The Film Community has a Math Problem. Not a Film Price or Kodak Problem – By Matt Wright

On November 3, 2021, Kodak announced a film price increase of 9-15% and the film community let out a collective sigh of exhaustion citing a lack of support and commitment to the film community by film manufacturers. 

This prompted two, high-profile, attempts at bringing order to the madness. Silver Grain Classics and Nico who, in similar ways explained that 1) when accounted for inflation, current film prices are in line with inflation and 2) there are good reasons for the price increase such as investment in personnel, machinery, environmental reasons, COVID related supply chain issues, etc. 

Both of those responses are well thought out, were seemingly well-received, and I agree with both wholeheartedly. The authors should be commended. 

Neither of those explanations, however, help mitigate the pain of learning about a 10%, 15%, or 20% price increase. Pain and emotion are not logical. Math and logic don’t change how we feel.  

A Math Problem

It’s my view that whilst price increases are unwelcome, the film community may have a math problem rather than a price increase, inflation, or Kodak problem.  

I am not a psychologist. I am not a statistician. I am a radiologist and a photographer with no domain experience in either math or psychology. Keep that in mind. I do, however, have decades of experience in running businesses and watching employees, customers, and colleagues unsuccessfully wrestle and fight to understand percentages of small numbers.  I think that this is exactly what we are seeing in the film community with the latest price increase.  For example, which feels worse: 

  1. I am going to raise your prices by 15%?
  2. I am going to raise your price by $1.50?

My bet is you picked number 1 because a 15% price increase in anything sounds terrible. The fact of the matter is that #1 and #2 in the above example are exactly the same when it comes to the price increase of film in late 2021. Until now, film cost me $9.99/roll (Portra 400) or less (Proimage 100).   

In my experience, people are also poor mathematicians when they extrapolate small numbers into the future. In my estimate, film hobbyists shoot more or less 20 rolls of film per year  which brings us to two additional options for your consideration: 

  1. Continue to do your hobby that you love for an additional $3.33 per month OR 
  2. Stop your hobby completely

I bet most film photographers would pick number 1 without thinking about it not realizing that that is all Kodak is really asking us to do with the recent price increase. Hobbies are neither free nor free from inflation.  The world is a mess post COVID.  Inflation is everywhere. 

Cardiff ca sign

Real Terms 6% Cost Increase

For many, the cost of your photography hobby is probably only going up 6%. If you send film to a lab where the cost of processing is $15.00/roll to develop and scan, the price of your photography hobby is only going up 6% when you consider the total cost of photographing, developing, and scanning a roll of film. 

This is another example where thinking in percentages is misleading. The total cost of a roll for you to send it to a lab to develop is currently $25.00. A price increase of $1.50 over something that costs at least $25.00 is only 6% which, at least to me, doesn’t feel like it is worth the outrage we are seeing online towards Kodak. 

The Pain of Anchoring

The previous examples are intended to demonstrate how our thinking about numbers is not always rational and perhaps how reframing the situation can change our outlook. 

If you read the book, Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow by Daniel Kahneman, this should come as no surprise. My arm-chair psychologist summary of the book is that we all have cognitive biases and faults in our decision-making process that cloud our thinking and allow our emotions to get the best of us.

One of the topics discussed in that book is anchoring. Anchoring is a heuristic that describes the subconscious use of irrelevant information, such as the price you are currently paying for film, as a fixed reference point (or anchor) for making subsequent decisions about that price. I contend that anchoring is causing at least some of our pain with this film price increase and we can help mitigate that pain if we understand what is going on. 

Anchoring is used in sales all the time. Real estate agents overprice a house when it is put on the market to make you think that it is worth more than it is. Sellers raise the price of an item and then put it on sale so you think you are getting a bargain even when you aren’t.  Anchoring is even why prices tend to end in a number 9. 

With respect to the film price increase, we are all anchored to the current price we are paying for film. That price is so embedded in our brain that any change from that price makes us feel like we are getting either a bargain or ripped off. A change in price causes an emotion. Prices are not emotion neutral. The pain we feel from a price increase is irrationally painful even if the actual cost of the price increase is insignificant or will enable us to do our hobby for years to come.  

The Errors of Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is another of our cognitive deficiencies. In short, we search for evidence to support our thinking. If you shoot film, I will go out on a limb and paint a portrait of someone who is at least a little outside of the mainstream. My bet is that you aren’t entirely keen on Wall Street running the world. Going further, it is likely that you believe that corporate greed is more common than corporate generosity.

If that describes you (it certainly describes me) it is possible that you (like me) lose your mind when you hear that a mega-company is raising prices and assume that price increases are there to stuff the corporate coffers and screw the little guy. I then look for reasons to support my conclusions. For example, silence from the company about why there is an increase leads me to believe that there is no reason other than to screw me. If it weren’t, they would offer us a reason, right?   Heck, even if they give a reason, my first, often incorrect assumption is that they are lying. 

The problem with these cognitive biases is that even if we know they are happening, and even though we know they are wrong, we can’t always stop them from affecting your decisions, stop us from ranting on Twitter about how bad Kodak or Fuji are, and we can’t even stop feeling the pain of a price increase. Our outrage is a bug in the machine. 

To help prove this point I offer you two scenarios to consider: 

  1. What if Fuji, rather than discontinuing Pro400H, said “We will increase the price by $2.00/roll and keep producing Pro400h.”
  2. What if Kodak said, “There is going to be a price increase to $13.99 per roll of film but to offset that price, you can buy a 5 pack at $11.49/roll of film. If can agree to that, we will continue to make film for 5 years and we think we can have better distribution and availability.” 

Neither of the companies actually said that but I would have to assume that many of us wished they did. Compared to stopping film production or a price increase of 15%, both of those feel like a good deal right. Who wouldn’t want Pro400H back – whatever the price? Who cant pay an extra $1.49 per roll of film? They are both a price increase in sheep’s clothing but they short circuit the emotions we have when we hear about an across the board price increase of X%

pipes surf

The Long Tail of Vitriol and Rebellion

Complaints about Kodak, predictions that film is dead, and worries about a price increase do little to affect Kodak but do, in fact, hurt The Darkroom, Nico’s Photography Show, The Kamerastore, Japan Camera Hunter, Silvergrain Classics, Acme Camera SLC, Negative Supply, Cine Still, The Film Photography Project, Kosmo Foto, pixl-latr, Chroma Camera, Intrepid, and everyone else you know and love that is working hard to build a sustainable business in analog photography.  Let me explain. 

On August 5, 2020, Kodak was given $765 million USD to produce hydroxychloroquine. Members of the film community joked about it but from my vantage point that was a scarier moment for analog photography than Fujifilm discontinuing a film stock.

Kodak manufactures many things in addition to film. Some stock analysts are predicting a future focus on chemical production. I have no idea if that will happen but it is at least plausible to hypothesize that Kodak has the potential for an opportunity to pivot toward other industries if film becomes too expensive or too much of a pain to produce. The same pivot argument cannot be made for the local camera store or film lab that popped up in your town during the film renaissance. 

Kodak is a mega-company with a market cap of $560 million USD. A few rolls of film, or even a few thousand rolls of film, here and there, are rounding errors for Kodak. Conversely, losing a few dozen rolls of film here and there, or even a half dozen new analog photographer clients, could be devastating to a small business. 

