ensuring film has a future, or if they’re just trying to milk it for everything they can before letting it die. I really hope the latter isn’t the case.

          I’d love to see you shoot and develop some Fomapan 200 in Rodinal! On the topic of Fomapan, how is it that Foma can manufacturer film on the opposite side of the world, ship it here, have it go through distribution channels, and it still cost substantially less than anything Kodak sells when they’re sitting in our backyard? I’m just saying, based on that fact alone, there seems to be something seriously wrong with the prices being charged by Kodak, Ilford, and others.

        3. Jim Grey Avatar

          The processing/scanning is what’s going to push people out of the hobby, or keep them away altogether, first. $19 per roll is becoming the standard rate. I know a couple labs that do it for less but all the darling labs of the film community are up at that rate. For a 24 exp roll of Fujicolor 200, with film, processing, and scanning that’s a dollar flying away every time you press the shutter button.

        4. P Avatar

          Jim, I agree with you 100%, and I’m sure you’ll recall I’ve written extensively on other posts of yours about the outrageous and entirely unacceptable prices labs today are charging for processing/scans. It’s shameful, and there’s no excuse for what most places are charging. It’s greed and the unabashed exploitation of the community for insane profits, plain and simple. The darling labs you mentioned are a complete ripoff and I honestly don’t understand why people are even supporting them. They don’t deserve it. People should be calling them out for their greed, which is quite literally destroying the industry and the community. “Vote with your dollars,” no? Because you’re right, the profiteering going on is forcing a lot of people out who have long been die-hard film shooters, and it’s keeping interested newcomers from ever even giving film a go, or even being able to. Just as is true with the price-gouging going on by some of the film manufacturers, what these labs are doing will serve nobody long-term, including themselves. Short-term, yeah, they’ll rake in a lot of dough, but long-term it’ll gut the community and thus spell disaster for those on the industry side (labs, manufacturers, distributors, etc.). It’s not rocket science. This has happened to more industries than can be counted. It’s verifiable. History doesn’t lie. Widespread greed always, and I do mean always, destroys the economics of any industry, ultimately leading to its eventual demise.

          My discussion in previous comments above was primarily focused on people whose desire is to shoot B&W in a truly serious manner (i.e. not just an occasional roll every month or two) and who are doing their own home processing/scanning, although home scanning is another major problem that’s only getting worse as time passes and fewer viable solutions exist, none of which are even remotely ideal, or honestly even acceptable, especially for 35mm. But I’m sure you’ll recall we’ve also talked about that extensively in the past, so there’s no point in rehashing it here.

          The thing that really irks me is that a vocal minority of individuals within the film community are actually going out of their way to regularly and constantly defend this exploitative, nonsensical behavior by film manufacturers, labs, and other businesses that are supposedly their to serve the community (that’s their claim, at least). Then, unfortunately, instead of thinking for themselves, people who read this nonsense actually believe it and turn around and start spouting and defending it themselves. It’s sadly like watching a game of Lemmings play out in real life. And it’s really frustrating because there is no reason for the high cost of film and associated services today. None. I don’t expect it to be as cheap as it used to be, but the present situation is not acceptable. These companies, corporations, and businesses are no longer serving the community in any way, shape, or form. They’re serving only themselves, in a very shortsighted manner, I might add. If a person actually takes the time to look into it, the math doesn’t add up, at all, on any level. Like I said, it’s pure greed, and it’s wrong. But honestly, what can you expect these days when people’s business “educations” teach them to do everything that is wrong, claiming that it’s “smart business practice”? I’ve been there. I know.

          Anyways, I’ll let you get back to it. Let’s hope things within the film community and industry start changing for the better, because the present course things are on paints a very bleak future, even if “sales are up” and things look (should be italicized) good right now. Again, it’s very shortsighted. I, for one, want the community to grow, for it to be accessible to anyone and everyone and not just those with money to burn, for it to survive long-term, and for it to actually be profitable and sustainable for those on the industry/service side in the long run. I want it to succeed. But right now, this is not the situation we have. It’s exactly the opposite. And I hope anyone who happens to read this will think about it and actually look into the reality of what things actually cost, versus what they’re being told things cost and what they’re being charged. They’re miles apart. Yes, a fair and reasonable profit needs to be made by those on the industry/service end, but what we’re talking about is in no way fair or reasonable, and it’s damaging the industry, and if it continues, it will do so irreparably.

          Take care, Jim. Every day I look forward to your posts (minus Sundays, of course). And since you’ve started developing your own film that’s only become more true. I appreciate the time and energy you invest in this blog. It’s one of very few I still follow. Keep up the good work.

