Olli Thomson
Photography

Category: Opinion

Fujifilm and Film Pricing

As you will have seem from multiple film photography websites Fujifilm has announced a significant price hike on most of their remaining film photography related products. Film prices are expected to rise by a minimum of 30% and photographic paper prices by ‘a double-digit percentage’. Only the Instax range appears to be unaffected by the price rises. Fujifilm’s justification for the increases is that rising costs of materials and logistics has outstripped Fujifilm’s capacity to reduce production costs. Now though ‘as a responsible manufacturing company and to provide the high-quality products our customers expect, the company will institute a price increase.’

What to make of this? In recent years Fujifilm’s commitment to film photography (other than the Instax brand) has seemed less than wholehearted with production of motion picture film being terminated completely in 2013 and many well known still films having been discontinued, most recently Fujifilm’s only remaining black and white film, Neopan Acros 100, in 2018. Fujifilm’s global website currently lists only six films, three negative and three reversal, in the company’s film range.

The Myth of Capa

Here is a fascinating article calling into question the accepted narrative concerning Robert Capa’s images from the D-Day landings. It seems that even some of those who have been pushing this narrative for decades are now accepting that at least some elements of it are dubious, including John Morris, Capa’s photo editor at Life magazine. It would be interesting to read a response to the arguments made by Coleman from others who still maintain the truth of the story.

Debunking the Myths of Robert Capa on D-Day

Sometimes the Best Camera…

…is the one you don’t have with you.

On Sunday past I was standing in the Placa de Sant Jaume in Barcelona together with a few thousand other people. Serendipitously, we had chosen to visit Barcelona during the city’s Festival of Saint Eulalia, Eulalia being the co-patron saint of Barcelona whose feast day falls on February 12th.

All of us in the Placa de Sant Jaume were awaiting the arrival of a parade of colles castelleres, the clubs who maintain the Catalonian tradition of building human castles. On a stage in a corner an excited master of ceremonies announced each of the clubs as they paraded into the square accompanied by musicians playing the gralla and timbal – an old Catalan wind instrument and a small drum.

I say paraded but that’s not entirely accurate. There were no ropes, no barriers, no crowd control of any sort, just a mass of people milling around like us. Into this already packed square the colles castelleres arrived asking, encouraging  and cajoling us spectators to move a little this way, a little more that way until they created a space just big enough for them to work in. In all six groups, I think, formed around us in the square.

The Toyota of Cameras

The newly announced EOS R appears to be Canon’s consumer level ‘full frame’ mirrorless camera based on the specifications, competing with the Sony A7III and the newly released Nikon Z6 (though the EOS R is priced at $2,400 compared to $2000 for the others. Perhaps Canon has plans for an even more basic model in the future that will be priced closer to the Sony and the Nikon or possibly undercut them.)

I think we are supposed to be astonished at how cheap these cameras are compared to traditional ‘full frame’ SLRs but consumer level ‘full frame’ DSLRs and the A7 series have been hovering around this $2000 price point for quite a few years now and with digital medium format cameras now available for around $6000, ‘full frame’ cameras are being squeezed from above with high end models needing to be competitive against medium format.

On Watermelons

Our neigbourhood store was on Skender Luarasi. I don’t know if that’s what the street was called back then, when I lived in Tirana, but that seems to be how it’s known now. It was just round the corner from my house on a nameless street, now called Rruga Liman Kaba. The store was owned by two brothers – we assumed they were brothers, they looked like brothers, but since they spoke no English and I spoke only a few words of Albanian there was no way to know for sure. It was a tiny place, no bigger than a room with a covered area out front for the fruit and veg. They sold a little of everything, not unlike the corner stores that dotted Belfast when I was growing up. I shopped there because it was convenient and I wanted to support them, but also because the fruit I got there tasted better than most of the fruit I had ever eaten up to that point.

The Sony Auto S4 and the Nikon FM4

My Konica C35 is approaching fifty years old. I know this because the black version of this model first appeared in 1969 and by 1971 it had been replaced by the updated C35 Automatic. I believe that the actual date of manufacture can be found under the film pressure plate, but I prefer not to take things apart without good cause. I also have a Konica Auto S3 and a Yashica MG-1 both from the mid 70’s, a Minolta XD from 1978, and a relatively new Nikon FM2n from 1999.

