Is There a Run on Kodak Film?
Did the Wall Street Journal's reports about a potential Kodak bankruptcy spur a run on camera film?
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that photographic film icon Eastman Kodak (EK) was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy protection under the weight of competition from its rival Fuji, and the digital-photography revolution.
So I wondered -- do consumers care?
Are folks running out to scoop up Kodak Ektachrome or Portra just in case the you-know-what hits the fan?
And is anyone hoarding film to jack up the price and sell it later on eBay (EBAY)?
Minyanville's global headquarters is conveniently located in downtown New York City, which means close proximity to several of the city's largest photo-equipment dealers, so I headed out to gauge folks' reactions to the Journal's reports.
Despite my hopes for something more exciting, it's been business as usual.
Specifically, I inquired as to whether this week's rumors had any effect on film sales or customer inquiries regarding such.
At one high-end store focused on working professionals, a salesman indicated that a small percentage of customers have expressed ongoing worries about film availability over the long-term:
"For two years they've been [worrying]. But have [the bankruptcy rumors] driven people through the door in the past two days? No."
At another shop, the response was similar: "It's like they didn't even hear the report."
In fact, the employees at this joint were laughing at the idea of people suddenly worrying about film availability given years of declining sales -- I even caught a joke starting with "Poor Simon and Garfunkel" on the way out the door -- a reference to the song "Kodachrome," which took its title from the classic Kodak film stock.
And at a third establishment, upon being asked if there were any inquires about film availability in the wake of the Kodak rumors, a store manager simply said "No."
At all three, without any prodding, I was given a recap of the obvious -- the migration to digital photography means film use will remain on the decline, if not eventually disappear altogether. No one could or would, however, offer a timeline on the final transition.
Incidentally, just as the biggest news in the film world this week has been the potential demise of Kodak, in digital, the talk of the town is Nikon's new D4 professional digital SLR. Speaking about it on his blog this morning, photographic legend Joe McNally said "...this camera makes the reverential memories of Kodachrome 25 fade like an old color print."
However, at least one film-loving diehard is digging in his heels.
In an email, Utah-based photographer Jonathan Canlas, a Kodak endorsee who exclusively uses film, pooh-poohed the idea of Kodak film being on its last legs:
Kodak will file for bankruptcy but will still continue on. American Airlines filed and you can book as many flights as you want. Film as a medium, in my opinion will never go away. It will just get more expensive and scarce. Regardless of what you read/heard/saw in the news, film is still readily available. And to my knowledge, from my Kodak rep, they are still making film. Kodak just released a new motion picture film in the last month! All of the news you read comes from financial analysts who know nothing of film or its availability. It's sensationalism, and honestly, it's getting old.
Nonetheless, while I can appreciate nostalgia and the unique image qualities of film, the mass market loves the convenience and instant gratification of digital, particularly since advancing cameraphone technology means that just about everyone has a decent digital camera on them at all times. Also, smartphones enable instant sharing.
I don't know about you, but my Facebook page is stuffed with photos processed through the Instagram and Hipstamatic apps on Apple (AAPL) iPhones. Each produce charming film-like effects that are good enough for most people -- particularly the young folks that have never even seen a roll of film.
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