What the new Leica M6 re-release means for film photography

I’m sure you’ve heard the news.  If not, here it is: Leica is making the M6 again.

Now I’ve never owned a Leica.  I’ve barely even held a Leica.  I don’t even necessarily want a Leica (I only dabbled a bit with rangefinders and Leitz glass).  Leica now makes three film cameras simultaneously, the M-A, the M-P, and the M6. I think it’s great, and of course I want one, but also I don’t, for all the reasons listed above.  Maybe I could get into shooting rangefinders and Leica in general but there are some German quirks that they never got over, which has always scared me away.  But at least Leica is still doing it, and they’re having a hard time meeting demand.  And for that Leica needs to be commended!  Compare to Nikon these days…

The problem of course being that I’m so invested in the Nikon F ecosystem now that it would be hard to abandon just to buy a new film camera.  It’s just a shame that Nikon wanted to keep going more and more high-tech when the prevailing winds are going toward less electronics and all-mechanical.  I’ve articulated all this before; I would love to buy a brand-new FM3a (or anniversary F2) from Nikon if they didn’t decide to stop all film camera production two years ago, sadly.  And maybe Nikon stopped making the F6 because no one bought it…but the fact is that we’ve had 40+ years of seeing how electronic battery-dependent cameras just stop working and become expensive paperweights, with no hope of repair.  I will probably never fully trust them for that reason, even my F4.

Less than 20 years ago Nikon was making cameras like the FM3a and the SP 2005, and sadly those cameras weren’t in demand as much at that time, but it seems times have changed.  I could really wish that Nikon would come around but with them offshoring all their production to Malaysia they’re unlikely to make an all-mechanical film camera again, and that really the only kind I’d be willing to buy.  How much would I spend on one?  For the right camera I’m sure I would save even if it was $3000 or more.  I just spent $900 on a fully-restored F2, so why not?  Sadly Nikon was hell-bent on making cameras no one wanted to buy like the F6 instead of bringing back mechanical masterpieces of their past like Leica has done.  People are willing to pay for a brand-new Leica mechanical film camera but they’re the last man standing, sadly, and unlikely to have competition again.

Go work for Kodak, good people of Rochester!

I’ve been telling people for a while that the rising cost of film and the inability to find color emulsions are good problems to have, and here’s my proof:

Kodak is hiring people…a lot of people!

And I think that their hiring 300 employees over the last year and a half is very telling.  Compare to a decade ago when it seemed like it was going to be the end!  I’ll take a $10 roll of Tri-X to have that.

Edit: And NBC is now shooting news stories on film!

Remembering William Klein

Master photographer William Klein is dead at the age of 96.  He was someone that we studied in my early photography classes and I decided to start emulating his work early on; I would say that he’s had a profound influence on where my own work and projects have gone.

He’s primarily known today for the collections of street photography that he released early on: New York (1956), Rome (1958), Moscow (1964), and Tokyo (1964), but he had a prolific career as a documentary filmmaker and also made three narrative features.  Those three are readily available from the Criterion Collection but while they’re available as French import region 2 discs I don’t know of any collection of his documentaries available in the USA, sadly.

More new film emulsions: Cinestill 400D and Fugufilm 400

I’m a bit slow on reporting the news…but what an eventful week or so it’s been!  Hot on the heels of Kodak announcing Gold 200 in medium format we have new releases from Cinestill and Japan Camera Hunter.  Both ASA400 color films, one negative and one reversal.  Story links below.

Cinestill

Fugu1

Fugu2

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Medium format Kodak Gold? Yes please!

It was in my Facebook feed about half an hour ago, and I’m happy it’s finally here!  I heard rumors of this either last year or in 2020, but it took longer than expected.   With all the crap regarding Fujifilm recently, I’m glad that Kodak just keeps bringing back wonderful film emulsions that if aren’t necessarily new, then at least are ones I never got to shoot before.

Kodak Gold 200 released in 120 medium format

Now I’ve been using the Gold 200 for landscape shots for years now in 35mm, and have been trying to get a medium format Mamiya off my coworker for a few years now…time to make it finally happen!

All the Kodak Gold

The end of FujiFILM?

I used to love Fujifilm, and during my early years as a photographer I was shooting Fujicolor 200, Superia 400, and Velvia 100 if I shot color at all.  But if the rumor mill is correct, Fuji might not be making any more film, ever.  We’ve all known that Acros II was being manufactured by Ilford and I’ve read recent news that Fujicolor 200’s new data sheet is eerily similar to Kodak Gold 200’s, inviting speculation that it is now just rebranded Kodak film.  Fuji shut down their film production plant in 2020 during the start of COVID-19 and it’s anybody’s guess whether it will ever reopen.  Knowing how Fuji has continuously axed one film after another over the last decade I think that it’s entirely possible that Fuji’s brilliant colors have finally faded.

