#476 The Future of Film cameras

I got an email from one of our photo course students, Prasad. He is looking at film cameras and is wondering about the future of film. He said:

Hey Harry- what do you think is the future of film in cameras? Will I still be able to buy a roll of film say 10 years from now? Is there a chance people will revert back to film or are we on this out-of-control digital train ride for ever…

My answer?

I believe film will always be available and used although it will be a small niche market. Film has qualities that digital does not and will always have an artistic market. Some photographers like Helene Anne Fortin still work exclusively in film.

I draw parallels between the digital-film transition and the colour-B&W transition when colour film became prominent years ago. When colour film became widespread B&W did not disappear. It has remained a prominent, although small, product. I believe the same will happen for film.

From a business perspective I believe digital rocketed to success partly because of camera manufacturer’s foresight and sales projections…

I’ll use Nikon as an example – Nikon developed their prominent ‘professional’ grade F series film cameras starting in 1959 with the F1.
The F2 came out in 1972.
F3 – 1980
F4 – 1988
F5 – 1996
F6 – 2004

That’s six camera redesigns in 45 years.

Cameras were made so well that people did not replace cameras very often. Fast forward to digital and Nikon has produced three ‘pro’ digital cameras (D1, D2, D3) in ten years and that number at least triples if you include all the versions: D1, D1H, D1x, etc.

Digital camera development allowed manufacturers to sell far more cameras… and what has that done to profits? Read this article from 2006 – “Canon and Nikon Profits Rise“:

It’s no wonder digital camera sales rocketed! I believe manufacturers saw dollar signs and set their sales and marketing machines to sell the ‘best new tools‘ in photography. “Gotta have one!” They were billed as money saving tools – “no film and processing!!

In reality, most photographers now recognize digital costs more when you include depreciation, increased expectations from clients, increased peripherals, etc.

Ok, ok, I am way off topic. What about the future of film?!

I believe that once digital camera sales taper off – I’d expect that in the next three to ten years as digital technology growth eases up – camera manufacturers will ‘rediscover’ film and there will be a renaissance in film cameras, film and processing partly because a market will be created to replace slowing digital sales.

What do you think? Visit Prasad’s Facebook page – Harry Nowell’s Alumni Photo club – Facebook log-in may be required – to see more ideas.

Photographed with a Nikon FM2 (film camera) that was produced from 1982-2001.

Photographed with a Nikon FM2 (film camera) that was produced from 1982-2001. Shot on film with minimal post processing - colours are enhanced slightly - that's it!

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