Should Canon and Nikon start making film cameras again?

Given the growing interest in film photography, should Canon and Nikon consider making brand new versions of the AE1 or FM2 for today’s retro enthusiasts?

Canon and Nikon both have a rich history, and with increasing interest in analog photography, now may be the time to update one of their classic models, while making some improvements in the process. road?

Of the two, Nikon might be better suited to such an approach. The company’s recent move to adopt a retro design for the all-about Zfc suggests it is keen to tap into the affection customers have for its older cameras in order to build brand loyalty. As a premium body, the Df may not have sold in the numbers Nikon hoped for, but an affordable APS-C body with chunky dials that takes buyers back to the 1970s and ’80s could be an initiative inspired by its niche marketing department. Nikon in today’s deals.

Interest in cinema is growing

We would forgive to think that, since the digital revolution, filming on film is today more popular than ever. There are countless YouTube channels run by seasoned movie aficionados that shoot everything from 110 to 8×10, and last week SmarterEveryDay’s Destin Sandlin reminded her ten million subscribers that these chemical processes are fun and have a twist. magic for them. At a time when a Sony a1 can produce more images in an afternoon than Cartier-Bresson has shot in his entire life, there is something about the film, its physicality and its slower processes that make the experience more authentic than the digital. In the world of marketing, this sense of authenticity carries a lot of weight.

Sure, the media would have you believe that used camera prices are rising and film labs are busier than ever, but what is the reality? The dark room, a California lab that has been operating since 1976, has definitely seen growth in recent years. “Our workforce has doubled from a few years ago and we’ve expanded our lab to keep up with the volume,” Trev Lee, chief darkroom photographer, told me, adding that social media interest continues. to accelerate. “Yes, interest in cinema is definitely growing. “

Once seen as the death knell, the digital age has made filming on film much easier. Home scanning can take advantage of your existing camera, and labs now consolidate scanning with their development departments. Once you have sent in your film roll, you have the option of never seeing it again; instead, you received a cloud storage link giving you a bundle of beautifully scanned, high-resolution files, all free of dust and scratches. Your movie archives no longer demand the same commitment of time and resources, and those digital files don’t go bad either.

With that in mind, would retro-loving customers like to see a manufacturer like Canon or Nikon update one of their classic cameras or would that take away all the fun of digging around eBay and sifting through thrift stores? before you find something that may or may not work?

Leica leading the way?

Leica seems to believe in the potential of analog, with a new film camera expected to be announced in the next four or five months. According to Leica rumors, an M film rangefinder similar to the M6 ​​TTL is on the way, and hopefully without such a high price tag considering it currently sells for three or four thousand used.

Leica makes an interesting comparison because it is not a company that produces cameras for the mass market. Instead, these are niche offerings, often with limited prints aimed at a very small market of enthusiasts who really love the brand and the unique experience of shooting with a Leica camera. Many might sniff, but the appreciation does exist, and I’ll spare you the analogies of Biros and fountain pens. They’re nice, they’re expensive, people love them, and they pay a lot of money for them (which, of course, makes them especially susceptible to mockery).

Would it be worth it for Nikon to do something similar? Affection for the brand is certainly there, as is the growing number of people making movies as well as an increased appreciation for an aesthetic that makes you feel like Gordon Parks, Don McCullin, or Steve McCurry. For me, such a camera should be mechanical (or almost) and rely heavily on the styling of the FM2 or perhaps the F3 designed by Giugiaro and its iconic red stripe. That would require a die-cast alloy chassis and inevitably this is where we run into problems.

Existing tanks

Cameras of the 1970s and 1980s were built like tanks, and there is no shortage of gear on the used market. A film camera would already have very limited appeal, and the cost of machining a device with 21st century precision and perhaps one or two other refinements would make such a camera expensive, and as a result. as a limited edition item with a collector’s item value. item, we are now heading to Leica territory.

With the camera industry grappling with declining sales that has since been made worse by the global pandemic, few companies – especially Nikon – are in a position to engage in a niche hobby. That said, Canon might be looking to fund such a project, and perhaps get more done with a revamped AE-1 than with the disastrous and quickly forgotten IVY REC, a camera the design team seemed to forget as teenagers. have smartphones. .

In short? No, don’t be stupid

Unfortunately, the answer to the question of whether Canon and Nikon should make a new film camera is almost certainly no. As much as this camera would be a fantastic exercise in attaching a brand more to its existing fans and possibly gaining new ones along the way, it’s hard to imagine how it could be financially viable, and given the sheer number of film cameras in circulation. on eBay, anyone looking to indulge in some analog joy isn’t struggling for options.

However, it’s fun to speculate on what such a camera should be. What would your ideal, newly designed and technologically revamped film camera look like, and do you think someone other than you would buy it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Main picture by G_a_D_o used under CC BY-SA 2.0

About Debra D. Johnson

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