edz has some very good points.
The photograpic industry has for a long time (well, since its inception infact) had no other competition in the form of other technologies. To add to this the market has been dominated by a few major players for years and years.
As has happened before, in many other industries, change suddenly occours.
Now these operators need the best management and production available to compete - but they don't have it because over the years they have been apathetic, not driving the business forward and, as the famous British businessman John Harvey-Jones once put it, they have been putting a "lot of effort into maintaining the status quo" leaving themselves wide open to attack.
It seems that Kodak probably falls into this category. Now there seems to be a company quite obviously run by a team of accountants - notice how the price of Kodak products keeps going up and up and up. A classic scenario, trading on brand alone. It just wont cut it when there are many many other good companies selling products of comparable quality, and appeal, for a cheaper price (and I'm not talking about traditional film products here). The fact that this is happening is evidence too of their own arrogant belief in the value of their brand.
Everyone knows you can't maintain this in todays market for any product - look at the appalling mess Mercedes Benz find themselves in having, in the last few years relied disproportionatly on their brand.
I actually wonder if Kodak will be around in its current form, or even at all, in a few years time. Be ready for an announcement like "Kodak sells film manufacturing wing to Chinese"
I just want to go into the boardroom and bang their heads together!
Matt, there are a lot of good points being made here. Never forget the fact that the people at the head of all of these companies are 'just people' though. They make mistakes just like we do.
One of yours is to say prices are going up and up and up. I can remember how expensive a roll of color film or a box of color paper was back in the 50s. One box of 25 sheets of 8x10 in 1959 cost about what a 100 sheet box does today. The process chemistry was similarly expensive IIRC. In terms of today's dollars, the cost of color and B&W papers both has gone down by quite a bit, as has the process chemistry.
Now, that expensive paper was sold when there was no competition so to speak of except between Kodak and Agfa. Fuji and the others were not to be seen outside of the far east.
A roll of Kodachrome in Japan, with processing included, was over $10 in 1960. That was with competition from Fuji and Konica right there on the shelves with Afga. I used Japanese color films back then. They cost less. They were not as good as Kodachrome though and I regret not using Kodachrome or Kodacolor back then, just from the quality standpoint.
So, competition today has beat down prices quite a bit and has caused the companies to become very efficient with high speed coating and production running 24/7/365 to keep up with demand. Kodak could hardly keep up with its ww demand for film and paper and was literally forced to build the factories it did with that capacity.
Suddenly, the market turned around. It hit every photo company.
The other thing to realize when you are considering Kodak is that they were and to a smaller extent still are involved in a number of other businesses (albeit with photographic roots or connections).
They used to be a very large (non-photographic) chemical manufacturer - they competed with the likes of Dupont and others.
They also used to retail directly to professionals and others - in another post here there is reference made to TreckHall in Toronto, a professional photographic supplier. TreckHall is (as I understand it) the descendant of Treck Photographic, a company set up when Kodak sold its professional retail division (Eastman Photo stores, IIRC) to a number of its employees.
I refer to this to point out that, in the past, Kodak and others did compete in very competitive markets, and did do business in a variety of different ways. They had tremendous success, and they grew and prosperred. Their size and the complexity of their organization and their focus on analog materials may have left them inflexible and unable to respond appropriately to the massive and quick changes in the industry, but it is not necessarily the case that they are failing now, just because they had it easy before.
There will always be a market for film photography, B&W in particular. Yes, I said market. As in professional work. Right now its a wave of digital induced euphoria, and I have no doubt of its (digital's) continuing dominance -but I also think that with clever marketing or without, there will be a snobby elite that will demand "silverprints" just as they demand handbuilt cars and wine that is hand made from beginning to end. And I think the post with the TV add in it is exactly what the film photo industry needs - a spin. Good advertisement can be the difference between a prdouct that also sells and one which becomes a phenomenon. Remember - most of the marketing successes over the years were due to a successful presentation of a concept, and a sale of that concept as a whole - not a product, but the whole idea. And I think any marketing student who does not see this simple truth will be fetching a lot of coffee in what fails to be their career.
well I finally quit resisting and read this whole thread (the high point for me was PE's elephant joke) The questions of what will survive and what won't, when, why and maybe even will it return are just too complex to predict. But what has to be clear to everyone is that the heyday of film photography is over, dead, gone, not to be resurrected. No amount of marketing will ever bring it back into the fore.
Keep in mind I said film's heyday is what is over. Analog will never completely go away but a small group of devotes will not change what is essentially a market driven sea change. Mom and Pop are no longer grabbing a film camera and snapping pics of the kids at Disneyland. Grandma and Grandpa are no longer expecting to be sent an annual 8x10 of the grand kids, they're being e-mailed all they want year round.
Those in the actual biz of selling film and paper will make similar decisions about the fate of one product or another based mostly on the same thing Kodak did, the ability to make a profit. I don't think that at the end of the day Ilford, or any other multinational corporation has much power to change that.
There is hope in smaller companies. There will be more sensitivity and personal dedication to the art of photography such as shown by J&C and others and therein maybe lies our salvation.
