Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rambling with Resnick: The Earthquake of '06

How should traditionalists handle the new landscape of photography?

NOTE: Welcome to the first RWR in blog form! I'll be adding our back catalog of blogs in the coming days and weeks!

We've seen it coming for years: digital was getting better and it was only a matter of time before it caused major shifts in how cameras were made and sold. Since the beginning of this year, the pace has picked up--so much so, that there can only be one word to describe what's happened to the world of camera-makers and film companies:

An earthquake.

Consider what's happened since the dawn of 2006:

• Konica Minolta stopped making photographic equipment.
• Nikon discontinued manufacture of all but two film cameras.
• Mamiya announced its intention to stop making photography equipment.
• Fujifilm announced 5,000 job cuts in its film division, and started to diversify into non-photographic fields.
• Kodak announced it will raise its film prices by as much as 17 percent.
• Leica entered a partnership with Panasonic.
• Samsung announced its first SLR, in partnership with Pentax.
• Olympus announced it's sharing technology with Panasonic.
• Sony announced it will soon make digital SLRs, called Alpha, using the Minolta mount.

And it's only April. Eight months to go.

Surveys are showing that, as the cost of scanners and printers drop and quality has reached photographic resolution, photographers are abandoning their darkrooms for light rooms with computers and inkjet printers. Ilford, recently saved from oblivion by a new owner, keeps the flame going. Berrger, Oriental are also still making black-and-white paper and chemistry, but Kodak has stopped making paper. Agfa, once the world's biggest film companies, is out of photography altogether.

So, what are you doing about it?

How are you dealing with all of the changes? Are you joinig the crowd and embracing some or all aspects of digital? Are you still printing away in your darkroom, changes be damned? Do you feel threatened by the changes in technology or do you welcome the new possibilities they offer? Leave your comments here!

Remember that after an earthquake, there must be rebuilding. How will we rebuild?


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Mason Resnick said...

My first comment...and it's SPAM! Argh!

Luis said...

Good article Mason, and very thought-provoking!

josie said...

well mason, i ponder about this one a lot as im sure anyone who takes pictures has been for years now. aside from basic automatic point and shoot cameras as a child, i got into photography through digital. i enjoyed the freedom to take as many pictures as you like, delete some as you go, and then share them so easily on the internet etc. however in the past few months i acquired an olympus om30 slr.. and became addicted to the darkroom. i'm at an art college studying sculpture so i have access to basic black and white processing and darkrooms and a tiny colour facility, but i've taught myself everything. nobody cares anymore. they repair the equipment but they don't update it. the staff are disillusioned and isolated, preferring to shun all digital rather than embrace both types for their complementary qualities. at the end of the day manual and digital photography are two entirely different disciplines. i use the darkroom as much as possible because i am in love with the tactile nature of the process and actualy understanding the science of what i am doing. you can never have that in digital as the process is so far removed from craft (dare i use the word.) in general i think both are useful for different things - i regularly carry both my digital ixus 50 and olympus slr together.

G Hill said...

After a near twenty year absence from photography the ol intrest has sparked again. Dug out the AE-1program,ran afew test rolls through it,works fine. Got rangefinder fever,never having one,found an old cannonet at a camera store. Love it! first roll was AGFA GPX100. I noticed so far on your blog every photo was shot with digital & converted to b&w, and you wonder why film is dying! I too have thought about buying a digital camera,but when I see the results compared to film my fever comes down.I hope you don't think i'm getting on your case but I thought it ironic. I did like the info about the Rolli film & will be looking foward to your results with it.I may be wrong,i'm just a novice,but I hear more & more photogs are returning to film so hopefully this will keep the manufactures going because if there's no market what choice do they have.One final thought I have. The old masters of photography,Strand,Atgut,Bresson,Adams,Winnogrand,& others,when I see there photographs I am moved to shoot film to keep the craft alive because then it becomes a passion. Thank you very much for your site I hope to learn alot.

wirehead said...



I'm shooting more film than I ever had in my life. I started shooting B&W film for the first time in my life in 2005 and have yet to stop.

I'm taking advantage of people dumping their film gear and buying up new film gear... With a Mamiya RB67 being the biggest purchase so far.

The only nod to digital is that most of my stuff just gets tossed on the scanner instead of being optically printed.

Manos said...

What happened looks like this to me: the world of film was swept by the flood of digital, but just as it seemed that film will go under, it managed to survive - just barely - in a small island, sometimes isolated, sometimes using old rusty bridges to reach the outer world. Meanwhile the waters around it calmed a bit, not a flood but a steady flow now. There is still danger, the island of film may still go under, so it's time to build some new bridges, repair the old ones, and curve up new niches in an ever changing world.

I use film - both slides and negative B&W and color film. I have them developed by a trusted shop, and then I scan the negatives (or slides), using Photoshop as my dry-darkroom, and print a selection into good quality paper with a high quality inkjet. I am happy with this arrangement, because I am still able to use my film cameras and keep shooting and learning, while I use the digital technology for sorting out, "creating" and printing my selected photos without the need of a dark room.

