This time last year, photographer Thomas Eisl and I set out to dispel myths and to remind the world that we could still buy the world’s last newly made 35mm SLR, the Nikon F6, brand new.
Sadly, nearly exactly one year later, Nikon has officially announced that this important camera is being discontinued after a bold 16 year run.
Thomas and I battled claims and statements throughout the comments sections on Petapixel, WordPress, Facebook and Twitter that the F6 cost was unwarranted and that it was no better than [provide example here] used cameras.
We heard that our little article may have actually caused a small uptick in new Nikon F6 sales. But in retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if the arguments against the ideology of buying new film cameras from the film community itself, influenced Nikon’s decision to halt production of our last 35mm SLR.
Admittedly, I probably come off as a bit of a cheerleader at times; encouraging people to buy $2,600 35mm SLR’s and new lenses and accessories from Nikon instead of used versions from eBay. But look, I don’t think that film photographers get it. We are a niche market. Each of us have the potential to be big fish in a little pond. What we say on social media and what we choose to spend our money on makes a difference. Manufacturers are watching and listening and basing decisions on what resources they are able and willing to provide for us from what we say and do.
And if you think I’m just an elitist blogger who gets kick-backs from retailers and is out of touch with real-world expenses, I just want to share with you that I have made exactly $15.74 in ad revenue from this blog this year. I myself do not have enough money in my checking account at this moment to buy a Nikon FM from eBay much less a Nikon F6 from B&H. So I get it. Lack of money is a hard line.
Please don’t think I’m talking down to anyone when I say that we need to consider the bigger picture when we post discouraging remarks about the few manufacturers who provide our finite resources. Consider that if we cannot contribute money to our cause, we can contribute verbal support or, at the very least, withhold influential counterproductive comments.
Today, you may own twenty Nikon 35mm SLR’s that work fine and you might not see one scrap of reason to buy a new F6, or new anything, that costs as much as those cameras combined. But I encourage you to think about what condition your camera collection will be in twenty years from now. And I encourage you to think about why you cannot buy a new 35mm camera of reasonable quality construction for anywhere near the cost of antique ones.
How many decades will pass before film photography is reduced to hundreds of dusty cameras sitting behind glass as abstract history decorations whose brand names, much less instructions for use, are recalled only by aged nerds?
And I for one, will forestall this sad future with every frame I shoot. How about you?
We can coast along with crossed fingers, riding on pure hope that our vintage mechanics and electronics last as long as our ambitions. Or we can actively progress, maintain and even fortify our and our community’s pool of resources to ensure that film photography doesn’t die as a result of our own lack of foresight and care.
Because it’s not Nikon’s fault that they had to kill the F6. It’s ours.
We may be able to glean some wisdom from the death of the Nikon F6, perform an autopsy if you will.
The death of the F6 appears to tell us that the average film photographer cannot afford or does not want to pay $2600 for a professional camera. Maybe it tells us that the average film photographer does not place a high value on automation. Maybe it tells us that there no more professional film photographers.
But let’s bring in the autopsy of the second to last 35mm SLR, for context. Up until just three years ago, the Nikon FM10 was also available new, for about $300 with lens, at it’s peak cost. So that seems to rule out opposition of automation and professional cameras. The bipolar opposite to the F6 didn’t sell either!
So let’s bring in the only competition to the last of the 35mm SLR’s; 35mm rangefinders.
Cosina (who were quietly building the FM10 for Nikon) discontinued the Voigtlander Bessa series five years ago. And Leica. Leica, for all intents and purposes invented the 35mm camera and are now the last to still build them new. They sell two in fact. The MP and M-A. These last new 35mm cameras cost an eye-watering $5,000+ dollars each. Without a lens.
From all this, we might deduce that film photographers don’t use SLR’s anymore, only rangefinders, and that they prefer Leica and fully manual cameras over any cheaper options, automated or manual. This doesn’t seem accurate. You like SLR’s, right? I certainly do. And I also certainly appreciate brands other than Leica. In fact, in many forums, film photographers will berate Leica shooters as rich idiots with no common sense. Yet their budget brands aren’t there to support film photographers anymore.
Because this is what we’ve told the market.
We’ve told the market that we don’t want anything new. Lomo only makes toys and Nikon and Leica charge too much for the quality that we demand. We’re content with cameras as cheap as we can get them on eBay and if there’s anything wrong with them, we can just tinker around with them, potentially endangering photo shoots with them until we get them to work well enough for our temporary purposes. We’re telling the market that we don’t need new cameras or professional service and warranties. We’re telling the market that we don’t need development of film camera technology. We’re telling the market that film photography is just a nostalgic, gear-head tinkerer hobby, not the occupation of serious artists and storytellers who require reliable equipment, or care if the next generation has access to it.
We’re telling the market that we care about collecting antiques more than taking pictures.
It makes you wonder who besides Nikon is listening to us. What critical film resource will be the next to die because a products own demographic won’t support its manufacture? And what critical film resources will be left in the clumsy, incapable hands of an ad hoc used market?
It’s as if we’ve voted, with our wallets, against Nikon and for eBay. Do you think that the next new 35mm camera will be made by eBay?
EBay doesn’t care about film photography. Yet we’ve given eBay our money and withheld it from the people who gave us the Nikon F.
I have not included any photos in this blog to represent the lack of film photography that we ourselves are pushing the world towards.
Thanks for reading, happy shooting.
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