Nikon F6
Gear Theory

Why the Nikon F6 died (and What the Prospects of a Replacement are) – By Nik Stanbridge

December 16, 2020

There have been a few articles recently musing on the demise of the Nikon F6 35mm film camera to mark the fact that Nikon has withdrawn it from sale after a 16-year run. In writing this, I wanted to put a product spin on it (I’m a product manager, natch) that I hope is unemotional.

I’ve never owned, seen or been drawn the Nikon F6. I once dreamed of, and then bought (and then sold) an F3 (it drained batteries so was a pain). I own an FM2 that I love and is always with me, though. There, full disclosure. We have an F6 review article right here on 35MMC.

Why the F6 existed

It’s never the role of the customer to further the fortunes of a company by buying its products. The customer might choose to do this for all sorts of altruistic or loyalty reasons, but it’s not their role in life. It’s the role of the company to build products that the customer wants to buy. The customer may not know that it needs them, but it is the role of the company to understand market needs and meet them. Yes, I know, Apple’s customers buy their products not necessarily because they need them, or knowing that a competitors product is more suitable to their needs, but that’s a whole different story. That story is about lifestyle choices and brand loyalty and so on (I’m writing this on a MacBook Air BTW…).

For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that there was a sound commercial reason, a validated product value proposition, for the Nikon F5 to evolve into the F6. Through this value proposition (who it’s aimed at, what functionality it has, why customers should buy it and so on), Nikon will have identified that there was a market need for a camera with the F6’s capabilities; that the benefits to the group of cameras buyers customers in the target market were tangible; that it was better or in someway differentiated from its predecessor; and that the target customers were willing to pay for it. This is what companies do before defining and developing new products.

Does the market still want it (and is it willing to pay for it)?

In the 16-year period the F6 has been on the market, Nikon will have frequently re-validated the assumptions and market hypotheses that underpinned their reasons for developing it in the first place: to ‘check’ that there was still a market for their flagship 35mm film camera.

The Nikon F6’s value proposition, however, is not just about whether there is a market for the product: that the market wants the capabilities; and the benefits of them are over and above those they can get from other products from other sources – there is also the huge element of “and the market is willing to pay for it“ which very specifically applies to the £3,000 F6 film camera. It may be that the market for (any) new 35mm camera is so small that the market (that’s us photographers of course) is quite happy to use alternative solutions to its needs that are far, far cheaper (secondhand on eBay for example).

 

Nikon F6

All Nikon F6 images courtesy of Johnny Martyr and Thomas Eisl

Having revisited all their assumptions about the market for new, high-end 35mm cameras (the who, what, how much, and why questions), Nikon will have decided that there is no longer a market for a camera with the attributes and cost of the F6.

A new Nikon 35mm camera?

If, and it’s a big if, their process of looking at the 35mm film camera market uncovered that there is indeed a market for some sort of new 35mm camera we may see a replacement for the F6 that has a completely different set of characteristics and cost. I personally think this is unlikely.

If they believe that there is a potential market out there for a new 35mm camera, they will have looked at our needs, the needs of the 35mm film community, and the cameras that we are buying. Yes, the ones we are buying secondhand on eBay. They will have analysed which cameras we buy, what their characteristics are, and the prices we are willing to pay. That analysis, in a relatively crude way, will define the market need, if any, for new 35mm cameras.

What are we buying?

They will have found, for example, that the Nikon FM2, the Leica M6, the Pentax K1000, the whatever, are the cameras that people are buying. With a lot more research, they would be able to form hypotheses around whether we would be willing to pay a premium for a new camera that had the characteristics of, say, the FM2. An unlikely, but exciting prospect.

This is how product development works. Companies develop the products that their research shows the market needs (and to a lesser degree, wants) and is willing to pay for. There is no altruism in it.

No market need

So, we did not kill it by not buying it. A lack of need killed it, or Nikon’s inability to understand the market need and to meet it. If we want there to be new 35mm cameras for us to buy, we need to let the manufacturers know what our needs are and what we are willing to pay to have those needs met. Granted, it’s not actually our job to go and tell manufacturers what we want, but if they came asking, having done the research, then we might get new film cameras. Cameras that met our needs that we’re willing to buy.

If companies like Nikon sees that sales of film are booming and that it’s a trend that is set to continue for the foreseeable future; and they determine that we want new cameras, not just lovely relics of a bygone age that we buy secondhand, then we may well get new 35mm cameras. If not, we won’t.

Footnote: Many thanks to Johnny Marty and Thomas Eisl for allowing me to use the images of the F6, and for inspiring this article.

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81 Comments

  • Reply
    Billy Sanford
    December 16, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    That does pretty much sum it up I believe. Building a new camera is an expensive prospect. Although my sense is that the film community has seen growth, I am not sure it will get to the level where it would make financial sense for a company to introduce a new SLR. That’s even if the entire community was willing to buy one, which I suspect isn’t the case. So then you have a small segment of a market that is small to begin with. R&D, machining, marketing, supply chain/distribution – it just doesn’t seem to me like it would be a product even in this newer world of 3D printing, Arduino boards, etc. that it would be easy to bring to market. Then there is the question of lenses. You can adapt, and an old lens is not as prone to issues as a camera body, but do buyers of a new SLR want new lenses also? During a time when mounts are being discontinued? It just seems like a very big uphill challenge. Perhaps a new point-and-shoot, but I suspect the financials of that prospect are not without their challenges either.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 4:44 pm

      I agree. It’s unlikely ever to make financial sense to market a new camera for all the reasons you state. Film though, I’m amazed at how many new films we seem to be seeing on a regular basis.

  • Reply
    Adam Singer
    December 16, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    Thank you for a thoughtful article. Sad though the F6 is a wonderful camera.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 7:07 pm

      Thanks Adam. Researching the article I suddenly thought… mmm, this is an amazing camera! They’re not all that expensive on ebay…

  • Reply
    Mani
    December 16, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    The last few years I’ve managed to buy a new-in-box Leica M6, a new Olympus OM4ti, a new Mamiya 6 with all its lenses, and a new Hasselblad 501cm. I’m still kicking myself I didn’t buy the new-in-box Xpan for less than a quarter of the price used ones go for now.
    Why on earth would anyone bother with the Nikon F6? I have never understood why Nikon still sold it and I’m flabbergasted by the fuss that’s been made about it’s disappearance.
    If someone started making the Contax T3 again it would sell like hotcakes. But a standard SLR?

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 7:09 pm

      I think I saw someone say recently that it’s ‘the same’ as a high-end DSLR (price, capabilities). I say it’s overly complex. But there are people out there who want that.

    • Reply
      BXL Gotham
      December 20, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      It’s an incredibly built machine, feels amazing in the hands both ergonomically and weight, has impeccably fast autofocus for any film camera ever, and endlessly programmable. There is no other camera like it except the F5 and F4 that preceded it in various ways, of which I have one each and can recommend. There’s nothing to hate about this camera IMO, and a bonus, it drips with 80’s industrial aesthetics and stands out from the numerous other vintage models that demand great attention from the film shooting crowd. If you collect and shoot, it’s a must have.

  • Reply
    Kevin Ortner
    December 16, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    The biggest issue to me is that 35mm film has the same resolution from entry level camera to professional. A Canon Rebel vs the EOS-1N should have the same picture quality if the same lens and settings were used. You can’t get that with digital from the same generation unless they started putting a full frame sensor in the digital Rebel (but then it wouldn’t be an entry level camera).

