Best professional black and white photo printer
Letu2019s first take a look at vinyl records.
They have indeed rebounded lately.
3 million units in 2017u2026 not too shabby, eh?,So yeah, some people are buying vinylu2026 but itu2019s not exactly u201cbacku201d.
And the largest-selling vinyl album in 2017? The Beatles u201cSgt.
Pepperu2019s Lonely Heartu2019s Club Bandu201d, moving about 72,000 units.
Number two? u201cAbbey Roadu201d, same group, 66,000 units.
And it was a 40-year old recordu2026 most of the top-ten vinyl sales are u201cback catalogu201d remixes.
Not actually a bad thing, as that suggests the same formula can work this year.
,Still, that meant that in 2017, vinyl amounted to 14% of all physical media sales, about 8.
5% of album sales.
But if you take into account streaming and downloads, vinyl was about 2.
5% of all music sales in 2017, its best year in nearly two decades.
Not in any danger of taking over again.
A total off 77 albums sold 20,000 or more copies in 2017, so this wasnu2019t just a Beatles thing.
The growth between 2016 and 2017 was 9%, but itu2019s been averaging 5% for the last twelve yearsu2026 if itu2019s a fad, itu2019s a long-lived fad.
And vinyl numbers actually look better than they should because vinyl is growing, while other physical media sales are still dropping every years.
Downloads and streaming are king.
,Mirrored by Film?So, is the rise of the LP mirrored by the rise of film? Well, maybe a bit.
Kodak Alaris, Harman (owns the Ilford technology), Fujifilm, and a few others have been seeing 5% annual growth in film, lately.
Some companies are expanding their very limited film lines.
,Itu2019s impossible to know for certain just how much the rise in film demand is and if and when it will plateau, because of the way the film business was shut down in the first place.
Film manufacturing shut down various films for various reasons, but that didnu2019t suddenly mean you couldnu2019t get that film.
As long as the film hasnu2019t expired, youu2019re good if you get the film you want u2014 thereu2019s no need for immediacy as there is with musicu2026.
well, at least as far as new release sales go.
,So weu2019re certainly seeing the exhausiton of old stocks and the downsizing of various companies that acutally works in filmu2019s favor.
Take Kodak Alaris (KodakAlaris), which is a spinout company devoted to imaging products only, including film, scanners, photographic paper, digital printing stations, and some related software products.
So they have far fewer distractions than the old Kodak, and photo chemistry is once again at the forefront.
That doesnu2019t mean theyu2019re a guaranteed success u2014 they did shut down one of their five plants in 2016.
,But they probably do have a future, film or no film.
Not all of chemical photography has necessarily left us yet.
But itu2019s more of a specialty item than in the past.
If youu2019re getting color prints u2014 maybe a rare thing itself these days u2014 youu2019re likely to get inkjet prints, whether you do it at home or send it out.
And thatu2019s not a bad thing, because most chemical color printing technology has poor longevity.
Color prints not kept out of UV light can noticably fade in a year or so.
The long lasting Cibachrome/Ilfochrome process, using pigments rather than dyes, was only rated for about 25 years.
I have some old Cibachrome prints in my photo booksu2026 Iu2019m not sure if thereu2019s fading or thatu2019s just a representation of my printing prowess at age 16u201318.
,But in black and white, you probably get a noticably better print going to a chemical gelatin print over an inkjet, just sending out an image to print, largely because most inkjet printing isnu2019t optimized for B&W printing.
And these prints last about as long as the paper you choose, thus, comparable to the best pigment inkject printing.
Of course, the best black and white printing is a specialty done by professionals.
Let those same professionals tweak a printer for multi-tone black and white printing, and youu2019re just might get something thatu2019s generally superior to chemistry (Achieving High Quality Black and White Inkjet Prints - Image Science).
,The Improvement FactorHereu2019s the other thing: the relative quality of the digital over analog/chemical format.
In the case of LP records versus CDs, the CD wasnu2019t just better than the LP, it was dramatically better.
