The last few weeks I’ve seen a great deal of moaning about two new film photography products that have been launched on the crowdfunding platforms. Those product being Silberra films and the new Reflex camera. Here’s my thoughts – not so much on the products themselves – but instead around a disappointing attitude I have witnessed toward them.
That’s right folks, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed!
Readers of this website will be aware that the primary topic of discussion is 35mm film cameras – specifically rangefinder and compact cameras. Those who especially close attention will know that I don’t really like SLR cameras, and the very regular readers of this site will know that I only really shoot two films, Portra 400 and HP5+.
Knowing this, you might then wonder why I’ve just committed to spend £350 on an SLR camera and a bunch of random B&W film. This is a camera that a I probably won’t shoot that much, likely could have blagged a review copy of when it was launched anyway; and a bunch of film that will probably either sit in a draw until I give it away or only get shot when I forget to buy some more HP5+
I’ve bought these things – committed my hard-earned cash (cash that I actually can’t afford to spend at the moment) – because I want the film photography industry to thrive and grow. Now, arguably I must be in a financially positive enough position to be able to make these decisions without too much concern. I’m not on the breadline, I will find a way to pay.
If I couldn’t find a way to pay, I would consider the next best thing to chuck £10, £5, perhaps even just a quid. If I was really skint, I might not chuck any cash at either. That would be sad for me and sad for the products, but it would be understandable – not everyone has spare cash.
But even given the unfortunate position of being so broke as to not be able to chuck even a quid at each of these crowdfunding projects I would still maybe ‘like’, share and wish them my best on the posts on social media etc. And that is all bearing in mind that these are products that don’t really apply to me and my personal tastes! Why? Because…
I want the film photography community and industry to thrive!
… I want the film photography industry to thrive! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one minute suggesting that people shouldn’t be entitled to share their opinions. But there is having an opinion about something, and then there is unnecessarily and strongly disparaging a product just because it doesn’t sit within your specific sphere of interest.
Take Silberra films
These guys are trying to bring new films to market. To start with they are working on reformulation of – as I understand it – Agfa stocks. These might be reformulation, but they are still new. Beyond this they intend to start producing new films using their own kit, from scratch. This is extremely impressive, and it should be encouraged wholeheartedly!
Yet people are moaning – to paraphrase “not more film”, “more rebranded Agfa”, etc. Seriously? What kind of reaction to tangible growth in the film industry is this? This is what we want in our community, growth; more actual film products to feed the growing market. Yet we as a community are finding ways to complain…?
Personally, I might not shoot it. I don’t shoot Fuji superior, but it still annoys me that Fuji are killing it off. I don’t shoot FP4, but I’m not going to deny its right to exist just because it’s more black & white film that doesn’t specifically appeal to me!
Then take the Reflex camera
With all of the massive amount of used cameras out there, it would be impossible for a new SLR to appeal perfectly to everyone. As I say, it doesn’t entirely appeal to me – it’s an SLR for a start, but it also has a LED light that I don’t get, a flash that I will never use, and I’m not sure I like the look of the shutter button on the front either.
But, these are opinions, they are simply based on my experiences and preferences – they don’t mean the camera is a complete write off for me, and they certainly don’t mean that this camera is a complete write off for everyone else. More specifically, they don’t mean – to paraphrase one of the comments I read – “this camera is destined to fail”.
More importantly, this is a new film camera to market! A new 35mm film camera at that! Designed from scratch, by a start-up. This is something we in the film photography community have been waiting for. A new brand, making a new camera.
It also has some new and innovative design features. Interchangeable film backs and interchangeable lens mounts are brilliant ideas in combination – the latter allows this one camera to potentially be used with any SLR based lens of yore. This gives it such wide appeal, and straight away provides a level of compatibility and potential upgradability not seen in this type of camera before.
So why is the community picking holes in it? What mentality is driving these snide comments I have seen on social media and in the comments on other blogs? Why are some people writing this new camera off before it’s had even the slightest chance to prove itself? I honestly cannot fathom any of this!