    Best case scenario is a fully manual camera that can take the current lenses to increase the current supply of film cameras. But that might be another 5-10 years since there is still a healthy supply of 90s SLRs and older films cameras. Film would also have to remain in healthy demand.

    Another possibility is that film and developing costs go down if the film market starts booming. This would prompt the need for cameras to replace the dwindling supply.

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      December 16, 2020 at 7:52 pm

      I realize that modern lenses require electronics to control AF and aperture. My logic is already flawed… just to make a camera with the basics to use modern lenses, I’d think you’re looking at a minimum $500 for a new SLR with few features.

      • Reply
        Nik Stanbridge
        December 16, 2020 at 8:51 pm

        I think that the way forward is manual that removes the issue associated with AF lenses. Would be an interesting poll to understand the ratio of manual:auto film cameras in use. Or rather those photographers using manual vs. some sort of auto mode.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 8:46 pm

      That’s what I’d like to see… a simple manual camera. The fewer electronics the better to make it easier to maintain, less to go wrong, probably inexpensive, and furthering the adoption of film (lowering the barrier to entry).

      I think that film, at £7 (ish) a roll is not too bad (esp if you home develop). I think there’s a big issue though with those brought up on digital having the ‘point and squirt’ mentality where back at HQ you have to select THE image from the 50 you took. With film, we take just one. That’s a big paradigm shift.

  • Reply
    James Evidon
    December 16, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    When I decided to turn back to film after decades of digital photography, I decided that I would get both 35mm and expand into large format. Even though I kept my old Nikon 8008, I found it too bulky compared to what is out there and available in the used market. I settled on a pristine Leica IIIG which I had CLA’d because it is light, small and closer to the original Leica concept than the M series which, while still compact, are larger and much more expensive. I also bought a Leica R7 which is also a fairly small film SLR with full features and accepts the legendary R lenses which are reasonably priced, and I can use all of the LSM and M mount lenses with the reasonably priced lens adapters.
    I also went on a shopping spree, buying and selling various medium and large format film cameras until settled on the Rolleiflex 2.8 E ( essntially the same as the F but with a fixed focus hood and much less expensive) for 6×6, a Makina 67, a Cambo- Wide 470 with a 6×12 back and a Fuji G617 for ultimate panoramas. Now, all I hve to do is wait for the Covid-19 restrictions to lift so I can go travelling again and do some really interesting shooting.

    I won’t even get into the Zeiss Super Ikonta BX, Zeiss folding Contina and Rollei 35 S “shelf queens” I picked up as well. BTW, I will still shoot digital, but shooting, processing and scanning film gives a studied and deliberate satisfaction that can’t be had with easy to do digital post processing applications which, after mastering the learning curve, become quite boring.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks James. Your thoughts are reflected and summarised in your wonderful comment “a studied and deliberate satisfaction”. It’s why I came back to film after a brief flirtation with digital. You are an inspiration to us all.

  • Reply
    Johnny Martyr
    December 16, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Nik, thanks for your thoughts as a product manager. It seems that you’ve distilled the R&D system succinctly for us lay people! And thank you for making use of Thomas Eisl’s images of his now, one year old F6. I wish that we could celebrate its first birthday with better news, but here we are!

    Your article starts and ends with putting film photographers in our place, as it were. You say that it’s simply not our role as consumers to tell manufacturers what we want, unless, apparently, we are asked. But you seem to be ignoring every historical example of unqualified but determined consumers bringing new products to market. Who would have predicted that Fuji Instax was Amazon’s top selling electronics item last Christmas? Who would have thought that Kodak would bring back TMAX P3200?
    Impossible revived Polaroid. The Brothers Wright gave us Cinestill. Canon built a cheaper but quality Leica copy and launched an empire around it! I know I’m leaving a lot out but you get my drift!

    What I’m trying to say is that 21st century film photographers by nature, are a gang who don’t do as we’re told. Why would you think that you can just tell us “it’s not your place to determine the market” and for any of us to accept that? We are doing what most people think is crazy or impossible every time we pull our images out of the fix.

    While I understand that you wanted to present an unemotional, factual case for the discontinuation of the F6, I disagree with this being entire approach. If you think it’s an unemotional matter, then frankly, you aren’t investing enough of yourself in your work or, in my opinion, care enough about the state of the film community to understand how emotional a moment in time this is, or should be, for us. No more new 35mm SLR’s. Let it sink in if has somehow failed to yet.

    This isn’t me expecting blood from a stone. I don’t expect Nikon to give me what I want out of altruism. I expect film photographers to consider what is valuable to us as a community and to put our time and money where our hearts supposedly are.

    And I do not find that you presented any facts specific to the F6 or context of Nikon’s and other camera manufactures’ products which might support your point regarding your assumptions as to why the F6 was discontinued. You didn’t buy one. You didn’t interview anyone who does. You didn’t ask Nikon about their decisions and admitted out of the gate that you had to assume that this was a sound decision for the company. You didn’t mention the numerous film-specific and film-centric products that Nikon continues to make, such as lenses. Interesting how both Nikon and Cosina stopped providing us with new film cameras but continue to sell us lenses. Might be an important point to consider when making a facts-based argument.

    Where is the tangible support to your apparent belief that we should all just sit back like good little boys and girls and continue to line the pockets of eBay shareholders while our hobby and/or profession continues to degrade due to the lack of finances of those involved?

    What impact or influence exactly are you looking to achieve by telling a passionate bunch of anachronists to just move along?

    Why Did the F6 Die? It’s not the F6’s death that I’m as concerned with so much as the death of the serious film photographer. I mean look, here we have an article on a pro-film site, presumably by a pro-film photographer, telling us how incapable we are to affect change. Amazing…

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 16, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      Where’s that bloke eating popcorn meme when you need it …. 😉

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 10:22 pm

      Johnny, thanks for taking the time to respond to the article. Given that I was responding to your article, your input was particularly important to me.

      My point is that we DO make the market but that Nikon haven’t got it right. We don’t want the F6 enough for there to be a market (us!) to merit keeping it on the market. The manufacturers need to respond to our needs. They need to learn from our behaviour – WHAT we’re buying (on eBay). This tells them what the market IS. Ok, we’re limited to what available, but it’s at least a basis for their market analysis.

      My attempt at being ‘unemotional’ was to be pragmatic (the product manager perspective). I’m personally deeply emotional about the 35mm world in which I work. I’m just being realistic. No more film cameras? It’s 100% in our gift to make the manufactures make them for us, and make those cameras meet our needs. They only respond to market need. Our need. z

      The article is only about the F6. It’s not about Nikon’s commitment to film in all its guises. My unemotional article was just about the (facts based) value proposition decision to discontinue the F6 (ok, I’m making a wild assumption here that Nikon do research to support their val props, but I assert that that’s a realistic assumption). That there are currently market forces that commit them to market products like the Micro Nikkor 55/2.8 are not disputed (by you and by me).

      I don’t know what you mean by “lack of finances of those involved”, but apologies if I assume you mean companies like Nikon They have an internal commitment to respond to market forces (us). I may be wrong, but the purpose of “Nikon ambassadors” is to live amongst us, the film community, and to feedback our needs, and for them to form business cases around what they hear.

