Is their money for manufacturers in film cameras?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by snaggs, Feb 2, 2008.

  1. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    Are there still any "spenders" shooting film? Or is this now relegated to people buying 2nd hand camera's on the cheap? If there is not more people buying camera's like the F6.. M7.. then they will cease to exist.

    No body seems to have any qualms about dropping big $$ on a Nikon D3, or countless other digital SLR's. If there is where all the spending is, then no wonder the manufacturers have cut back film bodies.

    Remember that next time you buy a 2nd hand camera! I'd like to think we could maintain a large enough niche market for at least the production of some new cameras!

    Daniel.
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Yes as long as the cameras fill the right niche in the market.

    There are plenty of S/H film cameras around at the moment which is depressing and distorting the actual reality of how many people are buying and using film cameras.

    So while digital has appeared to completely dominate camera purchases for quite a few years now there is also another reality.

    There has been a big re-resurgence in range-finder cameras, which can be seen with MF models from Fuji, Mamiya etc, and the various 35mm models built by Cosina. Then there's the LF and ULF market which is healthy, along with the panoramic cameras 612/617/624 from China.

    So with Fuji looking at probably introducing a new 6x7 folder yes the market is there for new film cameras, but at the moment only for camera models which don't compete with the glut of 35mm SLR's & MF cameras available at next to nothing second-hand.

    Ian
     
  3. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    I agree with Ian. If you could count the number of film bodies that sold in a single year on Ebay alone it would be staggering! Now add in B&H, KEH, Adoroma, etc...and that's just in the U.S.A. All those people that bought those cameras intend to shoot film in them. Even if it's just a couple rolls every once in a while - those numbers add up.
    It's the excess of second hand gear (and a lot of it good pro stuff at cents on the dollar) that is flooding the market. This makes 35mm SLR style cameras not really feasible to manufacture right now. There is a demand for them, though, as they are all being bought by someone! :smile:
    Jed
     
  4. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, snaggs, how many models of 35 mm cameras are now in production, not counting disposables? 645? 6x6? 6x7? 6x9? How many were in production twenty years ago? And what are production volumes?

    There's your answer.

    There's not much money for many manufacturers in cameras of any size that shoot film, the apparent resurgence of LF notwithstanding. Partly because fewer and fewer people are shooting film, partly because of competition from used cameras. Note that used cameras come to market because their owners are hard up or because their owners are no longer using them. I think that most of the used cameras that come to market are offered by people who have no further use for them, but this is an empirical question and I haven't done the research needed to support my opinion.
     
  5. pauliej

    pauliej Member

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    Just curious, does anyone know where production and/or sales figures would be available for the last 10 years (or more recently)? The industry-wide totals or by companies, broken out by types (35mm, medium format, etc) would answer this question. Please advise if anyone is aware of such a web-site. Thanks for your help.

    My guess is film cam sales are down sharply, digital sales are booming, but I could be wrong about that.

    Paul
     
  6. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Selling new cameras is a tough business indeed. The problem is the economic principle of marginal return or marginal benefit.

    How much benefit do you get with Camera X (e.g. a used Nikon F5 from KEH or eBay)? How much benefit do you get with Camera Y (e.g. a new Nikon F6 from wherever)?

    So if you get 92 units of utility from the F5 and 100 from the F6, but the F5 costs $450 and the F6 costs $1,799, which one do you buy?

    The prices of used cameras are insanely low at the moment (not truly insane, of course; this is the market - but the bang for the buck is exceptional if you are exclusively a film shooter as I am). The prices of new cameras are good compared to historical levels, but not good compared to the used prices. There has to be a reasonably narrow gap between the prices for me to prefer a new camera.
     
  7. Nigel

    Nigel Member

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    If you are that concerned, you need to remove the second hand market, or at least constrain it. The way to do that would be to start buying used cameras and destroying them, ensuring that they never be used again. This would lead to larger demand for new film cameras assuming that your premise is correct.
     
