The future looks increasingly B&W
So Kodak have decided to sell off their commercial film business, having initially emphasised their commitment to their customers and the fact that this particular branch was a financial asset to the organisation and still profitable. This emphasises both the scale of the company’s wider bankruptcy, and the desperation of their management to keep above water-in my opinion they just won’t turn things around banking on the digital printer and scanner side of the organisation. Epson, HP and others have that particular market stitched up. Personally speaking again, if Kodak Portra and Ektar were to actually disappear altogether, I’ll be absolutely gutted. Portra in particular is I think the nicest colour 120 film on the market today-it gives me colour effects and softness I just don’t see in Fuji.
All of this however emphasises the growing utility of moving more and more into B&W and home developing. Kodak have handled their customer base shoddily over the years despite having good to excellent individual products. Ilford to me by contrast are a model of how an analogue film company should be run-a great range of high quality products, real thought about their customer base, and they also keep their hand in when it comes to supplying developer, exposure paper and every other artefact needed to keep real analogue photography alive as well. As a film company, I think they’re probably now the best out there, and they’ll certainly be getting more and more of my support as long as there’s breath in my body.
I’ve also come across an interesting online anomaly however. I recently bought three spools of Orwo 35mm B&W. This is not the two-decade or more expired film you often see online. It’s cine film, fresh stuff still being produced at the old Orwo factory, ISO 400, but cut and re-spooled by some enterprising individual into recycled 35mm canisters, 27 shots a canister. I’ll hold my breath until I actually shoot it and see the results, but this is going to be a fascinating experiment. Shooting Orwo through my Prakticas is the nearest thing I’m ever going to get to actual time travel. It’s also a glimpse into how trade online will probably keep all kinds of analogue material alive for quite some time yet. So for a whole variety of reasons, the future increasingly looks to be B&W.
UPDATE, 2/9/12: Bought an old bulk film loader and 100ft of B&W film plus reusable canisters. This is the way I’ll be increasingly going from now on when it comes to film I think, assuming I can master the process.