Photokina 2012: Report (English version)
Dear film friends,
here now as promised my Photokina report in English.
Sometimes it has indeed advantages to live in Germany ;). Especially all two years when it is Photokina time again :).
So as you are far away from Cologne, living in sunny California, the prairies of the midwest, in New England and the lone star state. You film photographers from the endless wide of Canada, the Scottish Highlands and Englands Midlands, the shores of Ireland and the unique nature of South Africa; you film lovers Down Under and in New Zealand, you European neighbours from Scandinavia and from all other countries all over the world, united here at apug.
I’ve been your ears and eyes, visiting the film related booths at Photokina and talking there to the manufacturers. Well, I’ve had only two days time, and a part of this time had to be reserved for my own topics (some film and lens manufacturers has been interested in the test results of our non-profit test-lab).
Because of this limited time I could not visit all manufacturers I wanted to. But nevertheless I’ve talked to all relevant film manufacturers and some film camera manufacturers and bigger film distributors, too.
So here we go, in alphabetical order:
At Arca Swiss a prototype of a new Ultra Large Format Camera was presented. A camera designed especially for formats bigger than 8x10”. This new camera will definitely be produced, production start is in the next months.
At the booth I had a very interesting talk to well known photographer, former ‘thiaps’ founder (and here at Photokina Arca Swiss rep.) Urs Bernhard: He said that Arca Swiss see increasing interest and demand in Large Format Film Photography. And the increasing interest is especially from younger photographers.
By the way, an increasing demand for sheet film was confirmed to me by some bigger European distributors I’ve talked to at Photokina.
DHW-Fototechnik (Rolleiflex cameras and projectors):
At DHW the whole programm was presented, especially the new TLR Rolleiflex 2,8 FX-N with a closer focus distance (now only 0,55m), and the improved hybrid (4,5x6 and 6x6 film backs; digital backs) Hy6. I had a very informative talk with Mr Schönrock of DHW.
The current FX has a new focus machanism which allows a closer minimal focus. The new focus mechanism is similar to the one used in the Tele-Rolleiflex 4,0 FT.
The optical design of the lens is the same (Planar). The new lens name "S-Apogon" is now used because the licence agreement had expired. The demand for the Rolleiflex TLRs has been very stable over the years, and is recently just slightly increasing. The highest demand comes from Asia, especially from Japan, where these cameras have always been very popular.
I’ve had the luck to visit the factory in Brunswick, Lower saxony, in 2007 and 2008. Very fascinating how these camera jewels are produced. A wonderful combination of extremely precise mechanics and high performance optics (most of the lenses are made by themselves in their factory).
DHW has been very satiesfied with the interest for their products at Photokina. Interest was much better than expected. For the new, improved Hy6, too. He told me that about 35% of the Hy6 customers are (also) using the Hy6 with film.
At the Foma booth I had a nice talk to Dana Hojná, Deputy Commercial Director. Foma obeserves a quite stable demand for their BW products. Recently they have invested in improved quality, e.g. better 120 film converting.
Mirko Böddecker told me that Fotoimpex is getting more orders for film, the film demand is increasing. And they want to satisfy this demand with new offers and new films.
Therefore they’ve introduced three new film types at Photokina: The Adox Silvermax, Adox Colour Implosion and the Super8 Reverso BW reversal film. The interest for the Silvermax was much better than expected, they were sold out after a few days.
BW reversal film specialist Klaus Wehner (www.schwarz-weiss-dia.de) presented some Silvermax BW slides developed in his own reversal process at the Adox booth. They looked stunning (I’ve also already tested this film in his process and the Scala process and can confirm his results). The Silvermax slides looked similar, but not identical to Scala 200X slides.
The three new films are not at all related to the recent decision by Fotokemika to stop their production. These three projects have been in the work at Adox for some months, and have absolutely nothing to do with the Fotokemika topic.
