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Celebrating film photography, gear, and artists. Check out gear talk and interviews in the blog!

07 Nov '17

Reflex vs. The Cynicism of Camera Enthusiasts

Posted by Mike Padua

Reflex Camera

Today, Reflex introduced, well, the Reflex--a new SLR film camera to be hopefully manufactured and brought to market upon being funded via its Kickstarter campaign.

Just to touch on specs, we're looking at a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, a built in flash/continuous light with three power levels, and perhaps most interesting, interchangeable lens mounts and interchangeable backs. The full specs can be found at the hub for all things analog photography, EMULSIVE.

But the specs and the announcement, while important and exciting, is not exactly what I want to get into. What I want to get into is the camera's (potential) place in an industry and how many photographers and enthusiasts seem to view it.

While, as of this writing, the funding has already had a nice start to it, and there is a slew of positive comments and support on social media, there has been some cynicism and shortsightedness that seems to surround it as well. Let's delve into some choice bits:

"Will never compete with existing vintage. Built-in flash? Come on. Someone's drafting class project." - some stodgy fart on the internet
"Not quite sure who the market for this is. Surely someone with a bunch of 'heritage' lens will have a matching body or be able to find one for less with a raft of loyal repairers to support it? Maybe it’s just me but isn’t this re-inventing the wheel?" - some stodgy fart on the internet
"The world needs that like a fish needs a bicycle." - some stodgy fart on the internet
"This is just a dumb idea meant to rip off millenials. Get a real camera, not a frankenbeast: (posts link to a camera out of production since 1982. 1982.)" - some stodgy fart on the internet

Sure, opinions all of them--everybody has one. But this is what they mostly fail to realize: the film industry NEEDS CONSUMERS. As much as we enthusiasts think the world revolves around us and our wellspring of knowledge of how it was back in the day and how it should be, it does not.

Yes, you can buy a Pentax K1000 in used working condition for under $100 (this is the main argument, repeated time and time again), but the pitfall is that one needs to know what they're looking for, how to judge condition, etc. And if they get a bum camera? It's a headache. This turns off newcomers, gift givers, and generally a large part of the consumer market. Second hand products do not drive an industry.

"But but but, there's so many available," you say. Yes, I know, someone should do research and know what they're buying, I know I know I know, you're a knowledgeable enthusiast willing to spend time learning about the finer points of camera function and condition, and you probably think everybody else should be too.

What about the friend/significant other/spouse that wants to buy a camera as a gift? The parent/grandparent? The casual shopper that is looking for an analog camera to get started?

The industry needs consumers. Say it with me: "The industry needs consumers."

Well maybe that consumer isn't you, if you're happy with the Zorki that you got for a steal from an estate sale and performed a CLA on yourself. More power to you. But Grandma isn't going to deep dive into some sweet thrift store nectar and break out her mini screwdriver kit to do an overhaul because Grandkid wants a camera. Grandma needs to be able to walk into a Best Buy and plop down some money for a consumer product. This camera, while it won't be in a Best Buy near you any time soon, is a very small step closer to a NEW product being available in the market. It's a small step towards (gasp!)...GROWTH for the film industry!

Fujifilm's Instax line of instant cameras and film has been largely popular and successful, due in no small part to the fact that you can walk into WalMart right this second and buy a camera and film without having to scour Google for hours for information. You can grab it from the shelf, bring it up to the register, and you're done. Or do a quick search on the website of a reputable retailer, hit the Buy Now button, and you're done.

Yes, I myself have a collection of vintage cameras and lenses. I don't need the Reflex, and you may not need it either--but the industry most certainly does.


8 Comments

There are already several companies making 35mm still cameras today, most notably Voightlander. It’s not as if production has stopped. The cameras that are in production today are very expensive since they are mostly handmade, but that’s the nature of small production manufacture.

Posted by kludge on November 14, 2017

Why does the industry need this? Yes, professional photographers may still on occasion use film for special projects. But digital has kicked Kodak to the Curb. For the consumer, they want the efficiency and speed of image delivery digital brings them. They do not want to learn Dektol D-76, Stop and Fix, much less push film developing. With digital, they can upload photos from their phones to social media platforms and virtually share instantly with Grandma in Poughkeepsie.
The only attraction of Reflex to me would adding a digital back to the body and continuing with the concept of multiple lens mounts for the major lenses that are now lieing fallow in storage places across the country, if not the world.

Posted by Canon Brad on November 11, 2017

If the industry needs a 35mm SLR at all, then make it a very basic model with a fixed mount with plentiful lenses in the used market. I would say either Nikon F or Pentax K. When I say basic I mean in the mold of a Ricoh KR-5 Super as an example. The ‘Swiss Army Knife approach’ has been tried several times and is simply too complicated to implement. If you want to spend money then spend it on the viewing system. A nice big bright penta-prism, really good focusing screen, and adjustable diopter eyepiece. Hand a youngster a SLR with only 3 basic controls, focus-shutter speed-aperture, and spend time to write an intelligent instruction manual that helps them understand these three basic functions and how they combine to produce what you envision when you first raise the camera to your eye. (Writing good instructions is hard, I know I certainly don’t have that skill.).
Finally, yes, I think the idea of a new SLR is a good idea but the actual implementation of that idea needs to be just right to have the best chance of success. There is a reason Pentax sold a large number of the K1000, it was ‘basic’, and that need has not changed in the intervening 25 years.

Posted by John (stogdy fart) Robison on November 10, 2017

Hi Mike,

Absolutely agree.

Sustainability comes through volume and volume comes through reaching enough people to consume that volume and drive cost down to make it affordable. As anyone with an ageing film camera knows, once old components stop getting made or pass their material lifespan, the 2nd hand space becomes problematic. Then you end up with a REAL frankenbeast.

I admire what Reflex are shooting for. It has the right mix of roll-your-own, open-ness and commerciality to do good things. It’s certainly a stab at a real solution with a future. I just hope they can cross the enthusiast – consumer chasm and make it a viable in the long term. The ingredients look good at least!

Best
Hamish

Posted by Hamish on November 08, 2017

I must say I agree with every word written. The cynicism all over the social media was terrible. I also have a nice collection of vintage cameras and lenses. Most of my cameras work.I know that there are many young film enthusiastics that do need this camera. They were born into the digital age and are dealing with lots of malfunctions with old cameras 30 to 40 years old.

Posted by Avital on November 08, 2017

And how many of these “Stodgy farts” are producing new cameras?

I’m with you and and Em and Hamish. If you can’t afford it buy a tote bag for your girl friend, mom, granny or hell yourself. Or better yet, just give them some money with no reward to show you support their efforts. Even if you despise the camera, the concept, or the fact that you can’t use your M Mount glass on a SLR body (something every analog shooter should know anyway) support the community by helping them bring this to production. And yes, buy supporting Reflex, you’re supporting the film community. I said that right…I hope…

Signed,
Some Stodgy Fart on the Internet…Probably…

Posted by Clinton Ausmus on November 08, 2017

I like this entire concept. I have a set of beautiful Carl Zeiss Jena lenses in M42, which beg for Ektar, Ferrania P30, and Acros. I’ve wasted hundreds of dollars for CLA’s and (more importantly) months of waiting to get back gear- only to have something else break or leak light. Schools cannot bid out used equipment, so this is another plus. Great idea.

Posted by Bob Brandoff on November 08, 2017

Well written and important post! Well done.

Posted by Jordan on November 08, 2017

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