As an example of how and why painting a doom and gloom picture of analog photography because of a price increase and railing against Kodak hurts small businesses, let’s consider the butterfly effect of 7, hypothetical, young photographers in downtown San Diego who in 2021 were dissuaded from picking up a film camera because they were hearing about doom and gloom about film price increases, worries about the end of film, and encountered a generally negative environment in social medial regarding the future of film photography. 

Those 7 young photographers will never buy a camera from my beloved Camera Exposure. They will never have their 20 rolls of film per year developed at The Darkroom. They will never go back to Camera Exposure and get their second, third, and fourth cameras. They certainly won’t go and order a home development kit from Cinestill. Finally, they also won’t buy a Negative Supply, Valoi, or Pixl-latr film carrier to scan their negatives at home. There is also no possible way they will buy a Revini spot meter. Over the course of a few years, those 7 photographers won’t be spending tens of thousands of dollars supporting the analog photography ecosystem.   Now, think about what happens if there are 7 photographers, in every city, around the world, every year,  who don’t pick up a film camera because they are worried about a price increase or filmpocalypse because of something they read on social media? 

The butterfly effect of social media negativity and predictions of doom and gloom have an outsized effect on the long tail of photography (e.g. the small guy) rather than the intended audience of Kodak.

In a way, assuming that Kodak is trying to set themselves up for future profitability and success with the price increase, the main effect of Kodak’s recent price increase is keeping Cinestill, Negative Supply, and your local camera shop in business. 

Leica Camera Owner’s Opinions?

Yes, you really do want people who own Leica cameras to complain about the price of film, but not too loudly. There is a meme going around the internet that goes something like “If I hear a Leica owner complain about the price of film, I am going to scream.” This is pretty funny but misguided for a number of reasons that bear consideration. 

First, the basis of this meme is that Leica photographers have an unlimited bank account and can pay whatever they want for film. Although some certainly do, my experience at is that this is not an entirely accurate portrait of many Leica photographers. There is an entire skate and hipster crowd that is price sensitive and more normal than you think. 

Second, I think we should all hope that everyone will complain about the price of film but maybe not as loudly as we have seen in recent days. Think about it, if all of the Leica photographers and enough other people are willing to pay $20, $30, or $40 per roll of film, and there are enough of them, that will become the new price and nobody wants that.   A little bit of pushback on the film price or using a little less film is probably the best path forward.

Calling for a strike, mayhem, film embargo, or going on the socials and castigating the film companies for raising prices doesn’t do anyone any good. Going too far with the rhetoric, selling your film camera, and buying Fuji GFX (which seems to be a trend), will speed and not prevent the filmpocalypse. 

An abrupt decrease in how much film is used would signal that the film market is fickle and maybe too price-sensitive to support investment moving forward. 

seaside surf

Film isn’t Insulin!

Kodak currently has a monopoly on film. For all intents and purposes that is a fact in 2021.  

The response of the internet to that fact, however, is misguided.  The internet assumes that Kodak can do whatever it wants because they are a monopoly and Kodak will raise prices forever because they are an unrestrained monopoly. 

The problem with that thinking is that film is not insulin. If you are diabetic and you don’t get insulin – you will die. For a diabetic, it makes sense to pay whatever the drug company wants because money in the bank doesn’t help you if you suffering from complications related to diabetes.

If, on the other hand, you don’t get film because it is unavailable or too expensive, you just shoot digital or don’t make photographs at all. Nobody ever died because film was too expensive. Nobody goes bankrupt because of a film hobby.  Film prices cant just keep going up indefinitely because people will just stop shooting film. 

Neither you nor I know what the real price of film is or should be but you can expect Kodak to test the upper limit of what price the market can bear.  Any fear that film prices will go up forever, however, ignores the self-correcting market effects that govern prices. If prices get too high, people stop shooting film and prices come down. If they go up and stay up, someone else will get in the game and then competition will bring prices down.

Even if you believe that corporations are run by greedy, narcissistic, power-hungry, men with a penchant to spend too much time in a locker room wound up on cocaine and HGH while they massage their low self-esteem and screw the little guy for sport, with a luxury item like film, HGH driven greed doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Film prices won’t go up forever.

While film prices are busy not rising to infinity you are encouraged to avoid reflexively attributing rising film prices to greed.  Having been wrongfully accused of corporate greed in the past, and watching it happen to colleagues, I can assure you that in at least some cases,  greed is often mistaken for incompetence and miscommunication. Neither you nor I have enough information to accurately assess how or why film prices are going to do what they will do in the next few years.  We can only choose whether or not we purchase film moving forward.

The End of the World…?

Predictions about the world ending almost never come true. In an email exchange with Hamish about the current situation, I pondered whether I am old or stupid. I feel that I am getting old because  “They” have been predicting the world will end since at least 1987 which is the first time I remember being told, “this time it is different.” 

“They” said it about the stock market in 1997, 2008, and 2019/2020. They have been saying it about the housing market since I purchased my first home in 2003. In my residency in 1997, I was told that x-ray film (which is essentially the same as black and white film) would be gone before the end of my residency because silver and other chemicals would be too hard to come by; and I chose the wrong profession.  They said Russia was going to take over and then Rocky 4 happened. Now they are saying it about China. They told me that Ski areas would fold by now because of global warming and I was an idiot to buy a snowboard in 1999. 

None of these examples are directly related to film but they prove the point that even though it always feels like the world will end, and you can always find someone to reinforce your fear that the world will end, the world just keeps on not ending. 

I feel old because I now have enough years behind me such that my first assumption is that nothing changes and the world won’t end. A few decades ago I would panic but now I know that in most cases we get the time horizons wrong. Change happens but it is almost never as fast as we want or expect.

At the same time, I feel stupid because maybe I am the only rube in the room not worrying as much as I should. Maybe this time it really is different.

Whether I am old or stupid or both, I know with absolute certainty that neither you, me, nor the guy or girl giving a dissertation on social media about how the end of film is near, how we are about to run out of silver,  or that this time is different for any reason really knows what they are talking about. Social media is a good amplifier of ideas. It doesn’t mean that those ideas are valid. 

haze surf

The Bottom Line

If this discussion about how our faulty thinking clouds our emotions, how the film price increase isn’t as bad as it sounds, and how we all might be having a communication problem rather than a real-world problem, please do complain about the film increase but consider turning down the volume. Maybe shoot a few rolls fewer but don’t stop shooting. Above all, don’t encourage young photographers to avoid analog because that will only hurt the small businesses that support our hobby. 

A quick closing statement

This article was written by me, Matt Wright, with a little support from Hamish who agrees wholeheartedly with the contents above. If you would like to read more from me, please feel free to check out my website Leica Lenses for Normal People. You can also find me on Instagram: leicalensesfornormalpeople and themattwphoto 

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65 thoughts on “The Film Community has a Math Problem. Not a Film Price or Kodak Problem – By Matt Wright”

  1. I think part of the problem is that, for many people, the hobby is already barely affordable at the moment. Sure, an increase of 3-5 dollar a month (depending on how much you shoot) doesn’t sound like much, but it definitely adds up. Here in the UK, a roll of Portra 400 currently sells for around £13 (about $17). Adding up the cost of developing and scanning, and you are looking into a seriously expensive hobby (keep in mind that our salaries are, on average, lower than the US). And of course I’m talking about a developed country; once you start looking into the situation in the developing world (where I do originally come from), you see that film has become prohibitively expensive to the point that barely anyone shoots it any longer. So while I do agree with the overall points you are making and I don’t see a way around these prices increases (particularly as demand has soared), I think that the film community is more than justified to feel that this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    1. I think that is a very valid response/concern. I think maybe the title should have been a “film price increase or Kodak problem.” The current article is primarily focused on the response to the film price increase rather than whether or not film is expensive or not and/or if a film hobby can be defended. Boat and horse owners would disagree (NOTE: I own no boats or horses). I think that is a different discussion. Either way, your point is solid and well taken. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Matt for the valuable thoughts. I have noticed in my working life that the people who complain the most seem to do the least. Complaining about the price of film is just another way to avoid going out and creating something. A humble roll of film is the result of hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. Not only the film production itself, but all the related chemical production from silver to plastics. The cost also represents lifetimes of inventions and knowledge to come up with the processes and make them work. And some selfish clod complains that a roll of film costs $10?!?

