From the perspective of the film community at large, things have really seemed to be on the up and up lately, almost to a point that it’s annoying. Then, Fuji brought us all back to reality.
For those that have missed the news, as of January 14, 2021, Fujifilm Pro 400H was discontinued in both 120 and 35mm. More specifically, Fuji announced that they will be able to “allocate PRO 400H 120 film through the end of 2021,” while at the same time saying the manufacturing and sale of 35mm have already ceased. Though Fuji’s Pro 400H was never quite as popular as its Kodak counterpart, Portra 400, this news is a big deal for the film community. Fuji has been a mainstay of the film community for decades, and until the return of Kodak’s Ektachrome E100, Fuji was the only company still offering a selection of slide film: Provia 100F, Velvia 50, and Velvia 100. It should be noted that Fuji has not announced the discontinuation of any of these slide films; it is only Pro 400H at the moment.
This news comes on the heels of other bad and good news for the film community from the past year. Most notably, Nikon discontinued the F6 back in 2020, which dealt a crushing blow to the world of film, as the F6 was the last newly made film SLR available from a major camera manufacturer. Now, if someone wanted to order a new 35mm camera from B&H, their only options are rangefinders from Leica, which start at $5,200. Though the Nikon F6 was itself an expensive camera and thus, out of reach for many people looking to get into film, it offered professional film photographers the chance to get a film camera that took advantage of modern technological advancements, which are obviously lacking when compared with cameras made 20-30 years ago or more. To contrast this, after Fuji discontinued Fujifilm Neopan Acros has years ago, the film was somewhat recently released as Acros II. This alone can provide a glimmer of hope to the photographers out there who are upset about the news of Fuji’s Pro 400H.
Regardless of what the film community wants to believe, the world of film is still headed for extinction in the eyes of this author. As you may recall from an article last year, I laid out why I thought the film world was headed for trouble and what it would take to turn it around. Briefly, I am properly concerned by the explosive growth in the popularity of film and how it is far outpacing the return to manufacturing by large camera manufacturers. For many people, myself included, the film cameras we are using are decades old, and unless they are completely manual or old enough (i.e., lack modern, digital qualities) that they’re easy to fix, the odds that they will one day just be an expensive paperweight are actually pretty high. Truthfully, it did not even dawn at me at the time that the manufacturing of film itself was also threatened by the lack of raw materials needed to manufacture it.
Personally, I was never a big fan of Fuji Pro 400H. I’ve shot through only a dozen or so rolls of it in 120 and 35mm, and until the last couple rolls, where I metered for 200 ASA, I often found myself wishing I had just left it alone and used something else, but I did want to give it a fair shot. As such, this news isn’t such a heartbreak to me — at least not like it would be if Fuji discontinued Provia 100F. With that said, Pro 400H is still a popular film, and it is sad to see the end of its days. Perhaps I’ll see if I can still pick-up a pro pack of it at the local shop. Who knows, maybe I’ll fall in love with it now, just in time for it be gone soon.
I was cleaning out an old and long forgotten camera backpack the other day, and out fell a roll of 120 Portra 400, with a "use by" of March 2002. I my or may not use it in my ancient YashicaMat, but finding it brought back so many wonderful memories of that era when I was just starting to learn what it took to make a truly good image. I mostly use my digital cameras now, but the thought processes using film required are well engrained, to the benefit of the images I create.
I've been shooting film that's 5-10 years old since my local Walgreens stopped carrying cheap new color negative film about five years ago. Pretty cheap and I like the look.
There's a reason that Acros was resurrected and 400H was discontinued, and while many, many people will disagree, I think it's because: color film has a lot less to offer than B&W film vs. digital. Mostly because not only are there many different B&W film stocks, but there are many B&W developers and ways to use them. Color is more "industrialized," with few options other than the standard machines for developing (but I know, there are home kits, which I have used). Most people shooting film today are doing so for creative/artistic reasons, and B&W still offers a lot of creative freedom, and will continue to do so. Color, not so much. However, I do like Kodak's Vistion3 stock--but it's just too hard to develop.
Every time I think about using my old Pentax kit I remind myself of how expensive and pointless it will be. Surely it really is time to move on from chemical film in this digital world, were even if we do take analogue photos we still end up scanning them to publish digitally. It just doesn't make sense.