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Very good comments here. I agree totally.
We are about at the point where handcrafted works of art using handmade B&W and yes, even color photographic materials will become things to be sought after and treasured. About 50 years ago, dye transfer portraits went for $10,000 each from high end portrait studios. They were quite the rage in some circles.
The future of analog may be the same.
I believe it so strongly that it is the driving force behind all of my emulsion and coating experimentation. I'm trying to make it work, and work well, so that I can pass it on in some fashion to all of the artists out there who want this medium to continue to be available to them.
I can buy film and paper, I prefer to create. I want to teach others how to do what I can do.
This may be a tiny bit off-topic, but the thought crossed my mind as I read through this thread:
Anybody know what will happen to the coating machinery at Agfa and Kodak? Will they just be dismantled and tossed into the dumpster out behind the factory? Sold as scrap metal? Get melted-down to make tire rims? Sold to Ilford, Kentmere or Efke to handle the excess volume? Or just re-tooled and recycled to make frozen pie crust? What?
PE, this question falls into your domain with regard to your (admirable) ideal of passing on emulsion making techniques. Which brings up a second —perhaps naïve— question (especially addressed to Photo Engineer): What would be the possibility of building "tiny", garage-sized (or smaller) coating machines? Afterall, this kind of down-sizing isn't unusual for traditionally huge production processes. Remember, not so long ago (early 1970's?), traditional photofinishing machinery meant "BIG". Then came Noritsu and the one-hour craze. The desk-top paper processors. Today, a commercial photofinishing machine can often be smaller than yesterday's Xerox machine.
Heck, if they even make bread-making machines where you just add flour, yeast and water, turn it on and go watch TV till your loaf is baked . . . why can't the same be done for photo paper, right? Kidding aside, is it so silly to imagine "micro photo paper" manufacturers, on the example of micro breweries, for instance?
If my friends at Ilford, Kentmere, FotoImpex and Bergger want to strangle me after reading this, please relax. You know it ain't gonna happen. Even if it did, don't forget that neighborhood micro-breweries, the tiny pale-ale breweriesand commercial breweries exist happily, side-by-side (yes, I realize that the market volume isn't at all comparable, but you get my point).
Hey, manufacturers, here's an idea: along with selling us your finished products (which we'll continue to buy 'cause it's a sure thing), why not also offer us a "home coating machine" and sell us the raw paper stock, emulsion,
a cutting machine and a CD-ROM/DVD training program (starring PE, of course)?
By the way, if you ever see this idea realized, remember— you saw it here, first!
Any thoughts about my crazy fantasy?
Last edited by Christopher Nisperos; 11-22-2005 at 05:20 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Eastman Kodak donated one coating machine to RIT back about 20 years ago when the original Research Labs building was demolished. I have no idea what RIT did with it. I heard that it was never even used.
The more recent 'decomissioning' went more like a demolition from what I hear, but I wasn't there to see it close up. However, many of the machines are still there sitting idle and mothballed I have been told.
The Agfa plant in the US was just auctioned off piecemeal. This was widely advertized a few months back.
Polaroid has machines mothballed or just sitting idle.
A 5 inch wide coating machine is about the size of a 2 car garage and will coat B&W or color. The biggest problem is the air conditioning, water and power setup you will need for it. A 10 inch coating machine would occupy the better part of two ranch houses. One for the machine and the other for support equipment.
A full size machine is about the size of a football field, but rather up and down and folded on itself to take up less space. Considering that a master roll is 42" wide and over 5000 ft long, you see how large the paper roll is and how much space it takes up.
OTOH, a small hand coating operation can turn out about 1 dozen 8x10 sheets in about 2 hours time. It takes about 1 hour to make enough emulsion to do that. So, a micro-coating operation probably couldn't pay for itself unless it was a high end art form or a labor of love. The upside is that it is so simple that anyone who can turn out a reasonable photograph in a home darkroom can do this.
Another upside is that I can coat on just about any paper support I want with some beautiful rich effects that I cannot buy off the shelf anymore. I use Watercolor and Vellum surface papers which are very nice substrates. I can also vary my contrast, dmax and curve shape to my liking. So, I can actually match the paper to the negative in more flexible ways.
IMHO, the hand coated micro photo paper would be too costly, but the DIY kit would be a reasonable expense to the dedicated hobbyist. If someone could get a 10" or 11" machine, then supporting it would be feasible and the cost would drop dramatically and your idea would be practical. I believe that the product would vary more than from major manufacturers and you would see 'vintage' coatings and 'duds' from time to time if this were to take place. In this latter scenario, startup costs would be the killer. You might get the machine for a song, but learning how to make and coat adequate products would require a - Photographic Engineer. There are not many of us left.
OK, thanks, PE. I'll go back to sleep and keep dreaming!
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
I still think a TV ad would never happen, A "viral Ad" now that would work, Think about it a 30 second ad shot on B&W film then sent around the web by people who like it, It would need some shoking images and semi knacked ladies ETC! That would be great for Ilford, If I was a film student Id shoot it myself!
Originally Posted by gnashings