Break down: Why film costs what it does

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by silvergrahm, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. silvergrahm

    silvergrahm Member

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    Which components or processes or forces that go into the manufacturing and distribution of silver halide emulsions contribute the most to the price we pay on the shelf, and to the rise in the cost of film? Is it the silver? The labor? The gelatin? The base? Reduced demand? How much faster has film risen compared to inflation?

    I hear a lot about silver being the root. But I have it on good authority that one mole of silver is able to coat 1600 sqft of film. With silver being a bit less than a dollar a gram, that's about ~$100 per 1600sqft since one mole of silver is 107 grams or so. How many rolls of 35 doth 1600 sqft make? I'll tell you in the AM after I get some sleep.



    Oh. And I also would LOVE some historical charts on the price of film, even just one emulsion, and even even just anecdotally.
     
  2. henry finley

    henry finley Member

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    Contributing to the cost is the economic situation of present. It has been my observation that almost immediately after the November 2006 election, and the change to that majority; that inflation has run wild. Gasoline is double or more, groceries have doubled, and the mortgage meltdown since that fateful majority party change, there just isn't enough left over to buy extravagances such as film. Supply and demand has stalled, and film manufacturers are struggling to even continue. I speculate that because of the Nov 2012 elections, that buggy-whip and wagon wheel manufacturers will have to fold entirely. It's just a crying shame and a disgrace.
     
  3. heterolysis

    heterolysis Member

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    Assuming no waste, and taking your numbers, I get ~140 bulk rolls coated at that coverage.

    Assuming lots of waste (that doesn't get recycled), say 100 rolls.....for that $100. The silver is a fraction of the overall costs.
     
  4. F/1.4

    F/1.4 Member

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    It's because barely anyone shoots film anymore compared to 15 years ago.

    And 15 years ago, film still wasn't "cheap".
     
  5. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear Silvergrahm,

    Your 'good authority' has ' very bad information'

    I will save you a calculation or two....


    ( Excluding waste etc ) you get 17.58 rolls of 135 - 36 per m2 of parent roll, 26.37 rolls for 24 exp and 19.55 rolls of 120 film per m2.

    When I was a photographer I always remember a client who 'grumbled' at the cost of a wedding, it became quite an issue, he would not pay his invoice, he went away and calculated the cost of the film, prints, album etc etc and told my then boss to justify the invoice against the cost of the materials ......my boss spoke to the guy and said he had an accountant, and he got three pieces of paper from him every year, and he estimated the paper cost about 2 pence...it was what was written on the paper that was actually important, since my boss explained he could not do it was why he paid someone else to do it, and do it well....the guy paid his bill...he was entirely co-incidentally an accountant...

    I learnt a lesson that day......

    Simon ILFORD photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  6. AgX

    AgX Member

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    The price of silver is still a major concern to the industry.
     
  7. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Is there anything wrong with film prices?

    Perhaps for You the difference between photo grade silver and the *other* silver is not big deal?
    Same goes for everything used in making photographic materials, not just film.
     
  8. thegman

    thegman Member

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    In the UK, taking into account inflation, I'd say film, especially slide film, is somewhat cheaper than it was. With the much lowered economies of scale, you'd expect the prices to go up, but in the UK at least, they do not appeared to have. I imagine both major makers spend much less on marketing than they used to, maybe that's got a lot to do with it.

    The economic situation can help as much as it can hurt. In the UK, interest rates have plummeted and the cost of borrowing has increased. However, this means that my mortgage has roughly halved every month, making me a lot better off each month. The same is for businesses, if they have a mortgage on their property, it's possible they have never had it so good. If you can keep your sales up (which many companies in the UK have, like John Lewis), then "the economic crisis" is anything but.
     
  9. AgX

    AgX Member

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    In 1980 the price of silver tenfolded. That meant for one of the big players that they had to pay just for the silver alone 4/5th of what their volume of sales had been the year before.
     
  10. GeorgesGiralt

    GeorgesGiralt Member

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    Hello !
    Actually price of ingredients to a film recipe are not significant in the finished product. (and this is true to any industrial product).
    Bear in mind that you have to factor in every cost from the factory building to the electricity and wages for the workers plus the cost of research, maintenance and the like.
    Add to this that film is a perishable product so when you make a batch, you have to keep it "fresh" until it is sold. This involves freezing which IMHO will be a big cost...
    And last but not least, ads, sales people, transportation, seller margin, and so on...
    In last the maker have to factor in the competition and price the product at a level the consumer can afford, make some benefit of it and be a bit cheaper than the competitors..
    Where is the silver price in this ??????
     
  11. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    As AgX puts it the cost of silver is a concern to the industry !

    Its 8 years since HARMAN technology Limited was founded, we were really very concerned, as in our business model as the cost of silver was worryingly high at $ 7.00 per troy ounce.

    In the corner of my computer screen, the feed that is with me every minute of the day says silver as of 4 minutes ago was $ 31.39 per troy ounce. We buy silver by the tonne.

    You know the little sprocket holes on 35mm film ? as they are perforated, a high suction system sucks them up and stores them in a hopper, they then go and have the silver recycled out of them...

    Simon ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  12. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    LOL! Ads?! Salespeople? Not for Kodak! When was the last time you saw an ad for a Kodak product that you use? I've Never seen a Kodak advertisement for Xtol! And when it was released in 96-97 I had to bug the Kodak rep to let me BUY some! And yet Tri-X keeps going up in price...
     
