2019 Has Been a Great Year for Film Photographers: A Year-End Review

While it would be too early to say that we are in full-fledged film photography revolution, it is clear that the market for film is growing in a great way. 

(Kind Of) Bad News

I was always more of a bad news first, good news second kind of man so I’ll start with the (kind of) bad news first. If you’re a Kodak fan like myself, you may have already heard but for those that haven’t, I’ll inform you now: Kodak Alaris is planning to raise all film prices starting on 1st January 2020. So, with whatever time is left at the current price point, you may want to consider making some room in your freezer/fridge and purchase some film for the future. Personally, I will probably purchase a couple pro packs of Portra 800, Portra 400, and several rolls of TMax P3200. I’ve read mixed reports on whether this price jump will be reflected immediately or will be observed one by one as retailers are making new orders (I strongly suspect it will differ by retailer).  

While the previous piece of news may have come as a shock or surprise to you, I suspect that everyone shooting film has probably noticed a lot of their favorite films on back order on the B&H site or outright sold out from their local camera shops. If you’ve been struggling to find single rolls of Portra 160, 400, or 800, you’re not alone. The fact that so many places are sold out is the reason that Kodak is raising its prices. Kodak Alaris has been struggling for years in the film market along with everyone else but with an increase in sales that came on swiftly and with a lot of force, they have found themselves behind the 8 ball. As such, Kodak Alaris is raising the price of every film stock “significantly” in order to make investments in the manufacturing process that should produce an observed benefit in terms of availability of current favorites and the production of new stocks.  

Another downside observed by many film photographers and those looking to get into the world of film is the sharp rise in prices due to supply and demand for film photography equipment. The fact of the matter is that manufacturing of new film cameras is at an all time low and most of the cameras being made today are either incredibly expensive or incredibly cheap (both in quality and cost). The day of newly manufactured affordable, solid, consistent performing cameras is behind us. With more and more budding photographers entering into the world of film and the finite supply of serviceable film cameras out there, the prices are being driven up and, in some cases, away from photographers who have been in this space for a while and looking to add another camera to their collection, move up from their existing camera, or replacing a camera that stopped working. However, on the bright side, it is this exact uptick in the popularity of film that is not just helping keep it alive but also helping it grow.

Good News

Having touched on this a bit above, film photography has been experiencing a resurgence over the last few years and this upward trajectory has been even more pronounced this year. While I don’t think that the official count of new films hitting the market is greater this year than last year, it is in stark contrast to just a decade ago when film photography was declining in popularity and digital photography technology was taking off in a big way. 

New 35mm films out in 2019:

In 2018, Kodak TMax P3200 and Kodak Ektachrome E100 was released in 35mm format only with expected availability of 120 format and sheet film (only E100 planned to release in sheet film I believe) in 2019. However, at the time of writing, neither of those stocks actually made it to the shelves this year outside of the already existing 35mm format. For TMax P3200, there is still a good deal of silence coming from Kodak as to when it will be available in 120. Ektachrome E100, however, is slowly making progress with presale (and possibly delivery) available at the very end of 2019.

Outside of the world of Kodak, Lomography expects their new film, Lomochrome Metropolis, to start selling in 2020. As for Fuji, the news of discontinuing Acros hit a lot of people hard and it didn’t seem like it was gone all that long before they announced that they intended to recreate Acros – a 100 speed black and white film. For now, Acros II is available in Japan only with expectations of its availability in the US in 2020. 

What All This Means

In general, it’s a great time to be a film photographer. With new film stocks hitting the market, more and more camera stores carrying used film equipment, and the increased availability of film, 2020 is looking like it too should be a good year. Though I expect the beginning should be just as rough as it is now to supply your film habit with your favorite film stocks but I suspect that eventually the manufacturers will catch up and possibly start developing new stuff that may even be available late next year.  

Further, if you own film camera equipment but are not inclined to use or even keep it — or if you know someone who meets this description — now is as good a time as any to cash in your camera or darkroom equipment. If you’ve been debating giving film a go, I will always suggest you make the plunge sooner than later. The prices for each component are getting more and more pricey with every day that goes by and it’s not slowing down or getting any cheaper.    

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