  4. -N- Avatar

    I really like my N90s – so much that I finally am getting a flash and remote for it. Currently I have a roll of Ilford Ortho Chrome 80 in it and am looking forward to the results. I have some FP4+ on the shelf, ready for my N90s, but when the Ortho arrived, it got pushed aside!
    Great series of images.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! I love my N90s too. These go for so little on the used market right now! I ought to buy 20 of ’em and wait for the price to go up and make a minor killing. Pretty much every film I put into this camera comes out looking great.

      1. -N- Avatar

        I agree. It’s also so easy to use – not too many dials and buttons. And let’s admit, that noise it makes when exposing an image – classic Nikon!

  5. Doug Anderson Avatar

    FP4 was my first Ilford film back in my darkroom days. I was strongly committed to Kodak films and was getting excellent results with Panatomic X and Tri-X, both developed in Rodinal, but I was not happy with Plus X. My friend in the darkroom department of Willoughby’s in New York suggested I give FP4 a try. I shot, developed and printed one roll and never shot another frame of Plus X. And Ilford’s change to FP4 Plus ca. 1990 did nothing to change my opinion.

    The jury is still out for me on the cubic grain vs. tabular grain issue. I have been fine tuning my hybrid film/developer/scanner/editor/printer workflow to make the best use I can of the unique benefits of film. My best current results are with Tri-X in Rodinal and no sharpening whatsoever in the digital part of the process.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You buck the conventional wisdom that Tri-X doesn’t look good in Rodinal. I tried that combo (in 120) not long ago and I wasn’t displeased. One day I’ll try it in 35mm and see if I still feel that way.

      I’m looking forward to trying FP4+ in Rodinal. I kind of wish I’d bought a 5-pack of it instead of the T-Max 100 I did buy, as I continue to refine my home development technique.

      1. Doug Anderson Avatar

        Print size may explain the differing views of Tri-X in Rodinal, at least in part. My biggest prints are 8×12. Most of them are 5×7 or 7×10.5. (And the computer I use for editing them is a MacBook with a 13″ screen.)

    2. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      Plus One for Doug and Plus – X, never liked it in high-school, college, or as a professional, and never met another professional that like it either (hence Verichrome Pan, which I believe both Avedon and Victor Scribneski shot).

      When I needed a medium speed 4 X 5 film to shoot back in the day, Kodak’s Ektapan 100 was great, made specifically for strobe! It was marketed as a portrait studio film, but I was interested in the strobe performance, and I was about the only advertising photographer in my city using it for general work. Kept getting compliments on the prints, but no one knew the “secret”.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        I feel nostalgic for Plus-X because it was a film I shot some back in the 80s and 90s, but the more I use other ISO ~100 b/w films — like FP4+ — the more I realize there are better choices than Plus-X.

  6. Marc Beebe Avatar

    I don’t ordinarily critique people’s work, but in the case of the picture of “Wheeler Mission” you should crop it so the left is the edge of the brick building and the right is just past the trash can with the taller brick building above. I think that would make it a prize winner.
    Just a suggestion.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Like this?

      Wheeler Mission

      1. Marc Beebe Avatar

        Yes. Tighter on the right though, so the sign is left out – just at the edge of the building before the skyscraper.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I was trying to stick with a standard size, here 4:5, but I see where you’re coming from.

          1. Marc Beebe Avatar

            Don’t get stuck in the ‘format rut’. I’d make pictures round if I thought that’s what they called for. :D

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          I used to crop to whatever early in my digital editing days but a few years ago started hewing to the standard crops: 2:3, 4:5, even 16:9. I’m not sure why anymore. I think because I thought maybe I’d print some of these someday.

          1. Marc Beebe Avatar

            Even prints don’t have to be fixed sizes. Amazing how much influence wet glass plates still have!

  7. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    You were born to shoot this film!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m definitely buying more!

