photokina Follow-Up; Paper, Processing And Companies Present And Past Page 2
Another company that is now mostly used as a marketing label is Agfa. They had a huge stand at the show, but there was surprisingly little on it that would be of interest to the serious enthusiast. Rather, the red diamond and the old Agfa name is used to appeal to punters who do not actually realize that the old Agfa no longer exists in anything resembling its former incarnation. Much the same is true of Polaroid. Both are essentially companies who license their names to others to use, and retain some quality control over these products. Even so: Polaroid light bulbs?
Likewise, when we saw the name ORWO in the catalog, we spent quite some time tracking them down before we found that (as we had thought) film coating ceased at the beginning of the 21st century and that once again it was just the name that was being kept alive.
On the other hand, Harman technology (the current incarnation of Ilford black-and-white films and papers) were at photokina 2010 after an absence in 2008, and even, as noted, introduced a new product. Their stand in 2010 was far smaller than the huge Fortress Ilford of old, but at least they were there, and they continue to make what many believe to be the finest films and papers in the world. With any luck, they’ll be back, and bigger, in 2012. The stand that was actually labeled Ilford is the old Swiss arm, making very good inkjet papers and the ingenious Ilfovinyl 3D material.
To return to the subject of expensive options, Leica is doing very nicely, thank you, and at the time of the show were still back-ordered in many markets for both the M9 and the S2. This may be over by the time you read these words, but they’re looking stronger than they have for years and contrary to rumor they are still making MP and M7 film cameras. There are no plans to discontinue either.
There were far fewer large format cameras there than in the olden days, but Shen-Hao was there, as was the indefatigable Keith Canham with his son Michael. Shen-Hao’s cameras get better and better: there was a time when they were not really worth the prices asked, but now, they’re a very good product at a very competitive price. Canham cameras are of course among the finest in the world.
Canham was on a corner of the Kodak stand. He has been instrumental in setting up a new initiative with Kodak whereby they will cut, to order, almost any size of large format film. The secret lies in consolidating orders and pre-selling the film. If you reckon (for example) that you can use half a dozen boxes of 12x16” Portra 400, the new Kodak initiative will seek to consolidate that order with everyone else in the world who wants 12x16” Portra 400 and cut you some, maybe once a year.
To sum up, if someone says “I think they’re out of business” or “I haven’t heard of them for years,” it’s always worth checking carefully to see if they actually know the current state of play. This is especially true of a certain kind of retailer, who will cheerfully tell you that someone is out of business, either because they are too lazy to keep up-to-date or because they want to sell you another (and usually inferior) product. So patronize the good dealers, and do your own web searches, and surprisingly often, you’ll find that the good, old companies are still in business.
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