Sunday, May 2, 2010

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I'm holding it for two reasons: 1. Some recent technical data just came in that ought to be included in the preliminaries and 2. There is some market info that we bought about Fuji, TIP and photographic film application in industry science and medical fields that hasn't come in.

In the meantime, Efke 25.  This is reasonably close to what I think you want if you like 55.  I want to know if you use Efke sheet film, how you develop it, and what your results are like.  Also, you might be interested that we have a working monobath for the Efke 25 that presumably could be taken anywhere except on a plane, and is compatible with the methyl cellulose thickening agent as found in 55 reagent.

It is too bad the Readyloads were loaded by Polaroid.  I was astonished when I first examined the holders and saw that they carried essentially the same machine marks as 55.  There is no reason that we cannot process B&W sheet films in Readyload type holders, or even conventional film holders for that matter.

There are no good daylight 4x5 film processors on the market either.  The existing ones have critical faults that are well known and discussed elsewhere, and for that reason do not appear to offer solution to our desire to have an instantly or quickly available field processable negative material.

In the headline of this blog there is a goal set out that defines the focus and direction initially set. That has not changed. One item that we need to add to it is cost. Getting right to the point, it is hard to compete with "free" even though a raw or jpeg is ephemeral compared to a hardcopy.  The cost per shot and use vs cost decisions for TIP users are now being experienced and we are finding that is a very sensitive area.  Of course 55 users tend to be a pro group who have purposeful if not literal uses for the material in their art and business activities. Also a baseline of from $.50 to $1 per sheet of B&W sheet film seems to be accepted.  Wouldn't it be great if we could use our 545s at a buck a shot?  I think we still might, but not with a fully integrated peelapart system which costs $2.50 to produce and therefore needs to retail at 4X or $10. Systems such as a digi with a quality printer such as this Canon, plus the consumables, also average a dollar a shot, or more. Ink and glossy paper can be expensive also.

Preliminarily, the markets of "instant film enthusiasts", which consist of hobbyists, and 55 users do overlap, but just barely. A much stronger overlap exists in PCR and industrial and scientific uses where highest quality hardcopies are needed, and in other business fields where instant photographic records are needed, such as insurance, ID, forensics,  R&D records, etc.  Roughly, insurance adjusters comprise the largest segment of integral film users (now primarily filled by the big Instax) and business/technical the largest segment of pack films, mostly color, but with a significant portion of the scope cams using fast 3000 speed materials, along with certain other medical and biotech equipment.  A lot of SEMs (scanning electron microscopes) still have a sheet film holder like a 545 and could probably use a packfilm holder with graflok rails. SEMs are shared tools and it is nice to be able to have your own hardcopy material to paste into your laboratory  notebook.

We were not surprised to find that in cost-contained government situations that much packfilm was still being used. In general, imaging without a computer but getting a hardcopy is still what lots of agencies and businesses need to produce reports.  If we can develop systems for non art and hobby use before the channels dry up, we might be able to piggyback some materials over to the fine artists who comprise a much smaller segment.

That scene is 180 degrees from the Lomography and Holgaroid products. Detached as they are from any critical or essential professional business function, they are free to create, innovate, and deliver low cost items that are fun and serve art and hobby markets well. One wonders though if Ilford and TIP really should attempt to base their business solely in that arena, unlike the much larger Fujifilm which serves multiple markets.  The same question could be asked about the present owners of the Polaroid brand which obviously still has consumer credibility but appears to be in a fragile coalescent stage at present.

The "instant film segment" is currently what we refer to as a disrupted market, where stability and predictability are uncertain.  There has been a disaster, in case you have not noticed, and pieces of the so-called "Polaroid" culture are laying about, waiting to be picked up, or forgotten.  The dynamics of such a marketplace where there is only one strong incumbent and some other rights holders and possible new entrants are typical - and not always productive in terms of delivering new products or restoring marketplace health.  They tend to battle amongst themselves when they should be serving the customer.  Being "the only one" in instant photography or any field is a dangerous place to be. You need your competitors, and they will win some, and maybe you will win on another day.

We see that effect as empty channels are filled by those who can (which is a good thing for all of us)  yet it is often incorrectly perceived with cynicism, even by those who should understand the basics of business, and that tends to drive away investors who will seek out greener pastures.  Social media tends to amplify this effect, which is unfortunate, but it is only part of the world we live in, thankfully.

It is good that this is not some medical emergency. Art itself is not in peril. The artists among us would take sticks to sand, if it came to that, and they would still succeed.

More to follow.  This is what we do for a living - go into a field that we see with fresh eyes, experiment, get to know people and possible customers, and innovate if there is a consensus to do so. I've personally developed many products in diverse, highly technical fields, and with a fine arts degree this project also has a fun element for me.  A similar project was recently completed in another field - microphones - that you can read about here.


Unknown said...

hold the breath for it......

Aaron Muderick said...

FYI, I use a Paterson Orbital for 4x5 film. It is daylight and pretty simple to use (very little chemistry required). Mine is modified to use 110V and also scored to prevent the film from sticking and stratching.

Efke 25 is a great emulsion. Very prone to scratching though. However, it sounds like the thinness of P55 was also required by the thin it is.