Kodak's down? Tri-X will survive...
(I have posted this also in the Rangefinder forum.)
The Tri-X is a feasible product to invest on for it can be regarded as lucrative production for a small establishment, not for a conglomerate running with excessive overhead. Reasons:
- Last year Ilford was offering the HP5+ twin-packs for as low as $5.00 and triple-packs recently for $9.79 (Freestyle); meaning despite of the rising silver prices and shrinking demand they are able to make some profit by offering a 36-exposure roll for less than $4.00 retail.
- Small quantities seem to be not much issue for small companies: Adox even in the ‘70s was a minor manufacturer with a very limited range of B&W films and still surviving today more or less with the same products. (Even a 20ASA CMS20 has survived, think about how many rolls sold in 2011!! Why concern about the fate of the Tri-X!)
- As far as film is concerned, our income level/buying power has never been so convenient during the last half-century as it is today. In 1977 a 36-exp. Tri-X was $1.35 and the HP5 was $1.19, whereas the Summicron 35 was $208 and the Summilux 35 was $262 (and the black M4 was $749.50 ). Taking into account that the Summilux 35 then was costing as much as 200 rolls of Tri-X, you be the judge. (For long years many of us had to use 100’ rolls to spare cost)
- Finally, the new owner do not need to employ an R&D team to improve the Tri-X for the great majority of the users are happy with the present quality of the ISO400 films. (Meaning least overhead...)
Film is not anymore for the masses.. So what? The automatic watches too are not for the masses. Why do some people still buy the fountain pens or vinyl records? Is art also for everyone? Some things are irreplaceable; spending four hours in the kitchen to prepare a splendid dinner may not be for everyone too.
I'm trying to look at the glass half full too. Thing is Kodak the analog photography business was not doing too badly, it was just the rest of the company that was an organizational train wreck. At least with Chapter 11 Kodak, if there is a will to survive could come out a lot leaner and hopefully adapt something closer to Harmon Ilford in the UK in terms of a business model, only with colour film, paper and the motion picture business added on.
Hopefully there is change in executive management as well actually have a new team that understands the product they are selling.
My two cents from an automatic watch wearing fountain pen user.
"Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once and a while, you might just miss it."
I listen to LP's shoot film, but love my Kindle.
Originally Posted by Uncle Bill
Let's stop trying to predict the future.
Have a great day all.
I'd like to hear Photoengineer's take on this.
If I had been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better arrangement of the Universe.
Alfonso the Wise, 1221-1284
Let's face it, Kodak is toast! They are looking for the next consumer product that will keep the revenue stream going to support failing management. How many IPhone users print out the pictures that they take? I supported them for years but have moved on. Hopefully the company will be split up and a group of investors steps in and buys the film division. This is a niche market and Ilford realized this. I suggest that you support viable companies that cater to this market, Steven.
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Harman Ilford is a private company. We don't know there finances or even if they are making a profit. I doubt that Ilford is persistenly running a loss but who really knows?
I wonder if Tri-X (or something very close to it) could be re-created on a low-volume coating line, preferably one that already exists.
It seems to me that there are three black and white films that might be worth salvaging from the Kodak wreckage, if possible: Tri-X, Tmax 100, and Tmax 400. I would like to add Plus-X to the list, but it seems too late for that, and besides there are probably reasonably good substitutes for Plus-X already out there.
What if one could only save one of those three products? What would it be? I suppose for the more traditionally minded it would be Tri-X. Really, I think each could make a good claim to be the keeper. Probably from the most objective perspective (if such a thing exists, or could even be possible) Tmax 400 might be the best choice.
Kodak's Chapter 11 may result in a spin off of the film division into a new Kodak leaving the losses, patents, real estate, etc. in the old. This reorg is not uncommon and leaves the profitable divisions in a position to either be sold off or continue in a smaller and leaner company; think about the GM reorg and the GM automaker of today is not the original company but the new spun off company. Much will depend on the mindset of the present manager and BoD as to whether they've thrown in the towel or are trying to save the company in a meaningful way.
I think it's fair to remember that Ilford has gone through bankruptcy, and resurfaced under new management and structure.
Kodak is about to go down the same path, and we don't know yet what will come out of the chaos.
Since I know squat about finance, I'll stick to the "it can swing either way" interpretation....
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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Even if the formula for Tri-X were to be made public, it is not likely that anyone could produce it. The formula is quite complex and involves many manufacturing steps that just don't work out in small scale. If TriX were easy to make there would be companies making it right now by reverse engineering. See how many 400 speed B&W films out there come up to the TriX standard of imaging and coating quality!
I may as well post this:
The left picture is the SIMPLE version of the Kodak production scale kettle. The right picture is the washing schematic. Both are in patents which are still valid BTW but will expire soon IIRC.
Only Ilford and Fuji can come close but it does not show the fact that special mixing is required in the form of a shrouded turbine mixer. So.... for about $1M you can begin building your plant. You will need all of the above plus a coater a slitter & chopper, IR scanner for quality control, casettes, 120 & 220 film paper and rolls, etc. etc..
I'm getting tired of people who don't think this out. It is not like pressing a vinyl record or making a tape recording or even an HDTV DVD. After all, I made 2 DVDs with about 5 hours of action and had them reproduced for sale, all from my home. I can make film and paper too, but the quality of each is very very different. The films and papers do not move much past the 1945 era! I have tried recent or modern emulsions form the 90s here at home and failed so far.
The early emulsions are easy. Coating 10 sheets or plates is easy, provided the speed is about ISo 1 - 100. Beyond that, quality in terms of coating defects, speed and fog go awry quickly. A nickel and dime plant will face the same problems on a gigantic scale and startup will run in the millions.
Last edited by Photo Engineer; 01-07-2012 at 11:33 PM. Click to view previous post history.