Saturday, August 17, 2013

Soundwave Research skunkworks and New55

Most readers who have been following along know that New55 is a skunkworks project - one that exists in a back room of another enterprise.   Skunkworks as a term generally means "unfunded" or side funded, in other words, not a formally funded program, but something that is allowed to go on sharing other resources. In the case of New55, that sharing hasn't been free, but has amounted to quite a big expenditure in time, travel, materials, chemicals, clerical, paid help and legal fees to bring it to the near-ready for commercialization state that it is in.

The concept and feasibility phases are over: New55 has shown, without a doubt, that a high quality instant 4x5 PN product can be produced, and in doing so we made important discoveries and even invented what could be the next phase of instant large format (and any other format) photography. Two very valuable patents are pending, also, which is surprising to those who thought everything in film photography had already been invented.

It's quite an accomplishment for a skunkworks.  About a year and a half ago, we had an agreed to commercialization route that would provide the necessary funding level to bring all this to market. The cost of bringing new products to market is high and that's what we specialize in, both at and, as well as other places.  So far we have not secured that funding, and do not feel we should further fund it ourselves (especially after reviewing expenses to date!)

Meanwhile the crowd of people who say they want New55 has grown and some, but not all, are accepting of the likely $6 plus per sheet cost. This is a real concern because our research shows that people will spend thousands on cameras and lenses, only to limit their purchases of the consumables.  But I am most interested in the new Direct Positive material invention, and see it as a way to advance photography - real photography - well into the post-digital age.

Over the course of the last two years we have seen EFKE close, KODAK bankrupt, Fuji discontinue its best instant films, and we wonder when the bottom of this hill will be reached. I think we are nearer to that now as KODAK claims sales have leveled off. Also, silver prices have been reasonably stable, and Harmon appears to be steady.  TIP has had its ups and downs but we have to admire the color protection products and what went on there.

So what will happen next? Look for us on Kickstarter soon, when you will have your chance to be in on the creation of the first new 4x5 film of the 21st Century.