2018: This Year in Film

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Once again, film continued to thrive in 2018, with several announcements garnering a great deal of attention and inspiring photographers to return to film or even shoot film for the first time. Defying digital’s omnipresence, film’s resurgence over the past few years shows promise to its indefinite availability in some form, and the re-releasing and expansion of popular media is inspiring regarding the overall enthusiasm being paid to these physical media. Following up on 2017’s This Year in Film, here are the top stories in film photography for 2018.

Reviving Kodak Ektachrome and T-Max P3200

Making good on last year’s promise, Kodak has officially re-entered the color reversal film market and finally began shipping the new version of Ektachrome E100. After leaving the slide film market, in 2012, fans of a low-contrast color transparency film were left to their own devices to stock up on short-dated and expired film to hold them over. Now, Kodak is back with its natural, color-accurate slide film as a viable alternative to Fujifilm’s slide films that are better-known for high saturation and contrast. Regardless if you prefer the Kodak palette or Fujifilm’s candy-like colors, having more options is a positive for film shooters everywhere. In addition to 35mm rolls for still photographers, this color positive film is also being made available as a movie film under the Ektachrome 100D name, in the Super 8 format.

Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100 Color Transparency Film

If the re-release of Ektachrome isn’t enough for you, Kodak also brought back its beloved high-speed black-and-white T-Max P3200 film in the 35mm format. Prized for its flexibility, this “multi-speed film” can be rated between EI 400-25000 to suit working in extreme low-light conditions or standard outdoor lighting, and its T-GRAIN emulsion renders a fine grain structure to suit scanning and enlarging applications.

Kodak Professional T-Max P3200 Black and White Negative Film

Cinestill Progresses with Inspiration from the Past

Four years ago, Cinestill burst onto the film scene with its 800Tungsten Xpro C-41 color negative film; a unique film that is re-formatted movie stock, which undergoes a unique “premoval” stage to make it suitable for still photography and conventional C-41 development. Since its initial release, Cinestill went on to also release 50Daylight Xpro C-41, the daylight-balanced complement to the original tungsten-balanced film. At the very end of 2017, Cinestill has finally made both 800Tungsten Xpro C-41 and 50Daylight Xpro C-41 available in 120 format for medium format photographers.

Cinestill 800Tungsten Xpro C-41 Color Negative Film

In 2018, Cinestill released its first film catering to black-and-white fans: BwXX Double-X. In typical Cinestill fashion, this 35mm film is re-formatted movie film that has been cut and re-spooled for still photography use. It has a traditional emulsion design for a classic look with subtle tonality and low contrast.

Cinestill BwXX Double-X Black and White Negative Film

Finally, also catering to black-and-white shooters, Cinestill branched out of solely making film and released the DF96 Monobath chemistry. Aiming to simplify the film development process dramatically, this unique chemistry is, as its name suggests, a single-step, self-completing solution for processing black-and-white film. Rather than typical multi-bath processes, where there are separate developer and fixer stages, and times are different for different film types, DF96 is an all-in-one process that can process nearly any film in as little as three minutes at room temperature. DF96 is based on the historic D96 developing solution, and yields smooth tonality and fine grain, and each liter of solution will process approximately 16 rolls of film.

Cinestill DF96 Monobath for Black & White Film

FUJIFILM INSTAX is Always a Favorite

Perennially popular, FUJIFILM had another exciting year with its INSTAX line of instant films and instant film cameras. Early in 2018, FUJIFILM brought together two of its instant film lines to create the INSTAX SQUARE SQ6; the first analog camera to use its square-format film. While the SQ10—a hybrid digital/instant film camera—was the first camera to use the square film, the SQ6 takes the simplicity of something like the popular INSTAX Mini camera and fits it to use this newer film format. Announced shortly after the SQ6, FUJIFILM also released black frame-styled INSTAX SQUARE film to show the company’s dedication to this format.

