eXtensions - Sunday 22 July 2018


Rethinking Photo Workflows (6): A Case for new Film Cameras

By Graham K. Rogers


Smartphones and mirrorless cameras hold sway in the market currently, but high end DSLR cameras still have a place. Film cameras are also growing in popularity: a format that was thought to be dead only a short while ago. With the resurgence in film, there is a case for some manufacturers to start making them again

As well as thinking about my own methods of working in a series of articles I have written recently about workflow and photography (see links below), I have been considering input from several sources: about workflow software, about lenses, and about film. People of my age had no choice about using film: only the type, or the camera. I had some good results from a Kodak Box Brownie that I picked up incredibly cheaply at a sale in the early 1960s and I also used a cheap plastic device that took 2 photographs from each frame. In the 1980s I used a 110 cartridge camera.

film One of the reasons I started experimenting with film a year or two back after successfully moving to digital cameras was the education that a few specialized apps gave me. Among these, one of my favorites is 645 Pro, but lately some stars like DSLR Camera, Pro Camera and Halide (these I call my first rank) are not only well-made apps, but exhibit the photographer's understanding of what is needed. These apps not only emulate camera input methods, but their developers are enthusiastic about the medium.

In the last year or so - and accelerating in the past few months - there has clearly been a growth in enthusiasm for film. Online articles about such output, the lenses used, and the sources for film are shared enthusiastically online.

Locally there has been a clear uptick in the use of film as a medium, from simple Lomo cameras (a source for these is Siam Discovery Center), through to the Leica M-series and other brands. A colleague who uses Leica and Rolleiflex noted that he has become increasingly aware of younger people who are using film as they want to learn and want to experience the medium. I find this quite encouraging.

Although there is a healthy market for used cameras, here and in other countries, apart from Leica, the Lomo cameras and plastic Fuji devices, no other manufacturer currently makes a film camera as far as I can see; yet some of the major camera makers built solid reputations on their early cameras, some of which remained in production while the DSLR was growing in popularity. Now however, some are predicting the death of the DSLR.

I think that this idea that the days of the DSLR is numbered is wrong for a number of reasons, and I am not alone. Dunja Djudjic on DIY Photography, writing a few days ago outlined the rise of mirrorless cameras. Some students asked me a few months ago about which camera they should buy, and I pointed out the growth in mirrorless, but also said that people like me who have collections of lenses for DSLR would find it hard to start again. The only way I might go dowjn this path is if I had the money for a Hasselblad X1D; but if I had the resources for that, lenses would not be a problem.

I took another path with the made in Thailand Nikon D850 precisely because of the size of the sensor: at 47MP this is slightly short of the 50MP CMOS sensor in the Hasselblad that had so impressed me when I tried the H6D-50 a year or so back. I made the right decision and the quality of the images I am producing keeps me really happy. Here's the thing though, for the first time in a while, Nikon made a profit and part of the reason was the sales of the D850 worldwide.

One would think that defies logic: with all the cheaper cameras Nikon makes, the expensive one is more profitable; but with companies like Hasselblad, Phase One, Leica, Red also working in the high end, it seems that some users are more than willing to pay for quality, something that Apple figured out a long time ago as it fended off the insistence of Wall Street to produce cheaper iPhones.

With this regard for quality, there is a natural progression for some users (and not all old guys) towards film. An article on the B&H site written by Josh Taylor gave me some encouragement with its title: 15 Film Cameras You Can Still Buy Brand New. Unfortunately, that was written in 2016 and two years is a long time in the camera business. A number of excellent cameras were listed and I particularly liked the Nikon FM10, the medium format Fujifilm GF670, and of course the Leica M7. When I went looking, the story was not so good with the Nikon and Fuji both out of production.

There was a slight sting in the tail to this as B&H had announced early this year that a case containing new Fujifilm GF670 cameras had been found and more details would be coming in the future. Without a doubt, anyone hearing this signed up right away and the case was pre-sold several times over (the site now shows, "Discontinued").

Nikon FM10
Nikon FM10 - Image from Nikon USA>

The resurgence of interest in film in recent months, is drawing more people in by the month. Sooner rather than later, the supply of good quality used cameras will dry up and prices will start to rise. As the major manufacturers like Nikon and Fuji probably still have the tooling for cameras like the Nikon FM1, the Canon AE-1 and the Fuji GF670 (even though Canon recently confirmed it was ceasing production of the EOS-1V), it may be possible that they would consider re-entering this market.

One thing did strike me about the recent B&H announcement: was this really an accidental discovery of a case of cameras, or was Fuji (or even B&H) trying to test the waters? There is a market for good film cameras.

See also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page

All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2018