After a rather prolonged hiatus (for purely circumstantial reasons) I thought this to be as good a reason as any to resume posting to Apug. Over the years, the question of whether one company or supplier remains a going concern never failed to bring the debaters out of the woodwork.
In truth, the more pertinent aspect of Kodak's reality has far less to do with the company's ultimate future and more with the place its products hold in your (the photographer's) workflow. I remember back in the day when Agfa was teetering on the brink. The Apug forums ran amuck with predictions, speculation and in retrospect, a good deal of wishful thinking.
Rather then joining the parade, I opted to research suppliers holding whatever little remained of Agfa's prized Rodinal stock. The effort paid off and as I type this, I'm sitting on more bottles of the stuff then I could ever hope to use in a single lifetime!
Upon hearing the news of Kodak's precarious situation, almost immediately I felt the gears turning in my head. A decision needs to be made, but rather then speculating Kodak's future, this one is really very simple: How much do I love Tri-x. How many formats do I want to keep? How much can I afford to buy/store? Far simpler to contemplate then the casino royale that is Kodak's balance sheet!
To my friends and colleagues on Apug I only have this to say:
If you love the film and want to ensure its availability for your personal use, beyond speculation of buy outs and spin-offs, simply reach into your pockets and vote with your credit card!
1000 rolls of Kodak film @ around $4.00/roll on average would cost $4k. A solid quantity to have on hand and certainly well-worth ensuring the availability of this iconic medium. If the film disappears, your $4000 would probably be well invested in tangible Tri-X stock, should you ever wish to recoup your investment (and then some..)
And so, in practical terms, the matter of Kodak's continuity is actually a question of $4,000.00 or thereabouts.
Now all you have to ponder is whether that price is worth your while. If not, then I don't think you'll miss it all that much after all, even if the worst comes to pass.
Perfect post. I love it.
Originally Posted by stormbytes
Thank-you sir. That is very useful information.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
To echo Photo Engineer, I think the two facets most people underestimate is the quality control and non-scalability of costs. Nobody wants a product which changes with each roll or which has serious flaws in coating. Kodak itself tried to construct coating plants in China in the late 80's/early 90's which were never able to maintain the quality control film products demand. You have to remember that if your coating is off by 1/10 of a millimeter, it is out of alignment by perhaps 100 times. So, even if you have the formula, the set-up of the coating process and quality control will take as much money as the formula. Second, the reason a roll is under $5 is because they run it by the hundreds of meters at a time. Making 100 meters is not 1/5 the cost as making 500 meters, due to wasted material to spool the machine up to speed or slow it down prior to or after coating and quality errors. Finally, assuming you have the formula, have the equipment to replicate it, have properly calibrated machines and have run several hundred meters of film, now you have to have the supply chain to sell it. Would you trust brand XYZ Tri-X? How many people assume it is different and simply drop it from their usage routine?
Another thread (I don't remember which) had a link to a British government site, listing Harman's expenses and gross revenue: Ilford makes around $20 million a year in sales, for profits of $1 million. My local Costco location (I worked there at one point) does more sales than that in a year, and it is the smallest Costco in Canada! Some of the large Costco locations do more than that in less than a month. Even if they wanted to, Harman/Ilford probably does not have the funds to purchase the patent, never mind start-up costs for production.
As for hoarding, I think this is understandably bad long-term thinking: photographers are justifiably scared a favorite product will disappear and purchase a large amount to ensure they can continue to use it. The company sees a short-term blip of increased sales followed by a long-term drop in sales as photographers use their stash rather than purchase more product. However, people dropping film as their medium of choice and photographers using their stash look identical to a balance sheet. It would be much better to rotate stock, so purchase 100 rolls and when you use up 10 rolls, buy 10 more rolls and put them at the bottom of the pile. This way, product demand continues and you keep your stash.
I agree with this, but a few things come to mind that make it a tough decision for me....
Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler
On one hand what Stormbytes says makes sense for me just to cover my rear in terms of having at least 5 years worth of stock for projects, workshops. But a thousands rolls is a ton of film even for full time use, it took me two years to go through that much Kodachrome.
But this situation with Kodak is as volatile and uncertain as it gets and frankly more distressing than Kodachrome getting nixed. I knew that KR was getting cut at some point years ago because of how archaic it was. While I like HP5, shot a roll this evening in 120, I just know Tri-X really well like a lot of shooters do and love the look and versatility of it.
So I am looking at good amounts of it in 35mm via Freestyle Arista which is great and several hundred rolls of it in 120. Then there are the 100 rolls each of Ektar and Tmax 100 in 120....this is getting expensive and quick....but it is worth the investment.