What makes me feel the most disappointment is that I genuinely felt a part of a community that was supportive of itself and that wanted itself to grow. What I am seeing is a community with a lot of moaning people who seem hell-bent in cutting their own noses off to spite their faces. I really would like to urge the community to think about all this from a slightly broader perspective!
If these products succeed, more will follow!
Let me just say that again. If these products succeed, more will follow! And what follows might actually be a bit of kit that will appeal to your specific requirements. It might even come at a price that suits you too. If these new companies succeed, they will help prove the market, they will provide building blocks for themselves to innovate further, but moreover will also provide impetus for more individuals and companies to follow in their wake.
The big boys might even start getting wind. Cosina night bring the Voigtlander cameras back, even the likes of Olympus, Nikon … probably not Fuji… … … ok, it’s quite possible that none of the big boys will come back to the market… but without these new smaller companies proving there is strength in our community – and strength in the marketplace it provides – nothing is gonna happen! No new film, and no new cameras – we we’ll be left with an ever decreasing pool of second-hand cameras and a floundering film photography industry as a whole!
We aren’t even talking faux film stuff like that recent Yashica shite. We are talking bona fide, real, legitimate film products.
So come on, please, for the love of film photography, stop the bloody moaning, and start backing these new-to-market film photography companies!
Let’s help build the industry around our community, not try to kill it before it’s even had a chance!
Here’s some links:
Silberra’s film Indiegogo – needs more support!
Reflex’s camera Kickstarter
Chuck a quid, more if you can, if you can’t afford money, bury those personal opinions, and share these campaigns far and wide for the greater good – as long term, it will pay off for all of us in the community!
More similar thoughts from Mike from shoot film co can be found here
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41 thoughts on “Stop bloody moaning and support the Film Photography industry!”
This is so well said and formulated. Overall, film community is amazing. People should have the right to say what they want. However, taking into account the context, more people should support film photography. And who would do that if not film photographers themselves? By the way, we hear and feel similar towards our service and we are struggling a bit but still going. Thanks
Spot on Hamish, if we don’t try and support these projects, future projects just won’t happen!
I expect a lot of the most cynical comments are coming from (a) people who have Leicas that they assume will never break down or (b) people who are aware that they will likely be dead and gone well before the cameras and the people who still know how to repair them are all used up.
Haha yeah these Leica users …. do they ever shoot or just brag to carry that amount of money around.
Very true! For once there are sensible projects around so please don’t destroy them. The Reflex S might not be for you, but there’s others that will benefit from it. So many places lacking a good repair tech and having to send old cameras overseas to get them CLA’d. Massive cost there.
Here’s a spanking new SLR (hopefully solid) that really does it all! Though not metering with open aperture as I heard! There’s a button to open the aperture instead.
As for film, I think we better not buy expired stuff only. OK if you want to try, but we better support the still existing and new producers by buying new stuff!
Totally agree – I’ve bought some Lomography stuff and the Ars-Imago image tank that I barely ever use, simply because I applaud what they’re doing: making film photography fun, exciting and accessible to people who grew up on digital. As long as people are bringing out products that are well conceived and thought through then I want to see more, not less, of this sort of stuff!
I agree. We need new models of film cameras out there, just as we need new film stocks. We know that film photography is on borrowed time without new ideas – and interchangeble backs on a 35mm SLR is very a good one. I think the constant light could be useful as a modelling light too.
On a personal level, I think it is more environmentally sound to repair old camera stock than to create from new materials, but I won’t begrudge anyone the dream of creating something new and beautiful from scratch. It takes a lot of guts to put your prototype out there, and I hope in the future they can develop an entry level model at an entry level price for students.
Thanks for bringing this up, I will get on it.
HERE HERE! Well said, and I totally agree. Let’s keep the film photography community growing and thriving with positive innovation.