Why I loved Fuji Superia
Why I loved Fuji Velvia & Provia

Reading Jim Grey’s tribute to his favorite film made me want to do the same but the fact is that I haven’t shot it much since those two posts above.  And I don’t think I’m going to continue to support a company that stopped supporting me a long time ago.  Unless something radically changes at Fuji with regards to their attitude toward their photographic film business it will be Kodak for me, thank you.

Is the F6 the last film Nikon?

Since 2014 I’ve seen a few unique film emulsions be discontinued, but I’m sad to see news that this time a film camera has been discontinued.  I remember seeing that news back in October, but reading Johnny Martyr’s thoughts has made me want to comment on this myself.

First of all I agree with a lot of what Martyr says; if we can’t be bothered to buy new and support the companies still making cameras, etc. new, then we can’t expect those said companies to still make them after a while.  I’ve had plenty of arguments over the last few months with people who would never consider buying a new camera (and these are wannabe pros), whether for still photography or motion and honestly these people are thinking poor, and not thinking professionally.  If I were making a living from all that then I wouldn’t be trying to get all my equipment dirt-cheap and using it until it breaks, I’d want something reliable and if that costs more, then I’d consider it a work investment.  That would make having the F6 worth having, I think, because it would last a long time, would come with a warranty, and would still be serviced by Nikon for years to come.

Even more than the F6, the new camera I really wanted was the Kodak Super 8 camera probably made by Logmar, that has still not gotten past the prototype stage.  I’ve heard a few references to it this year, evidently Spike Lee’s COVID music video was shot with it, but Kodak lent him a few prototypes for that.  Of course talking online to people about that camera is an exercise in futility, because how dare I suggest they invest $2000 in a brand-new camera instead of spending $50 on the ‘bay for an untested pile of junk.  I suppose that the last time I talked about the camera I wasn’t too thrilled with the price either but the more I think about it the more it doesn’t seem like too much if it’s well-designed, reliable, and will last a good long time.

But while I mourn for the passing of the last film SLR, I can’t bring myself to mourn for the Nikon F6, mainly because I never really wanted one.  Evidently Canon was making the EOS-1v until just a few years ago, and no one really noted that being discontinued, but then knowing that the two last SLRs date to the turn of the millennium and were the kind of fully-automated high-tech gizmos that I’ve been avoiding most of the last decade has a lot to do with my ambivalence.  Leica’s high-tech pinnacle, the M7, was introduced and discontinued about the same time.

It should also be noted however that Leica introduced something of a throwback around the same time, the M-A which is totally free of all electronics (and also still makes the M-P which has an integrated light meter).  Personally, I see this as Leica listening to what consumers actually want, and that is a solid, reliable mechanical camera (and evidently demand for film bodies is exceeding supply).  While I agree with a lot of Johnny Martyr’s sentiments, I think that if Nikon went the route of reintroducing a non-battery-dependent mechanical camera, there would probably be a lot of people interested in buying one brand new!  I know I would be one of them.  I’ve tried researching just what the Nikon FM3a cost when it was sold new, evidently in 2001 when it was first released around $800 ($1200 in 2020 dollars), but possibly it was only going for $600 by 2006 ($800 in 2020 dollars).  To buy a NOS FM3a today would cost $1200-1500 but there are people doing it.  So if there are people willing to pay that much for a camera that hasn’t been made in 15 years, are there enough people that would be willing to buy one brand new from Nikon if they brought it back?  For $1500-1800 (maybe a little bit more)?

Because that’s what I want to see happen: I want Nikon to replace the $2600 F6 with a reintroduction of the FM3a (at $1800) and I think they could find a customer base willing to buy them.  Heck I think that even if the camera cost as much as the F6 did there would still be lots of people interested, that is half the price of a Leica body.  And also I mentioned it before but considering the 50th anniversary of the F2 is next year, what a brilliant time to think about bringing that camera back!  Nikon did after all make limited edition reproductions of the S3 in 2000 and the SP in 2005; they could do it again.  (Also Nikon, if you’re reading this, make film scanners again too!)