Furthermore Mirko Böddecker emphasised that only a small part of the current Adox product programme is affected by the production stop at Fotokemika, mainly the CHS films. Films like the new Silvermax, Colour Implosion, Reverso and the Adox CMS 20 are not affected at all. And the MCC, MCP and Variotone BW papers are not affected as well, because they are produced in cooperation with InovisCoat (MCC/MCP) and Ilford (Variotone).
Concerning the Adox products which are affected by the production stop at Fotokemika Adox has started an intensive analyse of both the technical / production and the demand / market situation of possible replacement products. If the result of this analyse would be that there is a chance for an economic sustainable production, then Adox will start action.
In addition the intensive work on creating new Polywarmtone paper is continued. First tests are encouraging, but there is still a very long way to go. And there is no guarantee of success. Photo film and paper production on industrial scale is absolutely high-tech work, very very complex, both science and art (highly recommended to learn about it: the book “Making Kodak Film” by Robert Shanebrook).
The development of the Adox factory made significant progress this year: Meanwhile cutting and packaging of 135, 120, sheet film and photo paper can be made at the factory.
The talk at Fujifilm has been probably my most surprising one at this years Photokina, fortunately in a positive way (I had a very long and detailed talk with Ralf Boll, Product- & Key Account Manager, Photo Imaging Products):
The production stop of the majority of Fuji’s motion picture film types does not affect the photo film production in a negative way. It’s even a bit the contrary, because the motion picture business was not profitable any more, it made losses. And these losses are now cut, which is strengthening the photo film production.
And supposedly there has been a deal between Fujifilm and Kodak concerning motion picture film.
Fujifilm presented the re-introduced Neopan 400 (135). Visible both in the showcase and the brochures at their booth. Due to the responsible product manager the reasons for the Neopan 400 comeback are
- Fujifilm has successfully solved the problems with one raw material, which caused the former production stop
- they see increasing demand in this film segment
- in Germany the Fujifilm BW film sales of the last three years have been the highest they ever had (new sales record)
- there is an increasing interest in film from younger photographers.
He said that if there is new interest and sufficient / increasing demand than Fujifilm is in principle willing to re-introduce films. At least there is no "if the production has stopped, the product will never, ever come back" policy at Fujifilm.
It's all about demand.
Increasing demand is also the reason why Fujifilm has introduced a new Instax camera for their smaller Instax instant film system. There is increasing popularity for Instax especially by younger and female photographers. The Instax system was presented at an own booth at Photokina. Visitors had the possibility there to take shots with the Instax cameras. There was a big crowd when I visited this Instax booth.
Besides their new Instax camera two new silver halide colour photo papers (for the increasing market of photobooks) were introduced. Fujifilm is world market leader in silver halide colour papers.
Reversal film: Fujifilm will continue production of colour reversal film.
The sales of Fujichrome slide films in Germany during the last 12 months have been stabilised, even with a small increase of 2-3%. And that despite the huge hoarding of Kodak slide film which occured in the last months in the German market. That is an encouraging signal.
The German reversal film market is one of the most important worldwide (reversal film and projection has always been very popular here). Due to Mr Boll the German slide film market is as big as the whole remaining European market. The ratio is about 1:1, slide film sales in the rest of Europe (all countries) are on the same level as Germany only sales figures.
Concerning the discontuniation of Sensia 100 he said that that was due to the increasing raw material costs (especially silver; and the problematic exchange rates: the Yen has increased by 60% (!) against the Euro during the last five years). Sensia 100 has always been extremely popular in Germany, and the demand was not the major problem. But slide film has a much higher silver content than CN film, and they therefore must have raised the price for Sensia 100 to a level only 1€ less than Provia 100F. And in this case they assume that most photographers would go for Provia 100F instead, with the better batch to batch consistency of professional film and the supply chain with refrigerated storage.