FUJIFILM INSTAX SQUARE SQ6 Instant Film Camera

If a plain SQ6 isn’t enough for you, or if you happen to be a fan of the immensely popular singer herself, FUJIFILM also released the INSTAX SQUARE SQ6 Taylor Swift Edition camera. This riff on the original SQ6 features a customized exterior, inspired by Swift’s album, reputation, with gold newspaper-styled text, a metallic ring around the lens, and a reproduction of her autograph on the back of the camera. More than the camera, Taylor Swift also got her own INSTAX SQUARE film to go with the camera, which features a black frame and a reproduction of her autograph in gold in the bottom right corner of each print. And for the super fans out there, there’s the INSTAX SQUARE SQ6 Taylor Swift Edition Camera and Film Kit.

FUJIFILM INSTAX SQUARE SQ6 Taylor Swift Edition Camera and Film Kit

Rounding out this square-themed year, FUJIFILM circled back to the root of its SQUARE history with an update to the SQ10: the INSTAX SQUARE SQ20 hybrid instant film camera. The foundation of the SQ20 is much the same as its predecessor; however, this new model adds video-recording capabilities that allow you to choose a still frame from a 15-second clip to print. Further using its digital capabilities to affect its filmic output, the SQ20 also has a Time Shift Collage mode, sixteen filters, double exposure, and split modes.

FUJIFILM INSTAX SQUARE SQ20 Hybrid Instant Camera

Polaroid Originals Continues its Growth

After bursting onto the scene last year with its first OneStep2, Polaroid Originals has continued to expand, in 2018, with two new cameras and a host of new special edition films for both its proprietary i-Type cameras, as well as legacy 600-format Polaroid cameras. First up is a minor but appealing update to the original OneStep2, with the OneStep2 VF. Nearly identical to its popular predecessor, this new “VF” version simply improves upon the design with an extended optical viewfinder for clearer, more accurate framing when shooting. Also new with this version is the addition of a fun Mint to its colorway.

Polaroid Originals OneStep2 VF Instant Film Camera

For the real updates, though, Polaroid Originals also released the OneStep+ Instant Film Camera. Compared to the simplicity of the OneStep2 VF, the OneStep+ is a more modernized version that adds Bluetooth connectivity for remote control via your iOS or Android device. Paired with the Polaroid Originals app, this functionality lets you trigger the shutter remotely, work in manual mode for adjusting exposure settings, and use double-exposure and bulb settings for more creative effects.

Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Instant Film Camera

Polaroid Originals also added to its portfolio of instant films with a handful of special-edition options. For i-Type cameras, which both the OneStep2 VF and OneStep+ are, color film is now available with Rose Gold and Gradient-styled frames. For legacy Polaroid 600 camera users, also compatible with the new i-Type cameras, four new color film editions were released: Ice Cream Pastels, Tropics, Metallic Red, and Metallic Gold.

Polaroid Originals Color 600 Instant Film (Ice Cream Pastels Edition)

I asked these questions last year, but they still seem pertinent in 2018 as the film photography market is growing and diversifying: Which direction of the new film market has you most excited? Is instant film the way of the future for film? Or are the new 35mm and 120 films inspiring you to return to previous modes of working? Let us know what has you most excited in the Comments section, below.

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2019 is going to be even better. Kodak has already announced they're also going to sell Ektachrome 100 in 120 and sheet-film formats, and it may be out in the spring. (If it's out by June, I've got a massive RB67 job looming that's planned to go on 120 Fuji Provia 100, that will instead go on 120 Ektachrome.) They may also bring T-max P3200 back in 120 and sheet formats. We can't forget all the European makers who are still cranking out great B&W emulsions. And then there's the big "what if" - some fine individuals in Italy are reviving the Ferrania factory, and when they get everything running right they're planning to reintroduce Scotchchrome 100. 

To paraphrase Edgard Varese, the present-day film photographer refuses to die.

And to answer Mr. Petersen's question, what excites me most about the film market is new slide film. While it is true that I can photograph all day long on C-41 emulsions and get good results, it's even more true that low-contrast E-6 (Provia 100F and the new E100) is much easier to scan on a drum scanner. 

I agree- I hope we get to see Ektachrome in 120 soon, that would definitely excite me. I've always been more of a negative film shooter, in both color and b&w, but when I did shoot E-6, I was a big fan of Astia. I'm hoping to get back low contrast slide look with my Mamiyas real soon.

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