  8. thuggins

    thuggins Member

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    Most of the postings here reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of how manufacturing and (especially) marketing work. Manufacturers exist to sell products, and they have marketing departments to create demand. Digital *anything* is a dream come true on both counts. You have to replace the digi-thing every couple of years, even if it is still perfectly good. Whether someone actually wants to buy a new 35mm SLR is of no concern to them. Film cameras last a lifetime (or longer). My OM-1 will never be rendered useless because the drivers don't work on the newest Operating System.

    The situation is even better for marketers. Digital is "new" and "cool", just like the emperor's new clothes. That's what's given us the megapixel mania, with image quality actually degrading as new models push beyond the limit of what the technology can achieve. People don't care about image quality, they just want to brag they have the most pixels.

    Jim hits on a very good point as well. New cameras were always grossly overpriced. They could get away with this because the market had few manufacturers, and they were all willing to play the same game. There is a new dynamic now that never existed before. "That auction site" has created a marketplace for used equipment, creating competition that never existed before. Unless you lived in NYC or were willing to spend months scouring classified ads, the chances of finding a specific piece of used equipment used to be pretty slim. Now you have dozens of choices. And as soon as one piece sells, another one is up for bid.
     
  9. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    I swear I have been afflicted with this 'glance at a subject line' dyslexia thing lately. So when I saw this post, I would have sworn that it said 'Are there monkeys for manufacturers in film cameras?'
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    As I have given this some thought over the past couple of days I developed a line of wishful thinking. As very few new 35mms are being sold and older cameras are getting long in the tooth and parts are not available, as used cameras are being bought the supply is dwindling. At some point a small companies like Cosina or a larger company like Fuji will find a small market for new cameras. The question is what will the price point be?
     
  11. BobbyR

    BobbyR Member

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    You are not alone, that has made me do a double-take at times also.
     
  12. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Where have you been all of my life? I ask because for most of my adult life -- certainly since the mid-60s -- there's been a thriving market for used cameras and until fairly recently it had little effect on sales of new ones. But now demand for cameras and lenses is so weak that making and selling new ones isn't very profitable.

    Look at the market for enlarging lenses. There's a glut of first-class used ones.

    Do you remember how low the prices of thread-mount Leica bodies and lenses to fit 'em went in the late '60s/'70s because of the great rush to SLRs? That great rush nearly killed Leica despite their switch to much nicer bayonet mount RF cameras. Well, now there's a great rush to digital and manufacturers of film cameras, perhaps excepting disposables, are in Leica's old position. And they're much better managed than Leica ever was.
     
  13. oldglass

    oldglass Member

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    I'll get on my "human nature" soapbox :smile:
    and theorize that thanks to the narcissistic side of us, the real "spender" (with deep, deep pocket) will not want to be caught dead with thousands of "commoners" with black DSLRs and digi P&S. So to look "chic" and "fashionable", they would be looking at niche manufacturers.

    Now, if I were a niche player, wouldn't it be wise to cater to these "spenders"?

    Of course if this is as easy as I made it sound, we won't have the M8, will we? :smile:
     
  14. BobbyR

    BobbyR Member

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    I have no love for range-finder cameras, I do not dislike them, but I prefer an slr.
    That said, the Leica concern now has the R8/R9 onto which can be attached a digi back.
    If this catches on, I wonder will we see Nikon producing an F7 with similar qualities.
    Of the Leica reviews I have read, it seems that even people who do not like its quasi-Exakta shape. once they use it think it is better than the best from either Canon or Nikon, at least in film form.
     
  15. pauliej

    pauliej Member

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    I imagine that some of the companies that are getting OUT of the 35mm camera biz (Canon, Nikon, etal) will keep some of their blueprints and such around so that SOMEDAY, when the youngsters find grandpa's or Aunt Elmer's old film-type antique in the attic and re-start the APUG forums, asking "Where do you put the memory cards in the Canon AE-1 cams?" and such and discover film again, someone will get the bright idea to re-manufacture some of these old classic film cameras again. What comes around goes around, or something like that. And the pricepoint will be what it has been ever since day 1 of capitalism, Whatever the Market will Bear.

