Photokina, the larger trade fair of the photo industry, which is held every other year in Cologne, Germany, closed a few days ago. For me, this was the fourth time i have had a chance to attend.
This years show was about 10% smaller then the previous one (2014), which was itself about 10% smaller then then the 2012 show. Experienced coleagues told me that this trend was an ongoing one since at least 2010. With that said, our 2012 and 2014 visits to the show and following reports showed a basic yet living analog presence, certainly from the perspective of within the Jobo booth, which has largely stayed the same size over the years, and which this year, more than any other booth signified the renewed industry interest in the analog photographic business, having almost entirely an analog based booth, with two new production processing machines, one of which was unveiled only a few weeks ago as well as large format cameras and accessories from Chamonix (for the German market).
Jobo were not alone. Around the corner was the Linhof booth, of which more than 50% was dedicated to film cameras, and we learned that the company is actively working on new developments in this field. Across from Linhof, at Arca Swiss, we learned that there is a an upswing in sales of mostly larger format cameras (8X10), and an active interest in ULF custom productions. Next door to Arca, at the Hasselblad booth, we learned that all new H series cameras will be fully compatible with H series roll film backs, following at least 3 models which were digital back compatible only. The Hasselblad gallery featured only photos shot on film, and so did the leica gallery (almost exclusively). Leica showed their new instax clone, entering another facade of analog photography. Though the camera is designed by Fuji and made in China, it points to where leica sees profit. At Alpa, across from Leica, we learned that of the 50 specially made 40 year anniversary camera, which was sold with a roll film back and 10 Fuji Across roll films, 49 have been sold, and one will be kept for display.
The Impossible booth, not far from this area was a awash with people at every moment of the show. Still at hall 2.1 was Kaiser, which released a new LED based thin light table, which looks and works great, and is wholly made in Germany. At the other side of the hall, at the Horseman booth we spotted the modular technical medium format camera, which is still in production. The company has recently changed ownership, but the facilities and engineers are still there.
Far across the Messe, at hall 9, the lomography booth was bustling almost all throughout the day, every time we stopped by, similar to the Impossible booth. Walking back towards the main entrance of the show, passing through hall 4.2 we found the Shen Hao booth, stocked with many cameras and accessories. A sizeable portion of the Fuji booth was dedicated to Instax products. For the most part, unlike previous shows, Fuji’s professional line up of TV lenses (and previously LF lenses) was absent from the show, like most other of the big names (canon, nikon, etc.), who mostly showed basic consumer products and many non photo related products (mobile/gaming/VR).
Hall 3.1 presented perhaps the most compelling evidence of the interest in analog photography with the Rollei and Bergger booths. Rollei, showcasing an impressive line up of film selection in color and BW, Chemistry for color, BW and BW reversal as well as several interesting BW papers. Bergger, the french film makes showed samples of its new Pancro 400, the only independently made film in the world (outside of Ilford, Kodak or Fuji), and the newest film emulsion in the world, which is now available in 35mm and 120, having already been available in 4X5 to 8X10 LF sheet film sizes. Bergger also offers a comprehensive line of chemistry as well as its venerable line of high end BW papers. Kodak stopped by to discuss their plans for the new Super8 camera and film (later stopping at Jobo to check out their new Super8 processing solution).
Also at the Bergger booth, 6 gates films offers an intensive line up of Cine films loaded in 35mm cassettes and the chemistry needed to remove the Jet backing. We also had a chance to play around with some innovative modular sheet film processing tanks, as well as a daylight loading processing tank a-la Agfa rodinax. Stark tek stopped by with a new prototype version of their SST4 long version processor. The booth was busy most of the show, with the only luls towards the very end of the day.
On the other side of the hall, the Kinzle and Heiland shared booth was too, very busy throughout the show. People were being amazed by the availability of enlargers, spare parts, high tech LED light sources and split grade controller computers, and of course, the ‘filmomat’ machine which was on display. Photosensitometers and the TAS processor completed the lineup and had people lining up to see whats up. Foma were out in force with a massive lineup of films and papers at their booth just down the aisle from there.
