I'd hate to interrupt the entertainment so I will try to be succinct.
(1) Kodak isn't film photography;
(2) The US and European markets aren't the entire market for film;
(3) Some of us use the "other" technologies quite happily but also still see plenty of reasons to shoot film;
(4) The value of film-derived art is going up, not down; and
(5) Film photography is not Kodak.
Could we...Should we, make a Kodak vs Polaroid corporate comparison?
Polaroid went through two bankruptcies; a reorganization in 2002(?), and a liquidation in 2008(?), IIRC.
There are far more traditional film users in 2012, (market demand), then there were instant-film users in 2002 and 2008.
Polaroid had far worse corporate executives, (and a very limited, [dead] product line) then Kodak ever had.
As with many companies in these trying times, Kodak needs to reduce their legacy costs, ie; retirement and health care.
We have seen the same reorganization happen with the major car manufacturing companies, airlines, and other [big-board] companies.
The sky is not falling. It's a bit cloudy, for sure, but Kodak's film division will survive for a long time to come.
I personally believe Keith has summed the situation up quite nicely with his item list, especially (1) and (5)...
"They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."
— Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs
I am not privy to their books, but I believe that Ilford have a far better position long term than do Kodak for film. The major part of Kodak's film business is colour film which goes to the motion picture industry, mostly in prints for distribution. Digital technology is replacing film for the distribution of film, which is leading to a massive drop in demand for colour film. Ilford product black and white film for the still imaging market, this has already gone through the major shrinking that resulted from digital imaging and is now stable, and possibly even growing.
Originally Posted by pentaxuser
It is because of this that I shifted virtually all of my workflow away from Kodak products to Ilford several years ago, and feel pretty comfortable that I will be able to grow old using Ilford film.
One of my clients has an old Dicomed BigShot sitting in a cardboard box under a table, complete with Mac OS 9 software and a SCSI cable. Talk about fully depreciated!
Originally Posted by vpwphoto
My prediction is that digital will begin to flatten out. My son's point and shoot makes a 16 MB file every time we make a snapshot. It's ridiculous! Every time we turn around we've got 4GB of movies and snapshots!
I usually shoot on a Canon 5D, but I rented a 5D Mark II last year for a large commercial job. In 16 bit, with a few layers, the files were so huge that I could barely handle them on my not very old Mac.
The two big medium format digital companies, Leaf and Phase One, have now merged into one unit, with the Leaf backs being rebranded for Mamiya. Seriously sexy stuff, if you can afford it, but not many people can, nor find it necessary, which is why the companies merged. The local rep called me with refurb Leaf 22MP backs on sale for $4K. (Very tempting, but I'd probably only use it for my personal work.
Like you said, the hardware couldn't support the digital cameras for a long time. I think we are moving in that direction again, only this time it's "How Much Data Do I Really Need?" cause these 24MP files are making my computer crawl!
The 5D files are beautiful at 20x30 and larger. A good RIP can take a 10" file and make it a flawless 30" print, no problem. More mega pixels means longer downloads, more storage needed, faster computers, faster internet, etc.
So, I've avoided upgrading for these very reasons, as have others. My first book was shot on the 5D and looked fantastic - what more do I need?
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I am not anti-film, but the patient is in cardiac arrest. It's death can be postponed perhaps forever if the right steps are taken now.
If you look at Kodak's books you see that Kodak is weighed down by pension and medical obligations. Chapter 11 will erase those. Very sad for those whose incomes and comfort disappear.
Kodak is also weighed down by debt accumulated to run its film production and distribution while the demand curve plummeted. Debt subsidized film for a very long time as Kodak de-leveraged production assets (blew them up). Gross revenues appear to have been maintained by the cinema side, but now that is collapsing as well. All analog product lines are unit-by-unit profitable, but the gross revenues are still in steep decline with no bottom. For a public company this is extremely problematic. They cannot borrow money to subsidize a declining product line, and they risk killing their other product lines if they cost-shift. Chapter 11 is aimed at unloading their film biz.
Debt was also used to fund the new investments in print operations and other digital positions. Those operations are actually profitable both against capital and operations, but they are burdened by the legacy debt and pension/medical loads. In fact, the Q3 statement shows the despite underlying economic headwinds, revenues were up. They had to discard some digicam lines but their imaging divisions made money. Sans the debt carried across all operations, and the benefits as well, this would actually be a success story. I do question, however, the long-term viability of the small printer market. Kodak sold their sensor business to deliver ink under a brand name. Kodak becoming a brand carrier for Made in China plastic ink boxes is a real decline in manufacturing and technical prowess. Not an Eastman concept. Truly tragic.