  3. Is it true that “ Kodak currently has a monopoly on film. For all intents and purposes that is a fact in 2021.”? What the evidence for this?

    I’m about to switch from Kodak to Ilford because it is (or soon will be) getting on for half the price of Kodak stock. This is because the film I buy is a significant proportion of my income as a newly retired person. I’m not poor, don’t get me wrong, but it will be a useful economy.

    1. You are correct. I should have said something like a monopoly on “professional level” color negative film or something like that. There are other color films out there. For me though many are “special effects” films or are maybe more “unpredictable.” For anyone reading this, I put all of those words in quotes because they are not intended to disparage any of the other film companies who are making color film and saying that they are not professional. You are also correct. This entire discussion doesnt really apply to black and white film. There are loads of options.

  4. Jay Dann Walker in Melbourne

    Respectfully, you are overthinking all this…

    I live in the real world of photography. Not maths or statistics. I’m weary of film, paper, chemistry etcetera prices all going up, up, up. Every price increase from Kodak – is it just me, or is it a given in our world that Kodak does it more often than the other manufacturers of film? Not that Fuji is any slouch in this area either, but for the moment okay, let’s stay with The Big Yellow Box From Rochester – drives X numbers of photographers away from film and over to digital. In my world this has happened so much now, only a handful of us ‘old-timers’ are still into film – the young shooters come and go, as much as you dislike it, sadly they mostly go.

    Call it “faulty thinking” if you like, but with every year that passes, fewer and fewer photographers are shooting film. This is a given, price increases reflect the fact that less film is being sold (also that manufacturing film costs more, which this article didn’t really go into in any depth). This said, one line you wrote really resonated with me – “t’s true that film isn’t insulin – in fact it’s not even a necessity any more.”

    In my world, most of us are now shooting black-and-white film. More so than ever, we have all turned to digital for color, and we are unlikely to go back to film for this. I’ve had to accept this, as much as I enjoy shooting Portra with my Contax G1s… my Nikon D800 does it just as well, in fact far better, and oddly, given what I’ve written about “the price of fish” (= film) going up and up, my digiNikon cost me less to buy in 2013 than my G1 did in 1997. (I could write much more about how the cost of 120 film is now so high in Australia that I rarely use my Rolleiflex, but I think I’ve said enough.)

    Statements such as “They” have been predicting the world will end since at least 1987 which is the first time I remember being told, “this time it is different.” read well but are meaningless to me. The world has changed beyond anybody’s imagination in that time and there is nod denying this. Look at what communications, computers and photography were like 34 years ago and reflect for a moment how much it has all changed in that time.

    Let’s return now to photography. I believe that what will happen in photography the next ten years will be even more astounding, as energy prices escalate and the cost of everything skyrockets. We have seen this happening in everyday life since that damn Covid hit in 2020 and it will only go up. Change is inevitable.

    My remarks are my opinions, and are meant as comments rather than criticisms. In a way, you have opened a Pandora’s Box of a topic here, which may be more what you intended to do anyway. What you wrote made me think, and at my age (70+) while I’ve seen it all and done it all (well, almost all), I enjoy being challenged to reconsider my position on many things I still hold dear. Film photography is high on my list.

    In another ten years, well, photography will most likely no longer be a concern for me. But I do believe it will change. Film is no longer the way. It’s enjoyable, it’s fun – it’s also getting too expensive for many who now prefer the ease and low cost of going digital. I don’t particularly like it, but what I think about it won’t change what will surely happen.

    Entirely my “deux sous” as we used to say in Quebec. A part of me hopes I will be proven wrong in everything iIwrote…

    So to sum all this up, a good article. Many thanks. I am greatly looking forward to the comments.

    1. I agree with everything here. Thank you for the time and thoughtful discussion. I am very worried that you are right and I am with you in hoping that you are wrong. I don’t, however, think you are wrong about the pandora’s box. I am very worried about that in the near term.

  5. Not to cause offense but I think the ‘film community’ is kind of a strange bunch, like effect pedal people in the guitar world. I’d much rather think of myself as part of the ‘photography community’. The medium of photography is what counts here and I feel a lot of people lose sight of that. Is C-41 really that important? I took a blind test once on a forum with Portra 400 vs slightly tweaked RAW files, taken with the same lens. I’ve shot miles of Portra and couldn’t tell the difference in most shots.

    1. Pedal people? I cant imagine. How about Chihuahua breeders? I once almost got hauled in front of the medical board for implying that Chihuahuas weren’t the smartest dogs. I would push back on the film vs digital a little bit but that is a topic for a different discussion.

  6. Bravo!

    People like to moan, and that’s human nature but film is too much fun, too profound and too important to be risked with careless whinging being taken too seriously.

    In Europe I think we have a slightly more diverse ecosystem of producers of film and chemistry. I quite like Kodak Tri-X Pan but not enough to pay double over Ilford HP5 Plus (before any price increase) however the culture of film photography is well nourished by the enthusiasm that blows across the Atlantic, and I wish those that practice it well.

  7. Since it’s e it’s my disposable income that I’m spending and since photography is a hobby and film photography is an expensive part of that hobby, I have a film budget. That budget was set to include any film under $10. With the price increases, I have fewer options. I have chosen not to increase my budget.

    I can either shoot fewer oops or 35mm film or shoot the same number of rolls of cheaper film.

    The relationship is very simple. The manufacturer makes a thing and I choose whether that thing has value and I’m willing to lay to extract that value.

    1. You’re certainly correct that the relationship between consumer and manufacturer is this simple. But I think that, for anyone who is doggedly committed to film, we’re concerned with the larger picture (pardon the pun) and worry that if people act out of negative emotion rather than logic or positive emotion, the entirety of the somewhat fragile film ecosystem may be threatened.

      We are not talking about the ecosystem of t-shirts or bubblegum. To these, your model certainly applies aptly. But when you’re a film photographer in the 21st century, you’re investing in an ecosystem that, in the eyes of many, is ineffective and should no longer exist to begin with. We’re talking about an ecosystem that is struggling at many quarters and is upheld by curious eccentrics denying the advice of peers.

      If you are doggedly committed to film, you’ll recognize the logic presented and adjust your arbitrary $10 sum. If you are not doggedly committed to film, that’s certainly up to you. But those of us concerned with the larger picture just want to be sure that if you ARE doggedly committed, you understand that Kodak is not your enemy and the math is actually not as bad as it may initially appear. That’s all.

