Film photography is having a massive resurgence, and I couldn’t be happier about that. As someone who has shot film for years, it is nice to have a growing community of photographers who share the passion and more new work for admiration and inspiration.
This has been a double-edged sword, as prices for film, cameras, repairs, and development have shot through the roof. The delays in getting new film made have been well documented. Fujifilm has acknowledged the challenges to meet demand, and Kodak has recently stepped up and hired 300 new employees to get more film out in the hands of photographers.
Should you be shooting film in 2022? For a once-dying medium, film couldn’t be any better right now. Fujifilm has surpassed Sony in sales in 2022 thanks to its Instax film and camera sales. Yet it comes as a shock that in April Fujifilm warned that the price for all film products will rise by up to 60%. Fujifilm has blamed this on increased shipping and raw material costs, however, when film is doing better today than at any point since the 1990s, is there really a need to increase prices on consumers, or is there some aspect of profiteering?
Film photography is currently just a hobby for the majority of shooters, however, if price rises continue, then it will force this hobby to become a luxury for most. If this happens, the medium is likely to resume its slow decline. When your film business is thriving, poor decisions that alienate your new customers may end up toppling your whole business.
Using Amazon price tracker Camelcamelcamel to check prices in the UK, the price of popular films has doubled or more over the last 4 years. One of the most popular stocks today is Kodak Portra 400, a professional-grade color film, in 2018 this costs around $54/£45 for a pack of five, at the time of writing. When there is actual stock available it is retailing at $109/£90.
Even consumer-grade film has exploded in price, these are the best film stocks specifically designed to have slightly less quality or color, but to be a cheaper way for hobbyists and casual photographers to shoot film. The Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400, which was around $24/£20 for a pack of three rolls before the pandemic, at the time of writing is now only listed on Amazon through third-party sellers for $105/£86.47.
Of course, film isn’t the only area of film photography seeing massive price spikes. The sale price of cameras has also exploded. If you want a camera that is inexplicably famous on Instagram or Tiktok, then the prices are astronomical. The humble Contax T2 was around a couple of hundred dollars before Kylie Jenner started using one, now you’ll be looking at nearly $2,500.
All this begs the question of whether a film photography revival can actually survive itself. There is clearly a massive appetite for reviving film, and this is a huge opportunity. Film manufacturers need to work to increase the availability of film without increasing its pricing.
This may be a proposition that is impossible as the global economic crisis affects businesses in all industries across the globe. But if the price of film continues on this trajectory then the revival may be over before it really got a chance to begin.