As we stagger into an uncertain 2023, last year turned out to be an interesting one for the photographer. With more juicy surprises than Prince Harry’s memoir there was a lot going on. Here’s my take
We’ve got new film cameras galore, film surprises and shortages and even the Boss turns up. Come on in.
News Stories of 2022
Mean Streets –
The demise of Street Candy
Vincent Moschetti’s Street Candy brand of rebranded ATM film arrived in 2017 and was much beloved as one of the new boutique brands. A movie film base film followed in 2021 but little over a year later Vincent announced the death of this much love staple due to rising cost.
Of course it’s easy to blame rising costs. But as one Boutique film producer told me the market is getting crowded “lots of people trying to get into the game.“
What also isn’t helping is issues around availability of 35mm cassettes for film makers. The crappy plastic cartridges which can have issues fitting some cameras are rising. And even mighty Kodak was seen sporting chrome end caps not the classic black.
Where did it go –
Cheap colour film Mid 2022
Let’s be honest colour film costs have been gradually rising in recent years. To be fair we came out of the noughties with colour film be ridiculously cheap (£1 Agfaphoto Vista Plus at Poundland). But in Mid 2022, supply trickled to a halt.
It felt like buying drugs when your favourite photo supplier would send out nudge nudge for only select customer emails allowing to buy 3 rolls of ColorPlus for the price of a posh night out. B&W seemed almost unfazed, with XP2 being the most widely available C-41 film for most of the autumn. Also medium format 120 was largely unaffected by this silliness.
Kodak couldn’t make enough stuff due to surge in demand for film and are trying to recruit new staff which hopefully is a good thing in the long run. Supply has normalised but there was another factor
Springsteen Fujifilm –
“BORN IN THE USA“
If I told you the following in 2019, you would have told me I was going insane. That was that within 3 years Kodak would make film for Fujifilm. But in late 2021 and 2022 that actually happened.
Fujifilm during COVID ended up reducing production of colour film. I suspect this was largely to keep staff making their big cash cow Instax. But they tried to live up to their claim of being committed to film by getting their budget film outsourced by a certain manufacturer in the US (which actually until later in 2022 could have been the world). Yeah that’ll be Kodak then.
Desperately seeking Slide Film –
In March JCH announce a film. This was no rebranded 20 year old slightly dodge soviet security film or some pre-exposed kodak gold. This was a bang tidy like a virgin new emulsion. And slide at that.
And we melted. New Emulsion. New Slide film.
9 months on it’s as elusive as Madonna’s Oscar nomination (okay a song she sang actually won one- but for the writers). But we get that in this world things can get Frozen in. We hope Like a prayer that it gets released and ends up Vogue in 2023.
Back to the Future –
The Re-rise of the Noughties Digicam
Gen Z’er eh ! Maligned by everyone from Millennials going backwards to the Boomers. The group are often Credited with driving the resurgence of film (which probably pisses off the Millenials and GenX who have dibs there).
Whilst their love of 35mm disposables ain’t left a new trend has started to develop. Given online media first picked this up in October with this witty post from News.com.au with the envious bitchiness only a Millennial can deliver. The noughties P&S digicam is back, big time apparently.
No so sure as I just bought a load for a quid recently. And in fact if you look back to 2019. PCMag noted in the days when most of us weighted up taking our iPhone over our dSLR over a Skinny latte, 30% of Gen Z took a digital P&S.
Middle of the Road Classic is back (for now)-
The Rise of Fujifilm Pro 400h (in 120)
120 film was slightly spared the supply issues of colour film this year. This made it a good time to shoot 120. And it was doubly so with the amounts of Pro 400H that hit the market often at cheap prices.
In fact the weird thing is many thought Pro 400h was a thing of the past. and it kinda is. Fujifilm announce its retirement early in 2021 and 35mm film disappeared shortly after.
But Fujifilm indicated they would have supply of 120 through 2021 and turns out enough lingered through 2022. Whilst almost insanely cheap in the summer prices when most supplier tried to off load prices have risen sharply in recent months as the stock dries up.
