Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Fading Out of Photographic Film


A graphic of film sales
over the past ~15 yrs
 A story published today by the AP about the decreasing use of photographic film in general and film-based still imagery in particular had a nice graph from industry sources.   Here it is.  As with many tech related things the delay until the drop-off is hard to predict. But when it comes it's fast and furious.  In this case the peak occurred around 2000 at  800 M$ and is now maybe 20 M$ - a factor of close to 100.  In annual terms, that's about  60% per year.  

Large format film still beats semiconductor pixel based sensing for beauty and subtlety.  However, it's expensive and requires a lot of skill use the film medium effectively.  Digital post-processing of film captured images is, of course, a loss of purity but is in-effect used when these films are printed on large format digital printers using laser scanning and laser-based paper exposure.  The film is scanned, digitized and then laser printed onto fancy color paper.  For black and white,  a clean traditional "analog" print is still possible. But even for B/W there are benefits to HQ digital printing over dark-room methods.  Basically, darkroom skills are in short supply and photoshop software is very powerful. 

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