  8. sink luxe Avatar
    sink luxe

    i like this
    relay like black and withe photo

  9. wilwahabri Avatar

    I am in no way connected with the photo business. I think you are being somewhat unrealistic in your statement of rank profiteering by labs and film manufacturers. It may not cost much in chemicals or raw materials to make or process film, however, the cost of a basic processing machine runs into the tens of thousands of dollars, plus upgrade costs. Rental or purchase of premises, business rates, which are becoming a major problem for a lot of businesses, and salaries. We all want to take home more money. My own salary has over the years grown by a factor of 150! I have been in the same industry since I was 17 with admittedly promotions along the way, but people are the most expensive asset. In my business over 75% of the annual budget is people cost, and it is similar in most businesses. Volume production decreases cost and although film volumes are increasing again, they are nowhere near the volumes they used to be, likewise processing volumes. We are lucky that the film makers are actually reintroducing new films to the market. Film photography is a niche market today, with the proliferation of digital cameras and imagery, using film is no longer the norm and is edging into luxury item territory and consequently there is a price to pay.
    Whilst scanning cost, and here in Germany it costs 14 euro to develop and scan a roll of film, my Epson V600 scanner does a really good job of scanning negatives for a reasonable price. If I want better I have a multi format dedicated film scanner which produces results approaching drum scanner standards. It was pricey and it takes time to process the scans but it does work. Scanning myself reduces my process cost to 4euro.
    The world has moved on and enthusiasts like us are keeping the art alive, and in the end, that costs money.

    1. P Avatar


      I’m assuming your comment was in response to mine. I’m going to try to keep this relatively short because I’ve already written plenty.

      Yes, I’m well aware of the factors you brought up, among many others, and to the best of my abilities I have included them in my own estimates of the real costs of the things in question. In fact, in my opinion, I’ve been very liberal (in favor of those I believe are exploiting us) with my numbers for everything across the board, including employee salaries, real estate rates, equipment costs, service fees, raw materials, and a great many other expenditures faced by these businesses, even water. I’m not going to list everything here and provide a breakdown of costs I’ve calculated, but please don’t think I haven’t taken much into consideration. I have, and no matter how I slice it, I can’t even begin to approach a scenario where the current typical prices of film and/or lab services are even remotely justified (there are a few exceptions). And I don’t want people to take my word for it either. Yes, it requires a fairly significant amount of time, but they should do some research and the math for themselves. If they do, I think they’ll be shocked.

      I want to address a couple of things you specifically mentioned.

      First, the cost of film processors — Yeah, they’re expensive, but you have to keep in mind that most (almost all) of these labs we’re talking about have been in business for decades and purchased most, if not all, of their processing equipment way back in the golden age of film. Given that, it’s highly unlikely many labs are still paying on this equipment. The reality is that it’s probably been paid off for decades. The same goes for the Noritsu/Fujifilm scanners they’re using. That said, based on how much money I estimate these labs are raking in, even if they wanted to spend a hundred grand outright on a brand new, super high-end dip-and-dunk processor, they could do so without even flinching. One more thing to mention about processors is that used ones, whether they’re dip-and-dunk or roller transport, can be purchased rather cheap these days, oftentimes for only a few grand, not tens of thousands. This is presumably what most of the few newer start-up film labs have done in order to open their doors. Similarly, even higher-end Noritsu and Frontier scanners can be purchased for one or two grand. If I had that kind of cash I would buy one. Sadly, I don’t, but I wish I did.

      Second, let’s talk about “people costs.” It’s a bit more difficult to gauge these costs for film manufacturers, but it’s not difficult to do so for film labs. Furthermore, most labs don’t even employ that many people. For some, the number is in the single digits. Even the larger of these “darling labs” don’t have that large of an employee roster. Additionally, due to how automated most things are in labs today, with the exception of needing a couple of technical employees on-hand with specialized skills, the need to hire people that demand a large salary is very limited. I’m not saying the work lab techs do is brainless, but it’s certainly not difficult. And sadly, even at that, most labs still fail miserably at consistently providing quality scans or returning film to customers that’s undamaged. Scratches, “tramlines,” other emulsion damage, and streaking is very common, as are scans that are very poorly color balanced and horrifically over-sharpened, among other things. It’s entirely unacceptable, especially for how much they’re charging. There’s rampant incompetence in many labs, and the quality of their services proves it. But that’s a whole other discussion for another time.

      Third, you made a very good and factual point about higher volume production decreasing the cost of goods/services. That’s very true, it does. And yet, as the volume has been going up over the last few years, have we seen prices go down on film or lab services, as one should rightfully expect? Nope, we’ve seen just the opposite. The cost of film and film-related services has gone up. Way up. Again, that’s a sure indicator greed is driving the industry. Another sure indicator is that there are actually a small number of labs that are actually still charging fair and reasonable prices, and yet they’re still profitable. That’s proof that isn’t debatable that the other labs are screwing over their customers. And one more piece of clear evidence that film manufacturers are ripping us off is as I stated in a previous comment: Foma, who manufacturers film on the other side of the world and thus has to deal with major transportation costs, as well as importing their film into the U.S., and distribution here, still sells their films in the States for substantially less than anything Kodak sells, when Kodak is sitting in our own backyard.