Full Metal Instax – Surviving a Warzone and launching a New Camera – Jollylook
So Jollylook are a regular on these news pages ever since their retro inspired instax folder made from from cardboard arrived back in 2017. Their running late to deliver my Jollylook auto a more advanced wooden instax folder. But I can let them off as their country got invaded.
The Ukrainian team managed to survive and have set up shop in Slovakia. And back in August they even managed to launch another Kickstarter for a DIY pinhole Jollylook.
And that’s actually been shipping which is a miracle for a company. It’s equipment was based at sites in Irpin and Bucha both now infamous in turn for shelling of fleeing civilians and the the Bucha Massacre.
But sadly some backer are even itchy about the fact they didn’t get that camera for Christmas. I get Jollylook have been a bit disorganised and over optimistic before. But really ?
News Story of the Year –
Pentax Film Cameras strike back
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, a happy alliance of film cameras held sway. Then the Evil Empire of digital rose tempting us over top the darkside. But all is not lost a plucky alliance from the Jedi masters of Leitz to some young punks from Alderaan ..opps I mean Austria have helped keep film camera alive. Sadly when first Canon then Nikon were corrupted by the Darkside to stop their last film SLR production lines, there was concern. And that situation arguable was made worse by the start of the demise of the digital SLR.
But one Japanese company stood against the mirrorless onslaught and actually launched a new dSLR at the end of 2021. And that company announced in Late 2022 they were looking at starting a line of new film cameras. Ricoh now own Pentax and have committed to a dialogue with film shooters. Much hype was made around the initial video but this second video with TKO one of the Pentax design team is much more insightful
In the video TKO explains the hope is to work toward a line of cameras beginning with a simple compact gradually working up to a high end SLR. The goal is to engage young shooters and to develop the engineering skills needed to do this.
Nons Launched a new Instax Mini SLR based on the SL660 on Kickstarter and have teased a medium format back. Chroma Cameras gave us new lenses, new medium format gear and pinhole cameras. Talking on Pinhole, Solarcan can gave us the mini reloadable Puck for faster image acquisition. Adox gave use a new colour film that had nothing to do with Kodak or Fujifilm but sadly their partner company went bust so you would have had to be lucky to snag some of the limited amount.
Kodak Aerochrome IV became this year Boutique film makers emulsion of choice. Leica gave us a resurrected M6. I say us when I really mean the Mercedes GLC kerb hogging crew that can actually afford it. Still credit to Leitz for doing this although it’s not the budget Leica we were looking for nor is it the TTL version (worth reading Uncle Ken’s views on this).
Camera awards 2022
This year we’re separating best camera on test (analogue and digital) best new film camera and best looking new film camera. To qualify for the latter 2 you need to be launched in 2022. And actually being tested is not a requisite but…
The best camera on test ignores when it was made. A brand new camera could win but it is based on camera I actually reviewed in 2022. It also ignores innovation over sheer joy in using. We also have a digital camera on Test
Best Camera on Test
Okay slimmer pickings than I’d like this year but we have a few
Best Analogue contenders
Several cameras shined this year. Canon’s EOS 3000V takes what the concept of a budget AF SLR should be and dumps it on the head with a bonkers array of features you actually need. At the expense of losing those features you might think would be nice but never use. 7 point AF with 35 zone metering plus the ability to support VR ready lenses. I miss the top plate LCD but I can live with Canon’s logical layout. It literally costs the price of of a non discounted medium Domino’s Pizza .
Nons SL660 is tour de Force of a new Instax camera. And until pentax delivers on its suggested timetable the best Analogue SLR in production. It’s not perfect but arguably the best Instax to buy for the more experimental photographer. Likewise the new VUWS inspired clones from Reto and Jelly Lens provided the same lo-fi spills as the actual original VUWS. But none of these could take the lead.
But lets go digital before announcing the winners.
