Two years ago 25 sheets of Ilford Delta 100 4x5 B&W cost just over $25. My last purchase last fall it was ~$35. Now it's $46. That's a steep rise! What's driving these rising film prices and can we expect them to drop again some day?
Here’s Fuji’s annual report: https://www.fujifilmholdings.com/en/pdf/investors/integrated_report/ff_ir_2018_all.pdf
The page you want is page 48.
What you should notice is that photo imaging made up 15.7% of the business - to which photo imaging revenues were roughly 2/3. While imagine revenues have shown increases from 2014, they also appear to be plateauing from 2016 on.
Fuji directly credits emerging markets, instax, and printing for the growth - not provia, velvia, or astia. In case you missed the news, they’re retiring all B&W (https://petapixel.com/2018/04/06/fujifilm-officially-killing-off-acros-film/) [damn, I miss me some neopan 1600 about now].
Ilford is held by a private equities firm, so, there is no public data on their sales.
But, I would guess that Harman Tech was able to make it profitable, then it was acquired, and it’s positive profitability is why it still exists. They probably also declined in sales to the same plateau. The film resurgeance has been strongest with instant, followed by 135. 120 and larger are essentially being subsidized by these sales.
Prices will continue to climb until it makes more sense to nix the product altogether. Maybe they’ll still manufacture the plastic for us so we can make and coat our own large format emulsions in the future.
The sale price of film is going up because of “economy of scale”. In other words, the more you make of any particular article, the lower the cost to make that article. Digital imaging has overtaken film imaging and this movement continues at a rapid pace. Thus as film sales drop, the cost to manufacture goes up. It is as simple as that!
Revenue maximisation and lack of competition:
- Especially with Ilford, it is very obvious that they are pricing their products based on willingness to pay in a certain market. Ilford products are e.g. significantly cheaper in the US or UK compared to mainland Europe.
- If you want 4x5″ 100ASA tabular grain black and white sheet film, your only two options are Ilford Delta 100 and Kodak T-Max 100, of which the Kodak film is even more expensive (at least in most markets).
If it doesn't have to be a tabular grain film and you are willing to consider other brands, there are at least a few more options. Here in Europe, I can get 50 sheets 4x5″ Foma 100 for around US$ 35 ex tax. I don't know if there are cheaper suppliers in the US, but B&H sells the Foma film for US$50. A bit more expensive than here in Europe, but still half the price of the Ilford product.
In addition to economy of scale as mentioned, environmental protection obligations are certainly not becoming less - and it is called "chemical film" for a reason. There will certainly be some harmful chemical waste left after making film. Also, while exposed and developed film in household/commercial quantities might be considered normal bin-able household/commercial waste, the same might not be true for cutting scrap (eg where the holes have been punched) or discarded batches of unexposed film in industrial quantities.