      Fourth, the idea that film is a luxury product and as such will be expensive — Yes, that’s what’s happening, but it doesn’t have to. And therein lies my point. It’s the very behavior and business practices of film manufacturers and those who supposedly support and serve the film community who are ensuring that this is becoming the reality (and those in the community that pointlessly defend it for whatever reason, even though they’re quite literally messing themselves around by doing so). At this point in history, yes, film is going to be a niche part of the photographic world. That’s a fact. But just because something is niche does not mean it has to be expensive. They’re not mutually exclusive. There is still a plenty large community of film photographers out there to allow the industry to survive and thrive, without it costing a fortune for your average, everyday film shooter to put a lot of film through their cameras on a limited budget. In fact, I would argue that even with a small community relative to what it once was twenty-plus years ago, the sustainability, viability, profitability, and survival of film relies entirely upon it being affordable. Right now, the cost is a barrier to entry so large that instead of actually growing the community to a healthy and sustainable level and allowing/inviting new generations to get involved in a legitimate manner (i.e. actually shooting film in decent quantities, not just the occasional roll, which is what’s required to actual learn and master the medium), the manufacturers/labs/etcetera seem bound and determined to create the exact opposite scenario. I’m sorry, but it’s just plain idiotic.

      Finally, I want to make it known that I am thankful for film manufacturers reintroducing previously discontinued film stocks. That’s great. But at the same time, if they cost too much, I won’t be buying them. And they do, so I’m not. That’s lost sales, plain and simple. I’ve bought one roll of P3200 since it was re-released as a special treat, because at $9 a roll it’s just not affordable. I don’t know for certain, but my guess is that it probably does warrant being a bit more expensive than most B&W stocks because being a high speed emulsion it probably contains higher-than-average amounts of silver. I don’t know that for sure, but it would make sense. But still, $9? I highly doubt if that price tag is justified. Now, if it were sold at $5 or $6 per 36-exposure roll, yeah, I’d buy it fairly often. It would still be too expensive to be a regular purchase, but I’d at least be buying it. But because it’s so expensive, Kodak has effectively lost my business for that particular item entirely. The same goes for a number of film stocks from a number of manufacturers. In fact, because of how much most of their film stocks have gone up in price, I rarely ever purchase any Kodak or Ilford products. I flat-out don’t purchase Fujifilm stocks anymore, and based on what ACROS II has been priced at in Japan, I seriously doubt I’ll be buying it when it releases here. $9 or $10 (based on currency conversion) for a single 35mm roll of 100 ASA film? It’s like some sort of sick joke. Instead, Foma and Ultrafine (yes, I know their stocks are made by Harman) get most of my business these days because they are actually semi-reasonably priced and kind-of-sort-of affordable (I stress kind of). I sincerely hope their prices remain where they are because if they keep rising I might very well find myself forced out of the film community, despite how much I love it. I, like many people, just can’t afford outrageous film prices, and I definitely can’t afford what most labs are charging for services, so I basically never shoot color anymore. That’s even more lost sales for the manufacturers and the labs. I really hope the film manufacturers and labs begin to recognize this. There are a lot of us out here, who love film, but are about to be driven out entirely if something doesn’t change due to it simply becoming too unaffordable. Hence the reason why I advocated in an earlier comment for the need for truly budget film stocks to return from Kodak, Ilford, etc. Because right now, for people who actually desire to shoot a lot of film and not just one or two rolls a month, it’s just way too expensive, even if bulk-loading. If it’s not for you, great, I’m happy for you. But I bet for the majority of the really serious amateurs in the community, at least the ones who are not retirement age and living comfortably from a financial standpoint, it actually is. And it’s those serious amateurs, not hipsters or millennials with a fleeting interest, that the manufacturers, labs, and everyone else in the industry need to be catering to. They’re the ones who can ensure the sustainability and profitability of the industry long-term, because they’re the dedicated customers. They’re the foundation of the whole thing. But for it to work, they do have to be able to afford it in the first place. It really is that simple.

      Well, despite trying not to, I wrote another book. Sorry, Jim.

      Anyways, take care everyone!

  10. wilwahabri Avatar

    G’day P, when all is said and done the sheer numbers of people using film in the days prior to digital photography was many times the number that do now, even allowing for the resurgence. Sheer volume kept the price low. We are now probably well less than 10% of that number now. Under those conditions prices will rise.
    The most successful camera system ever in sheer numbers was 110, despite the results being lacklustre in most cases. It is said in excess of 100,000,000 were produced from 1972 until their demise in the 80’s. Add to that all the other formats in use and the number is enormous. With that number of cameras in use film could be made and processed cheaply. The same does not hold true today.
    My local photography shop has recently renewed their processors with Fuji Frontiers. Their old machine was worn out. So investment in new machines still have to be made to offer the service to those of us die hards using film. No established photo processer would buy second hand as the new machines have features they do not. I am in the shipping business, and if anywhere rip offs happen here, the cost of storing is astronomical compared to the high street, why? Because we are a limited market and demand tight turn around, exactly the same condition the photo film industry is in.