That's one way to build a bridge between the two worlds, so to speak. If I could afford it space-wise and money-wise, I would build a dark-room to both develop, process and print my film (and I may do so one day). If I could afford it, I would also buy a decent digital camera (and I will do so, sooner or later), and gain all the advantages of digital. But I love film and I will keep using my film cameras.

So I guess there are certain groups of photographers who either professionaly or as a hobby, will keep using film, either because they just like it, or because they don't think digital can give them all that they get from film - not yet anyway.

If manufacturers stop producing film, for whatever reason, that's one way film could die. If they keep producing it but at reduced numbers, film may become more expensive, difficult to get, or both, so more people may turn completely to digital.

This is already happening in small places like my home town (Salonika, Greece), where different types of film (especially b&w or slide or fast film, anything really other than "normal, tourist-type" film) are becoming increasingly hard to get. Plus, shops that develop film professionaly are also becoming rarer .

I may soon have to buy film on-line from Europe (if the stocks last), and develop it myself (which is not a bad prospect, come to think of it...).

One thing people who use film could do, is keep purchasing film and shooting and asking for more, so that the market will be kept alive. Plus trying to raise awareness on the fact that film can live side by side with digital, and those who love photography can use both, each for their merits.

I just hope that the little film island will somehow survive, as a decent alternative to digital, and not only as a curious oddity from the past.

Sorry for the long post - my first time in blogs, wasn't sure if I should keep it short or what.


David Maddison said...

An interesting article. I recently got into photography through buying a DSLR, and I've started reading a lot of B&W books, which mainly deal with film development. What's interesting to me (who's never developed a film in his life!), is that the way I use photoshop isn't that different to the manipulations good B&W photographers use when creating prints, ie dodging and burning etc. I find the descriptions of how to manipulate the negatives when enlarging the images fasinating, so much so that I'd certainly love to give it a go!

violet said...

Makes you wonder what the world of photography is going to look like in 100 years, doesn't it? Will there even be film?

Roberta Wallace said...

I have no intentions of going digital. I only picked up black and white photography about 9 years ago at age 40. I love it too much to give it up. I like my 35mm SLR Nikon and my little darkroom-in-the-bathroom. Thanks to Ilford, I'm still in business. Please say there will always be at least some film,chemicals and paper around for us die hards.

Franz Jantzen said...

As an artist it has not been a tough decision for me because photography and digital have nothing in common. Superficially, sure, but digital has not replaced photography in a evolutionary sense. One is film, one is pixels; a photographic print is silver in emulsion, a digital is ink on paper; one resists manipulation while the other invites it. Because their very natures are so different, I don't even think of digital as being photography.

Thus, I have a new body of work that is purely digital. A piece starts with a digital camera, and ends up as an inkjet print; that's the only way it can be. However, for my pieces that begin with film, I go into my darkroom as I always have. I could scan the negative, of course, but those always look flat, and negatives always seem to look better as photographic prints rather than inkjet prints. I don't know why.

This division is perfectly clear to me, and if people are confused perhaps it's because they have been told by the industry that digital has replaced photography in an evolutionary sense. It may be replacing photography in the marketplace, sure, but digital is as different from photography as painting or sculpture.

The Mad Ranting Xntrek said...

... and now for a non-spam comment :)

I dropped out of photography a couple of years ago as the cost of film processing was beginning to raise ... at the beginning of this year I embraced Digital with gusto going all out and buying a 5D and a bunch of software.

Since then, I've re-discovered the joy of my old film cameras and started getting back in there. So now I am forced to think about a wet room as the labs are drying up (excuse the pun) and those that remain are charging a fortune (I was quoted $400 yesterday to develop 8 rolls and have them scanned as 12MP tiff files!).

So, I'll probably go halfway now - a wet room for development of film then out to a scanner and digital lightroom followed by an inkjet print as required.

Now I just have to make all of those things happen :P

Francois Trahan said...

The new digital landscape brings amazing reactions. Silver halide photography is becoming more and more esoteric. A very narrowly focused micro-society. Everything is going to be more and more expensive, less accessible.
I've used Ilford SFX200 near infrared film for years for black and white, low keyed portraits. I still have few of those in my freezer, won't use it for ordinary work. Only under very exceptional circumstances, with very exceptional subjects...
I'm frustrated. silver halide is an artistic medium. When they brought acrylic to the painting world, nobody put oils in garbage... Money is a sad thing.
Amazing reactions I said. Beside my Nikon F100 film camera, I use a 30D Canon DSLR... I shoot digital for color, film for B&W. Digital is very businesslike, practical tool, Black & White silver halide is all soul and creativity...

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paul j said...

i've just put together my first decent darkroom, and having chose forte as my paper - they go bust, but i will be sticking with silver halide, berrger or foma probably. i've got b&w negs from the last 28 years i've yet to print, and i've no intention of starting digital, the draw of the dark and the chemical fumes are too appealing. good luck with the site, paul

ruicoelho said...

Nice blog.
You show enormous passion in your work. I'm a rookie photographer. I only shoot film. Won't start defending it. No need. I like it. And while it's available i'll shot it.
But isn't the tonal range of greys lesser in digital? Why not leave it in color if the sensor was designed that way?
Just some thoughts...