film

Follow-Up on VSCO vs. Film Manufacturers

Fuji responded to my call for film makers (like themselves and Kodak) to run, not walk, into the digital film emulation and mobile photography business.

They’re right – and I said as much: Fuji is jumping into digital photography with both feet, and they should be commended. They’re making great stuff.

But in film emulation? Mobile apps? Not so much.

And Kodak? For crying out loud, they’re not even in the photography business any more.

So my point still stands: who better to do film emulations than the original film manufacturers?

And now with Totally Rad jumping into the game, the original film stock companies are getting further and further behind in the mobile/software arena.

Again, for Fuji, that’s fine. They’re doing a great business with the X-series of cameras.

For everyone else? Lots of luck.

UPDATE 9-13-13: Kodak responded on Twitter as well, suggesting that they’re still in the film business. However, my digging online found that while film stocks may have the Kodak name, they may not come from the original source. So what: film is film and it has Kodak on the box. For most people, that’s all that matters.

But again – whoever makes the film should be making the digital equivalent.

Also, kudos to Fuji for having some fun in this conversation.


Darkroom Woodshed, or How VSCO Beats the Film Companies At Their Own Game

VSCO Film recently released their newest set of film emulation presets, a lovely set of slide film reproductions that model classic Fuji, Agfa, and Kodak positive film.

And while the digital version of those classic films doesn’t exactly mimick the original, it’s enough to feed into the back-to-our-roots photographic trends that Instagram, Hipstamatic, and VSCO itself kick-started. Pros, amateurs, iPhoneographers – a lot of us are using film-style presets these days.

That got me thinking: why does it take a company like VSCO to come out with these film simulations? Why the hell didn’t Fuji, Kodak, and Ilford – with their diminishing film stocks and questionable financial future – come out with this kind of product?

Why leave it to a digital competitor to develop a copy of your signature films?

No, VSCO-style simulations won’t keep New York cities humming with manufacturing, but they could’ve helped film companies ease into the digital realm.

I take it that Fuji is doing okay with its new X-Series cameras. They’re supplementing their film business with a great series of cameras – cameras that, yes, are simulating Fuji films like Velvia and Astia.

But Ilford? Kodak? Agfa? How are they doing in this modern photographic age? Are they comfortable with staying a hyper-niche product for hobbyists and the declining number of professional photographers who still use film?
Kodak Instamatic 54X + Kodacolor 126 film
Why not say, “Hey, no one knows our film better than we do. We’ll help photographers simulate our classic films with a set of presets that we can sell for real money.”

It used to be that film stock, with quality glass, was how you achieved a certain look. Velvia was different from Portra was different from Polaroid. Now, in the digital age, it’s a combination of camera, software, lens, and (for those who use them) presets.

For film companies, their role in that process should be in the software/presets realm.

“Great photo!” an imaginary film company representative says. “Now make it look how you want it to look with our specially-engineered family of film simulations.”

Instead, companies like VSCO swoop in with the right mixture of finesse and quality and eat the film companies’ lunch. They also offer options for today’s photo enthusiast: desktop and mobile software.

Kodak? Their mobile app offerings look like a messy discount aisle in a dimly-lit drug store: nothing but apps for purchasing film(!) and printing photos (that last one is pretty handy – at least they’re encouraging people to keep printing photos).
Fuji film Velvia
Fuji is at least doing a bit better in this space. But still. Why keep those X-Series film simulation modes exclusive on the cameras? Why not make a few bucks selling a mobile camera app with those simulations, and beat VSCO at its own game?

I love Camera Noir and Hueless for my iPhone. But where is the Ilford app?

Don’t get me wrong. There are tons of photo filter apps – more than one could ever want or use. But shouldn’t the film companies be in this space and doing it better than anyone? Shouldn’t they have been here first, for crying out loud?

Developing software and apps doesn’t replace the film business. I get that. But what else are the film companies going to do? Wait it out like some passing phase?

When the world switches, you switch with it. As it stands, disrupting upstarts like VSCO are taking the film companies out to the darkroom woodshed.

(Photos courtesy Bryan Costin, with my “VSCO” addition, PabloBD, and Kevin Dooley on Flickr)


Things I Like: Pentax K1000

Things I Like: Pentax K1000

At heart, I’ve always been a photographer. I was the one snapping pictures on family trips, at fraternity parties in college, and on cross-country vacations.

But besides some disposable Kodak film cameras (remember those?), it’s always been digital.

As I got more into photography, the more I toyed with the idea of playing with a film camera. There was a local camera shop in town that still processed film. Film is still relatively cheap. All I needed was a camera.

Then, last summer, we were cleaning out the attic at work when one of my co-workers stumbled on his old Pentax K1000 – the camera our communications department used before we switched to digital.

He was nice enough to offer it to me.

So I gained a whole new side hobby: film speeds, new lenses, not-quite-automatic exposure controls. Pretty cool.

I definitely use the Pentax differently. The shots are a bit more thoughtful, more composed, and (I’ll just say it) more artsy. With film, there’s only one shot to get it right. So maybe it’s a bit more my methodical speed.

It did take me three wasted rolls of film before I learned how to load the thing probably, though. So there’s that.

But the first developed roll turned out just fine. I stuck to fairly boring landscape shots, but I’m getting the hang of it.


I Am Not A Filmmaker

I Am Not A Filmmaker « Photofocus