News and commentary about film and Nikon film SLRs:

Make It Yourself Film Cameras

bythom lex

Got a 3D printer? Well, the time to make your own film camera may finally be about to happen. Started as a project to build a film body that would accept his Sony E-mount lenses, the LEX is a dirt-simple film body that is apparently going to be open sourced. 

By all means go take a look at Alexander Gee's The Development Process page if you're interested in what an enterprising person can accomplish with a clear goal. At this point, the camera is a prototype.

I love this kind of experimentation. 

A Film Disappears

After making such a big deal about building an Acros look into their digital cameras, Fujifilm has now announced the discontinuation of the film it’s based on. Acros 100 for 35mm and 120 cameras will last ship in October 2018. The Acros photographic papers will be discontinued in stages starting at the same point and ending in March 2020.

What seems to be clear at this point is that there is demand for films, but that demand is often right at the edge of useful profitability. That’s an indication to me that, despite some who think otherwise, that analog photography is not regrowing in popularity. 

I suspect that some of what is happening is this: demand in the pro and advertising ranks has gone way down, while more individual users have picked up their film SLRs again.

Unfortunately, it’s those pro uses with bulk, repeated purchases that will drive whether a film from one of the major companies continues. 

A Film Returns

Kodak's Professional T-MAX P3200 is back in 35mm roll film format (36 shots), courtesy Kodak Alaris. It was originally discontinued in 2012. 

T-MAX P3200 is a panchromatic black-and-white negative film that has a nominal ISO of 800, but can be push processed, typically to ISO 3200, but it can be pressed higher than that (typically a max of 6400). Note that the film canister is coded to ISO 3200, so if your camera has the ability to set ISO automatically, you need to be aware of that.

Kodak points out that T-MAX P3200 has fairly simple processing, and that it can be processed in home darkrooms as well as professional labs.

Shipments to distribution begin in March, so the new film should be available shortly.

In doing the research for this new launch I discovered something I hadn't noticed before: there's both an iOS and Android app that covers all the available Kodak Alaris available films. Do a search for KODAK Professional Film App. It doesn't yet contain the new film, but it does have a very useful where to buy, where to get processing lookup that some might find handy. 

Another New Film SLR

When it rains, it pours. 

Last week we have a new film SLR, with a modern twist. This week we have another new film SLR hitting Kickstarter, this time with a old twist. 

bythom elbaflex

The Elbaflex is back. What's an Elbaflex? Well, it's a bit of a strange history, but it's basically what the Exakta's became when the naming rights disappeared in a court case. This time around we have some former Leica and Schneider technicians doing the re-engineering, with a factory in Ukraine lined up to do the manufacturing.

This is a fully manual camera (no batteries) with a Nikon F-mount up front. The shutter runs from 1/2 second to 1/500 second, and includes Bulb. Flash sync speed is 1/60. Because this is a fully mechanical camera with no automation, virtually any F-mount lens built that doesn't intrude into the mirror box will work on it. The right hand grip is made of wood, the left side is a leather coating of one of four colors you can choose. 

Earliest backers will get the camera for US$499 in August of next year. Eventually the camera will sell for three times that amount, as it will be hand made on demand. 

A New Film SLR Hits the Market

bythom reflex

Reflex, a new 35mm film-based SLR, is now out of the bag and approaching reality.

Basic specs are that the camera is manual focus, manual exposure (or aperture priority) via a spot/averaging meter, has a shutter that works from 1s to 1/4000 (plus Time and Bulb), and is a magnesium body construction that weighs in at 490g. ISO settings from 25 to 6400 are supported. Inside, an Arduino controller and Bluetooth (for metadata capture) make it a bit more modern in design. Indeed, the camera not only has a small flash (and a hidden hot shoe on the rewind lever ala an old Nikon design), but it also has a small continuous LED light.

But the big design point is modularity, which comes in two pieces. First, the lens mount is modular, and you can get M42, Nikon F, Canon FD, Olympus OM, and Pentax K mount modules for the camera. Second is that the film back is modular, too. Initially this means that you can buy multiple backs, load them, and switch between film stocks as you shoot (I think you lose one shot doing this, but that's unclear in the details at the moment). But I'll bet that we see a digital back for this camera if they successfully get it off the ground.

Which brings me to this: it's a Kickstarter campaign, though one run by people who should be able to get this to market. 

Price for an initial unit with the M42 mount is about US$460 (it's a Euro-based company, so the 350 Euro price can fluctuate for us on the other side of the pond). 