      This article was just about the market. What insights manufacturers use to make product decisions. We’re a small (tiny) market to them. We have to accept this. That status doesn’t mean we can’t demand products from them. They will respond when there is sufficient evidence to support a need. Or, as is much more likely, an entrepreneur (or two) takes the reins and MEETS OUR NEEDS.

      I see no “death of the serious film photographer”. I see a (slow) death of the camera (not film) manufacture’s commitment to the film community.

      • Reply
        Rick
        December 17, 2020 at 5:26 pm

        I own an F6, and it is a fantastic camera. I am glad I own it, but I think it is more complex/capable than many film shooters want/need. A simpler FM-type might be more the ticket. Something relatively easy to keep running and to use. The electronics in the more complex film cameras will doom them to shelf queen status.

        I do think you are wrong: “I may be wrong, but the purpose of “Nikon ambassadors” is to live amongst us, the film community, and to feedback our needs, and for them to form business cases around what they hear.” I don’t think that is how the system has been working. Nikon has generally been a one-way (outward-only) “communicator”. I doubt the Ambassadors talk/listen to film users and Nikon certainly doesn’t listen to outsiders. All you have to do is read Thom Hogan for the past few years where he regularly points out Nikon’s closed loop (where are the DX primes, what is the future of their DX line etc…). Thom is what might be termed a Nikon-lover, and offers detailed analyses of their problems and how they might fix them, but even he is ignored. He has the chops, knows Nikon gear in and out, yet carries no weight. Nikon even changed their policy to not allow repair parts to be sold to camera repair services, worsening their already poor reputation for Nikon-run facilities.
        Fuji seems to be the only manufacturer to really listen to their users, an exception in the camera manufacturer universe.

        • Reply
          Nik Stanbridge
          December 17, 2020 at 6:39 pm

          I agree Rick – the electronic complexity of cameras (and almost any tech for that matter) limits their usable lives. And thanks for pointing out the reality of ambassadors. That really is a sad state of affairs.

      • Reply
        Johnny Martyr
        December 18, 2020 at 9:51 am

        Nik, admittedly, I may be too “full steam ahead” to grasp your more balanced approach. And while I appreciate an attempt at a realistic analysis, I find that the article leaves the film community with no course of action. Your final recommendation is that we buy more film and keep doing what we’re doing, waiting for Nikon to see it and get our market right. To me, this isn’t proactive enough and has shown to be a failure up till now. And I think that Nikon had our market right as much as it could.

        Maybe that’s where we differ; in our interpretation of the market. Nikon provided the extreme ends of the spectrum in SLR’s; the rudimentary FM10 and the complicated automated F6. They also continue to provide several all manual AIS lenses as well as AF lenses for the F6. What else does the film shooter need in order to convince them to buy new?

        Please explain to me, with all these options that literally no other 35mm SLR manufacturer has offered for over a decade to the film community, what about the market they weren’t responding to?

        To clarify, that’s what I meant about “lack of finances of those involved,” lack of ability or willingness on the part of the film community to shoulder the prices on new film equipment to keep it viable.

        What I am trying to get through is that our expectations for price are unrealistic and our valuation of the importance of new equipment is unrealistic. Twice now (Nikon and Cosina), manufacturers who supported film when numerous others stopped, have given up on creating new cameras due to what I see as a shortsighted market. What you call “no market need.”

        “We’re a small (tiny) market to them. We have to accept this. That status doesn’t mean we can’t demand products from them.”

        And because we are so small, that is precisely why I have been saying that we need to be more supportive of what they DO (did) offer us and stop with the complaint campaigns for these products.

        “They will respond when there is sufficient evidence to support a need. Or, as is much more likely, an entrepreneur (or two) takes the reins and MEETS OUR NEEDS.”

        I believe that Nikon was meeting our needs but we refused to buy. And all that was missing was something that I just don’t think that they can give us anymore; precise, metal bodies at prices that compete with used examples. We know that even at a very high price, Leica is still successful. Will the Nikon crowd pay premium prices for premium bodies?

        “I see no “death of the serious film photographer”. I see a (slow) death of the camera (not film) manufacture’s commitment to the film community.”

        I think it’s the serious photographer who buys the new F6, isn’t it? One whose work pays for his/her equipment and sees the value in chipping into the cause. Where are the serious film photographers?

        In my view, it IS our responsibility to strive to be the photographers who would buy these products. And what is great about that is that we can work towards that and there can be a marked goal. Recommending that we wait for a Second Coming is not productive to me. And that’s the problem I have here. The consensus seems to be against self-reflection and personal responsibility and pro do what we’ve been doing and wait for something to change. Which, btw, is the definition of insanity too.

        Nik, I am sorry for my over-the-top reply. This is a very emotional issue for me. And I recognize that you, like me, are also just trying to pick up the pieces. Thanks for all the thought and effort you’re putting into not only this article but the comments. I know it’s a hustle to keep up with them.

        • Reply
          Nik Stanbridge
          December 18, 2020 at 11:17 pm

          Johnny, I share your passion and didn’t foresee the emotions my article would engender and perhaps I should have made more of a point that I’m a film guy and this affects me too.

          I think it’s very hard for us, the film community, to be a proactive force. There just aren’t enough of us, the passionate ones, to have a voice that the manufacturers will hear.

          Some film shooters have thousands to spend, the majority don’t and this is the gap between the F6 and the market for it. Too few with the money. I don’t know why (but applaud) Nikon still sells new manual lenses. It’s unlikely to be for F6 buyers who will want AF glass (given the intended market).

          “Please explain to me, with all these options that literally no other 35mm SLR manufacturer has offered for over a decade to the film community, what about the market they weren’t responding to?” We’re simply not a market that bought their consumer, not pro, gear in days gone by. They are (were) selling products that we’re not buying because we don’t want them (a point you make above). If there was a market need, believe me, they would meet it. They want to make money.

          We refused to buy (you and me) because the product didn’t actually meet our needs. Our need is, as you say, is for metal bodies that we have (again, as you say) unrealistic ideas about what they would cost to buy new. We are on the same page.

          “Where are the serious film photographers?”. Are they professionals? Is that you, as a film wedding photographer? Me, the ‘abstract expressionist’ amateur? Neither of us has bought the F6. Who shoots film professionally. Not enough to drive Nikon to sell products to us.

          Johnny, your thoughts and opinions are really important to me, and to this debate. I follow what you do, how you do it, and your success, with deep interest. This is why I value your insights.

      • Reply
        Brian Nicholls
        December 18, 2020 at 12:24 pm

        A most interesting article Nik, resulting in an enviable supply of comments. Well done!

        From my experience in marketing and living in a democracy I discovered that the definition of ‘democracy’ is that …”everybody gets what nobody wants”…
        For instance, nobody ‘asked’ for electric windows and cruise control

        • Reply
          Nik Stanbridge
          December 18, 2020 at 1:48 pm

          Thanks Brian. And those things we didn’t ask for were once optional extras that we could choose to pay for. Now they are ‘standard’ and we think we’re getting them for free. We’re not of course.

    • Reply
      Thomas Eisl
      December 17, 2020 at 5:54 am

      I’m with you Johnny – film photography is about creating a culture of analog picture making. It is not about a new Pentax K1000 – let’s be honest, given the small quantity it might sell it might cost as much as the F6 did.
      New cameras cost money, and that’s a thing film photographers have to accept.

