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Film Friday: Does Kodak hold the key to bringing affordable color film back?

Film photography has made a resurgence, particularly with the younger generations. It’s not cheap though and options are relatively scarce compared to just twenty years ago, particularly if you want to shoot color film photography. To help both diversify the color film photography market and bring down the prices of film stock, Stephen Dowling, founder of KosmoFoto, has posited an interesting solution to bringing back more color film stocks at reasonable prices.

KosmoFoto: A simple solution to the colour film crisis

In an article titled A simple solution to the colour film crisis, Dowling breaks down the current state of the color film market before explaining how he believes Kodak could help make color film photography more diverse and affordable.

A screenshot from price tracking website CamelCamelCamel showing the increase in price of Kodak’s Portra 400 Pro Pack (5-pack) from Amazon and third-party sellers. If you throw out the outliers (some of which might’ve been accidental price drops), you can see prices roughly tripled from 2018 with prices going from around $35 to $100 for five rolls of Portra 400.

‘For the first time in years, I am seeing diehard film photographers turn their backs on color film,’ says Dowling. ‘Some of these photographers will stick with black-and-white, where there are still affordable options. Others seem to be walking away from film altogether,’ due to the current prices of color film.

Kodak Gold 200 Film, used under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Dowling goes into more detail in his post, but a large part of the reason we’re seeing high prices and struggle to keep up with demand is due to Kodak’s effective exit of the film photography market. After having shuttered multiple film production facilities, Kodak only has a fraction of the production capacity it once did and while the resurgence of film photography is significant, it’s not enough to justify new companies getting into the film production game with original emulsions considering the complexity involved.

A 1988 ad for Kodak’s Kodacolor VR-G 200 film stock. Kodacolor VR-G film ad, 1988, scanned by Tom Simpson, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

His solution? For Kodak Alaris, who has the exclusive right to market Kodak-branded film, to release Kodak’s old Kodacolor range as a new entry-level film lineup for budding and casual film photographers. ‘They are cheap and cheerful and grainier and less exacting than the Ektar and Portra and, yes, even ColorPlus,’ says Dowling. ‘But they’re also cheaper.’

It seems Lomography has at least some kind of exclusivity for some of these emulsions, considering many of their color film stocks appear visually similar to some of Eastman Kodak’s original emulsions. But ‘demand has outstripped supply,’ in the words of Dowling, and it’s time for Eastman Kodak to work with Kodak Alaris to once again put the Kodak name on these emulsions.

It may be wishful thinking, but it’s a solution that could bring at least some reprieve to a film photography market that is thriving with demand and suffering from a lack of supply. You can read the full article and keep up with other great film photography content on KosmoFoto.

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