It’s remarkable that so many of these old cameras are still in working order. That they are so reliable means that those who prefer to work with film still have a wide choice of quality cameras and lenses at reasonable prices, unless they are looking for one of those models that have acquired a certain desirability and are priced accordingly. Steer clear of these and it’s still possible to pick up a good quality SLR from one of the famous names together with an excellent 50mm lens for $100. Decent rangefinders can be had for a lot less; my C35 cost $30. So, if you are considering a film camera, now is a good time to buy.

Yet, those who have been shooting film for a while (or those who never stopped) have noted that film camera prices are rising. The $100 bargain of today was a $50 bargain five years ago. Partly this is a result of demand. With increasing interest in film photography, more people are in the market for these cameras. It is also a result of supply, or the lack of it. We are buying these old cameras, not just out of nostalgia or the pursuit of ‘authenticity’, but because, for the most part, we have no choice.

Too Many Awards

Without wanting to add unnecessarily to the voluminous coverage of Souvid Datta’s fall from grace, there is one aspect of this story that seems to have been largely overlooked.

Datta’s website (now only accessible via Wayback Machine) lists no fewer than 25 awards given over a three year period, including from significant agencies within the photographic world like Magnum Photos, The Pulitzer Centre and Getty.

While Datta himself is solely responsible for his actions and is deservedly being called to account for his dishonesty, I can’t help feeling that the photographic industry, with its endless competitions, honours and awards should also be looking at itself.

When Highly Paid Executives Talk Nonsense

Phil Schiller, who glories in the title of Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, has been explaining why Apple, in its ongoing quest to strip out all useful connectors from its products, had this to say about the reasons for dropping the SD card slot on the new Mac Book Pro in an interview with the Independent:

One, it’s a bit of a cumbersome slot. You’ve got this thing sticking halfway out. Then there are very fine and fast USB card readers, and then you can use CompactFlash as well as SD. So we could never really resolve this — we picked SD because more consumer cameras have SD but you can only pick one. So, that was a bit of a trade-off. And then more and more cameras are starting to build wireless transfer into the camera. That’s proving very useful. So we think there’s a path forward where you can use a physical adapter if you want, or do wireless transfer.

You Will Be Deleted

I grew up with Doctor Who. Not the glossy reboot; the original version. I started watching during the era of Jon Pertwee’s third doctor who seemed to spend most of his incarnation fighting aliens in quarries. My teenage years coincided with the reign of Tom Baker, whose early years in the role are still the most memorable (for those of us old enough to remember). The later years of Baker and the rest of that first cohort of Doctors rather passed me by. I’ve been a regular viewer of the revived Doctor Who since it began back in 2005. Rather inconveniently this coincided with my departure from the UK so I’ve had to rely on VPN’s,The Pirate Bay and Bit Torrent to see the show.

The great strength of the new version is that the producers drew heavily on the earlier series’ for plot lines and villains. A bigger budget and better technology meant that the rubber suits, the plywood and the cardboard that rendered Zygons, Cybermen and Daleks a little less than scary, could be enhanced in reality and digitally, but the bad guys were still recognisably the same bad guys.

Meaningless

Every once in a while I come across a post on a photographic website purporting to present the author’s philosophy or defining the meaning of that photographer’s images.

Generally the former is nothing more than a statement of how a particular photographer works, or a kind of mission statement often aimed at potential clients. The latter, though, is a different kind of claim and one that I find unconvincing, for the individual photograph purely as photograph has little defined meaning.

This came home to me forcefully on a visit to Kyoto last year where the Hosomi Museum was hosting a travelling exhibition of one hundred single images by Japanese photographers. Every image carried a brief label, but that label was entirely in Japanese. The only information I could gather about any image from these labels was a date — presumably noting the birth (and occasionally death) of each photographer.

Not being an expert in Japanese photography almost all of the images were new to me. Some looked vaguely familiar, while a few were recognisable including Moriyama’s Stray Dog image. Of those I had never seen before I had little or no idea what any of them meant. I could, of course, infer some meaning from the images (though with some it was difficult even to do that) but there was no obvious reason why my understanding of the meaning of these images should be identical with the meaning ascribed to them by the photographers who took them (assuming they actually did ascribe some particular meaning to their images).

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