…and then I thought…
I wonder how much camera film was sold last year?
If Film Cameras are Dead, is this Blog a Bad Idea?
Now I think I know how people felt in the year 1900 who sold custom horse carriages.
Perhaps a bit obsolete. Maybe.
A Billion Rolls of Film now just 20 Million a Year
This is a little depressing.
In How Much Longer can Photographic Film Hold On, The Associated Press said.
At the turn of the 21st century, American shutterbugs were buying close to a billion rolls of film per year. This year, they might buy a mere 20 million, plus 31 million single-use cameras — the beach-resort staple vacationers turn to in a pinch, according to the Photo Marketing Association.
Let’s toss out the 31 million single-use cameras statistic. Those are people who purchase a $10 camera that may include film processing (hello Walgreens) when they can’t afford a decent little $100 digital camera.
So let’s focus (yes, an unintentional pun) on 20 million rolls to 1 billion rolls.
2011 camera film purchases in the U.S. have dropped 98% in ten years.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have started What is a Film Camera in the first place. If film is really dying, this blog may become a lonely place.
Vinyl Records to the Rescue
Vinyl records (you remember, your Mom and Dad have a bunch of these in the attic) are making a comeback in the marketplace. It appears not everyone loves CDs and MP3 files. Vinyl for some people is more fun than CDs and MP3 files.
Sound quality LPs generally exhibit a warmer, more nuanced sound than CDs and digital downloads. MP3 files tend to produce tinnier notes, especially if compressed into a lower-resolution format that pares down the sonic information. “Most things sound better on vinyl, even with the crackles and pops and hisses,” says MacRunnel, the young Missouri record collector.
Sales of vinyl records during this century are increasing. They’ll never come even close to challenging sales of CDs or downloads of MP3 files, but more and more people are buying vinyl records. It’s an old technology that’s growing in the marketplace.
Do people still shoot with film?
I get that question a lot at garage sales.
I know that I shoot with film. I know that every day eBay has 10,000 film cameras for sale. So somebody is shooting with film. And the prices of used film cameras doesn’t seem to be dropping any time soon.
Digital Cameras are OK, but Film is Fun
Yes, I admit it, I do shoot with digital cameras. But film cameras are something special.
I own 3 digital cameras and about 60 film cameras (30+ tested).
Since I am always testing a camera (currently testing a Vivitar 3800 SLR), I’m not quite sure of how well the camera works. So I carry my Canon SD 880 digital as a backup. I’m practical, I like photos. But I prefer film cameras.
If film cameras survive, you can thank young people
Young people have rescued vinyl records from extinction. Will they do the same for film cameras?
I don’t think young people are pulling Beach Boy albums or Rolling Stone albums from their parents attic where they’ve sat for decades (and warped or worse). But young people are increasing their purchases of new, vinyl records because they sound better, richer than CDs or MP3 files played in some device.
When I visit garage sales I always ask, “Do you have any film cameras?”. If they don’t have a camera for sale, I smile when they say:
My son or daughter is using my old film camera for her high school photography class.
That’s music to my ears. Young people using film cameras in high school.
Is Film better than Digital Photography?
That’s really the question that resolves the “are film cameras obsolete” question. If young people decide film has advantages over digital photography than purchases of rolls of film will begin increasing. That will be a good sign for film photography.
Ken Rockwell might persuade you that photography is all relative. Depending on what you’re photographing, your conditions, whether you develop film or let someone else process your work, your choice of film versus digital is a relative choice. Your choice of film or digital depends upon a number of factors that matter to you.
Karen Nakamura is a photoethnographer. If you’re a photoethnographer or street photographer just starting out, film cameras are an affordable choice for a rugged device that brings back photos. Is it just me or can you purchase top of the line film cameras for a whole lot less than top of the line digital cameras? Karen might argue that you become effective with inexpensive photography gear (rangefinders, SLRs) and then you can purchase digital if you wish.
Are Film Cameras Obsolete?
I don’t think so. They’re only obsolete if somebody tosses them into the attic or in the sweater drawer in their bedroom.
If you’ve read this far, you probably agree with me. Using film cameras is a choice, not a religion. Purchase a 25 year old Olympus XA2 or a 50 year old Zeiss Contaflex and take them for a stroll with your digital camera. Shoot all day with both cameras and then print all your photos.
Then you can best decide if film cameras are obsolete.