We’ve also discussed the fate of Astia 100F. We both like this film a lot for its exceptional quality. He said that Astia 100F has been one of the best (if not the best) colour film they've ever made. A film with excellent natural and accurate colors. Lots of professionals used this film in situations when the most accurate colour reproduction has been needed, e.g. at shooting paintings and art work. If you photograph the Kodak colour test chart and comapare it with an Astia 100F shot of this chart, the differences are minimal.
And it's the slide film with the best dynamic range. It's an excellent all around film, very flexible and useful in very different shooting situations. But the huge mistake Fujifilm had done was to market Astia 100F only as a portrait and fashion film. Well, Astia is excellent for that, but can much much more. As a long Astia 100F user myself, who has used this film in lots of different situations, I can completely agree with him. This film is outstanding and a real jewel of modern colour film production. And yes, it was absolutely counterproductive to market this excellent all around film only as portrait and fashion film. That marketing strategy has had a very negative impact on sales volume. We as Astia 100F users both agree on all of that concerning Astia 100F (outstanding quality and marketing errors).
But, according to him it is not completely excluded that Astia 100F might come back one time. It's all about demand. As there is at least no general "if the production has stopped, the product will never, ever come back" policy at Fujifilm. We've seen evidence in the past with the Velvia 50 re-introduction in 2007, and currently with Neopan 400 and the new Instax camera. New, fresh, increasing demand can indeed change the situation.
The following must happen to get Fuji thinking about new Astia 100F production:
- At first stabilisation of reversal film sales worldwide (not only in Germany). So a development we are currently seeing in some other market segments (e.g. professional BW and CN films).
- After that a certain increase in sales so that the market can absorb the production volume of another reversal film.
- A sound (increasing) demand for Provia 100F (and 400X), those films who are most similar to Astia 100F. Only an increasing demand for the Velvias would probably not encourage Fujifilm to think about a new Astia 100F production.
So improving the chance of getting Astia 100F back means shooting as much as possible Provia 100F and 400X, and simultaneously asking Fuji for an Astia revival.
Again: The message I got from all manufacturers at Photokina was: It's all about demand. We produce everything you want if there is sufficient demand. In the end it's in our hands: Shooting only a little film and doing the rest in digital: Then we are part of problem. Shooting film like hell and additionally encourage other photographers to try film, than we are part of the solution.
Reversal film , both BW and Colour, is an absolutely unique photographic medium with unique strengths and characteristics. A very important part of the photographic culture, which absolutely deserves to stay alive. It would be a very big loss for photography if reversal film would disappear.
Fujifilm also is observing a development, that an increasing number of very young photographers, who have grown up solely with digital photo technique, is now discovering film as a photographic medium. Digital is everyday life for them, nothing special, and therefore also a bit boring. They are looking for new, exciting experiences in photography, finding that in film. With film’s different characteristics and strenghts.
Concerning the future of film production at Fujifilm he was quite relaxed and optimistic, assuming that in 20 years, when he will retire, Fujifilm will still produce film. Maybe with a bit smaller film portfolio, with ISO 200, 400, 800 CN films and ISO 100 and 400 colour reversal and BW films, and instant film. Well, it depends on the demand for boutique films like Superia 1600 for example. And again: It’s all about demand. From us film shooters.
Honestly, I have to admit that I have a great sympathy for ‘the brave knights of Knutsford’ from Ilford. Probably because long time ago as a teenager, when I started BW photography and making wet prints in my first own darkroom, I’ve used exclusively Ilford films and BW papers for the first years. It was an excellent start with these absolutely reliable high quality products. Of course after this phase in the beginning I also started using films and papers from all the other manufacturers. But I’ve never stopped using Ilford, because I’ve always had success finding products in their big product portfolio which fulfill my needs. For example I like their Multigrade papers, and Delta 100 is my most used BW film, my trusty ‘workhorse’.
At Photokina I had bad luck, because when I arrived at the Harman booth on Friday, I just saw Steven Brierley and Simon Galley leaving the booth. At that moment I thought they will come back soon, but unfortunately Mike Walker told me some time later that they are on their way back to good old England. I was quite dissappointed to hear that.
