The Second Death of Film

Part whatever…

I read this week that Kodak are struggling to make ends meet. In some ways, this isn’t even news. Kodak’s star has been growing dim for a long time, even before digital. (It’s ironic since Kodak were one of the major players in the very dawn of digital imaging.)

The real shame for me is the fact that my favourite films are Kodak emulsions. Tmax 100, 400 and especially 3200 are superb films and though personal preferences play a part in a photographers choice of film, for me, there isn’t another film that matches the punch you get with Tmax. There certainly isn’t another film like the 3200 speed Tmax, a nice mixture of punchy contrast, nice tones and a lovely grain that the closest rivals can only dream of.

tmax 3200 portrait
low light protrait with Tmax 3200. It looks soft on the monitor thanks to the lovely grain.

Should these emulsions be lost to the annuls of history, it will be a loss to future generations of photographers who will have to rely on software such as DXO labs film pack (which I have to say, does a pretty nice job of recreating the Tmax 3200 look) or look to Ilford Delta 3200, which, for me, lacks the punch of the Kodak film.

portrait processed with DXO film pack
Digital file processed with DXO film pack to recreate the Tmax 3200 feel. Not a bad recreation.

That said, it may be the Ilford model which saves the Kodak emulsions. It wasn’t so long ago that Ilford were in dire straights themselves. The solution, split the business in two. The film business remains as Ilford and keeps their film emulsions alive for future generations. Agfa went through the same pain.

Will the death of Kodak mean the death of film, yet again? Not likely. Film, though no longer the mainstream choice for photographers, still has a following and there are some mighty fine monochrome emulsions coming Eastern Europe from the likes of Foma and Rollei, and we still have Kodak and Fuji (for the moment), but the old guard cannot keep going with the same model and there is a risk that we may lose some of our favourite film emulsions along the way. Let’s face it, we’ve already lost a few.

It really would be a shame to lose Kodak. So take the challenge. If you have a film camera, buy a roll of film and relive the challenge of shooting with film. If you have never shot film, go buy a cheap camera, there are loads about, and experience the thrill of not knowing if you bagged the shot until the prints come back. Most of all, enjoy the challenge of spreading your photographic wings.

Film aint dead. Long live film.

PS: if you’re in the UK, a great place to start is Silverprint. They have a big range of films, unusual cameras and all sorts of good stuff. they’re friendly too.

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