Why Nikon hates your film photography

shoot-148If you have the slightest interest in film photography and use the internet (I assume both of these are true if you’re reading this) by now you know that Nikon has announced their photography contest for 2014. And yet again, all film photographers are banned from entry.

What’s a good Nikonian to do?

Nikon still sells film cameras. You can buy two options from their web site- representing the two opposite ends of the film photography spectrum. You can buy a FM-10 SLR. These are marketed to the art school crowd. Good, basic, no-frills cameras to shoot black and white in so you can learn how to develop. You can also still buy an F6- Nikon’s ultimate professional film SLR. It will never get better than this camera from Nikon, the last of the storied F line dating back to 1958. They’re not cheap, and I assume Nikon still makes a penny or two selling them. In fact, since Cosina makes the FM-10 and all Nikon does is slap a badge on them, there should be good profit in them. And thanks to the F mount, the majority of new lenses can be used on older film bodies. In fact a F3 from 1981 can use all but the G series new lenses, so film shooters are still customers.

Some folk will talk about unit sales versus digital, or supposed advantages one way or the other as reasons for banning film. I think the truth is more than that.

Take a look at the difference in development cycles. The F6’s predecessor, the F5 was introduced 8 years prior. The F4 was introduced 8 years prior to that. And so with the F3. It was a regular development cycle that could produce a fresh member of the line up at a regular basis.

Take a look at the D series- the digital professional bodies that carry the flag now. The D3 was introduced in 2007. In the 7 years since, they have produced the D3S, the D3X, the D4, and the D4S. In a year less than the old cycle, five new cameras have been researched, developed, and introduced. The development cycle is in on afterburner now.

Every new body has some new whiz-bang technology that is a MUST to have. They all play to the desire to have the latest shiny thing. And it is the shiny thing that sells them. I know digital photographers, professionals who spend all their time behind a camera shooting, who will switch from this system to that system to buy the latest and greatest, only to repeat it every year and a half or so. It’s a ruthless treadmill that they’re on. And an expensive one.

shoot-149If you want the bigger, better results as a digital photographer, you have to get the bigger and better camera. If you want the bigger and better results as a film photographer, you have to work harder. You have to hone your craft, improve your eye, see things better and differently. And the film shooter can do that by just shooting more. But shooting more doesn’t make Nikon any money.

Nikon doesn’t care if you’re a better photographer. They want to sell you a camera with a new feature, which you believe will make you a better photographer whether or not that’s true. Their changed development cycles and continued profitability depend upon it. Your photography is not an art. It’s a cash cow.

So, no film shots in their contests. There’s no money in film for them.

Besides, can you imagine if a film shot actually won, beating out all the billions of dollars in R&D?

What if it really was the photographer, not the camera?




Me? I’m shooting Kodak today. Happy International Kodak Film Photography Day. So shoot. Make your work better. Shoot film. #IKFPD 2014


  1. November 27, 2014

    Agreed! This is why I buy used regardless of the technology. Let someone else pay the big money up front and I will gladly take it off your hands in 5 years at a fraction of the cost!

  2. March 15, 2015

    Agreed. There’s no money in it for Nikon. But their digital marketing is flawed anyway. There’s a flawed push to move poeple to FX as if it will suddenly make them better photographers. Nikon’s profits are floundering though. They have next to no relationship with their cutomers and don’t even understand what the need to do to stop the profit slide. If they really understood their base, they’d prvide far more DX lens options.

    • Andrew
      March 15, 2015

      I don’t think they’re alone in the profit slide. I don’t believe there’s much margin in any one thing they make, so they have to make tons of them, but the market is already saturated. I would think some fort of paradigm shift is due soon, but I can’t think of what it would be. Maybe the lens selection would help. Maybe they need to come up with something radical and new. It’s hard for big companies to do that, though.

  3. Bruce Lindeman
    March 27, 2015

    Just found your blog… but I think the true issue is the last comment you made: they’re afraid that a film image would win. That’s the crux of it. With Fujifilms, Sony, and the like putting a bigger dent in DSLR sales, Nikon and Canon are on the ropes. I’m hearing more and more pros switching to shooting Fujifilm X series gear. I’ve largely put my EOS gear aside myself and am shooting 35mm, 120, and Polaroid primarily. I’m not a pro, and I don’t think pros will ever abandon digital. But, the thing I hear more and more from folks shooting both is that there’s something that film provides that digital — at least not yet — cannot replicate. Instagram be damned. Give me a well-made film image any day. Good insight!

    • Andrew
      March 27, 2015

      Very true. Filters and actions and new sensors are still no match for the real deal. Good to hear from you!

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