But if the F6 is all there is and now Nikon will be all-digital going forward, there are still lots of things we can buy brand new, from minor accessories to manual focus lenses.  I bought a few accessories myself nearly a year ago.  And I think my New Year’s Resolution will be to buy at least one brand new AI-s Nikkor lens.  Because this very well might be a case of “Use it or lose it.”  Of course the other possibility is that Nikon had a stock of brand new accessories, lenses, bodies, etc, and really stopped making all that stuff many years ago, and we’re just now getting down to the last of the stock.  In that case Martyr’s original article might have helped the F6 end just that much sooner by increasing interest and demand…

What’s in the future for Ferrania?

I’ve always tried to be upbeat and positive regarding Ferrania in the past, and certainly this year must certainly have been hard on them. I suppose some will read the announcement and accuse them of abandoning their original promises (well, the phrase “Our Kickstarter campaign must evolve into something new…” probably sets off some alarm bells) and honestly I don’t know what Ferrania is ultimately saying myself.  They throw out a hint at color film (note: they never use the word reversal) down the road but wisely have not committed to anything; in the past laying out projected timelines hasn’t worked well for them.

I just hope that they actually are working on color reversal film and that it will be happening soon.  I like the P30 but it’s no substitute; I’ve hoarded my 5 Alpha rolls for years now but it’s my plan to shoot up the rest of it this year and buy some of the fresh regular production rolls.  Here’s a compilation of what I was shooting back in January and February:

It’s good stuff, but very slow for what I do so I don’t anticipate using it much.  On the other hand, if they had made just another ASA400 film I’d complain about that too (I have in the past).  Actually I’d love to see P30 slit as super 8 or at least 16mm: considering how fine-grained it is it would look lovely in small-gauge.  I hope Ferrania thinks about some of the underrepresented markets out there, like Double 8, Double Super 8, especially in 100ft rolls there.  Hopefully P30 will work with reversal chemicals but it can of course be scanned too, and even just selling long-length cans of super 8 film (not loaded in cartridges) would be great for those who load their own cartridges, like those shooting single-8 cameras.

But I am still eagerly awaiting some Ferrania Chrome 100 and it does get frustrating sometimes when all I hear about from Ferrania is updates on P30.  That said, I hope readers can tell which side of the fence I fall on here.  I want only the best for Ferrania and hope they are tremendously successful.

Photographers: know your rights

With the craziness in the past week and a half this is a good reminder why we have Constitutional limits set on governments.  Hold them accountable.  For people on the ground or thinking about it here are some valuable reminders, courtesy of the ACLU:

https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/photographers-rights

https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/photographers-rights/filming-and-photographing-police

https://www.aclu.org/video/protesters-and-photographers-know-your-rights

My Intro to Photo instructor always used to carry a printout of those in his pocket to hand to police whenever he was harassed, and I think it’s a pretty good idea.  While I was on the ACLU’s site I also saw this article which seemed timely and relevant:

https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/photographers-rights/suppression-photographers-during-civil-rights-movement

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A shout out to Nicholas Coyle Film and Video

When I was originally compiling my list of best prices for buying/processing/scanning super 8 film, Nicholas Coyle reached out to me on Facebook and let me know about his scanning house prices which are still the best I’ve found for a 2K scan, and I just used him myself for the first time.  He’s about to be the best price for a 4K scan.

We’ve been in touch for about a year and a half so I knew this was coming: he’s finally upgrading to a Lasergraphics 6.5K Scanstation and is running a special crowdfunding campaign to help with expenses.  So if you were waiting for the right time to get some film scanned, there will never be a better one.  $50 for 3 rolls of super 8, or $100 for 6, or $200 for 12, or $400 for 24: that comes out to $16.67 per roll for a 4K/6.5K flat scan; if you just want to scan 1 roll it’s $15:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-preserve-super8-8mm-16mm-and-35mm-at-6-5k#/

Once he’s up and running the price goes up slightly but I like how it’s tiered: $15 for 2K/3K flat scan (the larger file if you’re want an overscan instead of cropped), $20 for 4K/6.5K, and then $5 more for a one-light transfer, $10 more for a best-light transfer.  Simple and still incredibly affordable compared to the competition: FPP comes close with 4K scans for $35 but there is no information on what the scans will look like, if they’re flat or color-corrected, things of that sort.  At least Coyle’s information is all out in the open and also shipping from him to me is incredibly cheap; he’s only 2 hours away from me.

I already chatted with him so the scanner is coming one way or another in the next couple months, the campaign is to help him pay off some of his initial expenses.  So please consider supporting him, as the price will be hard to beat.  I plan on using Coyle to scan all my film from now on.  Here are a few recent scans:

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