FILM RE­VIEW – FIVE STARS

Camera - - WHAT’S NEW - Paul Bur­rows, Ed­i­tor.

EV­ERY SO OF­TEN here at Cam­era we like to check the pulse of so-called ‘ana­log’ to check that the pa­tient is still alive and breath­ing. The last time we did this, it was start­ing to look like a move to in­ten­sive care might be nec­es­sary, but things have im­proved quite dra­mat­i­cally in the first half of 2017 to the ex­tent that the vi­tal signs are start­ing to look quite en­cour­ag­ing.

The big shot in the arm, of course, has been the an­nounce­ment from Ko­dak Alaris that Ek­tachrome 100 colour trans­parency film will re­turn to­wards the end of this year. Ko­dak may be a shadow of its for­mer self, but it’s still a pretty big op­er­a­tion (now split into UK and US arms) and it wouldn’t be re­viv­ing the iconic E6 film if it didn’t feel that there was money to be made. The Ko­dak an­nounce­ment has clearly re-in­vig­o­rated oth­ers be­cause, sub­se­quently, Ital­ian film maker, Fer­ra­nia, has an­nounced it is back in busi­ness while ADOX has re­vealed plans to dou­ble the size of its pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in Ger­many.

FILM Fer­ra­nia was es­tab­lished in 2013 and is in­de­pen­dent of the orig­i­nal com­pany, which con­tin­ues to op­er­ate in other fields. FILM Fer­ra­nia has pur­chased and recom­mis­sioned a pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity at the orig­i­nal Fer­ra­nia site in Cairo Mon­tenotte near Genoa in Italy, even restor­ing old equip­ment from as early as the 1920s. From the mid-1960s un­til 1999, the orig­i­nal com­pany was owned by 3M and this fa­cil­ity pro­duced Scotch­branded films, some of which the new com­pany plans to re­vive, in­clud­ing Scotch Chrome 100 trans­parency film. How­ever, the first new prod­uct is a lim­ited-edi­tion ‘Al­pha’ re­vival run of its fa­mous P80 panchro­matic B&W film in 35mm which was very pop­u­lar dur­ing the 1960s. P80 was ac­tu­ally orig­i­nally a mo­tion pic­ture stock, but its ul­tra-fine grain struc­ture and high sil­ver con­tent made it very at­trac­tive to pho­tog­ra­phers.

The Euro­peans are cer­tainly at the fore­front of film’s re­nais­sance be­cause in ad­di­tion to Fer­ra­nia and ADOX, there’s Ag­faPhoto (Ger­many), Berg­ger (France), Foma (Czech Repub­lic) and, of course, Il­ford (UK) which is now very ac­tively pro­mot­ing B&W sil­ver-halide pho­tog­ra­phy. The Im­pos­si­ble Project in The Nether­lands con­tin­ues to re­fine and ex­pand its recre­ated Po­laroid self-de­vel­op­ing print prod­ucts and, in this sec­tor, the Fu­ji­film In­stax jug­ger­naut rolls on. In­stax is at the heart of cur­rent Po­laroid, Lomo and Le­ica ‘in­stant’ cam­eras, while Fu­ji­film has just launched a new Po­laroid-es­que In­stax Square for­mat. How­ever, Fu­ji­film con­tin­ues to re­duce its of­fer­ings of con­ven­tional films, re­cently par­ing down its colour neg­a­tive range to just a cou­ple of prod­ucts. That said, there doesn’t ap­pear to be any cause for alarm here as Fu­ji­film is main­tain­ing the im­por­tant Fu­jichrome stocks (Velvia and Provia in 35mm and 120 roll­film) and the Neopan B&W films.

On the hard­ware side, things have still to pick up with the cur­rent de­mand mostly be­ing met by sec­ond-hand film cam­eras. The var­i­ous ‘plas­tic fan­tas­tics’ con­tinue to be avail­able from Lo­mog­ra­phy (Diana, Holga, Lomo, etc.) and, at the other end of the price scale, Le­ica will hap­pily sell you an MP or M7 35mm rangefinder cam­era. In the mid­dle, though, it’s a bit of a desert and, un­less the film re­vival re­ally takes off in a big way, it’s hard to see any­body com­mit­ting to build­ing a new cam­era given the huge costs in­volved. The Cosina-made Voigtlän­der Bessa R2M – the bud­get al­ter­na­tive to the Le­icas – ap­pears to be still avail­able in some mar­kets (no­tably the USA), de­spite sup­pos­edly be­ing dis­con­tin­ued two years ago. Get it while stocks last, as it doesn’t ap­pear that pro­duc­tion has ac­tu­ally recom­menced. And buy now too, if you’re look­ing for a preloved film cam­era… prices can only go up from here.

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