Periodically, I go through periods where I need a mental break from it all. I’m sure there’s more than a few of you who feel the same if you’ve been blogging or posting photos on the internet for some time. “C-B-R” I call it. Crash. Burn. Rise (or try to rise) again 🙂
As mentioned before, putting up a blog with any kind of quality content takes effort and I would rather not post unless I could put up something interesting for you.
Anyway, almost two weeks ago it was announced that Fujifilm would be discontinuing the FP-100C, the last commercially produced 3.25×4.25″ peel-apart pack film. The announcement caused a bit of an uproar in the film community.
The discontinuation of this film has more implications than it first seems. It goes without saying that those who truly enjoy pack film and use it regularly will be most affected. But they are not the only ones affected. With no more pack film, here are just some of the after effects:
- People who ever wanted to try a “Polaroid Back” with their film camera will be affected when there is no more pack film because virtually all Polaroid backs, especially for medium format systems, take the 3.25×4.25″ peel apart films. And for the Polaroid backs that do not take this film, such as the 545 backs, film is virtually non-existent, except for really old batches sold on eBay or the cool, but expensive New55 films.
- The announcement rendered all Polaroid Land cameras and any other camera that takes this film useless. Well, not really useless right now, but living on borrowed time.
- People who make a living selling pack film photos on the streets or at fairs, events, etc, will be affected. Admittedly, there are more people these days shooting with a digital camera and a portable digital printer than there are those using pack film, but I do know a couple of really cool photographers whose unique work was directly a result of shooting with vintage cameras and instant pack film, and some who even make a living from this.
- Folks who, over the years, have resurrected vintage Polaroid cameras and have made a living restoring and modifying old Polaroid cameras to take pack film. There was a good market for this, just check eBay. They will definitely be affected by this. Some of these people have started converting cameras to use Instax film, but they’re just beginning. I hope they will continue and wish them success with this.
The surprising thing about Fuji’s discontinuation? Well, from all accounts Fuji’s own line of Instax instant cameras and film are booming! These instant cameras are incredibly popular and according to some accounts, making a better profit over Fuji’s own line of renowned digital cameras.
I’ve read people saying maybe Fuji did not want the pack film market to compete or hinder the sales of Instax cameras so they discontinued the FP-100C. This however doesn’t make sense because Fuji had no competition. There was no other company left that was making pack film.
So why not just shoot Instax? Because at this time, there are no Instax cameras that offer decent manual/advanced user capabilities. Actually, there is the Lomo Instant Wide which takes Instax Wide film and offers more manual controls than what Fuji is offering, but reports on this camera are mixed. I hope to get one for review in the near future. However, so far none of these Instax cameras have anything like the great Tominon lenses on the Polaroid 180/195 Land cameras or the Ysarex lens on the Polaroid 110A and 110B.
MY EXPERIENCES WITH PACK FILM
Personally, as an available light and night shooter, I much preferred the Fuji FP-3000B, the amazing ISO 3000 black and white version. It was amazingly sharp with beautiful tones. Sadly, this film was discontinued in 2013, but can still be found albeit at ridiculous prices.
For the FP-100C, I find my best results outdoors with plenty of sunlight. The FP-100C needs lots of light. If you have a studio setup, it’s cool, but I’m an available light shooter. I could and have done portraits with flash, but for those Polaroid “party” shots with flash, I’d just prefer to shoot with a One Step.
The great thing with Fuji’s peel apart instant film is that you get two images for the price: an instant print and a negative which you can reclaim through scanning or a bleaching process.
Not all is rosy with pack film though. I’ve had issues with broken tabs, film jamming and losing the first couple of shots and sometimes, the whole pack which makes you feel really lousy because these films have become really expensive.
At its best, it’s an awesome feeling because there’s nothing like seeing an instant print develop before your eyes. And with the right camera/lens combo, you can get really excellent pics that can’t quite be duplicated digitally, even with the best “film” filters. At its worst, the film jamming, the underexposed shots, the expense, the gunk, it sometimes makes me say, why bother?
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
As soon as Fuji announced FP-100C’s discontinuation, the price gouging began. The film was selling for around $10 earlier, all of a sudden it went up to $14.99, then $18.99, now $24 and even over $30 in some places.
This is nuts and capitalism at its best, or worst. Strange thing is that the film was never out of stock whenever I looked, before the announcement. Now, it’s out of stock in most places. I know what you’re saying, supply and demand.
People are panicking. But I look at it this way. The Fuji FP-3000C was discontinued in 2013, but you can still find it even today on B&H, albeit at about three times the price before it was discontinued. Surely, once the entire stock is gone, it’s gone. But apparently Fuji had enough stock that, three years later, is still being sold.
Hopefully, Fuji made enough stock of FP-100C to last us a few more years.
THE BITTER END
In Fuji’s press release, they cited declining sales as the reason for discontinuing the film. This is the only thing that makes sense. Fujifilm is a business after all and just like all businesses they’re here to make money, not to appease a niche market of enthusiasts. Perhaps it cost more to produce the film and maintain the equipment that makes the film than they saw worthy.
Ironically, it is this niche market of old film cameras that Fuji borrowed the analog styling for its very successful line of retro styled digital cameras.
There are online petitions to save the Fuji FP-100C with thousands signed. The same was done when the FP-3000B was discontinued in 2013, it yielded no results. I expect the same here.
Some have wondered in the Impossible Project may take up this opportunity and buy out Fuji’s equipment to continue making pack film. I certainly hope they could. They really did do the impossible with Polaroid 600 and SX-70 film and I applaud their efforts. However, I personally feel that they won’t because they are probably already stretched thin as it is, although if any company can do the “impossible” they can!
Fujifilm has always been a different breed and have always made cameras, films, and decisions that were different and often unique. This time, sadly, they did what any corporate business would do and I think all analog photographers have lost something special because of it.