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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?

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    Film camera sales effectively went to zero about ten years ago. Kodachrome died at the same time. Cinemas were the only major consumer of film left and, in the ten years between then and now, they've all switched to digital as well. Film manufacturers have been killing products for years, distributors have been selling the last scraps of discontinued stock... the writing has been on the wall for a long, long time. – J... Jan 14 at 16:38
  • @J... Much cinematography is still done on film, particularly Indian "Bollywood" productions. The entire Bollywood industry is quite a bit larger than the US motion picture industry. – Jim MacKenzie Jan 14 at 19:34
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    @JimMacKenzie Bollywood is also majority digital now, afaik. If you have a source otherwise I'd like to see it. Seriously, dynamic ISO alone is a massive incentive to ditch celluloid, nevermind operating costs and expensive digital transfers. – J... Jan 14 at 20:11
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    This is too OT to be an answer but the article Better Imaging from the American Dental Association offers another perspective. If you use film and are invested in it then change in workflow, equipment, and training is costly for benefits that may not be understood. If you are starting a new practice costs are approximately equal and it's obvious that the benefits are enormous. -- Exaggerated answer: No one [studio] new will go film, no one old can afford to shun digital forever (for over a decade more?). Digital has come. – Rob Jan 14 at 23:34
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    @Rob I was in the dental industry at a company that sold sensors in 2010. Offices were switching even then, when the tech was newer and software buggy. I’m always surprised to see holdouts now. – Hueco Jan 15 at 12:16
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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.

  • Interesting, I’d have expected B&W to endure more than colour film, given that it has more characteristic features that set it apart from digital than colour film does. Or did I miss the memo where digital B&W is now as good as analog? – Konrad Rudolph Jan 15 at 17:32
  • @KonradRudolph we're in an instant gratification world - which is why instant is really leading the come back. B&W film and Digital overlap, but they're two different beasts at the end of the day. Digital has the ability to capture in color and then apply any sort of channel mixing you want. Film, you're stuck with one spectral profile for the roll/sheet and filters to play with it to a small degree. – Hueco Jan 15 at 17:57
  • That being said...there's something about large format especially that digital just hasn't cracked. – Hueco Jan 15 at 17:58
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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!

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    How many "home users" certainly and even to a large degree professional photographers do you know who still use film? Is that quantity rising? I don't think so. I certainly agree there's a niche still for those that prefer it, but I think it's a tough sell to claim that film is clawing back any of the digital market. Digital photography is completely pervasive now. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 13 at 17:17
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    Nobody is under any false illusion that film is going to make a comeback and take over digital. But yes certainly home users are showing increased interest in film photography...alongside digital, and maybe especially from people who never tried film photography before. Kodak Alaris re-introduced Ektachrome. Ilford started making their Titan 4X5 pinhole camera. There were 8 questions asked on photo.stackexchange.com so far today - 3 of which are about film. 37.5% is pretty good going for film in my book! Is the quantity of film users rising since, say, 2015... I do think so. – osullic Jan 13 at 17:58
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    It was amateur film sales that ruled the market and these sales subsidized the professional film market. Without the amateur sales subsidization professional film making is on a downward spiral. – Alan Marcus Jan 13 at 18:04
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    @IMiL I'm not stupid, I know that 1/3 people don't use film. My point is just that this argument that people are switching from film to digital is flawed. That switch is long finished. There are no more hold-outs giving up film for digital in 2019. The question talks about film prices in the last 2 years. Film use bottomed out years before that. But now, it seems to me, there is renewed interest in film, as I already mentioned. I would guess there are more people shooting film in 2019 than 2016 or 2017. – osullic Jan 14 at 1:28
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    @osullic You're thinking about still photography. You forgot cinema. That changeover was later, and there's still cinemas today who haven't switched to digital projection, especially in foreign countries. One roll of 135 film is equal to 3 seconds of cinema footage, times the hours per film times the thousands of prints made for each of the hundreds of movie releases per year. – user71659 Jan 14 at 5:18
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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.

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    European prices are quite a bit higher than US prices because VAT is included. UK prices include VAT too but shipping and warehousing aren't major concerns, since Ilford is UK-based, which may help. – Jim MacKenzie Jan 14 at 19:37
  • @JimMacKenzie I am of course comparing prices without tax. Anything else wouldn't make sense. The sheet film in question is e.g. priced roughly the same in UK and US, but is about 25% more expensive in Germany and probably even more expensive in many other continental European countries. I don't see how that can be explained with shipping costs. – jarnbjo Jan 14 at 23:28
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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.

  • This is a good point. It's illegal in my local area to dump used fixer down the drain as the silver is bad for the environment. There are local resources, however, that will take the exhausted fix off your hands to extract out the silver. – Hueco Jan 13 at 22:59
  • Yep. And where is the silver in the fixer coming from :) – rackandboneman Jan 15 at 9:52

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