Stephen Schaub, over at Figital Revolution, has laid down some common sense about film scanners today that I hope Kodak runs with. Check out his audio-blog entry and get it straight from him, if you’re not already following The Figital Revolution in your feed reader. You should be, if you love film and fine-art photography.
But the gist of his post is this: Kodak (he says) has the technology on the shelf to make a simple, high-quality film scanner at the $500 price point; and they should do this if they want to help ensure an ongoing market for their film products. It’s an interesting idea, if Stephen’s information is accurate. His post has prompted me to think more about all this, and how it might work.
For Kodak to implement such an idea would pay homage to its earliest days, when George Eastman told his customers, “You press the button, we do the rest!” Back then, you bought the “Kodak” ready to go with 100 exposures already loaded. You shot them all up, and returned camera and all to Kodak for processing. Kodak returned your pictures along with your camera, preloaded in Rochester with another 100 shots. It would comport with this Kodak tradition of soup-to-nuts customer service to offer a low-cost scanner—assuming it can be done profitably. Whether they would be willing to take on the financial risk, in their current fiscal straits, during a stubbornly-persistent recession, is another question. I’d love to see it happen; but I’m not betting the (shrunken) 401k on it.
Kodak generates a huge portion of its cash flow on an analog product, film, much of which is consumed as the first step in an analog-digital hybrid workflow—exactly what The Figital Revolution is all about. The majority of color (still) film shot today is destined for scanning, followed by digital printing, if prints are made at all. But with the current pre-eminence of digital for color still photography, color film is the most-endangered segment of the film market. Who, then, is buying color film, and how to keep them buying it? Digital has pretty much conquered the snapshot-taking consumer public on one end of the user spectrum, and the commercial/editorial/portrait/wedding pros on the other end. For these people, digital is the right choice for many reasons: immediate gratification, ease of image dissemination, film and processing cost, turnaround time, client demand. There’s not much, really, that Kodak or anyone else can do to lead these people back to film. That ship has sailed and it’s not coming back. Continue reading