All in all, there was a distinct feeling shared by all of the exhibitors we met, that there is a massive and renewed interest in traditional and analog photography by the public, which is now being recognized and backed by the industry as well. For the first time in many years, analog was more innovative and interesting portion of the show, attracting lots of action from show goers. Spirits were deservedly high and we mostly saw smiles all around, despite the grueling hours of working a photokina booth. We are looking forward to the next show in anticipation of more good news and developments.
We are very happy to introduce our newest CatLABS team members: Matt M. a talented engineer who has a long and illustrious background in analog photography will be joining Maeghan F. our very own marketing and management integration specialist.
Maeghan, Omer, Matt
We have been inundated with messages and emails and are so grateful for the amazing support we have received the analog photography community. Due to the sheer volume of messages we are unable to all of them, but we do read each and every one and take the words of encouragement to heart.
As the project evolves we have identified financing as the primary factor in moving ahead. As we are crunching the numbers, we can't help but go back to something we have been talking about ever since we started getting involved with packfilm - the price.
Like with every other aspect of business and marketing, there is ample research for measuring the effects of price changes on levels of consumption. In a very over simplified way of looking at things, these studies demonstrate that in mass markets, as prices go up, sales slow down. Companies use elaborate analysis charts and graphs to find out what the end result to their bottom might be.
In the case of packfilm, at first look, there is an anomaly. Fuji packfilm prices have remained stagnant (up until recent the discontinuation announcement) for more then a decade, and even in the preceding decade, there was only a very minor change in price making the price essentially the same for the past 15-20 years. This is in spite of soaring petroleum and other raw material prices, changes in cost of living as well as new regulations and laws which have drastically affected prices of other photo products, even in Fuji's own product range.
FP100c price between 2009 and now.
We know of no other photo related product that has had the same price stability as a Costco hotdog and soda combo. This incredible fact seems to be lacking from the discussion about the end of life of packfilm by Fuji, but is critical to understand before the future of packfilm can be restarted.
From Fuji's perspective, the price at which FP100 was selling represented some kind of equilibrium - they sold enough to make enough, but as sales dwindled, they looked at their charts, and found that from a certain point onward, changing the price to increase profitability due reduced sales, will only further erode the amounts of product sold, up to a point, which was unrecoverable. There was no need to change the price over time, because a certain balance was maintained. When that balance balance was disrupted, it would seem that at no point in time in the future will the profit generated from this product be greater then the cost to make it. In no small part, this is due to the fact Fuji originally designed this product for production on a scale that would never return. Fuji is too big a company and operation to be able to scale down production to a size that would produce a sales/price chart capable of showing profit.
The good news is, Polaroid's machines were designed and built in the 50's and 60's, Fuji's machines in the 80's. Thanks many technological advances, when tackling this question today, we have many tools at our disposal that neither Polaroid nor Fuji ever had.
We are working hard on our Packfilm plans, and and so far, things are moving ahead nicely. While we do not yet have any specific news regarding Packfilm at this time, we do have some massive news for users of instant 8X10 users. We want to keep this page dedicated to #wewillmakepackfilm updates but feel this enough closely related to be worthy of posting it here, if only because its a fitting way to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Edwin Land. In the vein of keeping it short - we will post a short update about this exciting instant 8X10 development sometime late next week.
Our initial post regarding Packfilm has resonated with many people around the world and we are very happy to see an active and vibrant community reaction to this post.
We have decided to dedicate this page on our website, and turn in into a kind of blog, for updates and info. Of course, the best way to say on top of things is to follow us on facebook.
At this point, there are no numbers and no techno babble to bore or delight with, except to reiterate our commitment to this project with a deep understanding of the size of the undertaking and challenge. Wheels are turning, balls are rolling and connections and contacts are forming in all the right places.
One thing we can share, is that we have been actively discussing Packfilm for more then 6 months, as part of our connection with French film and paper maker Bergger, which is already utilizing cutting-edge technologies to make Pancro 400, the worlds newest BW film. Using 21st century technologies and manufacturing techniques enables a viable and sustainable production of photographic film in the digital age, which we envision will be part of the future of Packfilm.
If we can borrow something from'The Prodigy' circa 1997:
WE DO NOT HAVE NEW PACKFILM WE WILL HAVE SOME SOON BUY OTHER THINGS FOR NOW
We are all in this together. For anyone who asks “how can I help now?” we say: Buy fresh film. Buy more instant film. Support the industry today.