Are film cameras still in use?

Analog photography is dead, long live analog photography

Just a few days ago, news got around that Nikon had discontinued production of their last analog single-lens reflex camera, the Nikon F6. The Leica M7 rangefinder camera suffered the same fate back in 2018. While this news will make some enthusiasts' hearts bleed, the stop in production of the legendary SLR could breathe new life into it.

Because although digital technologies have long since replaced their analogue ancestors, there has been an ever-increasing demand for the classics of photography history in recent years - especially among young photographers, some of whom rely on the tried and tested medium of film themselves in a professional context and are moving in trigger the scene.

Hype or hope

Of course, it remains to be seen whether film cameras have come back to stay. For some years now, with the ever-increasing popularity, a marked rise in the price of the most coveted models can be seen. The most important thing - apart from the luxury cameras from the traditional German company Leitz / Leica - is probably the fully automatic Contax T2.

The Jenner Effect

While the small snapshot cameras have always been marketed for the wealthier class of society, the price has risen since their introduction in 1991, especially since 2017. Because back then, as part of a TV interview during the "Tonight Show", reality TV star Kylie Jenner showed her personal Contax T2 during a conversation with presenter Jimmy Fallon.

A prominent appearance that was to spoil the coveted device for many film lovers, because the demand rose overnight to unprecedented heights and with it the price.

Expensive paperweights

Since then, you have had to put large sums of money on the table if you want to enjoy the Contax cameras. The successor model, the Contax T3, can even be significantly more expensive.

Buyers have to contrast the great design and relatively sharp Zeiss optics with now outdated electronics. Because it can give up the ghost at any time - and turn the T2 into an expensive paperweight.

Bankrupt but saved

However, the resurgence of analog photography began much earlier. In particular, the rescue of the bankrupt corporations Polaroid and Kodak jump out in the eye. After the Polaroid, known for instant cameras, was supposed to cease production in 2008 due to insolvency proceedings, Impossible Project took over the former factory in the Netherlands without further ado.

Mainly responsible at the time: the Austrian Florian Kaps. Because of the rescue, you can still buy instant film for original Polaroid cameras. Even new devices are produced.

Eastman Kodak Company becomes Kodak Alaris

It was a similar story for Kodak, once the largest film producer in the world, who made many world-famous photos possible with legendary films such as Kodachrome. Nevertheless, this legend was not spared from digitization.

Seven years ago, on September 3, 2013, Kodak therefore sold its photo film production, with which the group gave up its actual core business - which the newly founded Kodak Alaris has since continued with its headquarters in Great Britain.

Film for professional photographers

Even some professional photographers therefore still rely on analog cameras. The medium format in particular is used in the fashion sector due to the high resolution of the large negatives. Platon Antoniou is one of the more famous photographers. Famous above all for expressive black and white photos of actors, musicians and politicians, he uses several analog Hasselblad cameras.

But also the documentary photographer Andre D. Wagner, who combs New York City's streets with his Leica, relies exclusively on analog technologies. He regularly photographs commissioned work for well-known publications such as the "New York Times" on film and then develops it himself.

More and more young people are enthusiastic

In general, it stands out that more and more young people are enthusiastic about the medium of film. There are now numerous high-reach influencers who talk about their passion in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers. If you search for posts with the hashtag #analogphotography on Instagram, you will find over 10.5 million uploaded images.

The scene seems to be particularly active in the USA. Like the forefathers of the genre, today photographers roam the streets of Manhattan in search of that one moment that they want to capture.

Those interested are likely to know names such as Joe Greer, Willem Verbeek, George Muncey or Arnaud Montagard, who have been able to build up an enormous social media reach around their work, have already published books and are active on YouTube.

@nofilmwasted

Street photographer Paola Franqui, who is represented on the photo platform under the name @monaris_, has a slightly different approach.

Together with Laura Prado, the American scans and publishes historical, actually forgotten photos from the USA, some of which she finds at flea markets or which are sent to her. It thus gives an insight into life in the 60s and 70s instead of having the works disappear in archives.

Austria is analog

When talking about analog photography, however, one also has to take a look at Vienna. In addition to numerous camera shops - most of which are located on Westbahnstra├če - there is a store called Supersense in the 2nd district that will delight fans of analogue. In addition to instant photography products and hand-made stationery items, one thing in particular stands out: analogue-made vinyl mastercuts, i.e. analogue-made sound recordings on records.

But initiatives like @hellotamp and collectives like @wienanalog, which want to create awareness for the traditional medium, also have their origins in Austria's capital.

Film, but how much longer?

Nonetheless, at the end of the day, how long can mass production of photo film remain profitable for large film producers like Kodak Alaris, Ilford and Polaroid. And whether the steadily increasing interest in film photography is possibly a bubble that could burst at any time.

If you consider how rapidly the prices for the currently most sought-after cameras have risen in the last three to four years alone, the assumption is not that far off. (Mickey Manakas, December 31, 2020)