2019 Has Been a Great Year for Film Photographers: A Year-End Review

2019 Has Been a Great Year for Film Photographers: A Year-End Review

While it would be too early to say that we are in full-fledged film photography revolution, it is clear that the market for film is growing in a great way. 

(Kind Of) Bad News

I was always more of a bad news first, good news second kind of man so I’ll start with the (kind of) bad news first. If you’re a Kodak fan like myself, you may have already heard but for those that haven’t, I’ll inform you now: Kodak Alaris is planning to raise all film prices starting on 1st January 2020. So, with whatever time is left at the current price point, you may want to consider making some room in your freezer/fridge and purchase some film for the future. Personally, I will probably purchase a couple pro packs of Portra 800, Portra 400, and several rolls of TMax P3200. I’ve read mixed reports on whether this price jump will be reflected immediately or will be observed one by one as retailers are making new orders (I strongly suspect it will differ by retailer).  

While the previous piece of news may have come as a shock or surprise to you, I suspect that everyone shooting film has probably noticed a lot of their favorite films on back order on the B&H site or outright sold out from their local camera shops. If you’ve been struggling to find single rolls of Portra 160, 400, or 800, you’re not alone. The fact that so many places are sold out is the reason that Kodak is raising its prices. Kodak Alaris has been struggling for years in the film market along with everyone else but with an increase in sales that came on swiftly and with a lot of force, they have found themselves behind the 8 ball. As such, Kodak Alaris is raising the price of every film stock “significantly” in order to make investments in the manufacturing process that should produce an observed benefit in terms of availability of current favorites and the production of new stocks.  

Another downside observed by many film photographers and those looking to get into the world of film is the sharp rise in prices due to supply and demand for film photography equipment. The fact of the matter is that manufacturing of new film cameras is at an all time low and most of the cameras being made today are either incredibly expensive or incredibly cheap (both in quality and cost). The day of newly manufactured affordable, solid, consistent performing cameras is behind us. With more and more budding photographers entering into the world of film and the finite supply of serviceable film cameras out there, the prices are being driven up and, in some cases, away from photographers who have been in this space for a while and looking to add another camera to their collection, move up from their existing camera, or replacing a camera that stopped working. However, on the bright side, it is this exact uptick in the popularity of film that is not just helping keep it alive but also helping it grow.

Good News

Having touched on this a bit above, film photography has been experiencing a resurgence over the last few years and this upward trajectory has been even more pronounced this year. While I don’t think that the official count of new films hitting the market is greater this year than last year, it is in stark contrast to just a decade ago when film photography was declining in popularity and digital photography technology was taking off in a big way. 

New 35mm films out in 2019:

In 2018, Kodak TMax P3200 and Kodak Ektachrome E100 was released in 35mm format only with expected availability of 120 format and sheet film (only E100 planned to release in sheet film I believe) in 2019. However, at the time of writing, neither of those stocks actually made it to the shelves this year outside of the already existing 35mm format. For TMax P3200, there is still a good deal of silence coming from Kodak as to when it will be available in 120. Ektachrome E100, however, is slowly making progress with presale (and possibly delivery) available at the very end of 2019.

Outside of the world of Kodak, Lomography expects their new film, Lomochrome Metropolis, to start selling in 2020. As for Fuji, the news of discontinuing Acros hit a lot of people hard and it didn’t seem like it was gone all that long before they announced that they intended to recreate Acros – a 100 speed black and white film. For now, Acros II is available in Japan only with expectations of its availability in the US in 2020. 

What All This Means

In general, it’s a great time to be a film photographer. With new film stocks hitting the market, more and more camera stores carrying used film equipment, and the increased availability of film, 2020 is looking like it too should be a good year. Though I expect the beginning should be just as rough as it is now to supply your film habit with your favorite film stocks but I suspect that eventually the manufacturers will catch up and possibly start developing new stuff that may even be available late next year.  

Further, if you own film camera equipment but are not inclined to use or even keep it — or if you know someone who meets this description — now is as good a time as any to cash in your camera or darkroom equipment. If you’ve been debating giving film a go, I will always suggest you make the plunge sooner than later. The prices for each component are getting more and more pricey with every day that goes by and it’s not slowing down or getting any cheaper.    

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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I've noticed it a lot more. People (Not just young hipster kids) bringing out their old 35mm cameras. It's nice to see film make a bit of a comeback and with all of the labs popping up it's become a lot more approachable IMO. There certainly has been a noticeable increase in prices for gear at camera stores but the used market on craigslist and facebook marketplace has remained pretty much unchanged at least in my area. There's always a camera or two at an estate sale.

I would like to hear more about the demand for film camera repair as I think that's something we need more of. I have a few that I wish I could bring back to life. I remember watching a video about a kid who taught himself how to fix pretty much any camera and now he's created himself a nice business as there's a huge need for it.

really depends on the body. I know that Nikon F2's and F3's are expensive, Older Nikkor AI lenses depends on the lens., I remember when you could not give them away. Pentax seems to be remaining cheap except for the LX. KMount lenses for the most part are cheap. Canon AE 1's are a dime a dozen as are FD lenses. Minolta are affordable along with the MD mount lenses. The sleeper is the Konica AutoReflex T & T2-T4 along with the Hexanon AR lenses are a cheap way to get good equipment at a song. People forget just how good the Hexanon AR Primes are. Remember that they will need a CLA ,

I still see F3's for ok prices on the private market. Currently one in my area for sale with 85mm f/2 lens and SB-12 flash for under $250.