  8. Dear Matt,
    Excellent article! I can’t agree more with your logical approach. When I was teaching, and the department head, we’d receive yearly directives from our administration outlining goals for the upcoming school year. A typical message might state: you want to see 15% of your students raise their reading comprehension by June 2012 (last year I taught before retiring.) Everyone would get in a panic, complain of an unrealistic target, complain of stress on the curriculum, etc. But, when they broke out the actual # of students that were affected, it turned out to be 3-4 students in a class. This was a goal that was easily achieved. Beware the % symbol!
    In black & white photography, film cost can be offset by bulk loading film, or buying a ‘pro pack’ of 50 rolls. If you’re a photographer who normally sends your film to a lab, learn to process film at home and buy a decent film scanner. Initial monetary outlay may be high, but within a year, you should realize a cost savings.
    One last point: I started shooting black & white film in 1970. B&W was already becoming a niche market as color became more popular. That trend has continued, and I’d say for all intents and purposes, black & white is the domain of small, select circle of photographers. We almost represent a boutique market. Things will cost more. If you’re a gearhead, and you work on your 1957 Chevy, you know parts are expensive. But you do it for the passion and joy of your hobby, not to make a profit.

    1. Daniel, I think you have hit the nail right on the head with your comment. During my first year shooting film, I had a lab dev and scan the film for me as I was learning. Then I bought a refurbished scanner for a reasonable price. That was, by far, the single biggest cost savings I had experienced in the time I had been shooting film. The scanner paid for itself after 8 or 9 rolls of film. Then I started developing my own B&W and C-41 film at home. There was an initial outlay for gear, but it quickly paid for itself, especially for B&W developing. While processing my own C-41 film at home isn’t quite a cheap as developing B&W, it easily saves me at least 50% of the cost of having a lab do it for me. The more you get into the process of shooting, developing, and scanning your own film, the more you will save. Bulk rolling, as you mentioned, offers another potential layer of savings to die hard film shooters willing to dedicate themselves to a particular film. I think the people who complain the loudest about analog photography gear prices, film prices, and the costs of dev/scan are the people who are least invested in the process. In other words, the dilettantes jumping on the next bandwagon.

      1. Thanks for the shout-out! I’m happy to hear that you’re seeing positive results from home processing. I’ve never processed any color; E-6 or C-41. I think the temperature requirements have always kept me way. B&W is much easier. We all must keep shooting film!

        1. Don’t let the temperature requirements of C-41 film processing dissuade you from trying it. Some people try to manually modulate the temp of their water bath with a thermometer and repeated additions of fresh, hot water. All you really need is an inexpensive sous vide immersion heater/circulator for your water bath. While it sounds fancy, you can find decent options online for around $50 which, as anyone who shoots film knows, is not costly at all. I have had good luck using the Unicolor 1 liter powder and Arista 1 liter liquid C-41 kits. I think you should go for it.

          1. I agree 100% with Lee here. It is super easy. I use the Cinestill C41 and there is a single step where the temperature is critical and that step only lasts 3:30. Very easy to keep the temperature correct with a sous vide.

          2. Castelli Daniel

            Thanks Lee. I might try C/41 with XP-2.
            I love other people’s color work…I’m really bad at my own!

  9. Love the article but find the Film isn’t Insulin! section a bit contradictory to previous statements about negative impacts to film-centric businesses. Film-centric businesses will in fact suffer and potentially go bankrupt and their proprietors and families will see real consequences if people commit to their angry comments and move away from film.

    And I think this is part of the cause of division in the film community.

    The loudest spokespeople and influencers for the opinions represented in this article are folks like us who have a financial stake in the continuation of film photography. Hobbyists view this as bias. And factually, it is.

    But ironically, the very reason that we have invested in film photography at a professional level is because we believe in it so much.

    I think it’s important that film professionals listen to and try to understand the concerns of shoe-string budget hobbyists. The case presented here is airtight. I don’t have any other feedback because I’m in admiration of the clarity with which you’ve distilled and presented what so many of us are thinking.

    But we also can’t deny the value of the negative emotional reactions of those who disagree. After all, emotions are largely why we choose to drop a roll of Kodak instead of a Sandisk card into a camera! Positive and unionizing emotions are perhaps what we have to harness to keep the film community together. As opposed to pointing out incorrect logic. Maybe we can do both?

    Thanks for putting this together.

    1. This is a very valid criticism. I was hoping to offer an alternative way of thinking about this situation and not to discount the emotions of others. Very good point.

      Your point about the impact on the businesses is accurate and my real worry in all of this. With regard to inflation and businesses, I have heard it called a “contagion effect” in the last few days. Something along the lines of business owners hear about inflation and how bad things will be so they raise prices to get ahead of the situation and secure their future which makes inflation worse.

      I am worried about the contagion effect with film on the smaller businesses caused by the negative chatter about film price increases. I think that is a big concern in the short term given how social media is amplifying the message about the film price increase.

      Anyway, thank you for the comment/criticism. I agree with it wholeheartedly.

  10. Unfortunately, this article is premised on an error. The link you provide as being Nov 2021 is actually Nov 2020. Kodak had that price increase of 9%-15% already occurring Jan 2021. The most recent increase notice from Kodak Alaris this November is actually for an increase of at least 20% on all their films. This brings increases in 1 year between 35% to 40% or more.

    1. Oh my. I will look at this as soon as I can. I have no reason to believe that you are incorrect so let’s assume that is accurate. This will change the numbers but the post is still directionally valid. 2 weeks ago I bought Portra 400 for $10.00/roll.

      One thing I was thinking about that I do not know the answer to (hopefully someone more knowledgeable than me about the industry will chime in) is whether a 20% price increase always means that the end-user will see a 20% price increase. In other industries, the vendor has some degree of leeway in what they charge. The vendor decides the final price based on their margin. I don’t know what vendors pay for film. Is it possible that some vendors if/when film becomes more available will raise prices less or discount more than others?

      Is it possible we are assuming the worst-case scenario and that might be overcooking the issue? Again, I don’t know enough to responsibly comment one way or another.

  11. Is the photographic film production plant in Rochester owned by Eastman Kodak or Kodak Alaris? Is Kodak Alaris just a front for selling film made by Eastman Kodak or do they own rights to the formulas that make up Kodak photo film? If Kodak Alaris do have rights to the emulsions themselves, could they commission them from manufacturers other than Eastman Kodak?

    1. Bob, switching manufacturing is more complicated than just specifying the formula. The production of most of our contemporary films is partly based on a half century (full century?) of corporate knowledge pertaining to the mechanical engineering of the machinery, chemical suppliers, parts suppliers, and knowledge of the employees who run those machines. It would be very expensive to set up production at some other facility.

  12. An interesting article. I mainly shoot B&W and I’m in the UK – predominantly Ilford and Foma but also some smaller players like Washi.

    The impact of a pandemic has been enormous, from the availability of raw materials and fuel prices through to the inefficiency of Covid-19 safe working. Throw in the additional trade complications of Brexit and the UK has a perfect storm.

    There needs to be a dynamic and mutually appreciative relationship between the film producers and film consumers. We need film at a reasonable price, but we also need the film manufacturers to be profitable so that can invest in their business, be sustainable and innovate. Film producers are not the only manufacturers reacting to increasing costs; it’s happening across all sectors. Shrinkflation is a commonly used trick – but a smaller pack for the same price doesn’t really work for a 36 exposure film. Another option is to cut wages, but I would like to support the folks at Kodak, Ilford, Foma and so on being paid properly. The final option is to pass the costs on, but explain why to the consumer. This is the approach that Kodak have taken – perhaps they haven’t got their comms quite right, but they are trying.

    The coming years are going to be difficult for us all and rising prices are a fact of life. Europe has a competitive and diverse film manufacturing base, so prices will reduce if the cost base falls (seems unlikely in the short term). We need to support our preferred suppliers and keep things in perspective – would we rather that they pulled out?