So why the surge in vinyl sales?,Ok, some of it was certainly just the hipster culture, always embracing the old as better.
That is a factor, and to deny it is to misunderstand the problems.
But there was another factor.
Simply put, audiophiles were also going back to vinyl.
,There were certainly technical issue in the early days of the CD player, but those were resolved long ago.
Unfortunately, what we got instead was what amounts to an intentional sabotage of audio quality on CD by the record industry.
Simply put, major releases had dynamic range compression to make them sound louder on-air, bruising or ruining the actual dynamics in the music produced by the artist.
But this technique could not be used on LP.
,The other factor was the market.
If you bought a mass market CD, you probably got a pretty bad compression of that sound.
In some cases, you even got digital clipping on music release.
Keep in mind, this is not being done for the most part by your favorite artist, this is being done as part of the media-specific mastering process.
But itu2019s making fundamental changes to the music.
,But when they mastered for the audiophile market, things like DVD-Audio, SACD, or Blu-Ray Audio, this was not done.
And thatu2019s the same small divisions at big companies making the records.
So any large companyu2019s vinyl is being made by their audiophile division.
Curiously, music for video game inclusion was often through these same branches within the big companiesu2026 making the occasional embarrassment when a track included in a video game is far, far superior from the CD/Digital release.
,So back to filmu2026 what is the thing about film that youu2019re going to find, long term, superior to digital? If there is one, that bodes well for the future of film, at least for artists and some work done by professionals.
But given the limitations of film versus digital, itu2019s unlikely.
We already have digital cameras bringing in some much resolution that lenses have been tested to new levels not important in the days of film and early digital.
As an artistic choice, film can live forever.
But I donu2019t yet see the case to be made that parallels that of vinyl in music.
Sony, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Fujifilm, etcu2026.
theyu2019re not intentionally screwing up their images!,The One Unexpected FactorThere is, currently, a renaissance in film photography you might not even have noticedu2026 but one company sold 5 million film cameras in 2015, 6.
6 million in 2016, and something around 7.
5 million for 2017.
Theyu2019re selling 4x as many analog cameras as digital.
And no, itu2019s not Lomography, itu2019s Fujifilm.
,Instax is a true global phenomenon.
How much of one? Leica makes an Instax camera called the Sofort.
I couldnu2019t find any hard numbers on Instax film sales, but thereu2019s a very good chance that Instax film is more popular than all other kinds of film on the planet at this point.
,A Weird Hardware MarketSo back in the mid-2000s, my Dad decided to sell his Nikon N90 and N8008 film cameras u2014 pretty nice cameras, and he wasnu2019t going to shoot film anymore.
He looked on eBay and found these were selling for under $200.
He just didnu2019 have the heart to sell such nice cameras so cheap.
So he gave them to me.
I was still occasionally messing with film in those days, but I also promised to keep them around, to have great film cameras for all the grandkids to use.
And a few of them have, even after Dad was gone.
,So that dynamic has been both a blessing and a curse: really great film cameras have been so cheap, itu2019s awfully hard to sell a new one.
And so most companies making film cameras just stopped.
They saw no business there.
,And a big part of understanding the long-term health of a market is understanding factors that keep it going, and those that could help kill it off.
If new film cameras are made, film could last forever.
If the set of working film cameras available today is all there ever will be, as those fail, so does the market.
,Nikon still sells film cameras, but actually, as of last year, itu2019s film camera.
Last year, they cancelled the FM10, leaving the F6 as their only film camera.
Now, the FM10 wasnu2019t actually made by Nikon, it was made for them by Cosina.
And Nikno had a dismal 2016, losing around $300 milion, and much of that not in the camera business.
The F6 is still available, but itu2019s a $2400 film camera.
,Curiously, one new one appeared at the same timeu2026 sort of.
u201cReflexu201d is a new mechanical 35mm camera on Kickstarter.
Reflex is the First New 35mm Manual SLR Camera Design in 25 Years.
