Monday, May 17, 2021


When I got back into film photography back at the end of 2013, it was mostly by accident; the result of buying a Leica R4 on a lark just because it was so cheap that I could afford what was once an unattainable object of desire just to put on my desk as a fidget spinner.

Seriously, it was something like ninety bucks at KEH, a tenth of what it had cost new in the Eighties.

Film cameras... even Leicas, other than the rarer variants of the classic M-series... had fallen into the Trough of No Value.

Yet these days, the prices of film cameras are soaring, thanks to the constraints of supply and demand.

Supply is, of course, pretty much fixed. Other than the Veblen goods from Leica and semi-disposable plastic toys, nobody is making any more. Actually, the supply is shrinking, since film cameras that break often can't be repaired, especially if they're later electronic ones. 

That shrinking supply is being pursued by increasing demand, and the demand isn't coming from where you'd think it would. Among my photographer friends, I'm an oddity in that most folks I know who were around in the days of emulsion and developer are glad to have abandoned film and have no desire to return to it, even recreationally. Oleg, Kevin, and Yamil all look at me like I'm a little touched in the head when I get excited about a new-to-me film camera.

It's not the nostalgia of Boomers and GenX, but rather interest from younger Millennials and Zoomers that is driving this resurgence in analog photography. This dude made a video summary of his bachelor's thesis on the film renaissance, and it's quite nicely done, artificial film artifacts and all:

As a result, I've probably missed the boat on a few things. 

Back when I was first nosing around film camera prices eight years ago, the less desirable Leica M models were expensive, but not prohibitively so. There were a few you could even pick up for five bills or less. Now you can't touch a Leica M-anything for under a grand, and that's just more than I'm willing to plop down on what is, ultimately, a toy for me.

Nikon F3's and F100's aren't prohibitively expensive, but they've reached a price point where I'm not going to buy one just to fill a space on a collection shelf. Anything I could do with the F100, I could do with the F5 or N80 I already have, likewise the F3 basically being a duplication of effort with my FM2.

Even the older Barnack Leicas have doubled or tripled in price since I started paying attention, and hipster street photographers have driven the prices of the more popular high-end point-and-shoot cameras into the stratosphere.

I should have grabbed an M3 back when they were just spendy and not ridiculous.

Oh, well.