But for shareholders only the digital items contain any growth potential. This is backed up by the patent portfolio. The analog business is dead weight because there is falling demand. So Kodak will shed their film biz. As a public company and soon a creditor-demand company, they really have no choice.
But this is the troubling part. In order to buy the film biz, the new player, spin-off, white knight, venture capitalist, or whatever, will need to buy 3 things:
1) Buy the assets. They'll need the physical factories, the distribution channels, the IP for the analog side, and probably the Kodak brand name. Through Chapter 11 these might be had for a song. After all, digital Kodak needs these gone and the worth to Kodak shareholders may be nil because their operational overhead is a drag. Just get them off the books because further cost-shifting is not an option.
2) Buy the operational capital. Those factories require some pretty serious overhead to keep running and the lights on. They need raw materials and other supplies. They need to re-hire all the staff who just lost their pensions and medical benefits. They need to (desperately) retain the core engineering and R&D components and pay them in contract regardless of profitability. They need to keep their supply channels open or set up a new centralized web based delivery shop.
This is all pure overhead. Many companies borrow against future earnings to start a new business. That's the whole point of venture capital: keep the lights on while the market grows. Except this market is shrinking and no one knows the bottom. So whoever comes in will have to have money to burn while trying to find market bottom.
3) Buy the money. As noted above, most companies borrow money on a risk-weighted system to fund these concepts, especially through Chapter 11 and bankruptcy financing, because there is often a core, viable market. But with film the core market appears to be based on selling razor blades to people when virtually no one is making razors (cameras) anymore, and used razors are being sold at flea markets or junked. In the long run, borrowing money to fund both the asset purchase and the operational capital is a huge issue because without movement in the film camera market, there is no market for film in the on return on investment horizon. By definition there can't be. The cost of buying money is interest.
So no one will lend a new Kodak film operation money unless it is secured through surety against external assets. That's highly unlikely unless the new Kodak keeps film and cost-shifts. Certainly some creditors will not accept that proposition. The film business could be shuttered entirely because none can come up with enough operational capital or borrow it. Even a small volume operation is highly problematic because the scope of the production facilities etc. just do not scale down well, and core engineers will look elsewhere for personal job security (Dow, 3M, the oil patch). Roll, cinema, and cartridge film require large-scale industrial system to manufacture and precise, legacy knowledge through core personnel to execute.
A Kodak bankruptcy and a scenario where the film division is a troubled asset unable to find operational purchaser sends shockwaves through the remaining film producers and all those who depend on film processing, distribution, etc. It sends a signal to all creditors of Fujifilm, Ilford, and any other company making film that the market is in decline and your credit availability is under scrutiny. It sends a signal to all who extend credit to small photofinishing shops. It sends a credit risk signal to all suppliers of anything to do with analog film production and processing, period.
Any new creditors are going to be looking for the razor manufacturers as well, not just satisfied to keep lending money or extending credit to a guy making razor blades. Fuji is probably immune as they have almost entirely transitioned their biz to digital, but Ilford may struggle even if they gain some Kodak customers.
Someone used a car analogy. If I wanted to start a company making parts to go into biz making parts for pre-1980 Mustangs and Corvettes, my creditor is going to check to see how many of those vintage cars exist on the current market and what the depreciation is. If they see my market is a continually shrinking market, I will not get very limited credit. In short, the whole analog film business could be credit-starved (like greece) because of what is sign on with Kodak.
I focus on the lack of a coherent film/camera/processing dynamic because the Kodak shockwave is what every creditor throughout the industry is now going to zero in on. Even Mom & Pop photo labs clinging to a core market may feel the repercussions from this if they need to buy a refurbished Fuji Frontier on credit and such.
That's where I am coming from. It's my perspective because I have a background in this.
The most likely scenario is chapter 11 within a few weeks, followed by reorganization as a smaller company, followed by one or more additional bankruptcies, eventually ending in chapter 7 (liquidation).
Let's hope for another outcome. The miracle in all this is that the company has lasted so long in the face of a catastrophic loss of market for their main product.
Last edited by alanrockwood; 01-05-2012 at 08:42 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: spellling correction
Sorry to be so brash, but don't crap on the thread then your self, maybe?
You and I want to shoot high quality film? We both need to A. Fight for it. B. Either through our own work or through the promoting of others, show great film images on sites that are far more film specific than Flickr and are more along the lines of this one.
You can take it anyway you want, but I think it is high time things change in the way the film versus digital argument is presented.
Originally Posted by CGW
We've already seen this happen once. Around 2003, when digital came along in the form of the Canon 10D (which ROCKED) and Nikon D100 (which SUCKED), the mom and pop wedding and portrait labs imploded within about a year. Their business model was, take the film from the photographer, process it, proof it, make enlargements. All of the sudden, wedding photographers were using an inexpensive 6MP camera that equalled (more or less) the quality of a Hasselblad.
