I’ve asked this same question here before - and the answer seemed to be, “for a while, since the chemicals and minilabs are still being made.” But it seems to me that the bankruptcy of Kodak is sort of a game-changer, and maybe now the answer will be different.
Obviously Kodak doesn’t make all the film. Fuji and AGFA are still important players. The best (IMO) color negative film - Ektar - is made by Kodak, and now I wonder if it will be around much longer. I assume many of the developing chemicals, and probably some of the mini-lab equipment, is also made by Kodak.
With Kodak out of the game, will the end of film come sooner? >5 years?
I’m sure B&W film will hang on much longer due to easier DIY processing.
Kodak is filing for bankruptcy, but they won’t disappear overnight. I know they plan on selling off some of their patents related to digital imaging to raise cash, and bankruptcy will apparently get them off the hook for a few hundred million in pension payments. Even if they went under in the near future, I imagine their competitors would swoop in to buy Kodak’s physical and intellectual property related to still and motion picture film. I’m sure many Kodak products would cease to exist, but the remaining players in the film market shouldn’t have any trouble filling the gap left by Kodak.
Y’know. I follow a blog on Tumblr called something like “Polaroidsoffamouspeople” or something. It is not unusual to me that someone might have a Polaroid camera… You can get one at any given thrift store for about 50 cents. But that they still make Polaroid film/cartridges? BRILLIANT! Kodak may be able to milk this for at least a decade.
I’m still amazed at what happened to Kodak. Why didn’t they just become the world leader in digital photography? It’s not like they weren’t in the perfect position to do so. Missing the ball is one thing, but come on, this ball was the size of a planet.
There will still be niche uses for film. Certain x-ray techniques still require film, such as in hospital bed portable units.
Kodak really blew it. They knew this day would come, but they did not adapt nearly enough. Photography is going to be dominated by Canon and Nikon, both companies have kept up a grueling pace of innovation.
I think there still is a demand for film and profit to be made. The problem with Kodak was that they were too big. Perhaps when they come out of bankruptcy they will be smaller but leaner and they can find a way to make the film (and other things) at a profit
I don’t understand why Kodak itself is not trying to market film more proactively. It’s true that, for most people, it’s functionally obsolete. Its appeal lies in nostalgia. But nostalgia is a powerful force that is not to be underestimated! Retro technology has an undeniable allure, especially to younger people who have lived most of their lives without it and so it seems particularly exotic. The whole “lomography” craze, for instance, proves that there is continued interest in film for its image - not literally the image quality that it provides, but the figurative “image” that it represents.
All these hipsters going nuts with old cameras and film are not doing it because they truly want to harness the technical advantages of film; they’re doing it because they think film is cool.
Cool is powerful. Cool makes money.
Why isn’t Kodak trying to cater to this lomography crowd?
It’s a terrible shame that photo albums no longer exist, as of ca. 2000. They will be cursing us in 100, 200, 500 years, because there will be no photographic record of our everyday lives.
I have snapshots of my family from 100 years ago, as bright and crisp as the day they were taken. But the last ten years? Crappy fading printouts from my home printer, or files on my computer. None of which will last through the decades or centuries.
Just as well for me: photos of me will last from when I was young and pretty in the 1980s; but old, fat, ugly me of the 21st century? No permanent record will exist–hahahahaha!
I think possibly because it’s small potatoes compared to its old business model.
The majority of people can get instant nostalgia with phone apps like instagram that puts that nostalgic sheen on modern photos. 99.9% of people get a kick from that and wouldn’t be arsed with the rigmarole of getting film developed. It’s also really expensive, here at least. Getting a standard roll of film developed and printed costs me about $10, I have numerous rolls of it lying around undeveloped because I can’t afford to get them all printed up at the one time. I do use a film camera and several of my friends do too, but it’s the arty types who do it. Everyone else is happy to use their phone, $100 Nikon or $1000 digital SLR to take snaps.
Saying all that Holga is an interesting niche success in recent years among the analogue set.
As an amateur photographer, I can tell you that transitioning from the Kodak era to the digital era has been uplifting.
I can take a quillion shots of a subject and then choose which to keep.
That, right there, spelled the end of that business model.
That’s only true if you don’t hang on to the digital pics. There’s nothing that says that modern-day digital pictures won’t last centuries or even millennia. That’s the ultimate beauty of digital pictures- the information is no longer bound to a physical medium like the dyes in a negative.
What this means in practical terms is that if the CD that you wrote them to is getting beat up, you can copy them to a hard drive, or an isolinear cube, or the global network or whatever. And if you do it right, there won’t be any loss of information, meaning that pictures of “old, fat ugly me of the 21st century” will be as clear, bright and detailed in the 22nd century as they were in the 21st.
They mostly tried to kill that technological revolution instead. Definitely poor strategy, and more inexplicable in that Kodak was historically a company that would nimbly jump into the forefront of technology changes that challenged its existing business model. There’s a fascinating and detailed discussion of this in Paul Carroll’s Billion Dollar Lessons …
Here is my WAG. I have no evidence for this, but it is the way big companies work. Yes, they did sell digital cameras (according to reports on the bankruptcy, they were even the first), but it was probably a small group inside Kodak that did it and the mass of the company was back in the 20th century. They might have even hindered the development because they were afraid it would interfere with their “real business” of selling film.
Why is IBM out of the business of selling PCs? Not because they couldn’t have outcompeted their competitors, but resistance inside the company to their competing with their “real business” of selling big computers. I see Kodak as having followed the same well-trodden path.
Well, yes, if your great-great-great-grandchild finds “a hard drive, or an isolinear cube, or the global network or whatever” folded into a blanket in the attic in 150 years, knows what the hell it is and how to access it, or even cares enough not to just go “what the hell is this old piece of crap?” and throw it out.
As opposed to finding photos of great-great-great-grandma in an album and going “*cool! *She was really *hot *back in 1982.”
However, plenty of people rarely if ever make back ups of their photos. I know loads of people who have lost 100s, even 1000s of photos because they had them on a hard drive that died or a CD-R that broke etc.
A miniscule number of “hipsters” isn’t going to keep Kodak going.
Retro style is sometimes cool but, seriously, to a nearest approximation, nobody wants retro technology. There is no big market for rotary phones, CRT televisions, or Commodore 64 computers, and there never will be. There will never again be a significant consumer market for film cameras. In the consumer space, film’s over and done with. Some obscure hipster going through an 18-month phase isn’t a market.