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I don’t own a digital camera, apart from the iPhone 6s I’m writing this on. It’s not that I don’t want to buy and try, but I just think that digital cameras are all about the moving image, while stills, especially medium format, is still the preserve of film cameras. I’m interested in what digital can give over and above a single exposed image; think 4K video, image stabilisation, time-lapse, videogram and pulling single frames from a video. More on that later.
Meanwhile back in the stills photography realm, there are a lot of people who continue to shoot film, and a few companies still making film to serve them. I would like to think that Film Is Not Dead, but as elements of the photography business are being gradually wound up; differing formats of film emulsions, whether 135 or 120, slide film, negative film, are gradually dropping like flies reaching the end of their lifecycle. It’s hard to see that this will end well.
The most recent announcement from Fujifilm that it is ceasing production of its last peel apart Polaroid film – FP100C, was completely bemusing to the film shooting photographers of the world. If it was a loss making business, I think we could all understand Fujifilm winding it up. But the most bizarre thing is that there IS a market for peel apart film, and film enthusiasts who shoot film are the most enthusiastic, passionate and loyal of any photography customers avialable. They ignore convenience and cost because film gives them something that digital cannot offer.
They are even prepared to put up with higher prices and dwindling stocks and fewer film processors and scanners, because they perceive the payoff is worth it. Fujifilm has these kind of customers at its door; the kind of people who pay above and beyond for film products because they love the feel of them. Shame about the companies who make that film; you couldn’t buy the kind of customer loyalty that Fujifilm squanders every year. How does Fujifilm reward its fans? By systematically and needlessly killing off film emulsions one by one.
If Fujifilm was ceasing all of its instant film production, I could understand the move, but their instax range of instant cameras are their biggest seller in 2015, so what gives? The same goes for removing film formats. If you’re making 135mm Provia 400x, what’s so hard about making 120 too?
The needless murder of the last peel apart film – the very last film avialable for hundreds of thousands of Polaroid ‘land cameras’ which in one fell swoop have been rendered museum pieces, is just downright unnecessary.
How can it be that in a market of ONE – an effective monopoly – that making only one variant of peel apart instant film (having previously murdered its back and white sibling, FP100B), is no longer economically viable?
Well the logical answer to that question is that it IS still viable to make, it’s just that Fujifilm hates film and cares little about its loyal customer base. If it ain’t broke, murder it. It turns out it was never about anything more than the money. I think someone should start a petition asking that Fujifilm change its name from Fujifilm to Fujidigital.
A similar thing happened with Polaroid and its instant film offering. Up to the final days of instant film, Polaroid was making decent profits. So why did it stop? Again, wanting to moving in a new direction, towards the future, to the detriment of its existing customers. Watch the impossible project for more details of the Last year of Polaroid film. It’s moving.
Dont believe me that Fujifilm has abandoned celluloid? Well here’s exhibit B; the Fujifilm GF670 and GF670W medium format film cameras. Despite being developed as a thoroughly modern MF film cameras with rangefinder and auto exposure, they were only on sale for a few years before Fujifilm pulled the plug.
Again, given that they tooled up to make these things, for themselves as well as for Voigtlander (in the Bessa 3), Fujifilm didn’t have any competition, and could have made a warehouse full of these cameras to sell off over the next decade, but no. Kill a perfectly good camera. What planet do Fujifilm executives live on?
I recently had a problem with my Nikon F100. Autofocus and a rear door which failed. I bought the replacement rear door for £75, and sent the camera off for a recalibration which cost another £110 or so. I accept that the camera is a mid 90s vintage, but even so I was hugely impressed with Nikon. Spare parts, and service. It is all about customer service, and in the grounds of that, I would buy Nikon products again, no question whatsoever.
I also had an issue with a Fujifilm GA645Zi MF point and shoot, which I asked Fujifilm about (the failing rear LCD). Their response? We don’t support these cameras. And its not just old cameras, they didn’t even support GF670 while it was still in production. That’s poor customer service for you.
It could be that Fujifilm is too diverse a business, that it cares more about skincare products than it does about photography, but I struggle to see why we film photographers should sponsor such a business with our custom when it shows such contempt for itself, its heritage, and its film shooting customers.
Fujifilm, by all means expand your horizons, even change your name if you want, but don’t screw over your loyal customers, who clearly care more about values and customer service than you do. They won’t be around for long.
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Also published on Medium.