The only thing stopping me from backing the Silberra film project is that the indiegogo site won’t accept PayPal – I don’t feel comfortable giving my actual card details over, so won’t back it… I bet I’m not alone in my reasoning.
Thanks for the info on the Reflex camera. First I have seen it. The front shutter button- in fact the whole camera- immediately made me think of my Topcon SLR. The front shutter button works great for taking photos. the only problem, for me, that it has presented is that I have to make sure I do not cock the shutter before I set it down or put it in the bag……….If I do, I unfailingly, accidentally trigger the shutter when I grab the camera. Other than that, I think I prefer the front shutter button. I may buy the Reflex.
Very well said. I too wouldn’t pick up something like the Reflex, but it would never cross my mind to make snide or pissy comments about it. The whole venture is most admirable, and yes interchangeable mounts are a great idea. I hope the Reflex venture is a success.
Why do people do it? The internet, and it’s (illusionary) anonymity, gives people licence to spout off without any responsibility for their words, or the consequences of their words. It’s effortless to have big brass balls when hiding behind a monitor. Everyone is an expert when they’re online, especially within a specialized group setting like film cameras. Also, a lot of people just suck.
Thanks for another insightful and informative article: I enjoy your site very much!
What he said. 🙂
Well said Hamish, if we do not support film manufacturers and endeavour to encourage other digital photographers to see the light (I try very hard at my local camera club) then the true believers amongst us will end up suffering.
I’m eager to try as many new brands of film and WILL support these enterprises.
The question is if these crowd funded projects answer to any particular or collective need. My personal opinion is that they don’t, but it does not stop me from admiring the entrepreneurs and wish them best of luck.
Now, I would like to prove that Tim Sewell is wrong in his profiling concerning people that are not interested in this camera. You see Tim, I am 46 years old an not planning to die during the life expectancy of my film cameras. Yes, I am a Leica user, also a Canon L39 user, but an avid user of Praktica cameras and the Fed/Zorki cameras. Yes, my snobbish side allows me to switch from a VLC to a F4, from my G2 to my 139 Q. You see Tim, all my cameras have one thing in common and it’s not the brand or the snobbery, it’s personality. There is no spec sheet that can translate the tactile joy of using a M or Canon L39 camera. Nothing can convey the joy of focusing through a Contax SLR viewfinder and I could go on and on. So sorry for the anti-hipster sermon, but I am (also) a film user because of the cameras, not the mean, the look of the pictures, because sharpness, color rendition, bokeh are all bourgeois concepts, like HCB probably would have written and so are cameras.
You won me round, Hamish.
I agree with the sentiment but not the detail. There’s a genuine lack of supply of some film cameras, especially, but not exclusively the kind of high end compact JCH is trying to develop. On the other hand there’s no shortage of 35mm SLRs. The Nikon F series took years to evolve from the feedback of professionals, most can be bought for less than £350, and the majority can be fixed by competent technicians, not least Sover Wong’s superb work on the F2.
Unless the Reflex can offer something more than newness – like the technological developments of autofocus and auto-exposure in the last fifteen years – I don’t understand why someone would buy one as a practical proposition for regular shooting. Sentiment and novelty are another matter. I just wish the company had put their ingenuity into something more tempting than a 35mm SLR.
Film is a different matter. Long term film will survive by supporting Ilford, Kodak, Foma and (though they barely deserve it), Fuji, with regular purchases. If third parties can “reimagine” a defunct line from one of those manufacturers and make a buck in the process, I won’t criticise.
I agree to a large extend that the support for analog photography should come from the community to a large extend. However, I’m afraid the „buying“ power isn’t that good enough after all. Campaigns like Reflex and Silberra need to do the same as lomography did and that is collecting the „hipster“ cash as well. Nobody is independent of the rules of the market. Only if you play by them you can call success.
Hear hear Hamish. Very well said. It’s a constant disappointment that we constantly disappoint ourselves whenever things like this appear. Having an opinion on a subject is great, picking apart holes in something new and then complaining afterwards that nobody creates said new thing is just plain stupid.