  11. P Avatar

    Yes, I know prices will rise, and they have, drastically, but at some point they absolutely have to stabilize and level off. And they have to before it becomes too expensive to support a healthy community. But we’ve surpassed that point, in my opinion, and yet prices are still rising, even though in reality they shouldn’t be. It’s imperative that film be affordable not just for our sake, but so that young people with an interest are able to buy and shoot a lot of film on a limited budget, allowing them to learn the ins and outs of the medium and become members of the community themselves (it can’t be overstated how important it is that younger generations continue to be introduced to film and have the financial ability to get serious about it, which right now I’d say very few can). That’s what ensures consistent, long-term sales. The thing is, manufacturers need to be selling a lot of film to a healthy-sized community made up of loyal customers, new and old alike, for it to be sustainable long-term, not just a chunk of film at massively inflated prices to a handful of pros and those with money to burn plus the occasional roll to those who can no longer afford to buy anything more (that’s not helpful to them). And as the community grows and becomes stable, we should logically see a decrease in costs, unless people are being greedy. Based on everything I can gather, I believe people are indeed being greedy. Incredibly so. And it’s alienating would-be customers.

    Regarding “established photo processors” buying new equipment when they actually need to update or replace what they’ve got, well yeah, I wouldn’t expect an established lab to buy used equipment if they’re swapping out their processor and/or scanners. If you read what I wrote, I was saying that for new labs trying to open their doors, there is plenty of equipment out there for a lot less than tens of thousands of dollars. And if an established lab is just simply in need of parts for a processor they want to keep in operation, it’s also a good way for them to acquire said parts. There’s nothing wrong with that. Regarding “upgrades” to newer processing equipment, it’s really not that significant on the processing side. But yeah, on the scanning side the newer equipment definitely has more to offer (although it’s still outdated, if we’re being honest). But as I stated in my previous comment, with the amount of money established labs are making, most of them can probably purchase a brand new hundred thousand dollar dip-and-dunk processor (a fancy, top of the line model) and several Frontiers and/or Noritsus without batting an eyelash.

  12. wilwahabri Avatar

    Final point. In 1966 when I was a teenager it cost 1pound ten shillings to process and print a film. Average annual salary was £891 0.16% annual salary. In 2018 the UK average salary was £30546. It cost £12 to process and scan a film 0.03% annual salary. By that token, in real terms we should be paying 5 times that today. Meaning a process and scan should cost around £60!

    1. P Avatar

      I hear where you’re coming from, WILWAHABRI. I do. And people frequently bring average salary and inflation data into these discussions. But the reality is that it’s not that simple. Or maybe I should say that’s too simplistic. Regardless of how you look at it, salaries and/or currency inflation are very poor indicators of the appropriate cost of an item or service at any given point in time. If anyone doubts that, just start looking at what the things you buy during your daily/weekly routine cost you, compare them to what the same commodities cost fifty years ago, and then do that math telling you what they should (I wish I could make words italicized) cost. Everything will be all over the place. These things are not a good indicator of real-world costs for most goods and services. One of the primary reasons is because practically anything that is a technology, or technological in nature, or created through a technological process will drop in price with time, especially if the manner in which it’s created has the potential to be substantially refined and ultimately mostly automated (hint: like film). It’s virtually guaranteed. That’s why a good quality 50″ television today costs half as much as a similar quality 32″ television a decade ago, and that 32″ television a decade ago cost half as much as a 24″ CRT TV a decade before that. Well, film is indeed a technology, and it’s manufactured through a technological process, and that process over time has become more and more automated and more and more refined. This is how technology works. So, take it how you will, but that’s more evidence for the reduction of cost as time progresses as far as I’m concerned, not the opposite. People also do a lot of talking about the cost of film increasing because the cost of raw materials increased. On one hand, I get that and it almost sounds logical. But on the other hand, I also know the cost of raw materials used to manufacture electronics increases as well, probably at a higher rate than the raw materials used to manufacture film, and yet the cost of electronics continually goes down, despite the increased cost of the necessary raw materials to manufacture them. The same is true of about a million other things, not just electronics. Anyways, that’s just something interesting to note and take under consideration. Either way, I do not see that the increased cost of raw materials correlates realistically with the huge jumps in the price of film that we’re expected to believe were caused by the raw material increases. It’s just one more place where the math doesn’t seem to even come close to adding up.

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