Therefore dear Simon Galley, if you read my little Photokina report here please join in and tell us a little about your / Ilfords Photokina impressions. Thanks a lot!
Nevertheless I had a very interesting and entertaining talk at the Harman booth with Mike Walker, the producer of the Walker LF cameras and the new Harman Titan Pinhole cameras. The new 8x10” Titan Pinhole model was presented at the booth. Another new model as a consequence of the big and unexpected success of the 4x5” Titan Pinhole camera. And also presented at the booth was the new Direct Positive Paper on a DuPont Melinex PET base (looked very promising). I will definitely try this new paper (and I am very tempted to buy a Harman Titan Pinhole as well :) ).
Mike Walker is a very nice guy, and a real enthusiast in camera making. He explained me in great detail why the special production method he uses to manufacture the pinholes guaranties pinholes with always the exact same dimensions, pinhole for pinhole. A precision which is only possible with this method. I enjoyed this talk a lot. Not only because of the very interesting technical discussion, but also because Mike Walker has a lot of British Humor, we Germans love that :).
I’ve been there at the end of my second Photokina day and I’ve been on a hurry, unfortunately no time left for a detailed talk. There have been big walls with examples of their latest colour film. These examples looked quite good, much better then the predecessor. And also the new 8x10” film was presented.
At the Kodak booth (the one for film and photopaper) the atmosphere was better and more positive as probably most have expected. The responsible manager for film sales and marketing in Germany told me that Kodak Germany had already sold more film in the period from January to August 2012 than in the whole year 2011 (sales numbers for Germany; she had no numbers for other countries). Of course it has to be considered that in this period the Ektachrome discontinuation statement leads to a massive hoarding of Ektachrome film in Germany, significantly pushing the Kodaks sales. Despite Fujifilm being the market leader in slide film sales for a very long time, Kodak Ektachrome slide film has always been very popular in Germany. But even if you consider the hoarding and subtract it from the sales numbers until August, there remains a little plus on a net basis.
Due to Kodak there were two absolutely dominating topics at the Kodak film and photopaper booth at this Photokina:
1. The future of film production at Kodak.
2. The production stop of Ektachrome films.
1.: Film production at Kodak in Rochester is continued. Only the film distribution and marketing unit is up for sale. The responsible manager for film sales in Germany seemed to be quite relaxed about it: ”For us it is only important that our films are produced by Kodak Rochester in Kodak quality in the future, and under the Kodak brand. That is warranted. Under which name and company the distribution and marketing is organised in the future, is not so important. We are quite relaxed about it.”
2. The production stop of Ektachrome films. That was the second dominant topic at the booth. A huge number of photographers complained about it and were very disappointed.
At Kodak Germany there is a lot of understanding and sympathy for these complaints and disappointment, because there the shock and the disappointment about the decision in Rochester was also very big. Of course in Stuttgart at Kodak Germany they knew some months before about this decision. And Kodak Germany tried all things possible to convince Rochester to cancel this decision, because of the popularity of Ektachrome in central Europe, especially in Germany, Austria and Suisse. For half a year Kodak Germany tried to convince Rochester that the Ektachrome discontinuation is not the right decision. But unfortunately their convincing activities were not successful.
There is one assumption that this summer a new coating run of Ektachrome film must have been made for an uninterrupted supply, which of course needed prefinancing. And that was one major problem in the current Chapter 11 situation (not enough cash left for that). But if the distribution division will be successfully sold in the future things may change a bit. Then probably the distribution division give the film orders to Rochester and make the prefinancing. If they see sufficient demand a new Ektachrome coating run could potentially be possible. And again, it’s all about demand. All manufacturers at Photokina emphasised that. They will produce almost everything if there is sufficient demand. Using film, and all types of film, is the solution. The more, the better.
Lomography has been, as usual, by far the most active company concerning film products at the Photokina fair.