      Is a Leica MP analog overpriced? No! Imagine how cheap it is if you consider this is the one and only camera you’ll ever need in your life as a film shooter. The F6 actually was a bargain.

      But where were the articles on major film photo sites? No, they weren’t there. There was just the 1000th iteration of the Canon AE-1 review. It’s and old camera, we got it the first time already…please stop it…

      The developments are similar to what happened in the Vinyl world. We have to buy new if we want film photography to continue. There is the value proposition

      • Reply
        Nik Stanbridge
        December 17, 2020 at 10:19 am

        The value proposition is not one-sided. We might need and want new film cameras, but the other side of it is there has to be someone willing to meet that need… that sees value in meeting it. It’s economics. We can want all we like but if there are only a ‘few’ of us, it’s not going to happen. I’m as sad about this as we all are.

        • Reply
          Eri
          September 21, 2021 at 6:20 pm

          Thanks for a very thoughtful, thought provoking article.
          We often become enamored in the equipment itself and have to remind ourselves that the film and its associated factors also plays into the picture.
          The chemicals required for processing of film at home are difficult to dispose of if you are going to do it with an environmentally friendly mindset. That said, photo labs are slowly raising their already high prices. My lab in Orange County, Calif now charges almost $20 for processing and scanning (no prints). And this week they now tack on an additional .50 per roll to hold your negatives for you!

          At some point, the hobbyist will have to make a decision on whether it is worth it to continue. I have acquaintances who no longer shoot film weddings because of the cost.

          Then, there’s the fact that once you have your film processed and scanned, it is no longer a film, or if you prefer, analog product. It is a digital image. About the only way for the average person to maintain a strictly ‘analog’ product is to process, develop and print your own black and white film.

          All of this to say, we should enjoy it while we can, because at some point, it will be diminishing returns, both from a photography standpoint and an enjoyment/fulfillment perspective.

          • Nik Stanbridge
            September 21, 2021 at 10:02 pm

            Hi Eri – thanks for taking the time to comment.

            I feel we’re in a period of ascendency with more and more films coming to market and desirable cameras commanding ever higher prices… it looks like it will continue for a while. But, I agree with you that it probably can’t last. That said however, I’m going to assume it is going to last 🙂

  • Reply
    Chandler l.
    December 16, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    I think it is a very interesting subject to look at from a sales and product designers perspective. Listening to the market would indeed bring attention to a new or “re-issued” 35mm camera. But of course the cost of production would be the limiting factor. Film has grown so much in the past few years but it’s no where near where it used to be, most of us shoot it for fun and for personal work. There’s only a handful of “professionals” still doing work with it. (As far as I know, I could be very wrong)

    And with the quality of older mechanical cameras that will outlast us all, there’s not a very big demand for brand new 35mm cameras. Personally I would be all over it.. I would LOVE to see new cameras.

    I would love to see something like the year 2000 s3’s they did. But the cost would be enormous, and you could just go get some of those s3’s for much cheaper than what they sold for new.

    If Nikon came out with another bells and whistles slr style of camera, I’m not sure I’d be interested. But maybe a re-issue of the original f? That would be incredible.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 10:39 pm

      There are many parallel markets… vinyl, classic cars…

      There is a burgeoning sentiment that a simple analogue camera would go down well.

  • Reply
    Omer
    December 16, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Huh, is this satire, parody, or something?

  • Reply
    Michael Wellman
    December 16, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    As a avid Nikon owner (I own all of the F series cameras) and film user I found the article rather disappointing. You stated the obvious without actually looking into the problem and the future of film cameras. You could have given a much better historical look at how we arrived with the F6 instead glossing over it. You also could have looked at why Nikon abandon the camera (they had given up on film cameras and wanted to focus on digital). BTW your cost estimate of the F6 was double the actual cost. Up till a few months ago you could purchase a brand new one for $2500 and the gray market $1-1.5K. As for the future of new film cameras again. your review was rather anemic. This is an important topic and has more layers of involvement than your brief paragraph. IMO none of the camera giants have any interest in doing film for two reasons; 1) they don’t want people giving up on digital for film. Nikon is struggling right now just to keep their digital users. 2) The demand for film camera is small making them unprofitable for them to venture into this market, which is the point you were alluding to at the end of the article. This is such an important point because if we don’t have someone making new cameras eventually we are going to run out of the used cameras. Which means roll film will stop being produced.

    I suggest you contact John Crane. He is a photographer out of Colorado who is very knowledgeable on the F6 and film cameras. He has an excellent web page https://f6project.com I think he would provide a better review and insight into the future of film cameras than what was given here.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 10:51 pm

      Hi Michael,

      I am indeed making one single point in my article about the F6, that you highlight very eloquently:

      “IMO none of the camera giants have any interest in doing film for two reasons; 1) they don’t want people giving up on digital for film. Nikon is struggling right now just to keep their digital users. 2) The demand for film camera is small making them unprofitable for them to venture into this market, which is the point you were alluding to at the end of the article.”

      This is the problem we, the film community, face.

      • Reply
        Clive W
        December 17, 2020 at 5:15 pm

        I think this links to Kevin’s point about image quality. If you have a film camera, you will not improve picture quality by replacing it with a newer one. (Yes, you may get enhanced metering, or reduced mirror vibration or whatever, but ultimately you will get the best that your lens and your film can do.). Digital, on the other hand, is still – and may always be – a maturing technology, so a new camera gets you the benefit of all the advances since you bought the one you have. The camera makers know this very well.

        The best hope for reviving production of mechanical film cameras might be if an independent maker could buy the tooling for, say, the Nikon FM or the Pentax MX, and thereby save the huge cost of developing what will only ever be a low-volume product. Something similar happened in the 1970s, when quartz was taking over the Swiss watch industry and Soviet factories bought the tooling and went on making mechanical movements. Of course, it may be that too much time has passed for this to be viable, but it might be fun to find out.

        But whether it was from an independent or a mainstream camera maker, I think we might all be shocked by the price of a new mechanical camera. Scale up early-1980s prices to today and an FM2 cost over £1,000 – and that was with the economies of volume production. If they were only making a few thousand a year, it might have to sell for a lot more.

        • Reply
          Nik Stanbridge
          December 17, 2020 at 6:34 pm

          Good point Clive – good film cameras weren’t cheap when they came out way back when. And yes, I wonder what companies like Nikon do with the tooling for old cameras. Or indeed what they’ll do with the tooling for the F6.

      • Reply
        Alex Kreisman
        December 27, 2020 at 11:28 am

        Not to be off topic, nor even to be the be the snob one, i never was a nikon shooter as i do not like their menu/ergonomics but there is a small giant out there make the bulk off it’s sales with digital continuously augmenting their catalog AND who propose the new 35 mm film that can accept any lenses made for this series by this manufacturer (or third party).
        Comme on, it starts with a L and finish with an A ….

        Ignore my comment if you think it is not relevant!
        Cheers
        Slex

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    December 16, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    I lost the will to read on after the first few wordy sentences. Why ask the question in the first place? Nobody else makes film SLR’s why pick on Nikon for being the las one to give up?