The Latest Fujifilm Retirements

bythom fujifilm acros

Fujifilm continues to trim and modify their available film stocks. Fortunately, they are giving shooters plenty of warning about when products will be killed. Moreover, this round really seems a bit more about trimming the edges of inventory rather than a shot at the heart of the operation.

In March 2018, the 3- and 5-pack options for Supra X-Tra 400, Velvia 50/100/100F will be retired. Single rolls will still be available, it seems, but its a little disturbing that the multiple-pack options are going away. That seems to indicate demand may not be very high for these film stocks.

In May 2018 a few films will be completely terminated:

  • Natura 1600 (36 exposure)
  • Fujicolor 1600 (27 and 36 exposure)
  • Neopan 100 Acros 4x5 (20 pieces)
  • Neopan 100 Acros 8x10 (20 pieces)

Curious, I did a quick check at B&H: for roll film users there are currently 227 choices still available today. Now obviously some of those are different inventory of the same stock (e.g. different size, different number of shots), but I was a little surprised to see that there's still a reasonably wide choice of options for a 35mm or 120 roll film shooter. 

The way I read Fujifilm's string of announcements over the past few years is that they're going to continue to cater to film shooters for as long as that's viable, but they're closely monitoring demand for their offerings, and trimming accordingly. 

The big problem with this round of cuts comes for sheet film users: Neopan 100 Acros is a classic black and white choice, with really fine grain and wonderful reciprocity characteristics. A large format monochrome landscape shooter's first choice in black and white, I'd say. 

Because Neon 100 Acros will remain available for 35mm and 120 roll film formats, this tells us something about the big format usage: it's declined to the point where it isn't viable for Fujifilm. The current alternative for the 4 x 5 shooters would be something like Ilford HP5 Plus.

Film Seasoned in Oak Casks?

Lomography color negative (C41 processing) F2/400 film is now available in 36 exposure ten-packs, directly from Lomography.

But it's a bit difficult to fully believe Lomography's story behind the new film: "In 2010, we bought the last ever Jumbo Roll of original 400 ASA film from some renowned Italian filmmakers. Then, ever the ones to experiment, we left the film to age like fine wine in oak casks in the Czech Republic. Thankfully, our crazy instincts were rewarded — seven years later, we went back to discover that this fantastic film still produces refined colors with a beautifully unique tone." Film doesn't just stay inert in color rendering unless you keep it refrigerated. It's unclear here how Lomography was storing the film and whether they were sampling it from time to time to test color shift. It seems unlikely that they'd just stick it away somewhere and then check back seven years later to find it ready to share with the world. 

But then again, this is Lomography, the company that started with a now defunct Russian camera that had excessive vignetting and light leaks, so who knows? 

More New Film Choices Show Up

bythom bergger pancro400

Bergger has announced Pancro400, a new ISO 400 black and white film. This French-made film will be available in 35mm, 120, and even as sheet film. The new emulsion should be available in Europe this month, and in the US sometime in March. 

bythom ferrania p30 alpha

Meanwhile, Italian filmmaker FILM Ferrania has also resurrected an earlier stock, to be called Ferrari P30 Alpha. This was an ISO 80 movie stock reverred for its fine grain and high silver content. P30 Alpha will be available in 35mm rolls only, and in limited edition.

An Old Favorite Returns

bythom ektachrome

Not often do I get to write about something being added to the existing film choices, but apparently the Kodak Pension Plan needs to be funded ;~).

The company formed as part of the spinout of Kodak's pension plan, Alaris, has announced that they intend to bring back Ektachrome, a film that was discontinued back in 2012. The new 135 format (35mm) version in 36-shot spools will once again be manufactured in Rochester, NY, and a Super 8 version will be produced as well (though that will be marketed directly by Kodak). 

The announcement was made at CES, and attributed to "a resurgence in shooting film."

The new film is expected to become available in the last quarter of 2017.

Another Fujifilm Price Increase

(news & commentary)

Fujifilm is raising prices on its film offerings, effective immediately. The increase applies to all color negative, color reversal, black and white, and even Quick Snap boxes. Fujifilm’s justification for the increase is that “demand for film products is continuously decreasing and the cost of production…stays at a high level.”

Fujifilm then goes on to say that the price increase “will be applied to each market based on its individual conditions.”  In markets with lower demand, prices may rise more than in markets with higher demand. While no particular prices were noted in Fujifilm’s press release announcing the increase, they did say that the increase would be “at least double digit.” I take this to mean “double digit percentage increase.” 

While the increase is immediate, most stores haven’t raised their prices on existing stock, so if you want to save some money, you’d best stock up now before they have to reorder at a higher price. 

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