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Boo Kodak, yay Orwo and Ilford

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.

written by alex34

11 comments

  1. neanderthalis

    neanderthalis

    I have been warming up to the Ilford films. I will miss Kodak films like Ektar and Portra too, but I could be OK with B&W only.

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  2. iandevlinphoto

    iandevlinphoto

    I've only used it once but i'd hate to see the back of portra

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  3. alex34

    alex34

    @iandevlinphoto Yes, portra is just really, really nice stuff.

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  4. mapix

    mapix

    will miss the Kodak BW400CN, hope so much Ilford XP2 will be continued!

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  5. rsneddon

    I agree but I was under the impression Kodak had found a buyer for the film brands won't be in the Kodak name but will be the same porta or ektar quality but maybe under a fuji or even boots branding
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  6. alex34

    alex34

    @rsneddon We'll see :-S
    Part of the issue is that the Kodak Eastman film infrastructure is still huge (overcapacity for the current market), downscaling was part of the problem that they never really crunched so far as I can see. Also, a big question whether any buyer will still employ the same quality control. With Kodak retaining the cinema side to their film production, there also isn't the possibility of cross-subsiding the commercial side that Kodak itself enjoyed. So it's not necessarily the attractive prospect for a buyer that it might seem on the surface. If you look at Agfa for example, they basically sold their production plant off piecemeal. Kodak may well end up doing the same.

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  7. rsneddon

    Yes very true @alex34 let's hope who every buys the rights to the film names can produce the same quality film . But I am sure there must be a huge amount of Kodak stock still to be sold and I hope there's film for a few years to come yet
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  8. alex34

    alex34

    @rsneddon Kodak kept stocks of their good stuff pretty low in my experience-Portra and Ektar were regularly out of stock at the stores where I shopped online, and suppliers often complained they didn't know when the next batch would be in. If you look at Efke-admittedly a much smaller producer, now also going out of business-they reported last week that they had just two months stock left. Panic buying will decimate the extant stocks of Kodak and Efke pretty quickly I would say. But we're still a long way from a more general film drought. My guess is that we're all just have to get more creative-scour the online retailers a bit harder, and possibly do more bulk buying in future. Hence the purchase of a bulk film loader. The fewer companies producing, the higher their individual profit margins, so I think we'll also hit equilibrium pretty soon, where the smaller companies have quite a long future ahead of them. Just my opinion of course.

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  9. rsneddon

    @alex34 I seem to find discount films direct always have stock of ektar and porta if that's any help to you
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  10. alex34

    alex34

    @rsneddon cheers, I'll have a look!

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  11. hervinsyah

    hervinsyah

    Few week ago I click free shipping everywhere box (the green one below the competition article) and after looking the lomography US shop film list, there are Orwo Infra red color there. Too bad I don't have a credit card. This article also remind me when I bought Ilford Pan in 2005. It cost under $ 2, and now the price it's increasingly high T-T

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