    1. This is important. I originally had a section in the article explaining that even though it might sound like the article is a defense of the film manufacturers -it isn’t.

      In fact, IMHO, Fuji and Kodak have some degree of culpability for the outrage machine. There is a saying something along the lines that “there is no malpractice lawsuits without a prior miscommunication.” What that is supposed to mean is that we all screw up and do stupid things but people are forgiving if you communicate what happened and involve them in the process.

      The silence from the vendors was, understandably, taken poorly by the customers. A press release isn’t enough. Perhaps there should have been interviews with the major blogs and podcasts discussing the situation but because there wasn’t too many people assumed the worst. Who knows, maybe the silence is because the situation is much worse than any of us knew, and discussing it without showing how bad it was would be misleading? I have absolutely no idea and I am pretty dumb about most things but I am smart enough to know when I know what I don’t know. I try not to fill in the blanks but it is tough when all you have to work with is silence and press releases.

      Your last question is important and I asked it last week. I posted and contacted a bunch of people directly and asked “If instead of stopping film production, Fuji said, “We are going to have a price increase of $1.50 per roll of film and we will keep making Pro400H.” What would your response be? ”

      The almost universal response was that they would rather pay the $1.50 and have Pro400H back. I learned that outrage over a film price increase is relative.

      Your lawt

  13. I enjoyed the article Matt. As a side note that really would not be useful to most of the hobbyists out there but reflects my own positive outlook, I suspect that film will not die in our lifetimes regardless of what “they” say. There are people who are shooting daguerreotypes and an increasing number of people taking up wet plate collodion. This doesn’t really prove anything except perhaps lend a little credence to the idea of “where there is a will, there is a way”. It may one day come to a point where it is an incredibly inconvenient, expensive and complex hobby (some might argue we are already there), but as long as there is a person interested in engaging in it, I have blind faith that they will find a way to do it. Again, I realize this is completely off-topic as it relates to a sustainable, consumer-level retail film eco-system. But I didn’t really have much to add that you didn’t already address in the article. Thanks again for putting it together.

    1. This is actually very relevant. I am working on a follow-up article about the real-world viability of bulk-loaded cine film for normal people and everything you said is included in that article. More soon….

      1. Looking forward to this Matthew! I have unfortunately had to make the switch from my preferred colour stock (Portra 800 in 35mm) to black and white, purely so I can save a little bit. Portra 800, when it can be found here in New Zealand, can be upwards of $32 per roll ($22USD for context). T-Max 400 however, I am getting for $15 ($10USD) or so when I buy in bulk.

        I’d be curious about bulk loading colour film, that’s for sure!

  14. Goodness! 20 rolls of film a year! I can get through 5 a week…… I’m afraid a 20% price rise will give me serious thought as to the viability of my hobby (habit?) I mainly shoot black and white, processed and scanned by myself. Occasional colour rolls I send off, but I still scan myself. Thus the film cost is a major percentage of my outlay.
    Personally, I believe that a rapidly rising cost of film, way above even our current rather high rate of inflation, will lead to a negative feedback where declining sales lead to more increases in unit price, until the economic infrastructure collapses. Any hobby needs a steady influx of new blood, if only to replace the seniors as they pass on to the darkrooms in the sky, and the higher the costs involved, the fewer that will want to take the plunge. I think the “film revival” is not as secure as you would seem to think; how many of the current practioners will still be active in 5 years time? Or will some new retro hobby appeal……
    Incidentally, after many years keeping dogs of intelligent working and herding breeds, advancing years saw us take in a Chihuahua. A more manipulative, crafty and intelligent dog I have not encountered!

    1. Remember, I don’t have a forecast one way or another on how secure the film revival is. The only information I have as a foundation to make an opinion is the information we have available to all of us and that is incomplete and insufficient. Any forecast I would make would be a wild guess based on limited information. I do, however, know that I don’t know enough to offer a valuable opinion or forecast.

      As far as Chihuahua’s go…I have extensive experience ultrasounding Chihuahua brains. Some are more robust than others but that is a story for another time and website 🙂

  15. Michael McDermott

    I’m upset that a car costs more today than the one I bought in 1970 even when accounting for inflation. Not to mention a house costs more today than in 1970 once again beyond inflation. So where do I send my complaint to? Film? That is way down my totem pole of issues.

  16. Another enjoyable Matt post! Thank you.
    Everyone should ease up, buy more film, and support

    I think I spotted the Hamish part: any sentence with ‘whilst’ in it.

    Love the Fairlane 500 wagon.

  17. That’s all fine, except wages have remained relatively constant, whilst cost of living keeps going up.

    Too expensive is subjective, not objective.

  18. With a 20 year history of professional medium format film photography, and a childhood spent in Rochester, NY, I can assure you, the Eastman Kodak company couldn’t give two shits about photographers. When they rolled out the Kodak Copy Print stations in the late 1990s, when American Portrait studios lived on printed proofs, I sounded the alarm among Atlanta-based studios. Our professional organizations (PPA, SEPPA, GPPA) made such a stink that Kodak Professional sent an executive team down from HQ. They told us that unfortunately the professional film market was less than 1% of Kodak’s revenue. After years of feeling proud to use their products and professionally supported, we suddenly realized that we Just. Didn’t. Matter.

    So now, 21 years later, people still lament the demise of film. And us old timers laugh. There are simply far too many better options in the market place. The laws of supply and demand are working flawlessly. Doing things the hard way, with chemical photography, doesn’t make anyone more artistic or virtuous. Just like nobody’s impressed that you shoot in manual mode. Or what brand of camera you use. Sure, I romanticize analog cameras and “the good old days” but it’s a new day. A new way.

    Now, go out and create a stunning image!

  19. I think it’s worth addressing the ‘current prices are in line with inflation’ thing. In 2009 when Kodachrome was discontinued I bought a fairly large number of rolls, as it was my favourite film. it was £8/roll, processing included. Today, Ektachrome is £18-£19, without processing. Inflation from 2008 to date is about 30%, so the inflation-corrected price for Kodachrome today would be about £10.50 perhaps.

    So in the case of reversal film no, current prices have not gone up with inflation: they have hugely exceeded it. I don’t have equivalent numbers for B/W (I only remember them for Kodachrome because I bought enough that I remember…) and I don’t shoot C41 film, but I suspect something similar although perhaps less extreme. For those of us who print a similar thing has happened for paper.

    For B/W chemistry costs are pretty tiny compared to film & paper costs, so almost all of the material cost of B/W is film & paper.

    I am not saying that these increases are not justified: they may very well be. However for someone who shoots any significant amount of film the costs of supplies have gone up very significantly above inflation.

    I think you’re also perhaps underestimating the amount people shoot. I am not sure how many rolls I buy a year in normal times (none since early 2020), but I do know that if I’m going to take pictures of something over a week I’d typically take 20 rolls and shoot perhaps 10-15 of them (I know this because I have boxes of negs in sleeves labelled…). 20 rolls of TXP is ~£200 now (indeed TXP has gone up so much I now probably will be using HP5 as it’s a lot cheaper). If I’m then going to make 30 12×16 prints from that film I’m probably looking at another £200 in paper (50 sheets, allow some work prints). In normal years I might do the equivalent of two or three such trips a year, as well as at least another 20 rolls of general walking-around photography.

