On Wednesday last week, I travelled up to Tetenal UK’s head office in Leicestershire. I was invited as “press” and as the founder of pixl-latr to their “Dealer Day”, an event organised by Tetenal to bring together a few folks in the industry for a series of talks. I didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a really insightful day with talks from Kodak Alaris, Ilford Photo, Tetenal 1847, JOBO, Lomography and – believe it or not – Fujifilm who were there to talk about the future of their film offer (and not just Instax)!
What made the day all the more interesting was the fact that there were also representatives from AG Photographic, Always on Film, Analogue Wonderland, Classic Photo Supplies, Leicester Lo-Fi, Speed Graphic, The Imaging Warehouse and, of course, the guys from Tetenal UK themselves. So whilst the talks were interesting, the conversations between the talks around the table were fascinating too. There was a lot of years experience of the analogue industry in that room, and it definitely came out in the conversation!
In case you don’t already know, Tetenal UK aren’t just about chemicals, they are in fact a large supplier of photography products and services to the photography industry in the UK. I first met them at The Photography Show recently, and though I was previously aware they existed, I had no idea the size of the organisation. I was quite surprised to find myself pulling up to a huge premises, and looking around the place, it is clear they serve a lot of the film photography industry in the UK!
Tetenal organised this event as an opportunity to bring key members of their network together with representatives of most of the brand leaders in the industry to discuss recent activity. The idea being to enable the brand owners to speak freely and openly about the challenges the manufacturers face to bring products to market whilst at the same time allowing our dealers to exchange experiences and ideas about the future of analogue photography.
Obviously as an industry/dealer-focused day, not all of it would be interesting to the community, but since I was invited in part as “press”, I thought I would share some highlights from the conversations that are more relevant to us consumers.
First up was Andy Church from Kodak Alaris. Much of Andy’s talk focused on the increasing demand for their products, and the not-so-much increasing capacity for Kodak to produce them. In short, demand is up, and the can’t produce the film quick enough to meet it – I imagine that doesn’t come as a surprise to many reading this…?
Andy also talked about some of the reasons behind their issues meeting demand. They have bottle necks that have been caused by historical issues such as certain bits of machinery not being kept by Kodak when the film industry hit its low point, and the various forces applied by the nature of the now-split company. They are also limited by manpower, and of course have been hit by Covid related supply issues. All difficult stuff, but it sounded like they were making headway and he was very confident for the future.
He also talked about the price hikes, which was followed by a discussion that relates the perceived value of film vs. its price. I think that the view in the room was shared that no one really wants film to be more expensive, but actually given the reality of the situation, it’s not entirely surprising they are having to put their prices up. There was also some discussion around the validity of Ludwig Hagelstein’s excellent article for Silvergrain which you can – and should – read here.
Michelle Parr gave Ilford’s talk which was characteristically more light hearted. Ilford seem, as always, fairly rock solid. She went over their product range and talked a little about the delays to the dark tent which seem to be coming to an end. I do love that tent – such a promising bit of kit for folks who don’t have the room for a darkroom in their home.
Michelle’s talk also inspired some conversation in the group about the availability of new darkroom equipment such as enlargers. Intrepid’s enlarger was mentioned, as well as the ones Paterson sell. Again there was some consensus in the room for the need for more enlarger options in the marketplace.
After lunch Norbert Köster-Beestermöller dialled in from Tetenal 1847 in Germany to talk to us about their new Parvofin tablets. If you haven’t heard about these before, they’re new, long shelf life, dissolvable dev and fix tablets. The key idea being that for people who don’t dev at home often, having tablets that can be stored for up to 5 years that give measured portions of dev and fix is ideal. In fact, I could see these working really well for me! I don’t often dev at home, but I might be inspired to if I had these tablets for those moments I do fancy it!
Tetenal have also just released a video about the tablets which you can watch here:
This was followed by a run through of JOBO’s product line by Johannes Bockemuehl, also dialled in from Germany. Of course I’m aware of JOBOs products, but it was really interesting to see them talked about from their perspective. Their product offer is designed to cater for anyone from the person who just develops the odd roll here and there, all the way up to people who are developing large format at scale. I genuinely had never perceived the product line like that before.
Lomography followed. Hannah Brown talked about some of their fairly extensive product range including their films – not least Lomochrome Turquoise which, coincidentally, was announced as becoming available once again whilst we were at the event today!
She also talked about the LomoGraflok which is imminently going to be released (I nagged her again for a review sample – so you can expect to hear more about that soon). She also talked about the camera range, including the Lomo L-CA+ which surprisingly, some of the group weren’t aware existed.
This was, of course, followed by the conversation I feel like I have had a million times about the need for someone to bring a new film camera to market. As usual, there were comments about the need for a new point & shoot, and possibly a new reliable SLR. Cosina were mentioned as the obvious company to make one, as were Fuji (followed by silence from Mark from Fuji in the corner), And then of course the usual conversation followed about the complexities of bringing a film camera to market, what happened to Reflex, etc. Always an interesting conversion, that never comes to anything… come on Fuji, pull your finger out!!
Last but not least, we had Mark Reynolds from Fujifilm. It was, as you might imagine, something of a massacre. But, Mark took it well, and whilst he was not able to answer every question shot at him, he was actually very reassuring about the future of Fuji’s film lines. One of the big questions that was raised was why Fuji film has been recently supplied with increasingly short shelf life. The implication being that Fuji have stopped making it, and we’re now just getting the dregs of what they made.
Mark’s response to this was very candid. Fuji had mothballed the facility when Covid kicked off, so yes, we were getting the film that had been made before that. But, he was 100% confident that this was not the end of Fuji’s film manufacture. In fact, he assured us that the Japanese were listening, and were recognising the increase in demand. He pointed out that in the first 6 months of this financial year, Fuji had supplied nearly as much film to the UK as they had done in the whole year previous. This sort of data is apparently not something Fuji HQ ignore. He even talked about the previously announced demise of Fuji 400H, and said that whilst this had been announced, the conversation was still ongoing.
This was, as you might expect, followed by a conversation around the table about Fuji’s questionable messaging, and how we as the community, in the absence of real news, often speculates the worst. Mark seemed keen to help remedy this, and afterward gave me his card promising to feedback answers to other questions the group shot at him. Some of those still remain, but I have since been in touch with him, and after discussing our conversations with Japan, he received this statement to pass on:
FUJIFILM is committed to Imaging, committed to innovation and will continue to sell film into the future to preserve the photographic industry as FUJIFILM.
We cannot guarantee and disclose what type and format of films we can put into the market because that depends on what the realistic economic demand is and following our company policy, but we remain committed to film, and photographic paper printing, not just for film, but also digital input.
FUJIFILM will continue to serve our loyal photo film customers to enrich their photography life.
All in all, it was a very interesting day. It was really interesting to have so many industry folks around the table, and as Phil, the Sales Director at Tetenal mentioned at the end, it felt a pleasure to be working in an industry where competitors could chat and discus the state of the industry so candidly and openly with each other. I’ve come away feeling a lot more positive too. A great event, and I am looking forward to the next one!