I totally agree with you about the Autoreflex cameras and rhe Hexanon lenses. Very underrated gear!

I've had two F2s over the years (one I gave away and the other I still have and use often) and I love the camera. Given how much I paid for them, I don't know that I would ever have been able to buy two of them or the collection of lenses I have for them today with the prices they demand.

Have 2 F2 AS with a collection of Nikkor Primes including the granddaddy Nikkor 1,2/50 mm Noct. I use both bodies amd the lenses regularly .

Nice! The F2 I kept is an SB so the prism is similar to that of an AS but works with all manual focus Nikon lenses. You have a Noct.!? That's incredible! I've only shot a few frames with one - it was wild. I really wanted to try it with astrophotography but never got the chance.

Have an SB head and also the meterless prism top when I really want to go old school with a gossen luna pro f. Lol remember when I bought the noc in early 1980's when I was in school, was night beat stringing for the local rag, and was mad I had to buy a filter ring to fit my holder. Thing with todays.Noct craze They are good at what they are made for. Not so much for a second hat usage. But #1 Have the GDaddy if I need it. 2. Use me money on film and the pub. Wing nite and pints.

Still significantly cheaper than they were in the 90s - f2as cameras were like $700 back then

I agree on film photography becoming a great deal more approachable. Between the more wide spread availability of film and educational resources for it in addition to it becoming more appreciated, more and more people are venturing into it.

As for compiling a list of repair shops, that would be a great idea. On a previous article, RM (see above) suggested a shop in ATL. Otherwise, I've fixed two old 35mm Pentax cameras myself back to working order using Youtube videos as guides.

Camera Repair Services , Smyrna,GA

For larger than 135 format cameras, PCW (https://www.precisioncameraworks.com) did a great job, with great customer service, repairing my Mamiya 6 recently. If you shoot film a lot (ie, more than just a roll here and there), your camera will need repairs at some point, and it's good to think ahead and find a repair place before buying something too expensive (and hope they stay in business). For Leicas, though, you can go to any dealer and they'll either repair in-house, or send things off for repairs. Obviously repairs are not cheap, but it does provide peace of mind.

I would add to the list to try, Foma, 100,200,400 135,120,4X5 . ORWO the beast from the East. SVEMA Ukrainian Motherland. Some of the Lomo's, Kono's, Film Project's are rebranded films from the manufacturers above. They also increased the prices. Kosmo is Foma 100. Foma 100/36 around $4.50-$5.00\roll. Kosmo $7.50-11.50/roll. Know the stock. Your money easy to look up on web. Be wise. Also, the pre exposed double film, make youself..Not new.Same goes for the colour shift stuff too. Doing that since 1980 Art School dayz.

Yes to more 120 options!

You would ADD grain to your scans? haha. That seems counterintuitive. I shoot the low ISO film to get away from grain.

If you don't like grain stay away from JCH StreetPan 400 . Ilford Pan 50 is a good choice. And even Kodak Tri-X if you pull to 200 the develop in Rodinal 1+50@20C for 9 minutes . 200 is Tri X true sensitivity. In colour Portra 400 &Fuji NPH at 320 process at rate Portra 160 at 80 develop at rate. Good C41 cheaper choices are Kodaks Pro image 100 amd Ultra Max 400 pulled to 200 can push to 800.Good around is also lomography lomocolor 200 and 800. Which is manufactured by Kodak .

I miss film and dslr cameras because there is no bootup time like on my a9 if you want to capture something on the street that is gone in a second.

Get back in the game!

No time like the present!

Very, very true. It's a big reason I keep getting more and more into film.

I wish people thought film photographers were less pretentious. Indeed, I believe most think quite the opposite. I am actually in the midst of writing an article about this that I hope to post in the new year.

Like I have always said . If you want it to look like it was shot on film. Shoot on film. Get your eye off the LCD screen and keep it in the viewfinder.

Ha! Surprisingly you're the first person on FStoppers to make a joke with my name. That was a good one!

There are still plenty of old film cameras around for sale on places like Ebay for reasonable prices. It does take time and effort to find something in the condition and price range you want, but it's not any kind of problem or "bad new" (yet). As for Kodak film prices going up, that is a bummer. But it's all the more reason to shoot more B&W, which is significantly less expensive. And the chemicals are still very cheap and come to less than a dollar a roll if you develop yourself. Compared to all the other complications of modern life, developing your own B&W is probably the easiest thing you'll do in a day. So it's all still good news if you ask me.

Sure - that's true. But to truly get a good camera at a good price, one has to have an open mind about the camera. For many cameras, there's been so much hype built up around them that they are no longer priced reasonably. I'm a big fan of the Minolta system (an X-370 was my first camera ever) and those can still be had for cheap. But what is "cheap" is still relative.

I agree with developing B&W at home for saving money. It took me far to long to get started in it. For the longest time, it seemed very intimidating. I had developed a few rolls at a university in Charleston I taught at but they made it seem like such a big to do that I didn't care to ever do it myself at home. Once I finally got around to starting doing it, I became a big believer very quickly.

Good article. Keep them coming James!