    So, perhaps I am at the outer edge of hobbyists, but the price increases of film are at the point where, for me, they are beginning to limit what I can do: this is not a few pounds a year increase, it’s £100-£200. It’s not going to stop me making photographs and I do not think film is dead … but it is limiting what I can do.

    1. Here is one B&W film data point for you. I found a 1971 receipt from a discount store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2 rolls of Plus-X 135-20: $1.30.

      P.S. We still have those negatives in some glassine sleeves. Now there is durability of
      a storage media of visual data. In 50 years, will we be able to read and recover our digital files?

    2. Ah, but where was that 2008 price in historical context? I remember paying not much less than that £8 for my first roll of Kodachrome, in 1984. That included processing (did that continue? I lost touch with slide film in the 1990s) but was probably more in real terms than the 2008 price. The UK baselined the RPI at 100 in January 1987 when K64 was probably about £7. In January 2008 the RPI was 209 and it began 2021 at 295. So a benchmark for slide film plus processing today might be £21 and it actually costs closer to £30. But earnings have risen faster than that since the 1980s (I was a student then, so mine certainly have!) which offsets the real-terms price increase, even if there is one.

      But I think we have another factor which is discontinuity of experience. I’ve been buying another discretionary consumable fairly regularly since the 1980s: beer. And while I know that its numerical price is higher now than it was then, that increase has happened gradually, so the price has always been, and still is, just the price of beer. On the other hand, while the ‘film community’ has people who have been buying and using film for decades, it also has a lot of people who have either resumed using film after a long break, or who have only recently come to film at all.

      These people perceive (or are re-perceiving) the cost of film against the norms of the 2020s, after 20 years of freefall in the real price of many consumer goods. The returners, like me, are experiencing a sobering reminder that film always was an expensive habit (it’s just that there used to be no alternative) while the neophytes have been drawn to film by some factor other than pure utility and are having to judge for themselves how far they can afford to commit to it. Both groups are likely to be extra-sensitive to price movements because, this time, they do have an alternative.

      Thanks to Matt for a thought-provoking article.

  20. Matt, I’m arriving at the party a little late but I like having the chance to read others responses before doing so myself. I’m certainly one of the old timers as I’ve been at this film thing for close to fifty years. I’m a niche person and have been a niche person virtually my whole life. Many things I’ve enjoyed weren’t a niche when I started with them but inevitably one day became a niche. As the years have passed I’ve learned a little something about niche enthusiasts. I guess I would say there are categories of enthusiasts. There are those who do it because it’s the in thing. There are those who do it because a close friend got them fired up about it. There are those who do it because of some personal feeling they have that makes them feel good inside. There are those that do it for relatively simple reasons and maybe a blend of some of the other types. I’m sure there are more types but you get the idea.

    Niche people are at the bottom of the overall business food chain. What I mean is the everyday consumer marketing tactics are not directed towards them. They are not the target audience. To a person not familiar with how a niche business operates it can seem to be insensitive to its supporters. Niche companies marketing to niche audiences operate on a different plane. I think most would consider Leica a niche company. Their attitude of “this is what it costs if you want to play in our game” can seem harsh or elitist to those not familiar with what it takes to keep a niche company viable.

    Film photography is certainly a niche business so understanding that from the beginning I believe gives a whole different perspective to this story. In niche businesses there will be supporters that come and go and there will be that one group that stays on for the long haul. I’m certainly impacted by the price increase of Kodak film but cost was never the reason I chose their film in the first place. People taking their film business elsewhere only reinforces Kodaks niche status thereby contributing to making them move more towards niche marketing pathways.

    I know what it means to be a niche supporter so I’m not at all surprised when prices go up and availability goes down. I’m the steady Eddie that’s just happy to still be able to shoot film and more specifically Kodak. I know some will think I’m a Kool aid drinker but I know that a day will come that I will have to decide whether I’m going to continue on, move another direction, or walk away from it. How could I choose to just walk away from it you might ask. I’m a niche person, niche people think differently. They want what they want. You have to ask yourself, “why do I shoot film?”. If you’re not a niche person it’s okay but don’t malign me for supporting Leica, Kodak or some other niche company and I won’t malign you for having that boat in your driveway that you take to the lake twice a year.

  21. Compared to chasing and buying the latest and greatest must have digital gazillion megapixel supercomputerized technological marvel every two years the price of shooting a few dozen rolls of 35mm film every year continues to be a reasonable, affordable and extremely aesthetically pleasing alternative. I don’t like the price of film going up but I am grateful that I can still buy print and slide film for my wonderful extremely well made full frame film cameras.

    I’m mostly a Nikon guy (FE, FM3a, F6) but I also bought a Contax G2 and a Leica M3. With the exception of the FE (bought new in 1979 and still works flawlessly) I bought all of the above cameras over the course of the last decade used on ebay.

    So yeah I guess I’m a “Leica shooter” too but my Leica is a 1964 M3 model that costs less than a new Z5 or D780, and will last essentially forever.

    I am very happy shooting mostly slide film and get high res jpeg scans when i get the film developed.

    I’m not a film snob either as I enjoy shooting my Df and D700 DSLRs. Heck, i can even create a raw file for selected slides or negatives using my Nikon Df and the ES-2 digitizing adapter if I so desire.

    Since the price of shooting film for me is approximately $1 a shot, i like to think about the shot and get it right “straight out of the camera” before I press the shutter. This works for me because, as you may have guessed by now I am an old dinosaur that grew up shooting film so I shoot slow and deliberately. Might not apply to you if are shooting a lot of sports or fast action. But I suspect film shooters today are probably the slow and deliberate type.

    I’m actually amazed i can still buy 35mm film from several different manufacturers in 2021 and hope it keeps on going!

    So buy a whole bunch of film now, stick it in the freezer where it will last for years, buy a cheap digital camera for experimenting/trial and error for learning correct exposure techniques (so you don’t waste film), go shoot a whole bunch of film with your film camera and have fun! And you also are rewarded with a physical negative or slide and not just a file on a computer. ????

    Happy Shooting!

  22. Problem is that it’s always the little man, the end customer paying for the inflation and other issues. Just raising prices means that the only one that’s about to lose something is – the customer. Now, does it make sense to complain? Maybe not. Will it change anything? Most likely not. But imagine if customers go all supportive, saying YES, we can do it, we will just keep on buying no matter the price, no matter the reason. Next time you’ll see 30% increase etc., with the Apple mentality. So no matter the valid arguments, it’s good to voice the concert and sometimes stop buying things if the price becomes absurd. This is not 15% increase. This is 15% on top of another increase that followed another… We’re talking about hundreds of % in the last few years. And they were saying buy film, spread the idea, help the industry survive. I won’t survive if I keep buying stuff, it’s another sad reality. But I don’t argue this article, it’s nice to put things in perspective. At the same time, our budgets are very limited and 15% is actually going to be felt, especially since better films aren’t 10 or 15 dollars a roll.

  23. I followed your link to the Leicalensesfornormalpeople web site and read your article there, too. On the splash page, there is an image of young woman who epitomizes the Leica owner to me: all flash, little regard to substance, no concern about expense, just follow the trends. Look at the helmet, the $$$ glasses and the huge (so you can’tpossibly miss it) watch. She hardly defines “normal people” in my world, just ostentatious.
    I then jumped to the ABOUT page. Point #2 under “are You a Normal Person?” notes “Your budget is under $1500/lens.” That doesn’t define “normal” to me, either. I have whole systems (e.g., Pentax MX with 50mm f/1.4 lens, 28mm f/3.5 lens, 85mm f/2 lens) for less than half that price for just one lens, not mention the body cost. They are also generally less expensive to repair than Leica gear.
    Fifty plus years in the darkroom has taught me that prestigious equipment doesn’t necessarily translate into best quality equipment. I’ve owned Leicas and have sold them all except the CL. My rigs perform as well or better for far less monetary outlay. I’d be happy to match other film era lenses against Leitz lenses of the same era any day.

