Camera Manufacturers Missed a Very Big Boat, and It’s Not Phones

The more I’ve thought about how photography has become a niche for hobbyists, the more I believe that camera manufacturers didn’t do enough to support the film community.

In the year 2020, I think photographers would be seriously overjoyed to hear about a brand new film camera released by one of the big companies. Or better yet, they’d love to hear about a film camera being reissued in some way or another. It would be something much different, and we all wouldn’t be as jaded as we are with the numbers war that camera manufacturers play with one another. Instead, it would be about creating: something incredibly crucial to zennials and millennials both. We’ve wanted something brand new that no one else is doing. We’ve wanted a unique experience. And if we keep going to eBay to support the used camera community, then clearly there’s a market for something new.

Let’s think about this carefully. If any of the following cameras were reissued from the list below, you’d probably see a market for it:

  • Canon F1
  • Canon EOS 33
  • Canon AE1
  • Nikon F
  • Nikon FM2
  • Pretty much any Nikon F mount camera
  • Nikon AF35
  • Fujifilm Natura S
  • Fujifilm GW690 III
  • Pentax Spotmatic
  • Pentax K1000
  • Leica M4P
  • Leica M6

Think about it! Any of these cameras would cause a stir, but the camera manufacturers don’t think there is a market for it. However, Fujifilm saw enough demand for ACROS to come back, and there are tons of cameras on the market right now being sold used. But film shooters would like a new, exciting reason to shoot with them. Film development can be done at home for the most part, and almost everyone has a digital camera that can scan the negatives.

Of course, this game isn’t all about just bringing back film emulsions, either. It’s also about creating something people will want to use over and over again. Something that’s specifically difficult to create from digital. I think Lomography is doing an excellent job with that right now, but other emulsions are needed.

Personally speaking, I’m not sure how much longer Kodak has. But Fujifilm could do it. So too could ILFORD. I’d have a ton of faith in them to get it done.

Let me be clear here; I’m not saying that the manufacturers should ditch digital. I think the hobbyist market needs to really lean into how not functional cameras are vs. phones. I believe the professional market needs to showcase how much better it is than the mobile market. And I think the analog market needs to sell the experience that everyone else will miss out on if they don’t choose to commit. We already see it with Instax and Polaroids.

With all the innovations that have happened over the years, I could see how these companies could make some positively incredible film cameras. The last one of note that I saw was the Leica M-A. Anything else that has been Kickstarted has basically ended up being vaporware. And that’s disappointing.

Before I finish this post, I’ll mention the idea of a hybrid camera. Lots of folks have wanted one. And if anyone could have done it, I’d say it would be Sony, Phase One, Fujifilm, or Tamron. Phase One is basically Mamiya. Tamron made the Bronica cameras years ago. Sony is a technology powerhouse that was brave enough to do things like bring back the walkman in some ways. But analog worked well in the music world to the point of revival, and I think the photo world needs to take the same leap.