Yeah no kidding. People are so spoiled by the digital imaging industry that they just want instant gratification and everything built into an app now. But then you can’t blame them so much. That’s the way the industry is now. There is no marketing budget to train people to enjoy the film process.
I dont understand the nasty comments either, and I disagree that its probably Leica owners. The people who have enough cash to buy nice cameras are more likely really into film and more likely to back these companies, from what I’ve seen in FB its mostly coming from the younger members of the community. They only want film to be as cheap as possible and don’t want to spend more than 50 bucks on a 30 year old SLR. Even if its mot something that you personally would want, why would you disparage it?
Thanks for putting this up Hamish. I just can’t believe people dismiss these contributions to the film community, yet the crap Yashica Kickstarter gets funded so easily. Like you, I’m a HP5 shooter, but will still order the Silberra film. I may not initially order the Reflex (undecided), but would not hesitate to point someone looking for new film SLR their way.
Agree! Guys, let’s share this article – it is so true!
Very well said. I really don’t understand why folks won’t donate to products that support our passions wither. Even if you absolutely hate this camera you should be giving them something. If everyone who absolutely hated the concept, or couldn’t afford the camera just have 10-20 US this project would be a resounding success; and like you very well stated, the success of this project, will lead to new projects in the film industry.
I will however shoot every roll of the Silberra I’m buying, but I’m only able to throw 20 US at the Reflex project at the moment. Hopefully I can up my pledge before the end of the campaign though.
Perhaps the critics are those who like the idea of being part a small exclusive community. Our those who are attracted to film precisely because it’s old. Anything new or that expands the film community threatens their sense of being in the know, an exclusive group. Ultimately it’s a very selfish mode of thinking.
Excellent article and spot on! Liok at the positives if folks keeping film photography alive. Without these pushers the big box companies will never be encouraged to keep the medium going.
From 2003 to 2017 the film market had shrunk to just 2% of what it was. (Time Magazine, Jan. 2017) Now we have news that by the first half of 2018 Fuji will be getting out of film altogether. Ferrania looks on course for its B/W P30 emulsion, although we backers have no real idea when we will see their reversal films. But Kodak is reported to be bringing back its famed Ektachrome sometime in 2018, so hopefully good news for those of use who regularly shot slide film. But, dare I say, not good for the legions of those new to film photography and for whom film is more a novelty to explore instead of digital. But then, the over-exposed washed-out transparencies will probably become the new Lomo craze.
So this new film must be applauded, but I must also ask, in the short to medium term can these new films seriously fill the gap left by Fuji? Is this what some are expecting? Providing film manufacturers can supply the demand, it is still never going to be a major factor as competition for digital. The recent groundswell for film will peak. The question is where?
I do wonder just how many use film exclusively, rather than it being an adjunct to digital? And if the latter, what percentage is actual film use?
Gotcha! Yes, I’ve been playing Devi’s Advocate. Even Hamish, whilst applauding a new entrant into the market, admits he is unlikely to use it. So no real support here. But he has a valid reason: film users get very attached to specific films because they like the result. Same with me when I regularly did my own D&P. Despite the numerous films then available, I stuck with Ilford’s FP3 to FP4 and Kodak Tri-X. I’d spent ages getting to learn there specifics, and developing technique. They gave me what I wanted.
So, taken altogether, if users like this film all very good. It will give genuine choice. And when it comes being generally available, and I can safely pay using PayPal (thanks for the comment, Harry) I may very well give a test.
Now for the camera. I’m a sucker for the traditional chrome/black leatherette decor of old school cameras. And this one, whilst giving a little nod to modernity, looks the part. Possessing an interchangeable film back is not unique, the Zeiss Contarex Supers come to mind, but I can’t think of one at this price point. Of course, changing films mid-roll isn’t exactly new. Cameras with removable backs and which permit cassette to cassette loading can do this, and the Exakta Varex range even has an in-built cutting knife.
