You’ve probably heard by now that Fuji have discontinued what was for many shooters, their go-to, general purpose color film, Pro 400H.
For anyone who’s been shooting film for more than a few years, we know this rodeo all to well.
Fuji or Kodak announce a discontinuation (notice that Ilford never does). The bloggers pick it up and spread the word. A near audible, sometimes literally audible gasp sounds across social media. Film adherents begin posting about their sudden and massive hauls from B&H, Adorama, Freestyle, Film Photography Project and then eBay and Amazon and wherever they can lay hands on the newly discontinued stock, before… the inevitable price spike.
Fuji Pro 400H was announced discontinued yesterday morning and within only a few hours eBay auctions for the film at astronomical prices appeared. I was disappointed to see a critical member of the film community posting about buying a stash simply to scalp it out at inflated prices later.
Maybe I can stand back with a neutral eye on this news because after probably a decade of using Fuji Pro 400H religiously, it’s been about another decade since I bought a roll. The loss doesn’t bear a single direct effect on my workflow or creative chi. But when Kodak discontinued TMAX P3200 in 2012, and Fuji discontinued FP-3000b in 2013, my heart pumped out of my chest and my head burst like the top of a cartoon thermometer. I immediately got on the phone with retailers in each case (skipped the internet to ensure my order went through) and spent $400 or $500 on small stockpiles of each.
So I understand the emotional reaction.
I really do.
As film shooters, the worst threat to our hobby and profession is when our preferred film stock is abruptly marked for extinction. Whole workflows and methods and habits need to be recalibrated from preparing for shoots to editing, scanning and printing. The effect of a stock discontinuation to each of us can be personally devastating. Not to mention earthshattering to our emotional fortitude and spirit to keep film alive.
But I would strongly encourage that we try to look at the bigger picture here and avoid binge buying and panic purchasing Fuji Pro 400H, or any discontinued stock for that matter.
There are a few exceptions. If I hadn’t binge bought Fuji FP-3000b, I would have never had one of the greatest experiences of my life as a photographer, photographing Veruca Salt with my Polaroid Land Camera and consequently talking to their guitarist Louise Post. And binge buying TMAX P3200 allowed me some time to transition to Delta 3200 for my wedding and documentary portrait work. If you also make a living off a recently discontinued stock or are just very passionate about it, sure, go ahead and binge buy.
But if you’re attracted to a film simply because it’s now on the exotic film list and you are considering dropping a big chunk of change on it out of curiosity etc, I urge you to think again.
If you are a film fridge hoarder, I’m sure that there’s nothing I can say to make you change your mind. And maybe that’s just as well. Your hoard, er, collection, will grow increasingly unique and compelling as time goes by. Like reviving wooly mammoths!
If you are down on your finances thanks to COVID or are just an opportunistic sonovabitch, I also probably can’t sway you.
But I really think it would be useful if we all took a step back, took a breath and considered spending whatever amount we would blow on a binge buy of discontinued stock on a film stock that is commonly available fresh, instead.
Why? Why is Johnny Martyr always telling me to buy new and expensive cameras and accessories and now he’s telling me to jump ship on a rare film stock in favor of something that I can buy any time. What is this guy’s problem?!
Look, let’s say you blow $500 on Fuji Pro 400H today. Where does that money go? Maybe you’ll turn it into $1000 next year by reselling the film when it’s no longer available from retailers. Maybe you’ll just shoot it and enjoy it. And while those are perfectly valid and logical courses of action, I submit that we stop spending crazy prices on film once a year or three when a film is discontinued, and start spending that money regularly throughout the year on stocks that are still readily available. Do you normally spend $500 a year on fresh film?
If we do that, maybe we can reduce discontinuations to begin with. Right? Today it’s Fuji 400H, tomorrow, maybe it will be something else we’d never expect like Superia 400. Or Tri-X.
Don’t keep investing in dead product lines. Invest in the survivors. Invest in living film stocks and the future of film. Let’s put our money on the film that we can buy fresh today and give our money to Kodak, Fuji and Ilford instead of a film hoarding opportunist on eBay. Sudden spikes in sales to Fuji and Kodak probably only encourage discontinuations at times when the companies need a quick cash injection. Let’s not encourage discontinuations. Let’s encourage longevity.
After I’m long dead, I love to imagine a world where my daughter walks into a physical camera store buys a fresh roll of Tri-X and the clerk shows her how to put it in my 1930 Leica. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
While I binge bought TMAX P3200 and FP-3000b when their discontinuations were announced, I vowed to myself not to buy anymore of those films once I ate through my stockpile. For the reasons above. If Kodak wasn’t going to make P3200, I’d shift fully to support Ilford 3200 ASAP. And that is what I did. And look how that turned out. Kodak revived P3200 almost 6 years later.
And two years after Fuji discontinued Acros 100, they released Acros 100 II.
I’m not suggesting that a boycott on discontinued film binge buys and panic purchases will always revive those stocks, but I am willing to bet my disposable income that our money is better used to support films that are not marked for discontinuation. These are the films that are going to keep film photography alive and well. Investing in them is investing in our future.
In their press release, Fuji state that 400H was discontinued due to difficulty acquiring the unique materials required to manufacture this film. They didn’t drop the film because it wasn’t selling. This is why Kodak originally dropped P3200. No amount of supporting these products could change the availability and cost of those materials at those times. So don’t. Shift and pivot.
It’s not easy for any of us when a film is discontinued, but we’re not going to make it any easier for ourselves by scalping one another and investing in consumable goods that are no longer made.
Good luck determining a new path after the current supply of Fuji 400H dries up.
Thanks for reading and happy shooting!
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