    1. Interesting. Let’s address your comment in two parts.

      Part 1: The young woman in that image is my wife. She is 55 and very much appreciates your comment that she is a young woman. You made her day. She is also a sponsored Monster athlete. Her helmet, therefore, is a coveted Monster helmet that is part of her sponsorship. With regard to the glasses, you are absolutely correct, they are stupidly big but that is function, not style. If you ever find yourself riding a time trial and you are trying to see, if you don’t have either frameless or visor style glasses when you look up all you see is the top of the glasses which is very annoying. Similarly, I have found over the years that visor-style glasses are helpful for riding in a group and avoiding cars because you don’t have the side/edge of the glasses or (in her case) end of the prescription when you look to the side. As far as the watch goes, you are also correct, that watch is criminally oversized for a normal watch but that is also function and not form. It is a sports watch that displays power, heart rate, time, etc. on one screen. You wouldn’t want anything smaller because it would be impossible to read while you are active. Finally, the person in the video is anything but all flash and little substance. In addition to athletics, she is a designer and a very successful business owner.

      More important than all of that, however, is that if you click through, you will see that those products are from the sponsors who indulged me, financially supported me, and allowed me to shoot a video with 35mm film. Those are the sponsors, therefore, who helped support Japan Camera Hunter who helped me acquire the camera, Negative Supply whose scanning tool I used, Negative Lab Pro whose software I used, and who also supported the film lab in SLC who developed the ~40 rolls of film.

      Those sponsors, the athlete/business owner, and their functional (albeit large) products have done their part to support the film community. They should be commended and not criticized.

      Part 2: Regarding the Leica comments, I agree with you 100% on all of it. Every single statement. I agree with you so much that I said pretty much the exact same thing in an Instagram post where I commented that when shooting film there is a more level playing field and I would match your Pentax lenses right up there with rangefinder lenses. Things, however, are very different with adapted vintage lenses on digital cameras.

      You don’t hear me talk much about Pentax in the site but that is because I don’t get on well with the Pentax camera bodies I used. I didn’t quite like the size, the meter was a little weird on the MX, and I wanted a faster max shutter speed. I prefer the Nikon FE2 which I love and use as much as my rangefinder.

      Sometimes, however, I like to shoot a rangefinder and want to carry even smaller lenses. For better or worse, the prices on rangefinder lenses have gone insane in the last few years. Your comments about my site are music to my ears, and I take them as a compliment because that is the exact reason I started the site. This tells me I am on the right track.

      I agree with you that $1500 is crazy town for many but I don’t get to set the prices. If you poke around my site you will find that I wrote a formal letter to Leica asking them to revisit a less expensive line of lenses like the Summarit line of lenses. If you dig deeper on my site you will also find that $1500 is not the price of entry to shooting a rangefinder. Rather, that is what I consider the upper where things become unreasonable. I can’t think of a single time I recommended anything near that top end for my readers. In fact, given how expensive things are, I am revisiting some Russian lenses because, previously, I don’t feel I gave the Russians their fair chance.

      Words like “Normal” and “Expensive” are relative. Considering your comments, I will amend the site so it reads more along the lines of “Normal for Leica” rather than just “Normal” because that is what I really mean. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

      Anyway, it would appear that sometimes things are not always what they seem at first glance. Let’s agree to disagree on oversized bike gear, young women, female entrepreneurs, and bike companies who are supporting the film community. Conversely, let’s agree to agree on everything else you said although I prefer my Nikon FE2 to your Pentax MX….at least until the electronics die and it bricks 🙂

      1. Concerning the glasses. I have had cable temples attached to all my glasses for decades now. The normal ear part is cut off and the special wrap around part is attached with an epoxy glue. Have never lost a pair of glasses in heavy knocking about or had them slide down on my nose. There are several types of these add-on ear pieces. Some heavier duty, some lighter weight. Check it out.

  24. A fantastic read, Mathew, and something I whole-heartedly agree with! I’m awarding you bonus points for mentioning Danny Kahneman. Behavioral economics is one of those hidden keys to knowledge that I love learning about but despair of it ever revolutionizing society. We’re just too… human. 😉

  25. Kodak and Fuji’s film coating factories were made for huge scale ans simply cannot operate economically with small batches. That’s why film prices keep going up: the cost of running factories designed for a film-using population of a billion now has to be born by a tiny minority of die-hards. In all likelihood they would have ditched the market completely if Hollywood hadn’t given them a huge pot of money to keep production running for the likes of Christopher Nolan or J.J Abrams. Soon volume will fall below even that threshold and only companies like Ilford geared for a much smaller niche market will be able to make the economics work.

    Another factor is know-how, a lot of how to coat gelatin and so on is more art than science and the people who knew are mostly retired. Fuji has adapted the tech to making pharmaceuticals but in any case those factories will no longer be able to operate for lack of trained personnel.

    Finally Eastman Kodak is not a mega-corporation any more. Eastman Chemical, their former chemical business spun out in 1992 is worth $14B (your water bottle is probably made out of their BPA-free Tristan plastic). Eastman Kodak is a small player in the professional printing industry and Kodak Alaris, their former UK division owned by their UK former employee pension fund, is almost certainly far more valuable, mostly because they make document scanners.

    1. Fazal

      Thank you for the comment. I have heard all of that before and it sounds logical and reasonable. However, I am unable to track down the origin of those sentiments. Do you know who said those things originally? Any chance you have a reference or a person inside Kodak or Fuji, a former executive, etc. you can refer me to?

      Thank you.

  26. As if this price increase happened only once. Previously it was said that they needed to bump their production capacity and specifically told it would go down (lol). Trying to justify (almost?) constant yearly prices increase by 15 (fifteen!)%+ to people by the company which is in fact holding a monopoly on high-grade color film, and attribute it to inflation is just wrong. Telling us to ditch film if we can’t afford it…well thanks for the insightful and well-thought-out advice.
    Trying to shut down people’s voices over this issue by saying that it will hurt the little guy is also wrong and contributes nothing to some long-term solution.
    Kodak is slowly but surely cooking its consumers and that is enabling them to postpone the emergence of a new viable film player.
    Generally, I didn’t like your article as I find your tone and what you wrote problematic.

  27. Okay, jump off your high horse for a few seconds please. Obviously inflation happens, but that doesn’t actually mean that it’s not a problem, especially when minimum wage doesn’t extend to reflect these increases. When prices go up affording to inflation, wages should too–but they’re not. Therefore, people who once could possibly afford to buy it no longer can.

    And to presume that all people who shoot film are simply “hobbyists” is also rather obtuse, leaving aside artists and professionals who use this film in a professional capacity. The increase in film costs increases what I have to charge my clients, not marginally but by a lot when shooting 3-4 rolls for a project and factoring in additional costs (development, scanning, printing.) I’ve started resorting to doing some of that stuff myself, which takes buckets of time in place of the money.

    Look–it’s hardly even about that. It’s unfortunately pushing people out of being able to shoot film at all. It’s already expensive to shoot as is, but as the prices raise, more and more people will gravitate toward digital and slowly film will become less and less accessible. So many incredible films are already completely off the market, and it’s really only a matter of time before they drop off completely. Soon, film will just be a niche resource that only wealthy people can afford, as it once was when photography was first invented.