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 16, 2020 at 10:56 pm

      I think, Jeremy, you pretty much prove my point. Nikon is not the problem. We, the tiny community that we are, are.

      • Reply
        Kodachromeguy
        December 17, 2020 at 5:17 am

        Nik, from what I read and have observed, the DSLR industry is suffering almost as badly. it looks like their previously-enthusiastic buyers no longer care and are happy with their existing digital cameras or their phones.

        • Reply
          Nik Stanbridge
          December 17, 2020 at 10:21 am

          I think it’s the phones. They meet the needs of the masses.

      • Reply
        Johnny Martyr
        December 18, 2020 at 10:08 am

        Nik, I didn’t see this sentiment come through in your article either. But this notion is in keeping with my thoughts – both the size of our community but also the unwillingness of it to shift our values away from casual shooting with a hoard of antiques and towards more self-sustaining paid shooting on new, reliable cameras. We can’t change Nikon but we can change our own behavior.

  • Reply
    Marc Wick
    December 16, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    Thanks for the very informative article Nik. I really enjoyed it. You presented your thoughts very understandable to me and I agree with you. It is sad, the F6 is a reliable and almost perfect analog camera. But in difficult economic times like now for the photo industry, Nikon decided to stop the production. From an economical point of view maybe the best solution, from an emotional point of view not.
    I use the F6 in combination with a Leica M-A especially for portraits. And to be honest, if I need reliable perfect results , the F6 is my companion.
    But we can not turn back time and for F6 lovers there are a lot of cameras on the second hand market which wait to be reanimated.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 17, 2020 at 10:23 am

      Thanks Marc. It is indeed sad. We also have to contend with the fact that the very complex (i.e. full of electronics) cameras will be hard if not impossible to maintain. This is true of cars – old ‘analogue’ cars are economical to repair, modern ones not.

  • Reply
    David Hume
    December 17, 2020 at 4:33 am

    Hi Nik,
    I liked this article and it made sense to me – thanks. I’d have to say it did not surprise me that the F6 is no longer produced. I also cannot feel in any way emotional about it. Just thought I’d comment here because of a recent conversation I had with my daughter, who is a 20-something film shooter.
    I bought her a Nikon FE for Christmas because she finally trashed my old FM by lugging it round the world a few times and using it to drive in tent pegs.
    “Do they still make film cameras?” she asked me.
    “No,” I said. “Well. Leica make a couple for a squillion dollars I guess, and there are also disposables, but Nikon just dropped its last film model.”
    “Wow,” she said, “Really? Everyone – I mean EVERYONE I know has a film camera.”
    “Yeah,” I said, “But take your Nikon – The FE is sort of the perfect camera for you. Imagine they made them new. What would it cost? $1500? $2000? I really have no idea but why would you bother when I can just get you a perfect one for $250?”

    I liked that Chandler L made a comment that mentioned the re-issued year 2000 s3. That crossed my mind too, and I’d be keen to hear your analysis of that project and how it went. He also mentions he’d buy a new F – to which I think The only reason I’d be glad if they reissued the F is that I could feel super smug that I bought a complete mint body/lens/case kit for round USD 350 just this year.

    My layman observations, for what they are worth, is that I’m super-glad film cameras are so cheap (let’s say useful ones and disregard a few like the Fuji 6×7 folder, compact Contaxes etc) because if there were not, the young hobbyists (my daughter’s demographic – the growth area) would not be shooting film and the labs would close down, and when they closed the film would stop being made. I shoot film for fun and as a visual artist, but if it got too hard I’d stop, and make art some other way I guess.

    Cameras are SO cheap. Well, I think so anyway because I can remember what they cost new. And I can remember when second-hand prices were tied to new prices. (Which I guess for the F6 is not too far back, actually.) Cameras are small, easy to store, and now I can just buy an F4 (say) for peanuts and admire it as an object then use it to take photos if I feel like it. I think I’d still feel the same way if prices doubled, which I guess they may well soon, but if that happened I’d just be thinking that astute camera buying was also a good place to park my money and not worry about it too much.
    Thanks for the discussion!

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 17, 2020 at 10:27 am

      Spot on David. The film community is growing because it is so cheap, and easy. I suspect the most popular cameras on ebay are the simplest ones – the ones that are easy to use, easy to understand and have that ‘back to basics’ feeling about them.

  • Reply
    Huss
    December 17, 2020 at 4:58 am

    Nikon obviously recently recognized the burgeoning film ‘industry’ when they released their D850 that included a film copy/reversal mode in camera!
    Along with that they released the ES-2 film copier hardware to attach to corresponding lenses. This is an item I literally use daily.

    As a user of the F6 (amongst other cameras) I can see why it has had its run ended . Quite frankly it is too complex. The majority of people coming back to film are coming back for the process, getting away from computational/digital photography. (Even though unless you have a wet darkroom, scanning etc involves computers.) They want simpler machines that still create beautiful images. Cameras that make them feel they are part of the craft.
    With my F6 I pretty much get the exact same result as with my F2, or F3. Or SuperA. But it just makes it so much easier, and well, where is the fun in that? It’s nice to think that it was you, not the camera, that did the heavy lifting. When I want solid results easily I reach for my F4 over my F6 because it is simpler to use, and while not as sophisticated has just the right amount of stuff to help without feeling like I’m using a digital camera that uses film. It also doesn’t have menus (which in the F6 are sooooo dated now), but does have big glorious dials! You ever seen a dial on an iphone? Nope! But you have seen menus…
    The current demand is for the simple, solid, stoic appeal of a more mechanical machine. Forget the F6 for a moment.. why is it that incredible AF 35mm slrs like the Nikon F75 or F80 can be bought for $30 while a so much more ‘inferior’ Pentax K1000 can cost $100? Because in this current market it is actually a liability to have such a competent camera. Give me something that I can mess things up with, and so create art!
    Perfection in a $3000 F6 is overrated, especially seeing almost perfection can be achieved with a $30 F80. And that F80 is $30 because no-one wants one. Guess where that leaves the F6?

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 17, 2020 at 10:30 am

      Thanks Huss. You make the same point I made to David above… a lot of film shooters want the simplest kit so that they feel they have created the image using their own skill – not the camera making the decisions. It’s why I use an FM2.

    • Reply
      Leo Tam
      December 18, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      People want either a point and shoot, or full manual. 1990s-2000 producer/professional bodies appeal to neither camp. Nikon should do a run of 35Tis and Fm3as – they’re what people want when people want a film camera in 2020

      • Reply
        Nik Stanbridge
        December 18, 2020 at 9:14 pm

        And an FM2. But, as many have said, replacing the bulletproof cameras (take a bow, FM2) is perhaps not the way forwards.

  • Reply
    Thomas Eisl
    December 17, 2020 at 5:23 am

    Just imagine there is a new film camera on the market, that does it all:
    1) Using old lenses with a split focusing screen: check
    2) High-end AF and tracking: check
    3) Ultimate battery performance and highest reliability: check
    4) Compatibility with one of the largest lens ecosystems on the market: check
    5) Small form factor: check
    6) 10 years of parts availability and service by the manufacturer: check
    7) Compatibility with one of the most advanced flash metering systems in the world: check
    8) A prestigious manufacturer and not some Kickstarter startup: check
    9) Almost inaudible shutter sound for a SLR: check
    10) ALL the features a photographer could ever want in a camera EVER: check

    And now imagine it costs only 2.200 Euro brand new with full warranty – at your local camera store.