Slim picking I’m afraid but the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2 shone. It might date from 2005 but any of the Gen-Z crowd who are digicam mad would be more than happy with this. Barr resolution this feels more like a late noughties rather than a mid noughties camera.
It ‘s not perfect but you could do worse for a few quid for a cheap digicam. Not as sought after as it’s successor but for stills till a good choice
Look we can debate all the new instax gear and droll over the promise of the Pentax offering. But for medium format we’ve had an incredible good in production 120 P&S for a few years.
The LC-A 120 takes everything good about the original LC-A and ramps it up. The lens is both good and quirky. Auto exposure is generally on the ball. It is a wee bit creaky for a £350 product but it more than makes up with the retro styling. And it’s a dream to use as long as you pre-tension films and expectations.
Best New Film Camera 2022
Not exactly a year without contenders. If you want engineering excellence and build quality, we’d have awarded this to the re-released Leica M6. But this not a camera for the masses and even high end it is the poor cousin of the M6 TTL arguably the best film rangefinder ever made. You are getting a faithful version of it’s little brother but the M6 is a camera from 1984 that would be followed by the better M6TTL and the M7. But Kudos to Leitz for bringing this back we just wished you’d gone more budget.
Lomography’s LomoApparat is an interesting move. Lomography AG has arguably lost some of its core sub £100 market in recent years to upstarts like Reto, Dubblefilm and even Kodak. And this year it had the return to form of the VUWS with the Reto UWS (although the slightly lesss attractive Jelly Lens UWS has been around longer)
Winner Best New Film Camera 2022 –
Now Nons have sat top of this list in recent years for past iteration of their earlier instax SLR. And the SL660 is their top model which shoots instax square (an important step up). Much of the underlying mechanics are the same with a leaf shutter and the need for a field extending lens (NFE) to augment the 35mm camera lens you stick on via an adaptor using the passive EF mount.
It had a lot more attention to detail with gorgeous aluminium front body and a few tweaks. It is not perfect (the NFE is not the best optically and it remains limited by fastest 1/250 shutter). But it is workable, innovative and stylish.
Best Looking New Film Camera
Small runner up prize here. This is not about usability in fact we could have camera equivalent of Hotblack Desiato’s limoship. And worthy of mention are the cameras above. The M6 is a thing of beauty, but just a re-released 1980’s beauty. The SL660 is a strong contender that almost won this too. Reto managed to inject some charm into their VUWS clone.
But nope none of these.
But Reto would give rise to our winner.
Winner of Best Looking New Camera –
Kodak Ektar H35
Although branded Kodak it’s made by Reto. All the new Kodak digital and film cameras are made by other parties under licence with the exception of disposables.
In broad summary Reto take the lens from their VUWS clone and wraps it up in a retro body, adds flash, ohI forgot to mention it shots half frame.
The camera was widely popular but we’ll park my views on it for the mo. What it is hower , is a wonderful hommage to the heydays of the Kodak Instamatics. It also has a novel touch with the switch for the flash being a ring around the pseudo lens barrel.
Worst Camera 2022
Ah for every positive we must have a negative and this year there were a few. Winner of the just why award goes to Nikon for the F50. Take a perfectly good if dated Nikon F-401x innards and stick on a half-baked LCD interface that makes the Nikon F70 look easy to use. This camera was intended for novices moving off compacts and Nikon must have hoped they wouldn’t bang it out of auto mode. Because trying to use any other mode involves a weird level of button pushing manual dexterity. Luckily Nikon replaced it with the F60 same dated innards but an actually useable modern interfaced camera.
But stick it in auto and you have something better than a point and shoot that you can change lenses with. And it was nowhere as bad as
Some of you will have been lost to denigrating this camera at the mention of 50mm color optical lens. But not me I actually quite like the Lo-fi images you get from this group of badly made Taiwanese trashcams. But the OY 4040 must be amongst the worst in Class. I get with these cameras individual experiences can vary as the crappy construction allows for a a wide degree of performance. This one was not good but I can see past that.
