Kodak just filed for bankruptcy in the US. This was almost expected as business has been declining over the years, being unable to make a come back from the decline of film.
The film division, still profitable after a reduction of costs, simplification of the product line like abandoning Kodachrome development isn’t big enough to sustain the rest. After deciding in November 2011 to sell their image sensor division to an equity firm, it sounded obvious that Kodak management didn’t know where to go.
Now several concerns:
First, what will happen to the film division? I’m sure that this is part of what they will try to offload for cheap. It is not growing anymore, quite the opposite, but they still have good film products and it would be a great loss to lose them.
Second, their patent pool is like a nuclear warhead that they are gonna sell to the highest bidder who will use it for patent warfare. Kodak has been known to litigate in the past to try to bring in some cash, unsuccessfully.
At the turn of the 21st century, American shutterbugs were buying close to a billion rolls of film per year. This year, they might buy a mere 20 million, plus 31 million single-use cameras — the beach-resort staple vacationers turn to in a pinch, according to the Photo Marketing Association
Basically, film is not dead, but it is far beyond in term of market. The biggest risk for film is not that big companies stop producing it but rather that they hoard the technology to make it. Agfa Scala was the first example, albeit salvaged by the makers of DR5, still repeating the mistake. Polaroid is the second example, and the Impossible Project did the impossible with it. Kodachrome is the third and hardest example: a very complicated and undocumented process without any alternative. I believe slide film E-6 will be next. Time will tell.
The tragedy in Japan has made the current DSLR market a scary place, making this a perfect opportunity to get (back) into film.
Their list (in alphabetical order):
Canon EOS 1N
Mamiya 645 Pro
It seems to cover all the bases from medium format, compact to reusing lenses from your DSLR. But the most awkward in the list is the FM10 as I think they should have recommended an older model instead, one solidly built. Also notably absent are TLR or 35mm rangefinders like a Bessa.
What is interesting to see is that Ricoh is still in the same line of products with their Ricoh GR-Digital: highly praised compact camera.
It is sad to see this happening, but ever falling sales of film made the enterprise even less viable. I just wish there was a company that was able to manufacture and process a Kodachrome-like film in the future, as it was the best color slide film, with unbelievable archival quality, unrivaled by the E-6 chemistry based slide films.
I just regret to not have shot enough of it, none of them in America.