    And then imagine going to the same store, buying a 2.800 mirrorless digital camera (lenses not included) that will only work on this digital camera. A camera that does the same thing that your previous 36mp digital already does but a little bit better. Imagine taking a few shots with the camera and finding out it just produces the same digital stuff – again. Imagine realizing that the lump of electronics you just bought will probably work in 5 years, but you won’t be the guy with the new cool camera.

    Also think about the missed opportunities regarding socializing with the shop owner when buying film and supporting a local business. Think about all the people you might meet at the camera store.

    Then you realize you have to be different -you need a film camera. You go on an auction site and try finding a film camera. But you only have 200 Euro left for a camera with lens and some expired film.

    This is the issue: Film shooters have the money, many do. But they are not serious enough about film photography. It is a novelty, a thing they like doing. A thing they pretend caring about but not willing to fully invest in. I’ve been like that before I’ve bought the F6 – and it was a mistake. The new F6 was the best thing that happened to me camera-wise. This is a tool to support professional applications and all hobbyist endavours.

    Fast forward 15 years:
    There are no parts for the Pentax 67 anymore; Many circuit boards are dead or need reworking costing way above 500 EUR for a specialist to sit down and attempt it – no guarantee it will work. Only a few film photographers will make this investment.
    The others will just abandon the medium for another film simulation preset pack they just bought for 100 EUR.

    There is only one way around it: Stop giving great products a bad name just because you can’t afford it. Save for a newly produced film Leica – you’ll only buy one in your life. Buy new film. Shoot film. Buy darkroom paper and print. Send Nikon an E-Mail that you would love a new film camera. Don’t wait. Tell people about film. Don’t compare it to digital in terms of image quality, but compare it in terms of electronic waste, waste of money and lack of emotional connection with your equipment.

    And if there is a superior new product on the market, don’t expect it to cost 500 Euro while being the do-it-all camera that will last a lifetime and gets brassy around the edges. Don’t treat film photography as a novelty, but treat it as PHOTOGRAPHY

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 17, 2020 at 10:37 am

      I agree with your key point and others are making it too: complex cameras, full of electronics, will likely only have a short life because of the difficulty (expense, lack of parts) in maintaining them. And their relative fragility because of the complexity. “Save for a newly produced film Leica – you’ll only buy one in your life. Buy new film. Shoot film. Buy darkroom paper and print… the do-it-all camera that will last a lifetime and gets brassy around the edges”. I couldn’t agree more.

      • Reply
        Thomas Eisl
        December 17, 2020 at 1:49 pm

        Nik, what does overly complex mean? This is where I strongly disagree – it is a far less complicated camera when compared to a digital. It is just a professional imaging device with all possibilities one would expect from a 21st century imaging device

  • Reply
    Greg L
    December 17, 2020 at 6:32 am

    I am not surprised that the F6 is being discontinued. I’m just grateful the production run lasted as long as it it did.

    I own an F6. It is my favorite camera (digital or analog). It handles better than my D700. The grip is nicer. The viewfinder is better than any DSLR. I shoot mostly Nikon manual focus lenses and they work great on the F6. Full matrix metering, M an A modes for old manual lenses and PSAM for chipped lenses. You can buy manual focus screens for it from Nikon. It has a decent autofocus system also. It is compatible with Nikon’s i-TTL flash system. It can use modern Nikon G lenses as well. And it records EXIF data even for manual lenses.

    It’s extremely versatile and I think the way it handles so well is what makes it stand out.

    But even given all of the above, I bought mine used in mint condition for half the new price rather than buying it new.

    Of course I grew up using a Nikon FE and later a FM3a (both which I still use) so I took a chance on the F6 and it exceeded my expectations. I may have to buy another refurbished one from Nikon now that all the new ones are gone.

    Would I buy a new film camera, something along the lines of a FE/FM/FM3a? Yeah i would but i grew up with film so I’m not the guy one has to convince. Unless there is enough interest among the younger generation i don’t see a new high quality but affordable film camera being produced in the near future. I hope I’m wrong. I think something along the lines of an FM could possibly emerge someday.

    Of course Leica will sell you a brand new M-A film camera but that makes the F6 look cheap!

    We are indeed a niche market.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 17, 2020 at 10:39 am

      I agree Greg: there needs to be enough interest, and willingness to buy, for there to be a chance of a new film camera.

  • Reply
    Hamish Gill
    December 17, 2020 at 9:02 am

    I’m not sure what’s more interesting, the article or the responses. It’s fascinating how emotional such an intentionally objective article about one very specific camera can make people.

    For what it’s worth, it doesn’t seem particularly disputable to me.

    Some of the least popular cameras on the used market are the more modern feature-packed autofocus SLR Cameras. As incredible camera as the F6 is, it really is just a very expensive very niche version of a type of camera that isn’t particularly buoyant on the used market.

    Those out there who are analysing the marketplace will know the F6 doesn’t fit the needs or desires of the majority who are shooting film these days. They will also have noted the huge used value or some point & shoot cameras and some of the more mechanical manual SLRs. Will anything come of that, I’m not sure, I’d like to think we will see one of the big brands dip a toe…

    But as you say “There is no altruism in it”, Fuji aren’t going to spend all that R&D money without forecasting significant return. Do we represent the opportunity for significant return when so many people in our community continue to talk about there being no need for a new film camera when so many exist…? I dunno, I’m personally not analysing the market, and don’t have the R&D and financial forecasts required to make a call.

    But, the demise of the F6 seems something of a non-event to me – as you’ve said, and as I agree, it’s just not what the market demands, nor is it at a price point that fits what demand there is, so why would Nikon continue to make it?!

  • Reply
    Manuel
    December 17, 2020 at 10:32 am

    It’s sad that the F6 is gone. Two years ago I bought a new one from Nikon here in Germany and I can only say this is best film camera ever made. I don’t understand why some people wanna pay around 4,350 € for a new Leica (I own one and they are very special) and not invest 2000€ in an F6, wich can do anything. This camera is a piece of art. The F6 is aimed at professional photographers and what do all professional photographers nowadays? Digital. Maybe with the right publicity, Nikon.. maybe… I can think of many film photographers wanting to buy a new film camera and not knowing that Nikon still had in production this beauty. Now it is too late.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 17, 2020 at 10:46 am

      That’s it in a nutshell Manuel: a niche product aimed at a vanishing niche market.

  • Reply
    Manuel
    December 17, 2020 at 10:54 am

    Yes you are right, but it is not over. And I assume it can take longer as we imagine…

  • Reply
    Thomas Eisl
    December 17, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Hamish, this is far from a non-event as long as there is no replacement in th SLR world.

    It is the last SLR going out of production. The F6 is not overly complex for the user and I bet it wasn’t for Nikon as well. They built more complex cameras.

    It is also designed to last a lifetime. Everything in it is machined to highest specifications, backed up by parts and service from the manufacturers.

    And the price! Look how cheap it was. Do you think there is the possibility of a newly produced mechanical SLR being cheaper and offering service comparable support? I hope you know more than I do regarding this 🙂

    Film photographers don’t need a novelty item, but a reliable tool. With the end of the F6, film photography took a major hit and no matter whether you want to shoot with it or not, it is impacting the future of the medium.

