“And Gen Z…,” explains Manny Almeida, Fujifilm North America Division President for Imaging when asked about whether Millenials are really responsible for bringing back Acros film. “It’s a shock to us also. We discontinued ACROS because there was such a small demand.” He continued to state that they don’t believe they’ll be generating enormous demand for it, but that something didn’t feel right with Fujifilm’s discontinuation of Acros back in 2018. ACROS 100 film was the last black and white film emulsion left in the Fujifilm portfolio of products. The reason for its discontinuation? Diminished sales.
Fujifilm’s marketing efforts around negative and positive films have been a little of display banner advertising and a lot through their Instagram channel @fujifilm_profilm. Much of what’s seen there is a celebration of the company’s PRO 400H emulsion and the pastel colors it offers. But otherwise, not much has been done to push Provia, Velvia, Superia, and obviously ACROS. Indeed, Fujifilm also discontinued Natura 1600 last year–which hurt our staffers who use film on a near regular basis the most. Since then, companies like Lomography, SilberSaltz35, Kodak, and others have announced new film emulsions and a return of others. Considering how much Fujifilm is still all about the analog world and printing photos, this seemed really odd.
A big part of Fujifilm’s money in imaging comes from what they call giftable print products. This includes items like wall decor, unique printing frames, and even custom made blankets that consumers can pick up at the Fujifilm Wonder Photo store. On top of all that, there is the absolute juggernaut that is Instax. Nine and 12-year-old girls who started with the Instax Mini have evolved into adults who want new formats and a digital/analog fusion with Instax Mini. This is why the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay was created. This targets an older audience that goes for the giftable print products and that may also have an interest in products like the previously discontinued Acros film. “It didn’t feel right,” states Mr. Almeida while commenting on how Fujifilm worked with all of these other analog products but then decided to discontinue their own Black and White SKU.
“It’s not going to make this company richer at all, but there were a lot of consumers that were loyal…There are a lot of films we’re just not going to be able to bring back.”
With Fujifilm’s introduction of the new Fujifilm ACROS II, the company went the route of creating a new product and not just trying to revive the old emulsion. ACROS ISO 100 was always their best seller of all the black & white emulsions, and when it comes to long term stability, the company decided that ISO 100 would be the most feasible. “We’re coating on demand, and 800 and 1600 are the most unstable films,” states Mr. Almeida. “We’re able to coat a large quantity, put it into a deep freeze and the emulsion does not change…the engineers felt like we couldn’t do that with a high ISO film.” He continued that they added new raw materials with the reformulation. Additionally, the new emulsion had to pass certain phase gates and quality tests to be approved.
What’s more, Fujifilm would have a tough time competing in the ISO 400 range with so many other products out there. The idea of not wanting to swim with sharks is quite a safe one; in a similar vein, it’s part of the reason Leica is still alive today.
We’re not sure when it will be available in the US. When Fujifilm ACROS II launches in Japan this October, it will come in both 35mm and 120 emulsions. After this, Fujifilm has plans to launch the film market by market. “I think there is enough demand here that we’ll most likely be bringing it back.” Mr. Almeida reasoned. In regards to the US, Manny isn’t sure about it being available by the holiday season of 2019.