Very big booth, eye-catching and located at a very good strategic point, where the visitors go from one big hall to another, and by passing by almost automatically get in contact with the Lomography booth.
They had built a big stage for making little movies with their LomoKino camera. Besides film developing with coffe, vine etc. were presented. Yes, you could develop your BW film there at the booth with ‘coffenol’ if you wanted.
But the Lomo team has not only been very active directly at the fair, but also in Cologne at the main train station. At the big plaza in front of the station they had made a huge map of Germany on the ground, made of thousands of pictures shot by Lomographers in Germany. And the pictures have been exactly located on the map at the location in Germany were the shots actually had been made. You can see aerial pictures of this huge map on lomography.com and their facebook site.
Lots of visitors at their booth, especially from younger photographers (but not exclusively younger ones). As a novelty their new ‘Sunset Strip’ slide film was introduced.
Daniel Felmer (Head of Operations Europe&South America, Africa, Middle East, Australia / NZ) told me that their annual growth rates currently are in the + 15 - 20% range (depending on product and local market). They think the growth rates would be significantly higher, if the economic situation in some of their important markets (USA, UK, southern Europe) would be better. Currently they open on average one new Lomography store every month. The latest new shops have been opened in Bangkok, Singapore, Istanbul, Antwerp, Puebla, Munich, Monterrey, Chicago and Lima.
Maco Photo had also reported increasing interest in film products and higher sales volume. Not only from the German market, but also from international markets. Maco’s business is very strongly export oriented.
They’ve reorganised their business structure in the last 12 months, also because of changes in the staff. Employees had retired, new ones have been hired. They are directing their efforts now more on quality improvements (e.g. improved 120 converting) and better analysis of custumer needs. Cooperations with first quality manufacturers like Ilford Photo / Harman technologies and Agfa-Gevaert are continued and even extended.
Currently an intensive analysis of customer wishes and demand, possible expansion of the product portfolio and technical / economical possibilies and limitations is in the works. If they see realistic chances of a sustainable production of further products as a result of this analysis, then they will try to introduce such products.
Furthermore additional products from other manufacturers will be offered by Maco via their macodirect online shop. One result of the Photokina were correspondent arrangements have been made.
At the Voigländer booth I was told that they see increasing interest and demand for their film based Bessa cameras.
And I’ve heard from photographers who had time to visit the Linhof booth and Fotoman booth that both companies observe increasing interest in their film cameras, too.
Furthermore I had some detailed talks with some bigger European film distributors: From them as well reports of increasing interest and demand for film and home developing. There is definitely a trend that now an increasing number of photographers is developing their color films (C-41 and E-6) at home, too.
Some film manufacturers have been quite surprsised that journalists from digital photo magazines visited them and showed interest in film photography.
And at “Photokina TV” there have been at least three longer broadcasts reporting about film, film cameras and the traditional wet darkroom.
Summing up we can say that there are indeed some encouraging signals.
Is the future of film already safe? No, not yet. It is too early to make such a statement.
We still have a long and hard way to go. Lot’s of hard work is necessary in the next years. We need endurance.
But we see more and more valid indication that there is a realistic chance for a sustainable future for film as a photographic medium. It is possible to establish a viable market for film.
Manufacturers, distributors, labs and we photographers: We are all sitting in one boat. If we cooperate and work hard, we will have a common future.
Of course demand is the key factor: Believing that shooting only some Tri-X or FP4+ the year, and doing all the rest with digital (like unfortunately lots of apuggers are doing) is of course not very helpful.That is not at all sufficient to keep film alive. With this attitude you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Each of us has it in his own hands to support film and give film a sustainable future. Really using film and shooting film, all types of film, negative and positive film, BW and colour, as well as instant film.
And encourage other photographers to try film, too.
That is the answer.
I hope my little Photokina report has been interesting for you and you’ve enjoyed reading it (despite my bad English, sorry).
Wish you all the best,
and lot’s of joy with shooting film.
Kind regards from good old Germany,