- Kodak has stopped production of all consumer films, and also of all slide films. That means that only a couple their professional C-41 print films and a couple of black-and-white films are still in production.
- Fuji has dropped all
of their film with the exception of but three consumer C-41 print films, and have dropped their professional black-and-white instant film and several of their professional color print films.
- Agfa is gone from the film market altogether.
- Ilford ain't doin' so great.
So, what brought this up? A couple of recent conversations. Saturday, we were talking to travel photographer David Maynard. David had just recently shot his last roll of Kodak Gold, and he was in a bit of a panic about what he was going to do. He'd worked long and hard to perfect his film-based workflow, and everything was tuned around that film. He's tried Fuji's films, and doesn't like the color. The same goes for Kodak's Portra films. Maybe Ektar will be his new film? Even so, he's looking at a serious disruption in his work.
Last night, Donna and I were talking some more about film. No, I don't remember what brought it up, but she commented that she'd like to run a roll of film through an old Agfa camera that's been in her family for years -- and has gone halfway around the world! She's got a sentimental reason to want to run that roll of film. She also wants to shoot an entire project on film, for the experience of learning to expose manually -- without the crutch of being able to peek at the back of the camera to see what she's got, along with the limitation on the number of available exposures. She also wants to experience the very tactile controls of an analog camera. Interestingly, this who topic has been coming up on numerous blogs and podcasts lately.
In an all digital world, with most cameras having somewhat disconnected soft-touch controls, how does one go about achieving a more film-like experience?
If all that your film-fix requires is to emulate a more recent film SLR, you can simply set the display on the back of your DLSR to it's info-only display, or turn it off altogether, or stick a piece of gaffer's tape over it, and then stick in a really small flash card and shoot the best quality JPEG file your camera can make. Most recent film SLRs did away with with aperture rings and dedicated shutter speed controls anyway, so using a DSLR in this manner isn't really all that different from a "modern" film camera, and shooting JPEGs is kinda like shooting slide film.
If you want full-on, analog-style, manual controls on a digital camera, your choices right now are limited and relatively expensive: Fujifilm's X-Pro1 or the new Nikon Df. I've written little bits about each of these cameras before. Fuji's X-E1 and new X-E2 come really close, with all the traditional controls, but a beautiful electronic viewfinder.
Of course, images made on film look different than digital images. It's kind of like early audio CDs (and digital recording) compared to vinyl records. Film images, even digitized ones, have a more organic look. The Fuji cameras have the option to emulate three popular Fuji film emulsions: Provia, Velvia and Astia, along with black and white. To achieve that look with other digital cameras, you'll need software plugins or presets for your editing software.
Getting back to David's plight (remember David?); he's a dedicated Olympus shooter, so he ought to go out and get himself an OM-D EM-5 body and a couple of lenses. There are parts of the camera that look just like they came from an old OM-4. Then, get a copy of the VSCO film emulator that includes the Kodak films he likes. Yes, it's a new workflow, but I'd bet that, after a little learning curve, he'd like it result just fine.
Despite my couple of minor complaints about the X-E1 and X-E2, if I had the money, I'd go over to Service Photo and buy one tomorrow. I'd get my nice film looks, and my nice analog controls in a trim and attractive package (I actually don't mind a good electronic viewfinder). Yes, I know I said that I really liked the OM-D EM-5 (and I do), but after having had the Fuji in my hands again, I know it will be the better camera for me and the way I want to work.