6

Black & white film is going strong (with Ilford reporting, fingers crossed, year on year increase in sales and new film stocks such as Bergger and Ferrania being introduced), color negative process is still showing signs of life, but on the trasparency side I hear only bad news.

I do enjoy shooting a couple rolls of Velvia a year - spring flowers and autumn leaves look better in color than B&W, and the Velvia tones are legendary - but I am becoming worried about the availability of processing. Tetenal and Fuji are rumored to have stopped / severely reduced production of development kits. Not to mention that the prices of Fuji films seem to go only up.

Is the E-6 process still viable, or is it time to learn to learn working with Ektar?

(I do not plan to develop color at home, and I print color electronically).

2

According to this Time.com article from January:

Kodak Aliris, the firm that bought Kodak's film segments, announced during the [Consumer Electronics Show] that it would reintroduce Ektachrome, a color reversal film discontinued in 2012.

...and...

But in the last three years, companies like Kodak, Fujifilm and Harman Technology, which manufactures the popular Ilford Photo black-and-white films, have been experiencing a comeback. “We’re seeing film growth of 5% year-on-year globally,” says Giles Branthwaite, the sales and marketing director at Harman. “Our professional film sales have been increasing over the last two or three years,” confirms Dennis Olbrich, president of Kodak Alaris’ imaging, paper, photo chemicals and film division.

I'd say it's a safe bet that you'll be able to buy E-6 (at least Ektachrome) and get it processed for at least a few more years. And it looks like photographic film overall won't be dying any time soon.

EDIT: You can also still buy Velvia 50 and 100, in 35mm and 120 sizes. I found them for sale at B&H Photo just now.

  • Velvia is still available, but the options for processing it (at least in Europe, where I live) are vanishing fast. Ektachrome is a major piece of good news, but it seems to be aimed chiefly towards the independent movie making scene and unavailable in 120 format. – Jindra Lacko Apr 21 '17 at 19:00
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    Yes, Ektachrome won't be available in 120 (initially, at least), but it will be available in 35mm-36exp. And as long as there's E-6 film being produced, there will be at least one lab somewhere in the world processing it. You may have to resort to mailing your film somewhere, but it is better than nothing. – digijim Apr 21 '17 at 19:33
  • I'm quite certain, that even if major companies like Fuji, Kodak and Rollei (AGFA) stop producing E-6 film, there will always be some small company that will take up the flag. Like how it happened with Polaroid instant films. – lightproof Apr 23 '17 at 15:08
1

In days of yore, slides were projected. The 21st century equivalent of projection is scanning and sharing online. The thing about slide film is it scans easily and shows strong contrast and vivid saturation (assuming, of course, it was properly exposed and processed). It takes a little to a lot more effort to achieve the same result from negative film -- and make it look natural. I truly believe digital/hybrid workflows will be the saving grace of slide film.

If you need exposure latitude and/or want to wet print your color film, color negative film is still the way to go. The chemistry to wet print slide film was discontinued with Ilfochrome several years ago. There are ways (RA-4 reversal, internegatives) but they're difficult and produce mixed results. A hybrid approach is probably the best way to print slide film.

Ferrania and Kodak at least must think slide film has a future. Ferrania is moving forward with slide film development, and Kodak has "reintroduced" Ektachrome to be available later this year. And since Kodak also manufacturers E-6 chemistry, I think we're safe for some time to come.

1

Photographic film manufacturing is an Economy of Scale proposition. Anyone who wants, can make film but likely the sale price will be too high and this discourages sales. To bring the price down you must sell tons of the stuff. If you succeed you can now make tons and make a profit. The problem is, every product has an “end-of-life”. Photographic film is hanging on but sales are dropping fast. Soon, economy of scale will prevail and the product will no longer generate profit.

The Ektachrome product evolved from World War II color movie film. Both Kodak and Agfa were making the stuff. It is an incorporated color film. The dyes reside in the film as opposed to Kodachrome which is non-incorporated. This makes for a simpler film that can be developed by those who regularly handle black & white film. Kodak’s Ektachrome prevailed, evolving into the E-6 formula. This formulation migrated to be made by others.