    Also, the knowledge that “I can always buy an F6 at some point” is now gone – wait for the second hand prices to go up

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      “Non-event” is perhaps a bit much, but it didn’t come as any surprise to me at all.

      Those who had the knowledge that “I can always buy an F6 at some point” are exactly the problem – Nikon couldn’t support that hypothetical marketplace. If those people really wanted one, they should have bought one. If they had, then this inevitability might have been delayed.

      As for a cheaper mechanical SLR – I don’t know, as I have said, “I’m personally not analysing the market, and don’t have the R&D and financial forecasts required to make a call.”

      And I’m not suggesting we need a novelty item (where did I imply that?) – what the community needs is a camera that will actually sell in numbers that mean it is a viable proposition for a manufacturer. That obviously wasn’t what the F6 represented to Nikon, else they wouldn’t have stopped making it.

      • Reply
        Thomas Eisl
        December 17, 2020 at 3:56 pm

        The novelty item thing was not meant as an accusation but just to underline the need for a proper camera you stated as well.

        It is a little bit disheartening to hear that it was inevitable. Every product has a limited lifespan, yes. But it is not about the end of the F6 but the missing announcement of the F7 or an FM4 something!

        I’m just strictly opposed to negativity regarding new products, just as you mentioned in your remark if I recall correctly. Let’s hope for the better and send mails to manufacturers – nothing much to do apart from that

        oh, and shoot film of course…

        • Reply
          Bert Frisch
          February 5, 2021 at 1:05 pm

          I agree 100% !! I shoot an M6 and F6, the F6 never misses, perfect exposure every time. However the M6 gets most trigger time.

      • Reply
        Nik Stanbridge
        December 17, 2020 at 4:29 pm

        Your last para Hamish summarises my article 🙂

    • Reply
      Huss
      December 19, 2020 at 5:57 am

      The F6 is designed to last a lifetime? Good luck with that. My F6, pampered and never dropped let alone abused, had to have it’s af rangefinder (that is what the techs at Nikon Los Angeles called it) replaced ($230) because all of a sudden it would dramatically front focus. They told me that this was relatively commonplace with the F6. No that the F6 has been discontinued, for how long would a part like that be stocked?
      And what about the LCDs in the menu panel, as well as the digital display in the VF? You think that stuff lasts ‘a lifetime’? Nikon F4s and F3s often show the infamous LCD leak, as do cameras like the Contax G2 etc. Age catches up with that stuff.
      My Nikon F is dinged and battered. And yet even though it is much older than an F4 or F6, has never shown signs of LCD leakage, or has its AF fail…

      The only lifetime cameras are high quality fully mechanical ones.

  • Reply
    Spyros
    December 17, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    I think that the film camera market currently is saturated in terms of offer from the last productions runs that lasted over 30 years. Since there are camera’s from all manufacturers dating from 80’s in good working condition and since the film camera buyers pool is smaller, I do not think there is a market need for a company to continue production or create a new model.
    As a 35mm user what my main concern is the lack of support from the manufacturers but also from dealers and repair workshops in terms of spare parts and service, and mainly for the parts that affect my shooting experience irreversibly like inaccurate metering. For as long the prices for a second hand bodies remains relatively low and since there is no alternative I can always exchange my body without looking for support. The main problem usually comes from the fact that the second hand market fluctuates following trends not defined by the end users needs.
    Probably a revival of the infrastructure network for support and repair of film cameras, which has been abandoned with the current marketing strategy of very short product cycles, is what we actually need as end users.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 17, 2020 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks Spyros. What this actually means is that there are too few repair shops… an opportunity there for someone…

  • Reply
    Don Ecsedy
    December 17, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    My guess is that those whose support is critical to the survival of film photography are Mom and Pop, but they shoot with phone cams now. Pros are valued by the marketing departments because they pull sales in from the aspirational talented amateurs and artists. That niche is now digital, too. Film photographers now must deal without their support.

    Since I don’t use slrs much, the anguish expressed here doesn’t move me (and I thought slr sales had peaked way back in the 80s before digital).

    I agree with Hamish that an F6 is not the kind of camera most film photographers want, at least that’s what I gather from the www and from film photographers I’ve chatted with.

    Looking back, it might be that David Burnett’s photo from 2000 of Al Gore delivering a speech outdoors, taken with a Holga foreshadowed a revival of interest in film photography which had not yet been drowned out by digital.

    I think the appeal of film these days is a sense that somehow or other film can produce something magical and you don’t need three buit in light meters and more focus points than dots on a scatter-graph to do so.

    I’ve been clearing out my GASsy camera collection. The top keepers are the Barnacks ,Trip35s and a GIII, and I’m as happy as a clam at high tide with them.

  • Reply
    Rick
    December 17, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    Call me cynical, but I think we will never see a new film camera from the establishment because they don’t “need” to be replaced every 18-24 months. They have too long a useful life. That dooms them. Today’s market for everything is basically: Disposable with a short use life. Little or nothing is repairable, so buy a new one.

    • Reply
      Kevin Ortner
      December 17, 2020 at 9:38 pm

      cynical!

      I disagree with the general term disposable. They are maybe marketed that way but they are in no way disposable. So long as you can find new batteries for them in the decades to come.

      Consider the entry level dSLRs. They can accommodate high end glass and are often rated for 75-100k shutter clicks (probably more if you only use live-view).

      If you take are of your camera, and shoot on average 10 shots per day, you will be able to use your entry level dSLR for 20+ years before needing a new one. I mean, I had a Canon 20d that was still working flawlessly after 15 years. That to me is not disposable.

      The thing that brings me to film cameras is that I feel like I can continue a hobby without contributing to the waste of new products. I personally rarely buy new (unless it is related to profession) and wouldn’t buy into a new 35mm film camera unless the cost of used starts to exceed what a new one could potentially be sold for.

  • Reply
    Ben Garcia
    December 17, 2020 at 6:26 pm

    Great perspective piece, Nik. Always interesting to hear about others (esp. more informed) opinions of film’s future. From just reading the title, I understood this article as speaking about the implications of the end of production of the last film SLR. I’m a bit surprised it took them this long to end the F6; most SLRs ceased production over a decade ago, I think. And even though film is having a bit of a moment, the inertia from the film-to-digital revolution is still having an effect. As a scientist, I think it’s fascinating. As a film shooter, maybe less so, though that gets back to your point that maybe the F6 was too digital survive and that had it been a simpler more mechanical camera, things might’ve been different.

    Looking at the few film cameras (non-luxury) now being manufactured, they are plastic, cheap, semi-disposable, basic and purely mechanical if one doesn’t include the flash. I think it speaks to the idea that these producers are seeing a slot in the market for this kind of film experience. As others have said, there are plenty of “real” or “serious” camera bodies available; the newest film adopters are looking for a more whimsical experience, less studied, less professional. Lomography is doing great because those are the experiences they offer, though I wouldn’t call them cheap. Honestly, they’re a bit of a conundrum for me, but that’s a different story.

    On the topic of the future of camera repair, that’s really the crux, isn’t it? An FM2 or an OM-1 is fairly robust but will inevitably die when parts run out. Hopefully all the old camera repair persons are teaching younger folks the tricks of the trade. The Camera Rescue project out of Finland was started years ago to address this. Hopefully there will be more groups like them.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      December 18, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      Yes, the repair ‘industry’ is key to keeping us all going with the kit we have. There will need to be an adjacent one that supplies those repairers with parts… 3D printing anyone?