This is also quite unusual in that itu2019s a 35mm system with a removable film back, and it can take a variety of lens mounts.
,And thereu2019s one company thatu2019s thrived in the film business as everyone else left: Lomography (formerly Lomo), an Austrian company that, years back, started sellling cheap film cameras and popularizing the style of that sort of lo-fi photography (Lomography).
,But today, they are true film shooting madmen, in the good way.
They sell pinhole cameras.
They sell the worldu2019s only remaining new twin-lens reflex camera.
They sell Instax cameras, pretty good ones, as these nearly disposable cameras go.
They sell film.
They have some beautiful classic lenses.
They have a variety of 35mm cameras, none too expensive.
Theyu2019re the Leibowitz of chemical photography these days.
,The Technical IssuesThereu2019s one thing about vinyl thatu2019s really helped its growth: itu2019s a pretty low-tech process.
A small company can put together a vinyl press in a big garage.
,And thatu2019s pretty much how itu2019s been going, as most modern vinyl records are pressed on gear made in the 1980s or before.
But there are a few companies now working on modern, computer-aided versions of the process, driven entirely by demand.
,Color Film, on the other hand, is surprisingly complicated, especially color film.
Thatu2019s why itu2019s good when a company like Kodak Alaris rises from the ashes of the old Kodak, and especially then they decide to put Ektachrome back into production, as they did last year (Kodak Ektachrome Film is Coming Back from the Dead).
,But the good news is that black and white film and printing are simple enough, it will probably never entirely die.
In fact, most of the people who make these absolutely breathtaking platinum/paladium prints (which you can only experience in person u2014 and you should) do it with home-made chemistry.
,The Failure of SuccessItu2019s also important to understand that, in both of these cases, thereu2019s a certainly element of success as failure.
In short, when a company gets big enough and successful enough, they lose interest in small but still-profitable markets.
Look back at the record industry and you can see that it was basically reduced to five big companies.
Sure, they had subdivisions that sometimes ran independently, but the overall push from these huge conglomerates was for optimizing profit.
They saw that happening like the big guys in Hollywood did: you need blockbusters every year, and youu2019re wasting your time on small efforts.
So they cut their artist rosters and pushed hard for huge records every year.
,Letu2019s look at the most successful film camera company on the planet: Fujifilm.
Theyu2019re also a very significant presence in the digital camera industry, and, like Kodak, Fujifilm was a huge film company, but one thatu2019s made the digital transisiton better than Kodak did.
And yet, in 2018, they have a buch of film being discontinued (Fujifilm Killing Off More Films in 2018, and Things Look Grim).
Itu2019s quite posible the big success of their Instax format has the company lining up all of their film efforts in that direction u2014 the regular, small film business for 35mm on up, just not interesting enough.
,Curiously, this helped to save vinyl.
This made small record companies viable again, able to attract more talent, etc.
And they understood what the big guys didnu2019t about talking to the customer, figuring out what the customer wants, and reacting to it.
This is also why, in my industry, small companies and startup companies so often get a big jump over billion dollar behemoths.
These smaller companies saw that collectors, superfans, audiophiles, whomever, still had a taste for vinyl.
And in fact, the bad treatment of music put on CD by the big guys gave vinyl a repuation it didnu2019t exactly deserve, only because that kind of messing with sound was impossible to put on vinyl.
,Read MoreInfographic: The Surprising Comeback of Vinyl RecordsU.
Vinyl Album Sales Hit Nielsen Music-Era Record High in 2017,Film Photography is Making a Stunning ComebackFilm is not dead: Resurgent interest in analogue photographyThe Great Film Renaissance Of 2017Back to the darkroom: young fans reject digital to revive classic film camera,http://www.
com/innovation/achievements/instax/The Re-Emergence of the Instant Camera in Our Instagram WorldFujifilm Killing Off More Films in 2018, and Things Look Grim,Darkroom Tips for Platinum Prints From Digital NegativesBlack and White Printing