Film Photography

Too many film-photography bandwagons to jump on

It’s been a busy year in film photography, if you keep up with the news. Here are all of the new-product announcements I could find since January 1.

Notice how much of that news is from small companies. The news from the large, traditional companies in the film-photography space has not been as rosy. Prices have gone up, and film stocks have become scarce.

If it hasn’t become clear to you yet that the future of film photography is in the niches, these first four months of 2022 ought to be a giant, blinking neon sign pointing it out.

Small companies serving a niche can’t achieve the economies of scale the traditional film-photography companies could during film’s heyday. Many of the items listed above, even the films, are relatively expensive. Even though good vintage film cameras can still often be purchased for low prices, everything else about film photography is becoming considerably more expensive. It’s pricing people out of the hobby.

Waiting its turn in my to-shoot queue

I’m fortunate to have pretty good means. I can run with the “cool kids” of film photography if I want to. As a blogger who writes a lot about my film-photography adventures, I’d probably get a lot of pageviews if I could buy, try, and blog about more of this hot new stuff! But there are only so many bandwagons even the most well-heeled film photographer can jump on.

I’ve jumped only on two: the Reto Ultra Wide and Slim, and Kodak Gold 200 in 120. I reviewed the Reto yesterday, but I haven’t had the time to shoot any of that Kodak Gold yet.

But the bottom line is, for those who can afford it, it’s an exciting time to be in film photography.

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23 thoughts on “Too many film-photography bandwagons to jump on

  1. I guess it would make sense that film photography would, at some point, morph from a dying mass market to a luxury niche.

  2. Plenty happening….interestingly the popular Kodak emulsions still seem to be readily available in 120, which makes me wonder whether they are trying to keep pro photographers in film while they increase their production to keep up – this was foreshadowed when the price first started going up. Fingers crossed!!

    • I wonder if part of that could be 35mm just being that much more popular, and there is plenty of 120 still in the warehouse and available to the retailers.

  3. Andy Umbo says:

    Excellent recap! I’m glad someone’s tracking this stuff…

    Altho, the 35-40mm lens is a pretty standard pick for me, I’m always amazed at how many companies are introducing lenses in that size, vs. trying something new.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          As a further comment, when you see 85’s they’re always trying to make them as fast as possible, resulting in lenses the size of coffee cans! I used to have the Contax system back in the 80’s, and the Zeiss 85 f/2,8 was about the size of a 50mm. Love to see an 85mm f/2.8 (or even an f/3.5) made as tiny as possible, and super sharp wide open….

        • I’ve never owned an 85. I hear it’s a fine focal length for portraits. I’ve mostly used 135 for that as that is a focal length I have.

  4. I was able to shoot Kodak Gold 200 in 120 as soon as it hit Australian shores, and I was very impressed! it’ll be my go-to once I finish the Lomo 400 that’s waiting in the fridge. as for the Reto UWS, I have a Superheadz clone that I hold very dear to me that’s been in working condition since… 2010? I’m keen to take it out again as I feel like I’m missing out with all these nice results from the Reto version!

    • I am about to shoot my first roll of the Gold 200 and I’m looking forward to the results. I hear the Superheadz clone had a rubberized coating on the body that attracted grime. Did yours manage to stay clean?

      • mine had the metallic gold paint so it didn’t get sticky, though it has lost its shine in the corners and on the grip. the Reto version looks like it won’t have these problems! keen on the yellow one if ever I decide to buy. can’t wait to see your Gold shots!

  5. Lots of good news here for sure. However, as a film shooter for nearly 50 years, I am beginning to worry. I have been noticing the “out of stock” situation with almost all Kodak color films at all of my usual sources. The stock that is available…like Portra 400, is nearly double in price of what is was a year ago. The news that Kodak Gold 200 is now available in 120 coincided with empty shelves everywhere of that emulsion in 35mm format. Makes me wonder, to Steve Mitchell’s point above, if Kodak diverted limited production capability over to Gold 200 in 120 size to keep the remaining pro film photographers happy. Deep down, I feel like supply chain issues are hindering Kodak’s ability to keep up with film demand. And I wonder how that will affect the smaller, boutique film manufacturers?

  6. tbm3fan says:

    Cheap prices, for pretty much anything, maybe a thing in the past nowadays and into the future. Of course that means buying less, which equals less demand, which equals a possible recession, but then not much choice for many. I have throttle back dramatically as I won’t pay silly prices unless absolutely, positively necessary.

    • That’s a good dimension to add to this conversation. Sure, film photography is niche and therefore prices will rise because demand is smaller. But that will have an equal and opposite reaction in the market.

  7. I’ve tried the Reto UWS which I like, blog here: https://urbanadventureleague.wordpress.com/2022/03/15/reto-ultra-wide-and-slim-embracing-the-lo-fi/

    And I tried two rolls of the Color Mission 200, which I thought did a good job at outdoor shots but low light stuff was pretty grainy:
    https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=63964930%40N05&sort=date-taken-desc&text=adoxcolormission200&view_all=1

    I’ll try the Gold 200 in 120 when I finally get another functioning camera that takes it, and I am looking forward to the JCH 400 slide film.

    But like you Jim, I really want more consistency in 35mm color stocks. I’ve resigned myself to the prices, but just getting stock–ANY stock–is hard. B&H and Freestyle barely have anything, along with my local sources. Blue Moon got in a shipment of maybe 400 rolls of Ultramax a couple weeks ago. I thought that should last a bit, then the next day I saw the stock down to 25! So of course I bought a couple. I hope that Kodak can get their supply chain issues worked out.

    Thankfully it seems like getting Ilford is still pretty easy, so that takes care of my black and white itch.

    • Thanks for your link to the Color Mission images. That film seems to have a brown bias — even the reds are brownish. Very interesting.

      I have enough color film here to last me the summer, maybe even through autumn if I dole it out. I hope by then that the shortages are over.

  8. A collapsible 35mm lens for ltm mount? That’s odd. The 35s are usually compact enough to not need the complexity of the telescoping tube. And the camera in his picture is most certainly not a Canon 7.

    The Trioplan may be an interesting option, but $1000 is a chunk.

    I’m looking forward to your test of the 120 Gold 200. I wish I had more time to experiment with some of these new films, but I barely keep up with what I have.

    • Andy Umbo says:

      Back in the dawn of my photo career, I remember seeing Meyer Gorlitz lenses and they were not considered a big thing, more like a cheap alternate to Leica brand rangefinder stuff and screw mount Pentax. Trust me, these lenses were not in the $1000 range even extrapolated to today. In addition, Trioplans were “”trio” because they were three element! With aspheric elements and computer design, these can be made much sharper today than the vintage ones, but still, as Kodakchromeguy says, that’s a lotta dough! They’re still kind of soft, with that “bubble” bokeh. I remember when I first read the Gorlitz reintroduction story, I thought the pricing was insane, and way out of their vintage brand expectations.

    • You’re right, that is kind of odd.

      I’m about to develop a roll of FP4 I shot in a new-to-me old folder. If it looks ok I’ll put my first roll of Gold 200 through that folder.

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