The facility of the face plate to permit use of lenses from so many different manufacturers I rather suspect is unique. A sort of reversal of Tamron Adaptall lenses being used on different bodies; here the same body is used for different makes of lenses. The closest I can get to this feature is my Fujica AX-3 which in standard guise is a bayonet mount, but this can be replaced by a mount for M42 lenses.
If one buys it after the launch price when it goes up to £399, one could be looking at an overall cost of around £500 with a decent standard lens. And this is the problem, IMHO. The main brands, Canon, Minolta, Olympus, Nikon and Pentax had a wealth of expertise in design and development, such that the vast majority of their slr designs are likely to go on forever (at a pinch). Newbies to film will, IMO, be better served going for a main brand and which in nearly every instance will be a better specified camera all round. For those that have some legacy lenses, I’d argue the same point, unless they had a good need for the interchangeable film back.
Totally agreed! I have started using my Nikon 601. Also I am helping others to develop, print and buy films online from me. I am available to whoever is new to India and wishes to use films (B&W or color) I am there to help.
Even if people hate the Reflex and Silberra, these products are worth supporting-even with what we call “chump change” (in the US). These products show that film is not “niche” photography, but a legitimate medium that deserves to remain relevant.
It was this love for film, that allowed Polaroid Originals to be sold in stores other than camera stores here in the US; you only found Impossible in camera stores. It was the love for film that made Kodak resurrect Ektachrome (and others if not already).
My two cents.
Quality rant Hamish and utterly right. I haven’t heard much bitching about them myself but I’m rather skeptical about Startups given that it is a system made for scams. Some of them attract thousands of $$ then guess what, they fail but there’s no evidence that they were ever a proper project and the people involved disappear with the cash with impunity.
Having said that I’m pretty sure that the projects you mention are above board, especially the Silberra as they already have products to show. They Reflex concept with changeable lens mounts is a great idea though flawed. However with more development they can produce a good product.
Regarding those who have been sniping at these projects, I don’t know why Leica owners would be behind it. Why would they? Most Leica owners probably are not aware of such goings on. I prefer to think that it is more likely to be the seasoned keyboard warriors who do it because they can.
Plenty of good arguments here but I do wonder if a degree of the sniping is not down to “crowdfunding fatigue”, and in particular a number of high profile Kickstarters in the film area who have so failed to deliver what they promise.
On the Reflex thing in particular, personally I’m a little skeptical about their ability to produce the fine tuned mechanical and optical components required for an SLR I’m not saying they can’t, but the details are very hazy. Things like the LED seem rather gratuitous.
As for backing the industry, well personally I’ve been doing that for some 30 years, and will carry on doing so. But I don’t think that this entails throwing money at every single film Kickstarter that pops up, regardlesd of the kudos this would undoubtedly give me in the “community”.
Sorry for not joining the choir, but it seems pretty well filled out anyway 🙂
I’ll be looking forward to the release of the REFLEX camera. It’s a smart idea and really amazed that something similar didn’t arrive decades ago. I have a few favourite lenses, a mix of Nikon and Minolta. To have one body loaded with a special film and be able to use all the lenses would be simply brilliant. When I can see my way clear of a few bucks from my miserable pension, I’ll gladly drop them in the hat.
Up to now there isn’t any single data sheet available. Intention is to be “public domain” but where are the technical papers?
I am very much in favour of such projects but at such a price I want service and warranty.
350 bugs isn’t something I just pick up from the living room’s floor.
It’s heartening to see some of these new products coming to light, even though coming at them with my business hat on, I’m not always convinced by the case they’re making. I can’t make my mind up about the Reflex S. On the one hand, its ability to take a wide variety of lens mounts does offset what it quite a chunk of change for an SLR body in this day and age. And that’s the big challenge it’s facing – my gut feeling says this project is at least a decade early. You can still get very solid SLR bodies that will last years for very little money, but in ten years time more of them will be breaking and parts will be that much more scarce because these things aren’t Leicas and won’t keep going forever (though you could get a Barnack Leica and lens for similar money to the Reflex S). In that regard, the project I’m waiting to back is Bellamy Hunt’s premium compact because the 80s/90s premium compacts are not as well built as older SLRs and are near-impossible to fix in many cases. I might kick in a bit of support for the Reflex S, though, because having a viable maker of new SLRs will benefit the whole of film photography.