It was awful to use. The power zoom feature which has nothing to do with zooming but provides a weird way of controlling the aperture. I say controlling in the same way Dr Strangelove can control his arm in the eponymous film. You can jerk between wide and closed and try to do manually and the lens almost detaches. The worst camera of the year on so many levels.
Film Product 2022
Blo*dy heck ! Although some much loved producers like Street Candy disappeared and the big colour boys like kodak struggled to produce enough there was a wealth of boutique films plugging the gap. For irony sake in October during the great C-41 35mm panic, I walked into PhotoCare in downtown Copenhagen. This was the vague hope that in the happiest country in the world you could buy colour film. And Ironically you could. It was CineStill (ironically a repurposed Kodak Movie film emulsion). the only 35mm colour you could find without selling yer weans.
But I digress whilst the big boys struggled with colour film several new things turned up. Kosmo Foto’s Agent Shadow delivered a pretty decent 400ISO B&W with marked push-ability and before you start muttering about origin, it is perhaps the best looking film box out now. Adox teased us with a new colour emulsion as did JCH. But year belongs to…
Winner – Rebranded Kodak AeroColor IV
Whist the boys from Rochester, NY struggled to serve up their branded colour films, another Kodak film got respooled. 2022 saw lots of Boutique makers run this stuff out. Notable example are Santa Color 100, Flic Elektra 100 and Popho Luminar 100. Rumour has it, Washi X is the same stock. Retro tones and much love from the film blogosphere ensued. The original stock (datasheet) was designed for aerial surveillance and can be processed by either the AN-6 or thankfully the more common C-41 processes.
Blog Post of the year
I’m sorry. No genuinely.
You may be shortly glaring at your screen and screaming where’s my post. It was to Photography what Dostoevsky is to Russian literature you scream. And I’m sorry but I am but one and my ability read all of the growing volume of work out there is just not happening. And that before I mention I work for the NHS 9-5, had Covid (again), lost and gained a dog and made it abroad (twice woo hoo) last year.
What I did read was a brilliant. Here’s my top picks
From my friend Peggy Marsh of cameragocamera, the absolute lo-fi unit that is the Action man Photo mission camera . Theo from Photothinking was being lured to the digital darkside by the innocuous but very good Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX-07. Talking on being lured Mike Eckman crossed swords with the Universal Focus miracle that is the GOKO Macromax FR-350.
Analog Cafe had perhaps the tastiest blog post with their guide to making a gingerbread Polaroid SX-70 House. Sometimes a few rolls or a single memory card doesn’t do a camera justice and Jim Grey’s 18 month on the road shooting of the Nikon Df perhaps gives a better insight than some quick lab test
But we need a winner
Best Blog Photo Blog post 2022 –
Ravioli, Ravioli, Ravioli – Broken, Battered but Still Firing – The Canon Rebel G / 500N Review
Ravioli, Ravioli, ravioli (aka the3rs.uk) is a relatively new blog that i stumbled across but what a wealth of post it has . This post on Canon’s SLR for the common man late 1990’s is one of the best. Not only is this a detailed review of this surprisingly good lower tier AF SLR but also takes on an added dimension when you realise the camera bought is a bit knackered but nursed back into life.
A worthy Best post 2022.
And the Predications for 2023
To finish we my annual predictions for 2023. Don’t take these to serious mind
- Pentax/Ricoh will make positive noises through 2023 but we will need to wait until 2024 or later for an actual film camera
- Canon will ditch the M series Mirrorless and focus on the R series
- Nikon & Canon pull out of DSLR production and expect less compacts too.
- Somewhere in Europe a new C-41 emulsion will be born
- Fujifilm does not restart mothballed due to Covid-19 C200 production line but maintains superia and high end colour film for now.
- Harman (aka Ilford) secretly work on a colour emulsion. We may never know of it’s existence but expect some prototype to be sold rebadged in 2024/25
- A Kickstarter launches simplistic SLR 35mm with leaf shutter and either M42 or passive EF mount.