People liked slide film. The images are gorgeous. You could look at a slide and evaluate it in an instant. Magazine editor loved it, so did lectures. Armed with a projector and screen, you had portable lecture graphics. Besides it was cheap. In its heyday, a rolls cost about $2.00 and developing to mounted slides, about the same. It was a wonderful time. But – time marches on. Now the digital camera is king. Now, digital images are easily displayed on giant TV screens and these are everywhere, at home and auditorium. Once slide film was king – the king is dead – long live the new king – digital imaging.

  • If the king is dead, somehow he's still making babies (again, Ektachrome and Ferrania). Also, the OP is asking specifically about the viability and practicality of slide film relative to negative film. Another asserition of digital's prominence is gratuitous here. Lastly, I wonder if you have a source for "Photographic film is hanging on but sales are dropping fast." – bvy Apr 21 '17 at 18:02
  • The film industry is not a monolithic block - some parts are adjusting better to the "new normal" than others. Ilford seems to be doing fine, carefully managing the retro chic image and sticking to what they know to work. Sadly, this no longer includes Cibachrome / Ilfochrome. But it seems unfair when Fuji Instax (image size 46×62mm and of questionable quality) flies off the shelf and medium format slides (image size 42×56mm or bigger and of superior quality) are left to perish. – Jindra Lacko Apr 21 '17 at 19:16
  • The world is changing! Making a processing film is a chemical industry. The world perceives (mostly wrongly) that the chemicals used and discharged are venomous. Municipalities impose almost impossible rules and regulations that drives up the price. The industry cannot survive, sales won’t support. Yes there will be film for a time but I wouldn’t issue a life insurance policy if I were you. – Alan Marcus Apr 21 '17 at 20:49
  • "sales are dropping fast" This needs to be backed up with a source. Film sales obviously plummeted for, say, the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, and they will never regain those earlier levels, but I have a suspicion that sales are actually growing at a reasonable rate again now. – osullic Apr 23 '17 at 15:38
-1

It is of course crystal balling, but my guess is that colour positive film and the E6 process will die out pretty soon. Kodachrome is long gone, Ilford stopped production of Ilfochrome, the last direct positive colour paper, some years ago and to be honest, what exact function is there still to be covered by colour positive film? Is there anybody out there still pulling out their slide projector to show pictures from the last family holiday?

I don't dispute the partial advantages of film vs digital, especially 120 and large format film, but what do you currently need positive film for, which cannot be done just as good er even better with negative film? If you are using a hybrid workflow and scan your film for later digital processing or printing, you can just as well use Portra or any low saturation film, scan the image, click some buttons in Photoshop and you will have 'legendary Velvia tones' without ever having been close to a real roll of Velvia.

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    Those who use and love Velvia will never be fooled by a "legendary Velvia tones" filter. – bvy Apr 21 '17 at 13:44
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    @bvy Show me a blind test proving that, and I would believe you. – jarnbjo Apr 21 '17 at 15:34
  • I have no blind test results, but it doesn't matter. You either want a digital image that looks like Velvia or you want Velvia. Even if a filter could convincingly simulate Velvia, it won't satisfy the those who insist on having the actual film to hold up to the light, view on a lightbox, and, yes, even project (people are still doing that and others are returning to it). Slide film is an experience that is as much about shooting it and having a tangible image as it is about sharing it on a monitor. – bvy Apr 21 '17 at 15:57
  • @bvy: 'Slide film is an experience that is as much about shooting it and having a tangible image as it is about sharing it on a monitor.' Sure, but the OP already stated in his question that he is intending or already using a hybrid process and I introduced my statement with 'If you are using a hybrid workflow and scan your film for later digital processing or printing'. The number of photographers who actually require and are willing to pay for the 'slide film experience' is obviously not high enough for the products to be comercially viable. – jarnbjo Apr 21 '17 at 16:35
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    Portra is a great emulsion, just completely different from Velvia. Ektar would seem a better fit among the current Kodak lineup. But if I had to emulate the Velvia look digitally I can as well shoot digital in the first place :( – Jindra Lacko Apr 21 '17 at 19:04

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