Originally Posted by Aristophanes
Now, even if you loved your Medium Format, the advantage of a $1500 digital camera over a $20 roll of process and proof 120 was obvious: no cost of sales (except for labor, which has to be included in either equation but which digital photographers seem somehow willing to absorb without compensation). You could make 100 photos as easily and at far less cost than you could make 10. Don't like them? Hit the delete key.
So four layers of profit for the Mom and Pop portrait and wedding labs vaporized: film sales; film processing; proof printing; and, ultimately, enlargements. Their whole business model vanished inside of a year. In 1992 Atlanta, there were four color labs less than 10 miles from my house. By 1994, they were all gone. There were many, many more around Atlanta, all gone, too.
Today, Atlanta has lost pretty much all of our analog shops. The only player left in E6 is on 10th street, and they are closed on Fridays! All the various other print shops either merged or went bankrupt. Showcase Photo/Video near my studio hardly stocks 120 anymore. I complained and they said no one's buying it.
A few places now specialize in large format inkjet, but even that is getting extremely competitive and they are dropping like flies. And this is in a very large metropolitan area. Woe be unto you if you live in a small town, like John Cougar Mellancamp.
Photography is -- through digital -- becoming increasingly decentralized. All you need is a camera and a computer. You can buy a $500 Canon pigment printer that can print on a Baryta paper and knock your socks off. I love me some film, but I don't make money with film, I make money with digital. That's the bottom line.
I mean, if you can't get film, you can always shoot wet plates! They can't take that away from you.
There is no film vs. digital.
Originally Posted by PKM-25
Film lost. Digital won. The baton has been passed to the progeny.
The web's standard downsampled scans cannot create a comparative environment, and frankly, a lot of digital output is superior. There is pretty much no objective way to say: "See. This is film and it is better than digital." You have to ask how many digital users really care and would even migrate to such a comparison. Not near enough to make a market difference. Flickr is awash with groups trying to do just that. You'd be howling into a hurricane. There is no outcry of consumer angst over the quality of digital output driving people to such comparisons. In fact, quite the opposite as the sales numbers show. The vast majority of people worldwide do digital because they prefer it. Period. All the technocrats in the analog side, bitter and all, are not going to change that.
Frankly, the key to film's survival is to not fight against digital. It is to accompany it. Lomography, parasitic as it is, has the right idea. Film is quirky, imperfect, subjective, stereotyped, nostalgic, humbling, slow, analog, limiting, unique, frustrating, archival, surprising, disappointing, and fun. To get where film can go unpredictably, digital requires hours of Photoshop or a Hipstamatic code driven by impersonal, third-party algorithms. It's the fast food of creativity. Digital can be very sterile, if technically precise. Film is uniquely stylistic and constraining in a manner that can liberate: "Well, I've only got Tri-X!". Digital often is a lot of silly work. Film can, if done right, offer a different, less perfect path that is more alchemy and Romantic than yet another session in front of a screen. "You press the button, we do the rest" is exactly what a lot of consumers need these days, albeit affordably. Film has the opportunity to be the thoughtful, philosophical kin of digital, whose muscular presence will from now on be the market norm, and overwhelmingly so as analog fades into a almost a sect-like niche. In the vast world of horticulture, film could be the equivalent of all those people who love orchids.
The binary superior vs. inferior argument plays to digital's strength, not its weaknesses. Where film advocates absolutely lose the argument and the interest of consumers is where there is a qualitative comparison to digital, because that is an argument film will always lose, especially as digital continues to evolve. Digital is only just starting to realize its full potential as an image capture system, and that's a horse film cannot catch. So analog film's other strengths must become core to the marketing. George Eastman had it right decades ago.
The caveat is that film cannot exist without a certain volume of production and economy of scale, without which it disappears completely. This applies to both the cameras and the film inside, and an economical way of processing those images and getting them in multiple ways into the hands of consumers looking for the difference film offers. My concern is I have yet to see a comprehensive plan to make that where both he right and left brain arguments coalesce into a financially viable market structure. The vision and the money are not paired and I am afraid that the path may only be known in hindsight because people are fighting long lost battles in the present. By then the factories are shuttered and no one is willing to risk reviving analog.
Maybe Ilford can struggle along for 20 years on refurbished AE-1's, but I doubt it. I would not extend credit to that company unless I saw their plan to re-capitalize the installed roll and cartridge film camera base as it suffers from the inevitable entropy all mechanical products are subject to.
Last edited by Aristophanes; 01-05-2012 at 10:09 PM. Click to view previous post history.