So I am about $1,500 into covering my rear and can do another 2K before I hit the wall on my annual film budget, 3-3.5K is the best I can do. I will spend that 2K if the crap hits the fan, otherwise I will do like you are saying and simply rotate and replenish stock as needed.
You shouldn't really need to buy 'thousands' of rolls, unless you really need to buy 'thousands' of rolls, in which case just buy it :)
Originally Posted by PKM-25
You're right. Tri-X is a lot more like Portriga-Rapid then KC. While there are certainly other, well made emulsions to be had, Tri-X has no parallel. It's iconic. Its tonal scale, grain structure, latitude, forgiveness and cult following makes it a deeply-seeded personal choice.
Originally Posted by PKM-25
With rising silver costs, even if it does stick around, chances are buying in at the current price point will prove itself in the financial sense. And there's always eBay, should you find yourself low on cash.
Originally Posted by PKM-25
I remember when Agfa keeled over, there several different Adox flavors of Rodinal, and each got its share of flames and controversy. Agfa-OEM Rodinal was selling for $50/1L.
Ok, hoarding! ;)
Film is like meat or produce. It goes bad. Analog vinyl records keep on the shelf forever, film does not.
Freeze it, go ahead! It still goes bad. Gradually, but it goes bad. Radiation you know. So, on dealers shelves and in your freezer, film is decaying. And what is not sold is returned to EK. Oh my, that is a B**ch! That eats into profits!
So, here we are with a perishable product that is produced by the "ton" and then has to face a failing market. Go ahead, hoard. Eventually, it will go bad, fast film before slow film, but bad. It may take 1 year, 10 years or 20 years, that depends on your freezer temp or refrigerator temp but it will go bad. I have some slow film that is still good at room temp since the 70s. but I have some 90s film frozen that is bad now, less than 20 years later.
a) It's Tri-X. Frankly, while it's good, it's not *that* good. Sure it's iconic ("cult following" says it all) but frankly I think that's more in the name and history than the emulsion, particularly because Tri-X is not now what it was 10 or 20 years ago. Can you honestly tell me there is something you can do with Tri-X that you absolutely cannot do with some other film like HP5? I would find that really, really hard to believe. I think the loss of TMY2, Portra and Ektar will be a bigger blow to photographers than an old-style B&W emulsion that isn't very different from at least one (profitable) competitor's product.
b) While I'm sure I can't make Tri-X in my shed (and I make a lot of shit in my shed) and I'm quite prepared to believe that Tri-X is more complicated than an old Efke emulsion, I don't think that's relevant. The fact that Ilford can competently and profitably manufacture HP5 and all the rest on a smaller scale is a good demonstration that similar films can be made on a smaller scale. No one needs to be able to make 10 rolls at a time as long as some small company is happy to make 1000 or 10,000 rolls at a go.
c) Stockpiling, whatever. Certainly if you depend on a particular film for your particular style, if you buy enough to last you a while then you know you'll be able to use it for a while. You're kidding yourself though if you think the manufacturers will even notice your sale in one direction or another, even if you buy a thousand rolls - that's peanuts in the scale that they operate on even in these reduced times. That's only two cartons of films, and the big distributors buy the stuff by the pallet. You are not going to prop up Kodak by buying a huge personal stash now instead of later, and you are not going to sink Kodak by using up a stash instead of buying a couple rolls each week. Don't forget to factor in a couple hundred $ each year for freezer electricity costs!
Some of us have no choice when a product is discontinued, especially if creative projects require it. The freezer I am using will hold 3,000-4,000 rolls depending on format, it is about 2/3rd full. It has lead sheeting on the interior and exterior, is only used for film and is at around -10F.
in 2006, I bought 50 rolls of 2424 Aerographic infrared David Romano re-spool, have shot 20 rolls of it, 8 this past Summer, it is perfect! When HIE was discontinued, I got 75 rolls from Samy's, again, perfect. Nothing I have is faster than ASA 400 in deep storage. I have Delta 3,200 in the other freezer, but I use that up annually, only shoot 10 rolls a year max...
I agree, hoarding is not a good long term market practice when you want to support a company, but once a product is on the chopping block, stock up, what choice do you have?
Life is too short to not take a chance and I have years of projects to do. Either way, I am watching this development daily and have a full cart at Freestyle waiting to go. I wish it were not this way and I could do like I always have and buy 100 rolls each of Tri-X in 35mm & 120 per year, but this is my career we are talking about here, so I'll take my chances...
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
You are right. There are two points of view in this situation. I would also point out the extraordinary lengths you go to to prevent the problems I have brought up! Many people cant or wont change. Others find alternative products.
I wish both groups achieve their goals.
Please, lets get together again if you make it to Rochester.