I find it hard to know where to go with all the new films coming to market, to the extent that I’ve only actually tried a couple. I’m a relatively low-volume shooter, which limits my potential to experiment straight away, but the main problem is that I like to shoot colour most of the time and nearly all of these new films are black and white. I’m not too fussy about what B+W I shoot, though. FP4’s probably my favourite, and I’ll turn to HP5 for grain and pushing when I want it, but the Silberra guys seem to have a very realistic and grounded plans so I might try out their stuff. It would be nice to have more alternatives to Portra for colour, but at the end of the day it’s still in our interest to support Kodak Alaris.
I couldn’t care less about connectivity, and I’d prefer if it was a mechanical camera; but I think this camera is a sound idea; interchangeable backs and lens mounts for a 35mm SLR? Nice one!
One area I’d be concerned about is the use of the phrases ‘I-Plate’, ‘I-Mount’ and ‘I-Back’.
I’ve seen Apple pursue businesses for less.
Yeah, I’d have to agree with Chris, here. A purely mechanical camera would be lots cheaper, too. Two things, Hamish:
1. Being anti-Reflex doesn’t mean I’m anti-film community. Plenty of us support local non-profits for the arts and our local community darkroom.
2. “I want the film photography industry to thrive and grow,” you wrote. Being pro-community doesn’t mean I have to want a film industry to grow.
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All this AND continue to buy film, paper and chemicals from the legacy companies still making them–Kodak Alaris, Ilford, Fuji, etc. Also, if you still have a brick&mortar camera shop in your town–patronize them!
Great article Hamish! I have also noticed all the negativity and cynicism online, mainly in the “comments” section… I’m completely onboard with what you are saying regarding the support for such projects, be it bringing back/remaking a particular film stock or a new analog SLR even though I’ve never been too crazy about SLRs to begin with… I’m also a bit of rangefinder/p&s fanatic which doesn’t mean I don’t take my FM2 out every once in a while. But I think both of these projects are awesome and will back them, even if my contribution doesn’t reach the 3 digit mark (I’m a broke postgrad).
My two cents are the following: It’s just the nature of the photography community. Go on any forum or comments section of a photography oriented website and look at all the written dysentery spouted by frustrated middle aged men with way too much money and time on their hands (my imagination sometimes gets the best of me). These are people who are convinced that their ideas about what a camera or lens should be like is the only option and that anyone in disagreement with their opinions is “out of touch”. And even if the product or idea seem solid, they will be the first ones to find something wrong with some irrelevant detail such as the name of the product, the color of the distance scale, etc… It has nothing to do with the actual products/ideas/market. You find this on both analog (“I used to shoot kodachrome professionally back in the day…”) and digital ( where do I begin…) forums.
I’m not worried though. I know that the film community is “thriving”. Just the mere fact that websites like this exist is proof. I’m 27 years old and I see more and more of my friends who are around my age starting to shoot more film. Will they completely ditch their Nikon d3400/D800 or iPhones for a Pentax Spotomatic? I doubt it. But some have started saving money to buy that Mamiya 645 they’ve dreamed of having. Some are discovering the joys of shooting ‘legacy’ lenses on their mirrorless cameras. Others are waiting for their labBoxes to arrive (big ups to Ars Imago!) while others have just discovered their parents XA2 in the basement. And you know what the best part of it is? These are people who have never even visited many of these aforementioned websites/forums, let alone glanced at the comments section.
Hope to read more articles from 35MMC and keep doing what you’re doing Hamish!
I dream of Cosina remakes 🙂