    (You can say it’s a negligible increase, but in 2018 I could buy a 5 pack of Portra for $29, which now costs $60-$70.)

  28. Judging by some of your responses on here, your budget is relatively endless and you can enjoy the luxury of pompousness. Which is great, I do love people making a living in media. Yet you’ve clearly lost touch with working class folks with less resources than yourself and this entire article reeks of arrogance.

  29. Couldn’t agree more. Plus, this aged like milk. Colorplus, which used to be between 5 and 7 a roll is now at nearly 15 a roll, with a 4-pack on amazon going for $60.

    1. I do not think that is entirely accurate. This post was made based on statements from the film manufacturers that they were increasing prices a few percentage points. This was not based on the premise that film production would essentially stop due to post pandemic madness, continued China shut downs, a worldwide recession, a war in Ukraine, rising gas prices, supply chains in disarray around the world, etc. We didn’t have that information at the time the article was written.

      The premise of the article is valid. Film is a luxury item. A few dollars per roll of film increase doesn’t change the math of shooting film.

      Conversely, and getting to your point, what we are seeing now is a completely different phenomenon with a similar end result. This is something that is (apparently) caused by the distributors/sellers raising prices because they have no stock rather than the manufacturer saying that prices are going up. My premise was not “if film disappears completely, and stores raise prices insanely, don’t worry about it.”

      For all we know ColorPlus is gone forever. What is going on with ColorPlus might be more akin to Fuji ending production of pack film. I have no idea.

      Anyway, things went haywire after I wrote that article. If film prices only went up a few percentage points and film was still relatively abundant and available, I believe it would be valid. Under the current situation, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Things are insane right now for 35mm film. No issues there.


  30. The film industry has a problem!

    The last time I purchased film ( Nov 2020/Kodak Color & Ilford BW) both 120 ProPacks prices for BW were in the $5.00+ a roll range, colour in the $7.00+ range. Right now colour is $12., BW $8.

    With 10 frames per roll, prices just to expose a single frame (not including process/scan) are over $1. with BW near that.

    We are approaching a 100% increase in prices over less than 2 years. This is unsustainable!
    ie: This will deteriorate the use/demand/utility of film, harming all businesses associated with film imaging.

    For starving artists (most) film isn’t a “luxury item”.

  31. Kodak could just decide to make less money. Imagine that. It would keep film costs down and help insure that future generations might use their film. Or they can just keep adjusting for inflation and other costs… continue selling to this final generation who gives a damn and has mid-career disposable income… and then as the market dries up more and more, they can raise prices still higher to make up for the shrinking demand… at which time big brains will talk about how such terminal, end-game price increases are rational, logical, and necessary.

    1. That seems to be the consensus among the film community. I am, however, taking a wait and see approach and not selling my gear just yet. That consensus opinion assumes that Kodak works in a void and nothing else happens or could happen. In my experience, business is always more than a single factor equation. Moreover, the assumption that Kodak is a greedy Scrooge McDuck character padding their coffers might be entirely wrong. Again, in my experience, accidents, misunderstandings, and miscommunication masquerade as greed. I was formerly known as the independent voice for an industry. Some things happened where I was forced to sell my business to a Wall Street company. I was fully and 100% expecting Scrooge McDuck but what I found that all of the things I thought were evil from the outside had very good explanations that I didn’t consider. I went in looking for greed. What I found were bad judgment calls by people very much trying to do the right thing coupled with bad communications.

      It also doesn’t make sense for Kodak to go all Scrooge McDuck. For example, if Kodak keeps prices too high, that opens the door to competition and prices come down. The smart move for Kodak is to keep prices just high enough where people will pay but just low enough to prevent anyone else from making the investment. Either way, prices don’t just keep going up forever. For better or worse, film is now a luxury product so I think we need to turn to the luxury space to understand the playbook. Most luxury brands have something in their arsenal to keep the pipeline full. Gucci does their street collabs. Rolex has Tudor. Of course there are exceptions but I expect that Kodak will be smart enough to prevent the death spiral.

      It is also possible that the prices we are seeing have more to do with the end distributors rather than Kodak. Kodak was clear about a percentage price increase a while back then we haven’t heard from them. Do we know that Kodak continued to raise their prices? The one thing I think we can criticize Kodak for is poor or absent communication. Barring that everything else is conjecture.

      I think it is also worth pretending you are the CEO of Kodak with all of his pressures….What would you do? If I were him, I would be thinking “film isn’t TOO expensive.” It might be too expensive for you. It might be too expensive for me. I might decide to tap out but there is no math that anyone can use to say it is TOO expensive when it sells out in 5 minutes and is hard to find. Last week they told us they are working at max capacity but they still cant keep the stuff in stock. Selling out and being TOO expensive are mutually exclusive. That is just how the world works.

      In the last few months, and particularly in the last week since the Leica M6 release, I am talking with a bunch of people sorting out what they think is TOO expensive. What I am finding is that if you dont have kids, you dont have a car, you dont drink alcohol, and you dont have a wife or girlfriend, or any combination of the two which is exceedingly common these days, things like film, watches, and a Leica M6 are expensive but not TOO expensive. If you dont even plan on having kids you can buy 4 Leica m6’s every year for four years and have money left over when compared to saving for an education. I am not saying that is correct math, and I can only hope these people are saving for retirement and emergencies, but that is the math. Given that you have an email address, my bet is that we are of a similar age. What I am finding is that when I think something is TOO expensive, I am trying to put my assumptions and preconceptions on the world but the world changed. The rules I learned when I was stealing toilet paper from Mcdonalds and living in a trailer to make ends meet dont apply to whatever has been going on for the last 30 years.

      Bottom line for me is that I am not sure the end of times is coming or that Kodak = Scrooge Mcduck. All I know is that they are terrible with their communications so it is easy to project our worries and fears to whatever it is they happen do be doing or not doing. I am still holding on to the hope that they have huge expenses from the pandemic, paying for workers and finding workers is impossible and expensive, and when the world rewires itself now that globalization is coming to an end, we will still have film and it will be 20% cheaper than it is right now. Time will tell if I am a polyanna spouting nonsense on the internet. I give it a 50:50. I know I don’t have enough information to make a prediction either way.

  32. I think you are right, but if you started in film in the last three years you’ll have witnessed several price increases. Vs most digital cameras in that time frame have gone down in price. A D750 costs less than 900 nowadays. Lenses are also a plenty. So the alternative to film becomes more enticing as film prices and even film camera prices continue to climb. A new person to the hobby might not be interested in trying multiple cameras and films etc in film if they are just trying it. Hard to try a leica m6 in 2023 versus the price 5 yrs ago. My point is options are becoming fewer and prices are going up vs in almost all other alternatives are staying the same or down. The possibility of an increase in cost is the scary part as it has happened several times already. People aren’t saying don’t shoot it, but be aware of the cost. Really great article!

    1. #agree. Options are becoming fewer and fewer but there is hope because prices are going up. That gives me hope that if Kodak can get in front of demand there will be at least some future. I am not sure what the right price for film is but, again, if Kodak can get out in front of things prices will stabilize. Everyone says prices dont come down but they actually do. That is what a sale or discount is. If prices are too high and film starts sitting, discounts will happen. Fingers crossed. The only thing I disagree with is that is isn’t hard to try an M6 today. It is IMPOSSIBLE! 🙂

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