    Paul
     
  16. mawz

    mawz Member

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    Film's a niche market, and SLR's in particular are a market well beyond saturation with used kit. Leica managed to almost destroy their market by building essentially the same camera for over 50 years. Why buy an M7 when an M3 will do almost everything the M7 will for far, far less. Leica survives on the M8 and offering individualized cameras (Exactly the options you want, for the asking) as well as the collector market. And the lack of inexpensive interchangable RF's until recently gives Cosina/Voightlander and Zeiss the only real growth market for film shooters, because they are the only ones not competing against the used market (since even a used M2 or M3 in good condition costs more than an R2a) and they also offer some innovations not available elsewhere (flip-open backs, shutter speed meter readouts, ultra-wide-oriented VF's on the R4's).

    Apart from the very high-end (F6, EOS 1v, R9) and cheap student cameras (FM10) for people too dumb to buy used, there is no market today for new 35mm film SLR's. That may change in the future, but not anytime soon. especially since low-end AF SLR's are pretty much unwanted (they're the only SLR's dying fast enough that there might be a market in the near future).
     
  17. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    Whose money?
     
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  18. BobbyR

    BobbyR Member

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    As I said earlier, right now film is in a valley, natural wave, and digital is riding the newer is better, naturally extreme peak.

    As has happened with other mechanical (or electro-mechanical) products, fairly quickly the chaff falls by the wayside and only the best survives.
    Several, although it may be the same guy in multiple journals are already saying that in the 35mm area of the digital world, most likely what ever Canon and Nikon systems use will the be the only ones surviving in the not too far future.

    Digital becomes obsolete far faster than film ideas do, and the article I read, in a book store, predicted that the 4/3 system has a dim future, and anyone not latching onto whatever system Canon and Nikon think works best are history, that included Fuji and Sigma.

    I am not in the insider group that he gets his opinion from, but if I were betting, I would let some money ride on that opinion.
     
  19. DBP

    DBP Member

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    I suspect that another factor driving the glut of used cameras is that sales were particularly high in the 1960s and 1970s as SLRs entered common use among non-professionals. Many of those are now entering the used market due to the advanced age of the original owners. Unlike prior generations of cameras, however, the difference in performance between those and the current models is not great. Meanwhile, serious film photography is less popular than it was then. Add to that the widespread access to the market for used cameras (and everything else) as a result of the internet, and you have a natural imbalance between supply and demand. Until that evens out, either through attrition of the used camera supply or an increase in users, the market will remain depressed.

    Fundamentally, there is no technology built today that will make an SLR perform any better than a Nikon F3, assuming you want manual focus and fairly simple metering. And yet there are hundreds of thousands of cameras that are close to that performance standard already available. And good film cameras last an extraordinarily long time. So why would a manufacturer expect to sell any?
     
  20. BobbyR

    BobbyR Member

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    A camera that has a nearly full range of shutter speeds, without battery, is better than a F3.
    I think the LX was the last one.
    Bobby
     
  21. mawz

    mawz Member

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    The FM3a was the last one to offer such a feature, and unlike the LX, all shutter speeds were available (the LX only offers the speeds faster than sync). The FM3a was introduced around the same time as the LX was discontinued.

    The LX is a really nice camera, but as battery-independance goes, it's not all that practical in real life, especially considering the F3/MD-4 combo is AA powered in its entirety and AA's are ubiquitous and dirt cheap.
     
  22. jono1515

    jono1515 Member

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    If there were a new p&s sized film camera that offered full manual controls as well as aperture priority I'd buy it brand new for about as much as I'd be willing to spend on a similar digital camera like a Canon G9. And it'd be nice if it metered for really fast films like up to 3200 or so. I get tired of my old rangefinders that only meter up to 800 and require me to do extra work in my head to get to 3200.