      • Reply
        Leo Tam
        December 18, 2020 at 6:51 pm

        We definitely need to keep the repair industry alive, but sadly, many guys are going into retirement with no apprentices in sight. Lots of people simply replace their broken camera with another used camera because the supply is still cheap and plenty. Why spend a few hundred bucks on repairs when another one is less?

        Also, electronics being an issue is overblown (well, at least Nikon got things down) – sure Kyocera made contax cameras are a ticking time bomb, but Nikon f4s are 30+ years old and chugging along. That quartz timed shutter probably keeps better time than a mechanical one too.

        • Reply
          Nik Stanbridge
          December 18, 2020 at 9:12 pm

          I know what you mean, I have an OM-1 that needs repairing and it will cost more than one from eBay. But it’s a camera I bought as a student in 1981 and bankrupted me for a long time. It’s braised to hell and is MY camera. It will never go for “spares or repair”.

          Interesting point about circuit boards. I know I’ve made disparaging remarks about them here (“complexity”) but the more I think about it, the more I think that they can be reverse engineered. Not something I could do, but for someone with the right skills…

  • Reply
    J K LOCKWOOD
    December 17, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    Oh we are an impassioned bunch. Forgive me if it’s been said already, but market research and market reality are often different things. Our emotions seem to overtake logic in the photography industry. Especially when it comes to film. I shot medium-format professionally for 20 years. When I bought my first pro Nikon, the D1, everything changed. Those early years were great for Canon and Nikon USA. Each product introduction vastly superior to the last, creating their own supply and demand. Cha ching! They were not great for photographers who kept plunking down $5K for new bodies. Film quickly died in commercial circles and much of Kodak was shuttered. No one predicted how fast the demise of their precious cash cow would be. So why are we so passionate about film? For me, it is romantic. I loved the days when we shot film. Each clunk of my Hasselblad’s auxillary shutter meant money! But beyond the crass commercialism is a simple joy. One can stick a couple of rolls of Tri-X in a pocket and head out to document the world on a Leica M4-P. No batteries to charge, no manuals to read, just pure image-making.

  • Reply
    Alan Chin
    December 19, 2020 at 4:05 am

    Voigtlander / Cosina went for the affordable mid-range film bodies but at this point they are pretty much a mid-range lens maker — and I think the failure was to not make an affordable Leica M mount digital after the Epson RD-1 which was a promising start. And then the mirrorless revolution came which means all that M mount glass works great on Sony and Fuji now. What many seem to forget is that the typical film enthusiast ALSO shoots digital, and if you made the lenses interchangeable, that would be a big plus. Nikon F6 was always unnecessary— it didn’t do anything the F100 didn’t, basically, and they should have never introduced it, but rather double down on the FM-3a and further tweaked it with a smaller and quieter motor drive — the MD12 design was really showing its age — or even a Leicavit type bottom winder, things like that. Because yes, that’s what the market values — just look at prices for FM-3a now — aa the last and best of the FM/FE series, it still commands high value. At the same time, formalizing the FM-3a split image microprism focusing screen for the higher end digital cameras would have continued true interchangeability with F mount lenses of all generations up to AF D, and then adding something to the FM-3a so that you can control aperture of G lenses — that, too, would mean completing a true dual film and digital ecosystem. On the digital side, the DF isn’t enough of a truly retro design — it doesn’t have the ergonomics of the Fujis, who proved that lenses with aperture rings (even if totally fly by wire) and bodies with shutter speed dials can be popular. The Z cameras are decent with limited reverse compatibility for G lenses, but D and previous AF lenses are orphaned. All manual lenses will of course work well on Z as they do on any mirrorless. I do feel bad — Nikon more than most did maintain backward compatibility by keeping the lens mount for so, so long, and we should be thankful for that. But it’s like they were always trying to split the difference. Whereas most of the market doesn’t care about cross-platform and backwards compatibility, and the tiny segment that does care wants more of that compatibility than Nikon has ever offered. Which means I now shoot Nikon lenses on my Sonys and Fujis, and if I’m shooting film it’s going to be the FM-3a if it must be a Nikon but usually it’s rather a Leica or a Lomo. Do the math — F6 never had a market of anybody that NEEDED it, only for a few who WANTED it. Not enough.

  • Reply
    Julian Love
    December 20, 2020 at 9:31 am

    It’s clear from reading the comments there are two very obvious reasons why there will not be any new film cameras from major manufacturers:

    1) they cannot compete with the used market. There are still 1000s of relatively cheap used film cameras available, and a new camera will always be vastly more expensive.

    2) we film shooters are a diverse bunch and all want something different – some of us want a P&S, others a fully mechanical manual focus camera, others an auto everything like the F6, and that’s just 35mm! We haven’t even started to talk about 120. If any company actually made a new film camera, half the film community would simply complain it’s not the film camera THEY wanted.

    So for the manufacturers it’s lose lose.

    Enjoy the used market and if you have any cameras you particularly love. then buy a spare one before prices get too much higher.

  • Reply
    Rico Ramirez
    December 20, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Sorta off topic……

    I think the F6 isn’t compatible with the newer “E” type lenses like the Nikkor 105mm f/1.4. Perhaps I’m in the minority of film users who like to use new lenses (I use a Sigma Art 105mm f/1.4 and Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4.0 OSD with my Canon 35mm EOS cameras). But with Canon concentrating on their mirrorless R mount I don’t think Tamron and Sigma will release new 35mm FF lenses for Canon in the future. Which now leaves Leica, Cosina and TTartisans as the only ones making modern lenses compatible with film cameras.

    However I do not own any M mount 35mm bodies but the upcoming Cosina Voigtlander 50mm f/2.0 APO-Lanthar for M mount has me interested in finally getting one.

  • Reply
    Michael Kay
    January 16, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    I’m a bit late to the article & discussion, but now in 2021, and seeing how dismally Nikon did last year (to the point you could almost see their entire extinction ahead due to some stupid & avoidable choices in their last few models), our hopes of Nikon producing a new film camera are next to nought.
    I own a slew of Nikon F’s (F4s, F5 & F6, FE & FM2), and personally (& hypothecially, due to my last paragraph), I feel like any new SLR (were it to ever be made) would have to appeal to the younger shooters. To offer the simplicity of an FM2, X-700, K1000 etc. To offer the experience a lot of us now-middle aged and older ones went thru decades ago. The memories you never forget with that mechanical tool in your hands, the experience shooting whatever you wanted with the camera which didn’t overburden you with too many options (other than the most necessary) & too many electrical ones also.

    We can only hope & pray I guess. Or use social media for good to get these companies to hopefully listen & for at least one to take the risk. But who? I can’t see it being Nikon. For years now they have shown to be utterly arrogant & to not listen to their customer base’s wants & needs. It looks like they have taken some stupid risks in their last few digital cameras, and it has finally come and shot them in the foot heading into what looks like, a period of a global recession ahead. Bad timing indeed.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      January 16, 2021 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks Michael. I agree on the (un)likelihood, sigh, and also on what direction it needs to take should it ever happen (mechanical, simple, etc).

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