New Films, Old Films, New Old Films

Everyone’s had something to say about the re-release of Kodak’s TMAX 3200 film. Even strong competitor ILFORD, who threw some shade with a ‘Never Left’ post regarding their highly popular Delta 3200 film stock. Though the posts regarding the re-release of TMAX 3200 are riddled with inaccuracies, which is particularly strange given Kodak are notorious for releasing detailed fact sheets on their consumer and professional grade film. Of course, TMAX 3200 was no different, with a release appearing in March of 2018 fully explaining the new film (front to back) in typical Kodak fashion. Cutting to the important parts first, Kodak state “the nominal speed is EI 1000 when the film is processed in KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX Developer or KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX RS Developer and Replenisher, or EI 800 when it is processed in other KODAK black-and-white developers.” They shoulder this by stating there is no increase in grain or loss of quality by pushing the film to 1600, and at 3200 only minor shadow detail will suffer. “You can expose this film at EI 3200 or 6400. At these speeds, there will be a slight increase in contrast and graininess with additional loss of shadow detail,” they explain.

This statement is followed by a quick reminder that the film’s performance still far exceeds alternate options, like pushing 400 ISO film multiple stops. The catchline for the film is plastered at the very start of the Kodak PDF, reading: “[it’s a] multi-speed continuous-tone panchromatic black-and-white negative film that combines high to ultra-high film speeds with finer grain than that of other fast black-and-white films. It is especially useful for very fast action; for dimly lighted scenes where you can’t use flash; for subjects that require good depth of field combined with fast shutter speeds; and for handholding telephoto lenses for fast action or in dim light. It is an excellent choice for nighttime photography.” Of course, the similarities between TMAX 3200 (emulsion #2) and Delta 3200 won’t be evident until the film hits the market, and just how much of a wave it will make remains unsure.

Though this isn’t necessarily about TMAX 3200, but rather the reintroduction of items we’d once said goodbye to. Statistics remind us that brands like Kodak are running at financial losses and dropping employee’s like flies, however it’s impossible to tell whether this is an omen for the brand itself. It could suggest a restructuring, and a way for Kodak to produce consumer grade film in a more viable manner, noting the increase in demand and doing what they see viable (as a business) to accomodate the shifting marketplace. If Kodak are bringing back Ektachrome (whenever that may be) and they’ve made swift moves on the TMAX front, it’s safe to say the brand plans to roll out additional films. In this regard, the entire scenario acts in an inverse manner to a class action lawsuit, with brands feeding off one another to foster growth and return the film industry to its financially viable self. Whether or not it will get there remains a debate, however one can’t deny that the influx of Kickstarter campaigns, new ventures, labs and otherwise signifies a true (at the very least, attempted) uprising in the analogue community.

What’s next?

It’s easy to speculate on the eventual announcement of an all new 35mm SLR or medium format system, or an brand new entrant into the film marketplace, however it’s much more likely that a peppering of new releases will form the majority of growth in the analogue sector in the years to come. With tight budgets, many film-focused businesses re-releases or investments into film are based as much on accruing merit as purveyors of the form, as they are on profits in the sector. Companies that are seen as continually supporting film and providing advancements to the film community earn clout amongst the devout fans that remain the foundation of the wavering industry. In doing so, these companies earn the respect and brand loyalty of the customers, increasing their business prognosis and allowing them to continue moving forward with new developments. So don’t expect one big bang, but rather a long rain of gifts, ones that promise to sprout more gifts if we treat them as we should.