Kodak, Lomography and the return to traditional photography

 

Diana camera

Diana camera

Kodak recently announced it would stop making digital cameras, among other products, in order to concentrate on its most valuable business lines. One area of focus is its traditional film and photo paper division — so 30 years ago, right? 

Well, not so fast. It turns out that there is a growing base of retro-style camera lovers who think film is the future.  Some younger shutterbugs are taking a break from modern digital photography and its overly processed look to embrace simple analog cameras, without all the bells and whistles. The toy camera movement is not new but it is growing, according to a recent piece in the Vancouver Sun.

Many retro cameras enthusiasts are from Generation Y, a group of camera enthusiasts who take about twice as many photos as the average US household, and have grown up in a mostly digital era.

Lomography is a term describing toy camera enthusiasts, named after a company that makes analog camera lines with simple inexpensive plastic bodies. Lomography has seen interest swell and gallery stores devoted to the products have opened globally. The stores host workshops and image sharing sessions. In addition to selling toy cameras (Holga, Diana, Lomo, and more) and accessories, Lomography promotes the cause with bags printed with mottos like,  ”Leave the Digital Grind Behind.”  

Also making a comeback are modern instant cameras, like Fuji’s Instax mini 7, which can instantly print images the size of a credit card.

The growth in retro camera sales could pay off for camera stores, which have had little to cheer about lately. The $4 billion US camera retail industry’s growth prospects are low, according to First Research’s Industry Growth Rating, and need a boost. Might the microtrends of toy cameras be a step in the right direction?

Need more proof that the “on film” look is hot? Look to the wildly popular smartphone applications such as Instagram and Hipstamatic, that can give mobile phone photos a look circa 1975. Even mainstream advertising is using the desaturated retro look.

Kodak has not called it quits yet, as Hoover’s consumer products expert Catherine Colbert has covered. If it considered it more than a passing fad, Kodak could enter the toy camera niche with cameras or accessories. Its film already can be used in toy cameras. Kodak may have dropped its digital division after crunching numbers about the large niche film market, as this British Journal of Phography article mentions. “All people want are these little yellow boxes of film and that should be their core business, even if it means reducing the company’s size a little further.”

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Photo by lisadragon, used under a Creative Commons license.

Linnea Kirgan

Linnea Kirgan is an industry editor for First Research/Hoover's, covering retail and consumer topics. Follow her on Twitter.

Read more articles by Linnea Kirgan.

Comments

  1. This is interesting, Linnea! I have a 1960s era camera that I plan to get back into using. I love my digital camera but I like the control I have with a film camera.

  2. Thanks, Patrice. It’s a fascinating trend. Some of the newer toy cameras are like little works of art unto themselves. One of the Lomography galleries just opened in Austin on Congress Avenue last month. http://www.facebook.com/LomographyATX

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