The Future of Film, Film Cameras, and Darkroom Equipment in the Digital Camera DSLR Era


At this time (early 2009) digital cameras are everywhere, in cell phones, in point and shoot little cameras, and even casual shooters may be using DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras.

Local and online retailers selling photographic film and darkroom equipment are keeping fewer and fewer offerings in stock. Custom labs are faltering if they still exist in a given market.

It makes sense, once again, to reexamine the future of film, film cameras, black & white printing, and the traditional wet darkroom in the digital era.

We Were Speaking of Fate
“We Were Speaking of Fate”

Let’s put on a mental macro lens and take a close up look at the position film photography currently holds and where it may be in the near term and farther off futures.

Most professional photographers have shifted to digital imaging based workflows.

Portrait studios, wedding photographers, and school photographers see the benefit of retouching digital color pictures in Photoshop as opposed to previous film retouching methods. Photojournalists and press photographers are uploading their breaking news pictures to wire services in stunningly fast times. Even studio product photography is shifting away from 8×10 film work as the high resolution digital studio cameras improve.

Casual photographers and hobbyists are shifting purchases from 35mm SLR’s over to digicams. Other than buying occasional one-time use cameras (which are increasing in sales), average people are going for consumer type digital DSLR cameras rather than invest in a film camera.

Most magazines all show digital offerings far and away over film equipment. Imaging conferences, trade fairs, retailers, book publishers, and even libraries are emphasizing digital.

Photographic processing labs, if they still exist, are offering more digital picture printing services, or dropping film services altogether. Retail photography stores are suffering reduced sales as the digital market shifts towards large discount stores and internet sources.

Large manufacturers of films and black & white printing materials are cutting back production, eliminating product lines, and leaving the market altogether.

Piranisi Vaulted Ceiling
“Piranisi Vaulted Ceiling”

If the shift is so great and pandemic, why even consider the future of film? Who cares?

Well, many people care. I care. You probably care if you’re reading this. Many people still just like film, prefer film, or sternly refuse to make the shift away from film to digital.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why there is hope for film in the future.

Continued in Part 2 of:
The Future of Film Cameras and Darkroom Equipment in the Digital Camera DSLR Era

Author: P U

18 thoughts on “The Future of Film, Film Cameras, and Darkroom Equipment in the Digital Camera DSLR Era

  1. thanks for reminding me of what I love about film.
    maybe you should do a story about types of film, and the best places to buy them.

    1. thanks for reminding me of what I love about film.
      Great, that’s the best ‘take-away’ from this post.

      maybe you should do a story about types of film, and the best places to buy them.
      I might just do that.


  2. I gotta hope that this is true. I want film to continue.
    I like digital photography too, but making black and white prints is too much fun. I want to see film companies and dark room equipment made well into the future.


    1. If film manufacturers continue to produce refined film products, and black & white print paper manufacturers stick with it, I think we’ll have a future for the darkroom, and silver based imaging as a specialist’s alternative to digital photography. They look and feel different, and I think that the general public recognizes this as well.

      Ken Storch

  3. Dear sir,
    I would like to share my recent experience with film cameras, as I live in South India, at Kerala, a very humid place,frequent problem of fungus on the lens causing much irritation to my photographic gear,I thought of disposing some of my SLR’s I purchased by shelling out a fortune, and to my utter dismay most of the dealers refused to accept an analogue film camera and they were quoting paltry price for the very costly equipment and feeling disgusted I came back dumping all the equipment on the attic.I was told that the film cameras are outdated and you cannot find people using it anymore, and most of the dealers have shifted their business to digital, which I find not my cup of tea.The digital explosion has really killed the creativity from photgraphy, and it is only manipulations with software, and not the actual scene which is captured by the analogue film camera with accuracy and originality.

    1. Hello Ajay,

      I share sympathy with you regarding the drop in value of film based equipment, but I can assure you that there are people who still love film.

      I teach traditional photography as well as digital and our classes keep filling.

      I even had a student the other night remark how wonderful the tones were in black+white film compared to digital.

      The aesthetic of the images, and the processes are obviously different.

      As to the fungus problem, perhaps using a desiccant, or even dried rice to keep the equipment dry might help?

      Thanks for your comments.


  4. Film users should go to where the film/digital divide is discussed frequently. I wish film would “perservere” more in these “digital times” but Kodak/Fuji/Agfa are bowing to politics rather than photography. Very sad.

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