Does Kodak Want You To Buy Film? It Doesn’t Seem So

The popularity of film is on an undeniable upswing. As a result, prices of cameras have crept up and up to a point that one might think that at least film itself can provide some stability. Think again. 

Coming to you from Nicos Photography Show, this video takes you through his thoughts on the question "Has Kodak Lost Its Mind?" It is a difficult question to answer for several reasons. Firstly, Kodak has been progressively raising prices on all of their films for several years, and they typically pair their price increases with a statement saying that the cost of materials has been increasing and/or that they are investing in production so that they can provide more options of film and more stock for each film. The first time that I can recall seeing such a statement, I was quite happy for Kodak. I thought that the underlying message was that film was gaining popularity and Kodak wanted to stay on top of it. Has that materialized? No. 

As you may recall, I penned an article a month ago in a similar vein to this video. The fact of the matter is that while COVID-19 has disrupted production and inventory across the board, I have not personally seen anything else that has got this out of hand. Prices of film, particularly Kodak film, have increased by 50% and for some films, nearly doubled over the past three years. Much of that price increase predates COVID-19 by a lot, and yet, there have been no new films since Ektachrome E100. If you go to a film shop today, you will likely see mainly empty shelves with price tags that are going up constantly. 

I cannot help but feel like Kodak has not lived up to what they promised when they started the price hikes. What are your thoughts? Are you still shooting film? If so, are you still shooting Kodak?

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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Direct quote from Kodak CEO on their earnings call two days ago, November 9th, 2021:

“I'm pleased to report that we are seeing a resurgence in our film business. More people are shooting still film, and the motion picture industry is choosing film as the ideal medium for their productions. As a result, we are increasing the capacity of our film factory. As we continue to execute on our long-term strategy, we are going to continue to focus on our core competencies in print, advanced materials, and chemicals, provide environmentally sustainable solutions, both products and internally, turning the business to focus on innovation, growth, and profitability.”

Definition of confirmation bias:
“noun Psychology.
bias that results from the tendency to process and analyze information in such a way that it supports one’s preexisting ideas and convictions”

Further reading for the author of this article:
“ In economics, the law of supply and demand is used to determine the prices of goods and services in the marketplace. Understanding the principles behind this law will help you gain perspective into how the marketplace works.”

I wonder what "resurgence" means in CEO speak. They need to look 5 - 10 year out to figure what the film market is going to do and if they can stay in it and make a profit.

When you are at rock bottom in use of film any increase is good, and if Kodak can keep the film machines going that's good for us but once the prices go up they don't usually go
back down. The last Portra Pro pack I bought was around $47 now I see it's about $60, Fuji is even more... I am on roll number 4 of the 5 pack.

Regarding how " I have not personally seen anything else that has got this out of hand. " I saw a news report from a hardware store in the northeast USA, the owner said they sell around 75 snow blowers every winter, this year they have 5 in stock with no idea if or when they will get more, It sucks all over.

Economics is a nonlinear dynamic system, which is determined by the aggregate behaviour of groups of humans. Consumer sentiment is vital to the performance of an economic system.

Like all such systems, tipping points are a thing, as is feedback.

At an anecdotal level, I want to shoot film, and I don't want to sell my film cameras; but, I can't afford to shoot film, and so I will probably sell my cameras (with the exception of my pinhole).

Supply and demand is a point. You drive up prices enough, and demand will rapidly collapse.

I don't get why you have to sell your cameras if you don't want to....? Just shoot less film.

I have no idea why I would simply hang on to thousands of dollars of cameras I will never use.

The stuff you own ends up owning you.

Why do you need to "never use" your cameras that you love? You can't shoot less often? It's very strange to me.

Cool. You do you.

"I have not personally seen anything else that has got this out of hand." Maybe you haven't, but many other people in America have, in the form of skyrocketing gasoline prices.

Gas prices aren't skyrocketing, they are about the same level they were 5 years ago.

I think it's interesting to get a little perspective on film prices. I recently read an article at where a deep dive into film prices, corrected for inflation, going all the way back before the year 1900. What this article basically shows is that over the past 20 years or so we've become used to getting film for bargain prices and now we're angry that pricing is going up.

Am I glad that prices for film and analog gear are going up? Hell no! I'm a dedicated film shooter and want to enjoy my hobby as cheaply as possible. Is it easy and convenient to blame corporate greed and COVID-related supply chain disruptions? Hell yes! But the truth is more complicated. As the article points out, film was always essentially a luxury purchase. Professionals spent a lot of money on film for their livelihoods. Cameras and lenses of the time, between 30-60 years ago, cost an equivalent amount to the high-performance DSLRs and Mirrorless digital cameras of today.

When the prices of film photography gear tanked at the start of the digital revolution, we got used to film photography being dirt cheap, because of the reduced demand. Film manufacturers cut back on the emulsions they produced as a result. Now it's more popular and the supply of both analog photography gear and film is struggling to keep up. Do I think COVID has played a role in pricing? Yes. But I think the writing was on the wall before March of 2020.

This is a market correction more than anything else. And to some extent, being angry at companies like Kodak and Fuji for seemingly abandoning film is like being angry at Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda etc. for no longer building cars with carburetors, and using direct fuel injection instead. Carburetors, like film and analog photogrpahy, are still available, just in smaller numbers, from fewer makers. There is a lot of nostalgia involved. They have a long history. But they both represent antiquated technology that the world has largely moved on from, sad to say.