  13. MattPC

    MattPC Member

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    Miners have mortgages and rights to safe workplaces too. Some of us even spend a little of our dirty, hot & dangerously earned money on film/chems/paper.

    The investment in developing new mines boggles the mind. Those investors (you know, super funds, people like us etc) expect a return on that investment.

    That investment must be funded over the life of the mine by a volatile commodity price traded in a speculative market by financiers who don't know or care what the product is, what it's used for, or how many hobbyists have to pay an extra $ for their final product. Commodities are the new housing bubble. It's way of the world for the foreseeable future.

    It's very, very unfortunate that small businesses who simply want to use the commodities as raw material are forced to pay prices pushed up by speculators. Frankly, I'm happy to pay a little more. I use very little at a time. By comparision to (say) following football, it's still a cheap hobby once our equipment is depreciated. (my Franka must be fully depreciated by now surely? 60+ years?).

    Apologies for the rant. (but I do feel better, thanks.)

    MattPC
     
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  15. moviemaniac

    moviemaniac Member

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    Today I pay less for film online than I did 10 years ago when I didn't have an internet connection and bought locally. I still have the wrapping paper of a roll of HP5+ with a price tag from back then attached. It cost me nearly twice than what I pay for it today - not factoring in inflation, rising prices and labour cost as well as shrinking demand...
     
  16. AgX

    AgX Member

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    The price for film is quite differenciated:

    For a rebranded roll of type 135-36 middle of the road Kodak or Fuji film drugstore chains ask as regular price about 0.80€.
    The price of the manufacturer's brand film is at its cheapest about 3-times of that.
    Kodak Portra 800 even costs about 10-times.


    In the non-consumer field, typically overlooked here at Apug, the price is of much bigger importance, than here with aficionados around. In that field there are more housebrands than manufacturers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 17, 2013
  17. madgardener

    madgardener Member

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    I don't find the price of film that expensive. For me my hobby is very affordable. As the former owner of a small business, I would also like to add the cost of maintaining an inventory is also a significant cost, as is things like insurance, etc. It's called overhead. Personally, I'm surprised that we can buy film as cheaply as we do.

    When I was partnering with my father in law in his lawn care business, I sat down and calculated the cost just for the mowing side of our lawn care business. Factoring in everything, it cost $50 just to pull the truck up to the curb. That was before the crew got out of the truck, started the mowers, etc. This was back in 2000. Not realizing the total cost, we were charging $50 to mow (acre size lots), and we were losing money fast.
     
  18. salan

    salan Member

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    Without wishing to hijack the thread, I wondered (perhaps Simon can say) at what point(volume wise) does a film become un profitable to make? I know that you could say if some one was prepared to pay, lets say within sensible limits. I have no idea for example just how many orders Ilford need to make a batch of a specific lf film.
    Alan
     
  19. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    in the 1800s photography was expensive
    in the 1900s photography was expensive
    and now, photography is still expensive.

    you can re-coop some of your costs, as ilford does
    by recycling your spent silver. it might take a while
    but it is just $$$ down the drain.
     
  20. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    I don't think price of film is high. You can get 90 meters of Polypan for 30 eur on ebay. That is cheap. Even superb films like HP5+ or Tmax are not that expensive. You just need to buy camera that slows you down, so you shoot less, but better :smile:
     
  21. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I honestly can't remember a number for purchasing film when I first started shooting it seriously (1958!) but I suspect if we find the numbers we will find it is cheaper today, adjusted for inflation. I recall getting a 20 exposure roll of slides processed for around $1.25. I also recall a summer job after my first year in college where we were paid minimum wage. We "summer helpers" got a raise in August because the minimum wage went up -- to $1.64 per hour! Now before you laugh too hard, that would buy about six gallons of regular petrol at the time!

    Anybody got a chart of inflation adjusted film prices?
     
  22. AgX

    AgX Member

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    This depends of course on the price the buyer accepts. Furthermore one has distinguish between products that are standard, non-standard products for which formulas and materials and tools are in house already and products that have to be designed, materials or tools have to be made for.
     
  23. salan

    salan Member

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    I totally agree. I was wondering lets say for example 5x5 in HP5+ As far as I know that is not 'off the self' (if it is then choose a 'not off the self format'), how many orders would Ilford have to get to make it worth while doing a 'run' I understand that there are so many variables but there must be some 'number that they start to think about doing a run.
    Alan
     
  24. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Another problem is one which has been discussed in some previous threads on this general topic. When a company is trying to run huge high capacity machines at a small fraction of their maximum output, the overhead becomes a higher percentage of the unit product cost. Among other things, this could mean reducing continuous runs to occasional batch runs which creates all sorts of potential waste from the start-up and process tuning, plus shutdown and cleanup. And then the company is between a rock and a hard place, as replacing the machine with a smaller one could cost an outrageous sum which stockholders would run away from in what appears to be a declining market.
     
  25. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    Indeed. It is important to consider "fully loaded" costs when comparing the unit cost of production to the unit retail price. In addition to direct labour and materials, some fraction of every other cost of running Ilford's day to day operations must be allocated to the cost of making a roll of film. This includes everything from real estate costs (rent etc) to indirect salaries to marketing to customer service. Some costs are fixed, some are variable, etc.
     
  26. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I remember pumping gas (before self-serve) at $1.65/hour during the first "gas crisis" (1974?)...the price had shot to to 50 cents a gallon and we were the cheapest gas in town.

    From what I have read, making film is as much art as it is science and engineering. And good art is expensive.

    Vaughn